“How I learned to tell stories on purpose” as a video game writer

LB’S NOTE: What? Video games are writen? By writers? And they even have to learn the craft? I thought AI’s did all that. Day-am!

by Jim Stormdancer

In this article, I’ll explain how I went from having basically no idea how to construct a story to making players cry with my story (in a good way this time). There are big spoilers for the Frog Fractions Hat DLC below, so maybe play it first (or keep reading until an explicit warning about spoilers comes up).

When I ran the Kickstarter for Frog Fractions 2, most people probably guessed that I had no idea what I was going to make. I had made Frog Fractions entirely improvisationally and I figured I could just do that again.

The trick is, when you get something right the first time, you haven’t learned anything. You have no idea which elements were due to your innate talent and which were accidental. The most important accident, I discovered much later, was that I built Frog Fractions in chronological order, and I designed each scene to follow naturally from the previous ones.

By contrast, I started work on the sequel before I knew where I’d be hiding it, so there was no previous scene to work from. Instead I started building gameplay vignettes that were individually entertaining. It turned out to be very difficult to fit these together into something that felt cohesive, and I feel like I only partially succeeded.

I had no idea how much of the success of the first game—even to me, a not-particularly-story-focused player—stemmed from it being at heart a buddy comedy, the story of two friends going on an adventure together.

I started work on “Hop’s Iconic Cap” with these intentions:

  • Like Frog Fractions and Glittermitten Grove, I wanted to build it improvisationally. It’s more fun that way, and leaving the design loose means you can reshape it on the fly as you learn more about the game you’re building.
  • Like Frog Fractions and unlike Glittermitten Grove, I wanted the game to flow easily, like watching a movie, which meant all the minigames should be easy and, if possible, they should be recognizable riffs on existing games that the player already knows.
  • Unlike Frog Fractions and Glittermitten Grove, I wanted to figure out how to tell a meaningful story.

With storytelling on the brain, I replayed The Secret of Monkey Island and noticed that it doesn’t have a story so much as it has “there is an antagonist” and “there is a love interest….”

Read it all at arstechnica.com

Check out Jim’s uber-successful Kickstarter page

Promoting Your Kickstarter

By Bob Tinsley

My Kickstarter funded! I’m a happy camper. Here are some of the things I learned.

Yes, you must promote your Kickstarter, otherwise it will sit there with your mom’s $5 languishing alone until your campaign goes down to ignominious failure. Yeah, I know I just kicked your dog and rubbed your cat’s fur the wrong way, but the truth’s the truth.

I contemplated a post whining about the usual things that make promotion hard. Then I stumbled across the following. Of course I didn’t find it until the campaign was half over.

The Kickstarter Dashboard has a section on it called “Referrers.” This tells you where your contributors come from: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Direct to Kickstarter, and that catchall enigma, “Direct Traffic No Referrer Information.” I still don’t have a clue how that’s helpful.

As you can tell, the sources are pretty general. For instance, one of my contributors (a big one!) came from Twitter, but I don’t know when or what post led that person to me.

Just below the Referrers section is another section called “Custom Referral Tags” that allows you to “create a referral tag to monitor successful backings from each link you share.”

I had to go look that one up in the Handbook, and I’m glad I did. Basically this allows you to create up to 500 unique links to your Kickstarter. I’ve been using it thusly: for each post I make about the campaign whether on Instagram, FB (each of my pages on FB), Twitter, or somewhere else, I create a custom tag by giving it a name with a date: Twitter0831, FBPro0831, FBEscape0831, FBRWT0831, etc. Press the “Generate Tag” button and you get a unique link.

When someone clicks on a link, that leaves a track that tells me the specific post that induced them to take a look. This would be a great thing for A-B testing for answering questions like: Where do you get most of your traffic? Did a different illustration or different wording make a difference?
Apparently this feature doesn’t get much use, though I don’t know why.

Now for some things I learned over and above all the reading and research I did before launch.

