How's this for a confluence: I like gamebooks like the Choose Your Own Adventure series and the Lone Wolf books. November is NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. Also in November, Microsoft is launching their Xbox Live Community games system, an online distribution system that makes it possible for any gaming hobbyist to sell their Xbox 360 fan-made games. I like video games and would like to make my own.
Put all these pastimes together, and what do I get? … Molly the Were-Zompire.
I am currently writing Molly, a digital interactive novel in the style of the Choose Your Own Adventure novels. It will be released on the Xbox Live Community games system with a price tag of 200 MS points ($2.50 in US currency). Before that happens, I need to get the plotting and first draft done in November, the programming done in December (some of the coding is already done from a previous version of this project), and then do editing and debugging in January, with a public release later that month.
The premise of the story is that Molly is just an ordinary girl with dreams of becoming a heroine. One day, she finds a magic book with a spell that promises great power to the one who casts it. She casts the spell, summons the undead, is simultaneously killed by a werewolf, zombie, and a vampire, and then is reborn as Molly the Were-Zompire, potential heroine extraordinaire. At this point, the game begins proper and the player decides what choices Molly will make. Depending on the player's choices, the story could end up progressing in very different directions: an ally in one path of the story could be an enemy in another; entire locations and plot points are exclusive to certain plot paths; and so on.
The game was initially envisioned as a cross between interactive novels and traditional console RPGs, but in the end, I decided to just make it a straight interactive novel. The problem with the previous version was that the two aspects didn't want to play nicely with each other. The RPG aspect kept wanting to interject combat situations and complex leveling up systems into the game. That complexity interfered with keeping the pace of the story moving briskly while exploring interesting non-combat situations. In the end, the story aspect won out. (I'll save the complicated formulae for a later RPG.)
Doing this kind of branching story in a digital form should have several advantages: the pacing should be a lot brisker without any of that pesky page flipping in search of a new page number for each choice; players won't accidentally read other storylines when they're searching for the next page; it'll be very easy to program in the ability to backtrack at any point if they reach a premature ending or just want to try a different path; the game can keep track of which endings have been seen and maybe even display a flowchart showing which parts of the branching storyline have been experienced; and perhaps my favorite digital advantage, the novel can be as long as I like without having to worry about page counts and editor concerns.
To be honest, I have no idea if this will be successful. I believe there's a market for interactive fiction like this, though Molly's almost entirely text-based nature could deter people. The $2.50 price tag could result in impulse purchases, but some people might see the low price as an indication of lack of quality. Regardless of whether the game is a commercial success or not, I still think it'll be a success for me. I've had the unfulfilled goals of writing a novel and making a video game ever since I was a little kid and this is a way that I can accomplish both goals at the same time. Plus, the experience and self esteem gained from working on this project could pave the way toward future project.