Those of you who are following the blog, but not my Twitter feed, should likely be unaware that I got an internet friend known as No Limit (@NoLimit42 on Twitter), a reviewer, to look over the story for Turtles all the Way. Despite having it looked at by a large amount of people who are by no means even half as analytical as he is, I sent the 152-page screenplay to him and braced myself for him to rip it to shreds.
He didn’t disappoint. I would have needed to get my eyes checked if I had read any other result, since I don’t think too highly of my writing skill to begin with (as my author avatar and a few of the other characters make clear throughout). Besides, when I showed the first chapter of the novel I was working on to the people of TV Tropes, the first analytical group I had shown it to, it was flooded with so much constructive criticism that I needed to shelve it for a while because implementing the criticism effectively required a total restart, and the results sure as hell showed when I did get back to rewriting the first scene – my approach to everything was completely different, although the base story was the same.
Though I promptly re-shelved it to focus on Turtles all the Way, so enough about that. The issue here is what exactly I intend to do about my game’s story needing a reboot. The obvious solution is to actually do so.
Now, I haven’t seen his, as he put it, “whatever-it’s-called-probably-a-review”, yet, but he said he was ready to show it without reading the rest of the screenplay from the point he was at. Based on our conversation on Twitter that followed, he had not reached chapter 3 yet, which is over half the length of the story by itself, so I asked him to at least start chapter 3 before getting back to me, since the setup in chapters 1 and 2 is only fully revealed for what it is there (though not fully understood until the final scene, but I have no intention in forcing him to continue that far in reading “the worst story [he has] ever read”).
So I won’t start rewriting until I see it. Though I have a few educated guesses, I don’t know all of the problems he has with it yet, and I’m just wasting my time if I start doing so and find out that one of his problems is something that’s a fundamental premise issue. What I do know is that he believed it reads like a fanfic, and he knows I hate fanfics with a passion, so I’ll obviously need to scrap the whole story and reboot it with the same base story and all of the original’s issues handled, much like the novel project I mentioned.
But then, you may ask, to what extent am I keeping the plot around. A perfectly legitimate question, for sure. Unlike with the novel, I can’t just wipe it all away. Other people are working on this, so I have to take them into consideration for every single step of the process.
How far is everyone else? Well, let’s see here. The character artist was still working on Magnet, last I checked, so any character without a theme song in place can be scrapped as necessary. I don’t have a full list of songs that have been made, but I do know that some of the more easily removed places already have music in place, so I should leave them in, in at least some form.
What I can do, however, is totally reshuffle the list of levels as much as I like, and relegate however many I please to roaming node without any presence in story mode (though I want to keep the amount of levels I do this to to a minimum).
I can also mess around with pretty much everything in the story, and make it so no levels need to be revisited, which should make for a (slightly) shorter story. Not counting bosses or mini-bosses, the level list is thereby cut from 47 to 40. If I further remove the “Road to X” levels and the three “FINAL ESCAPE” levels, the count drops to 30 unique locations, which I can then re-arrange in the story as I please. That would be my own personal restriction – 30 levels, not a single one more – or less – and they’ve all been conceptually designed (though there’s no concept art), so the only thing I can possibly do with them now is to arrange the around the planet on a map. As a further restriction, these 30 locations are set up in such a way that the placement of 4 of them can be seen as a convenient endpoint – I can use them to decide the end of the map, which ends up being half the planet due to the way those locations were decided.
So I have 30 locations which I must use logic to place throughout half of a planet (and the entirety of the afterlife, but…), all of which I cannot move once placed. If you can’t tell, this is a strategy I am using to make sure my setting remains static and I do not provide unrealistic travel times between two locations.
There’s also an inherent benefit to rewriting the entire story like this. I only met with my level designer (to tweak the kinks in the gameplay design before designing the generic enemies and then the levels) less than a week ago. When we ended up talking, we spent 4 hours tweaking how the characters should work in the gameplay, what should not be included in the gameplay, and how certain mechanics would work. While doing so, I had discovered that I had far too large an imbalance between the amount of story levels for each character, as well as a huge imbalance between the amount of levels that do or don’t allow the Sync Points System to be used.
As such, conveniently enough, I can make it so the pairs are together for the entire game/most of the game instead of the randomness in place now. This makes 6 levels per pair for the story, total (roaming mode enables all characters for all levels). Knowing I can only have that much space is useful for limiting myself from dwelling too long on a particular pair of characters, which gave the mice, the birds, and one of the cats the shaft in terms of playability in the story.
I can also completely fix the pacing issue by splitting the story in five, between the five couples, rather than having them all go on an extremely long adventure, much like many other games that feature different sets of characters. Each character can have a short, focused plot that maximizes on their characters and backgrounds if I go that way.
Hopefully, this line of thought will lead to a far superior story for Turtles all the Way than I have at present.
What of all the people who aren’t No Limit who went over the story? Well…