Saturday 3 May 2014

NBI: Guide for Creative Works

Since the it was actually requested by the NBI this year, I decided to make a small guide for creative works based on MMOs and such based on my previous experiences and failings. Hopefully someone finds this useful!

Know your Audience
Not everyone wants to read through an epic or play through a ridiculously difficult fan made game. It doesn't matter so much if you are just creating for yourself or for a small group but if you are trying to get the majority of people to view your work, first learn what that majority likes. For example in Neverwinter Online, majority of people prefer short and easy 15 minute player made quests over the longer ones that are spread across multiple chapters.

Plan and Draft
Regardless of your medium, you will want to make a plan first on how to handle it and how it flows. This might not be required as much if you are just doing cover songs, or a stylized drawing (though it would probably still help) but is quite essential in story telling. Making comics, animation, an in game quest or just writing a short tale will be much easier if you have the "skeleton" of what you want to do. Having to go back and change things because you didn't plan before hand is not only a time killer but also an enthusiasm slayer.

Writing Rules are still Relevant
Correctly constructed sentences, good spelling and good grammar are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to writing. With most mediums you would still need to have a plot with believable characters and story progression.  

Creating Characters
The best characters are those that grow or change during the course of the story. At the minimum you want a character to have is a motivation and something obstructing their goals (it can be themselves or their feelings, or an enemy, whatever). If you are writing fan fiction then you probably already have characters built for you - try keep them in character if you use them. If you are adding your own you have more freedom, but must make sure you don't become a cardboard cutout of any other character in the story.

Stay within Context
Unless you have a clear idea what you are doing and how to do it, it is always best to try stay close to the lore of whatever game you are working with. For example having the Avengers show up in Guildwars 2 is going to be pretty tough to pull off well. It is more likely that mish mashing genre/MMOs will be devaluing to both sides.

Open with Action
A tip given to me that seems to be working. It doesn't have to be a lot, or even explained right away but opening with an action or fast paced sequence acts as a better hook than a more passive start. It's also easier to pull off than doing a good "quiet" start (haven't managed any of those yet personally).

Try put a Twist
Having something surprising happen that most of your audience didn't expect is always a good thing which can separate your work from the many others of a similar nature, and can hook them onto your work. The twist still has to be something that works in the story though. Events and people that appear out of the blue which your audience had no hope of anticipating don't work as nicely as those that do.

Advertise Correctly
If you are making a movie and advertise it as such, don't have an interactive part in. I got burned a little bit when I did that with my flash animation years ago. Apparently while gamers don't mind movies in their games, movie watchers don't like games in their movies. Just be as precise when spruiking your work so people know what to expect.

Expect a "No" from official endorsement
Especially if you don't yet have a finished product and they haven't seen any of your works before, it would be rare for any company to open the door to a potential PR problem. You'd need to be pretty successful in your field and be an extra positive for the game before they'd give you that, examples being Dulfy for GW2 guides and Malukah with her music.

Shadowing Text Example
If you are using a graphic medium, especially one that is animated, it can be difficult to put readable text within your work. This method should help a little, all it requires is that you take the same line of text - shade it a different color, and move it a few pixels horizontally and diagonally from the original line. You can also use it to break a few text rules like, "no white text on a white background". Even better if your graphics program uses layers as it makes it easy to fiddle around with to your liking. The effect is this:

Free Resources
Lastly here are some freely available resources on the web that I make use of often.

Pixlr - web based graphics editor, also handy for resizing images to smaller sizes - helps for poetry (could be useful for the Poetry Slam! :P) - helps for word swapping