Writing for Games: The Flow Chart
What’s a flow chart then? I hear you ask. Well, ultimately it is a diagram showing all the plot points and all the available choices the player can make. This means the flow chart not only contains story elements, but it also takes into account gameplay mechanics and player participation. With this in mind, the flow chart is your key piece of design documentation that will give your video-game writing its structure and coherence.
The best way to design the flow chart is to read through all the gameplay mechanics – take note of any abilities the character may acquire and how skilled the player may be in correlation to the story; figure out all the major plot points in the story; consider any side quests and optional bosses and assess if these provide relevant background stories. You need to get an understanding of anything that adds character or drama, this previous list is by no means exhausted. When you have this basic understanding you can then link them together to create the flow chart. The best way to do this is to make all the descriptive terms as short as possible. You want only key words that describe the scene and story. Then when you start to write them down you can circle each item and use arrows leading to all possible pathways. After all is done, you should have the entire story deconstructed with any important gameplay mechanics having been identified. You can now start writing your narrative using this diagram. Furthermore, you can move sections around and rearrange all the major aspects, and no doubt this will happen of the course of the draft process.
There are some resources on the internet that help the creation of flowcharts. A couple that I have used and recommend are Inspiration and Microsoft Visio. Follow the links to download the software. Once installed you can go ahead and start creating the flowcharts for your videogames.
So, if you really want to get to the core of the game, get an overview of both story/plot and/or gameplay, I suggest getting this part of the design document down first. If not only to allow you to see an over view of the poignant moments in the game, but to also keep you focused and to avoid falling into the role of game designer. It will help you see what is working and what isn’t and will show you the repercussions of removing it. It’s amazing how often this is overlooked. It is the key to allowing the writer to see what vast amount of options are available to the player’s. Knowing this will allow you to intercept and anticipate player participation and write according to their choices and decisions.
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