  1. Adjust your attitude on promotion. My attitude was “Gah! Promotion. What a PITA.” Promotion is telling people about things you believe they might like. That’s a good thing! Right? Right? Who doesn’t want to find out about things you would enjoy? So, adjust. And plan.
  2. Planning is critical. I did not plan well enough. In fact, planning the promotional aspects of this campaign was non-existent. I had not plan past the launch. I thought I’d just handle it on the fly, which I did, but not nearly as well as if I had thought out the 21 days of promotion before I even launched. If I had, I would have been less stressed. Putting things together on the day they go out is stressful. I would have had more promotional posts ready to go and know where to put them when. If I had planned, I would have had more time to do all the other things I should have been doing during the KS. Planning does not end with filling in all the blanks KS gives you. You also have to plan for the fulfillment part of the campaign. It takes 3 weeks for KS to distribute the collected money after the campaign ends. I’ll be using that time to plan. I should have already done it. So, PLAN!
  3. Make the promotional posts different and fun. I made audiograms and podcast episodes with my characters interacting that segued into a call to action using the custom links. Even after starting with the custom links over halfway through the campaign I can trace 30% of my income back to those particular posts, two from Facebook and one from the podcast feed.
  4. Plan for Stretch Goals. I didn’t. I didn’t expect for a minute that I would fund before the end of the campaign. When I was notified that I funded 60 hours before the end, I was left flat-footed. Nothing to put up as a Stretch Goal that I could pull off in that amount of time. Might as well have left money on the table. So plan Stretch Goals before launch.Now the real work begins. Stay tuned.

Read Bob’s previous articles on kickstarting a podcast HERE and HERE

Bob Tinsley is an artist, writer, boataholic and new audio/podcast fiction writer-producer. A mighty fine one too, as his 2nd and 4th place People’s Pilot 2019 finishes demonstrate.

Bri Castellini: Join Buy In on Seed&Spark today! – @brisownworld

by Bri Castellini

In November 2016, my good friend Colin and I decided to write a horror short film together. Colin had just finished a stint as Carl in season 2 of Brains (a web series I created and also starred in) and as Kevin in Ace and Anxious (a short film I had written/directed).

He was a big fan of horror and I had been wanting to try my own hand at it, so it was decided: a short film in the horror genre with an idea of our production restrictions in mind as they developed the script. We knew we wanted to keep the cast small, the location singular, and the horror psychological, and within a month we’d written the first draft of what would become Buy In, the story of a charming young salesman and a strange, lonely traveler who find themselves locked in a struggle for control over their own destinies.

Production commenced in January 2018, with a tiny cast and crew of seven people total (4 crew, 3 cast), and post-production was completed the following year in January 2019. Buy In then began its successful festival run, racking up several nominations and award wins.

Why did it take so long?

Money. We were a team of volunteers, who loved working together and wanted to make a creepy film about the horrors of multilevel marketing schemes. Colin and I financed production and post-production with our day job salaries, and we couldn’t be prouder of what we put together. Now, we want to give our short a splashy entrance to the world, and we need your help to once again live burden free.

But isn’t Buy In finished? What’s the money for?

First and foremost, we need your help to settle our debts. We bought in to make this film, and to get it to your screens, we need to pay up, to our incredibly talented cast and crew who also bought in.

More importantly, though, we have an exciting proposition for you. Would you, [insert name here], like to buy in to an exciting new opportunity? It’s called Buy In on Seed&Spark, and here’s how it works:

Step 1: Pledge to & follow the campaign! Any pledge amount to one of the team member salaries on our Wish List page or to the campaign at large.

Step 2: Recruit others to pledge to and follow the campaign! Every new pledge you bring gets you closer to the top. The top of what? Why, our Buy In on Seed&Spark leader board! Compete to become the most valuable salesperson in our international community! Each new level you rise to will unlock a new employee ID card to show off your success to other salespeople, in addition to seeing your name move up our Employee Rankings list on the campaign page.

Please note: this is not a pyramid scheme and we take any claim that it is to be deeply hurtful.

Level 1: Limbo

You have been recruited to the Buy In on Seed&Spark team by pledging and following our campaign. Welcome to the team! Now get recruiting by sharing the following message with your friends, enemies, and followers:

Help me climb the ranks of the exciting definitely-not-a-pyramid-scheme by supporting the psychological horror project #BuyInFilm on @seedandspark! Join the team and climb the ranks yourself: seedandspark.com/fund/buy-in

Level 2: Lust

You have recruited 1 additional teammate to the Buy In on Seed&Spark community. Tweet proof of your new recruit’s pledge to us here.

