“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

Starting a Video Company On a Shoestring Budget

We’ve seen quite a few articles on how to start your own video company, but this is the best so far. Why? Because it goes into the deets, that’s why. Witnesseth:

by James Matthews

Starting a video production company is hard work and anyone who says otherwise is more than likely a better business person than I was many years ago.

At the time I was confident in my skills but it’s not until you go out on your own that you realise there are many skills that you don’t have.

Thankfully these skills can be picked up along the way, but for me having to figure them out on my own was difficult and in some instances costly. For this reason, this is an article I would have liked to have read many years ago on how to start a video production company.

Name and LLC

This was the first thing that I set up when starting my own company and in my opinion, it was a mistake to do so because depending on the country or state you are living it you then have to register for all kinds of services.

For example, you may need a business banking account and business insurance which is an expense you can do without when you don’t have any money coming in.

I would wait to set up your limited liability company (LLC) until you have some of the other steps in this article sorted out. With that said depending on where you live you will need to register one within a certain number of days after you start trading.

The same applies to hiring new staff members, all new staff members have to be reported to your state’s new hiring office within 20 days of employment.

Creating an LLC for your business can be complex so if you can afford it you can pay a company to set one up for you.

When registering your company it’s important not to infringe on others copyrights so use a website such as uspto.gov to find registered trademarks….


Read it all at filmlifestyle.com

Kickstarting Your Web Series or Fiction Podcast – Part 2

by Bob Tinsley

(NOTE FROM LB: Part 1 is terrific, and it’s HERE.)


From KickStarter:

“Offer simple, meaningful rewards that bring backers closer to your project. Rewards don’t have to be physical items. Consider special experiences or behind-the-scenes peeks into your project.”

From BT:

Do not offer physical rewards on your first project. My rewards are electronic copies of audiobooks and ebooks, digital art packages, and personalized mentions and credits as Co-Producer and Co-Executive Producer at the end of the audiobook.

If you do offer physical rewards make abso-damn-lutely sure you know all there is to know about shipping costs. That can make or break the campaign. A successful campaign by KS standards is one that gets pledges equaling or surpassing the goal you set.

By your standards a successful campaign should be one in which your proceeds exceed your expenses. If you underestimate the shipping costs (or any others [art, video, etc.]) what KS considers a successful campaign could be a personal disaster. So, BE CAREFUL! Do your research on everything that can affect your campaign costs.

Since my artist will get a percentage of the proceeds of the campaign (if there are any) and all the rewards require no shipping, the only cost to me is my time and the new music ($22).

Setting Goals in Kickstarter

How much money do you need? Or want?

The key here is — BE REALISTIC.

I saw one campaign that had been pledged $12 THOUSAND with 2 days left to go. The problem? That $12 THOUSAND represented 1% of their goal. My immediate reaction was WTF??? I don’t think they funded.

The right way to go about it?

1. Figure out what all your rewards will be.
2. Figure out what each of those rewards is going to cost you. Include production, shipping, handling (this could be a big number), artist costs, composer costs, narrator costs, video production costs (if you do this yourself [it’s not difficult] the cost is only your time), etc.
3. Put in anything else you or your acquaintances think might, in extremis, come up.
4. Add it all up.
5. Add 25-50%.
6. **VERY IMPORTANT** Examine your base. Do you have enough family, friends, fans, and acquaintances that will spend $5 to $15 (the most popular reward levels) to reach that goal? If not, re-evaluate.

Remember, don’t be greedy!

My KS campaign launched today (8/18). Officially. And therein lies the cautionary tale. Historically, most successful campaigns launch on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.

On Saturday (8/15) I was putting the finishing touches on my project. I had specified both a launch date (8/18) and an end date (9/10). I felt like I had done the best I could so I decided to hit the launch button to keep my perfectionist self from going nuts changing things, expecting that KS would note the launch button and not actually launch it until my specified date.

Nope. Apparently you can specify a launch date and a duration or you can specify an end date. If you do both, it defaults to the end date and the day you press the button.

So there I was with my first training-wheels campaign launching on a weekend, historically the worst time to launch.

After pounding my head on the table for 23 minutes I wiped up the blood and decided that there was a way around this. I just wouldn’t officially launch the campaign until today. No promotion. Just a little pre-launch promotion starting Sunday without mentioning the URL.

I had my first contributor Saturday afternoon. At the highest pledge level! By Monday night my pledges had reached 26% of my total goal. I had told no one the URL of the campaign. I recognized no one on the list of contributors.

I had been “discovered.” Kickstarter is another path to “Discovery.” Whoda thunk it?

