As much as traditional publishing gave way to indie publishing with the advent of new platforms such as Kindle and Nook, so too did the video game industry change. Steam, Valve’s world-conquering distribution platform, changed the way developers reached gamers. One no longer needed a big publisher like Electronic Arts or Square-Enix to distribute games. You could do it directly, as long as you had a product that gamers would want.
But creating a game is still a monumental undertaking. When I was working at Nintendo, a few of my friends who also worked there decided to get together to create a game. I was brought in as the writer, having already published some of my Fourth World stuff. We started planning. But even this group of very motivated gamers did not get far beyond the planning stage. Creating a game is not as simple as just sitting in front of a keyboard and typing away. There are a lot of moving parts that require specialized knowledge. Failure to understand all of these parts could result in a game that is completely unplayable.
This is true of writing, too. One must patch all those plot holes or readers will complain. But it’s a much bigger deal for games. Imagine making a mistake while typing away in your novel, and the entire thing suddenly becomes completely unreadable. Such a catastrophe would never happen from a typo in a novel, but frequently does in a typo of computer code. And even if catastrophe does strike and a novel is lost, it’s usually because of some computer problem. Game developers deal with this routinely.
The biggest obstacle for us, however, was managing a team. When writing a novel, you are responsible only to yourself (for the most part). Only your schedule matters. Only your creative direction matters. As long as you create something of quality, you’ve done your job.
With video games, everyone on the team has their own ideas, their own schedules. There are bottlenecks. Technical incompatibilities. Creative differences. Any one of these could cause the project to collapse.
Despite having committed to the novelist path, I still kept my ear to the ground when it came to game development. Games still did something for me that novels didn’t, and perhaps, subconsciously, I knew that I still had the urge to create games.
I eventually came upon tools that allowed a single, focused game developer to create games much like those I loved since that fateful day in 1997: Japanese-style RPGs.
I thought, “What the heck. I’ll give it a shot.” I thought it would be a nice way to scratch that itch, even if nothing ever really came of it.
It was turning out pretty well, so I thought I would incorporate some of the ideas of the Farshores Saga into it, and make it part of the history of the Farshores world. I thought it would help me make the world real for me and help bring out some of that flavor into the novels. It would also give me an opportunity to create backstory for the characters.
At one point, I was playing through what I had created. I knew that it was more than just a repository of backstory and worldbuilding to aid in the creation of my novels.
I knew I could make a game that other people would want to play.
Thus was Super Secret Project B born (the “B” stands for “Brandon” because I’m, uh, super-creative).
I’ll have more details about this project in an upcoming post.