Level 3: Gluttony

You have recruited 2 additional teammates to the Buy In on Seed&Spark community. Tweet proof of your new recruit’s pledges to us here.

Level 4: Greed

You have recruited 4 additional teammates to the Buy In on Seed&Spark community. Tweet proof of your new recruit’s pledges to us here.

Level 5: Platinum Executive Diamond

You and your recruits have personally pledged $666 or more to the Buy In on Seed&Spark community. Tweet proof of your and your recruit’s pledge total to us here.

Is there anything else you need, my supreme overlords?

There is no need for such formalities. As your supreme overlords, we graciously request you simply call us ‘teammate.’

Thank you, truly, for helping us bring this project to a screen near you and to seize the means of production. We are so proud of this project, and we hope you enjoy watching it as much as we’re going to enjoy sucking out your souls into our eternal soul bank. Terms and services apply.

Bri Castellini is an indie filmmaker and Film Community Manager for Seed&Spark, a film crowdfunding platform, as well as an adjunct professor for two MFA programs. Watch the remarkable Ms. Castellini’s award-winning web series, Brains, HERE. See Sam And Pat Are Depressed HERE. This post first appeared on Bri’s wonderfully refreshing blog.

Bri Castellini & Undead Burrito Productions are at it Again – @brisownworld

We at TVWriter™ are big admirers of Bri Castellini and her partners in indy interweb and short film production, so it’s with great pleasure that we pass along the following message. (Oh, and, yeppers, we recommend Bri’s project to the max.)

Award-winning horror short about pyramid schemes launches crowdfunding campaign designed as a pyramid scheme
by Bri Castellini

Hi All,

Undead Burrito Productions is the producers of the award-winning horror short Buy In, a psychological horror short about lies, desperation, and multi-level marketing schemes, which seems like a project right up your alley.
Today we launched a crowdfunding campaign on Seed&Spark for distribution as well as for marketing purposes, designed as a multi-level marketing scheme itself to align with the themes of the film.
Here’s how Bri & Company see this new project shaking down:

Brooklyn, NY- The latest award-winning project by Undead Burrito Productions announces its online and NYC premiere with another announcement: a Seed&Spark crowdfunding campaign that hints at the themes of the film itself.

Buy In on Seed&Spark is described as an exciting new international community, where each time a pledge to the campaign recruits new pledges, they move up the leader board of top salespeople. If this sounds like a pyramid scheme, the co-writers of the film insist it’s just shaped that way.

Incentives for the campaign (outside of a place on their Buy In on Seed&Spark leader board for top salespeople) include an anti-capitalism propaganda poster, access to the film early, and, for just $666, associate producer credit on the film and immediate Platinum Executive Diamond membership status on the leader board.

Buy In is an award-winning psychological horror short about lies, desperation, and multi-level marketing schemes, which follows a charming young salesman and a strange, lonely traveler who find themselves locked in a struggle for control over their own destinies. Written by Colin Hinckley and Bri Castellini, directed by Bri Castellini, and starring Colin Hinckley, Marshall Taylor Thurman, and Mae Mitchell.

The film won the Spotlight Award at Stephenville Fright Fest in 2019, and was nominated for horror and acting awards at the Northern Horror Fest, VOB Film Festival, and the Northeast Film Festival Horror Fest. It will be available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime on March 23rd, 2020.

About Undead Burrito Productions

Undead Burrito Productions is a Brooklyn, NY based collective of filmmakers known for the award-winning web series’ Brains (2015-2016), Sam and Pat Are Depressed (2017-present), and Relativity (2016) and short film Ace and Anxious (2016).

Bri Castellini is an indie filmmaker and Film Community Manager for Seed&Spark, a film crowdfunding platform, as well as an adjunct professor for two MFA programs. Watch the remarkable Ms. Castellini’s award-winning web series, Brains, HERE. See Sam And Pat Are Depressed HERE.

The Future of TV?

Time now for a few words from Stareable.Com, a site we love and believe in because like us, it believes in YOU.

Ajay Kishore, CEO of Stareable (https://www.stareable.com/), presents his company to investors at a demo day (https://fi.co/demo)

Stareable aims to organize the long tail of online television content and make it more accessible for audiences.