So, here I sit, trying desperately not to check my funding level every 3.4 minutes, and trying to figure out some non-repetitive way to continue promotion during the remainder of the period and still get some of my other work done.

On the plus side, I feel like a success. Even if the funding falls into a bottomless hole between now and 9/10 I’ll still feel like I accomplished something important.

And I’ll probably do the audio book no matter what happens. (But don’t tell anyone! Shhhh!)

I’ll leave promotion for the next article.

BTW, as of 8:30 last Sunday morning (8/23) my campaign was 43% funded! And I’m happy to tell you that you can learn more about  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.

Virtual YouTubers could change the way we interact – forever

William Gibson’s cyber future continues to grow in our real present. For example, did you know you now can create almost perfect video AI replicas of yourself to serve as your interweb stand-ins? No expertise needed? Read on.

A young Japanese woman sporting a giant pink bow and white opera gloves looks into the camera and gleefully greets her YouTube audience. She’s about to try and solve a puzzle.

Before diving into the game, she boasts with a smile: “Well, compared to all you humans, I can clear it much faster. No doubt about it!”

Yes, this YouTube personality isn’t a real person. While she’s voiced by a human, she’s a digital, anime-style cartoon. Her name is Kizuna Ai, and she has more than two million subscribers to her channel. She’s the most-watched “virtual YouTuber” on the site.

Kizuna Ai is part of an emerging trend where 3D avatars – rather than humans – are becoming celebrities on YouTube, with dedicated fanbases and corporate deals. It’s becoming so popular that one company is investing tens of millions in “virtual talent” and talent agencies are being established to manage these avatars.

It’s a movement that has big implications for the future – it could change how brands market their products and how we interact with technology. It could even let us live forever.

They act and sound just like humans

Usually, vloggers are people who speak directly into the camera to their fans, sharing things like beauty tips, product reviews and pop culture rants. But in the past year they have had to contend with “VTubers” like Kizuna Ai.

“We saw this start to take off right at the end of 2017… and it’s continued to grow,” says Kevin Allocca, head of culture and trends at YouTube. He points to Kizuna Ai’s channel as an example of the spike in VTuber popularity: it had around 200,000 subscribers last December, but well over two million just 10 months later.

Google’s Earnest Pettie says the amount of daily views of VTuber videos this year is quadruple last year’s figure. And while there’s no easy way to measure exactly how many VTubers there are, User Local, a Tokyo-based web analytics site, counts at least 2,000.

Read it all at bbc.com

Kickstarting Your Web Series or Fiction Podcast

by Bob Tinsley

Doing a Kickstarter isn’t hard.

I’m putting my money where my mouth is, figuratively speaking. I’m doing a Kickstarter campaign to fund converting my fiction podcast, ESCAPE! Scifi, into a full cast audiobook. You can find it here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/anewdawn/a-new-dawn-audiobook

I’ve been thinking about a KS for a while, but I had no idea how to start. I thought it would be difficult and time consuming, so I didn’t do anything about it.

That changed when I ran across a free (that’s right, FREE) online course called “Kickstarter Best Practices for Fiction Writers.” It was developed by Loren L. Coleman and Dean Wesley Smith. Loren Coleman authored the Battletech book series and many others and is co-founder of a couple of electronic gaming companies. He’s made at least a couple of million dollars from KS projects. DWS, co-owner of WMG Publishing along with his wife, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, is a writer of some 40 years of experience, author of 300+ books and innumerable short stories. WMG has had 14 or 15 KS projects, all of them successful, to my knowledge, and many of which funded at 3 or 4 times the original ask. He estimates that WMG made $100k from KS last year.

Don’t let the “for Fiction Writers” throw you off. This course covers any kind of writing you do. I looked at a campaign for a podcast that funded at $10k on the first day. It’s well on its way to several multiples of its original ask. They could have been following the advice in this course.

In case anyone is interested here’s the URL of the free course I took. It’s the first course on the second line.


There are two HUGELY helpful documents attached to the course that you can download, both from Coleman. One is his 14 page (!) document on Kickstarter Best Practices For Fiction Writers.The other is the spreadsheet he used to calculate costs and profits from his Elder Gods KS campaign. Both documents are outstanding.

Let’s go back to that Kickstarter Best Practices for Fiction Writers title. Most help files and documents for Kickstarter are pretty generic. They’d have to be. But this one is targeted directly at us, fiction writers. Those last three words were what pushed me over the edge to try it out.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of doing research on Kickstarter projects. It doesn’t take that long.

In the upper left corner on the KS landing page is the word “Explore.” Click on it. On the next page scroll past “Collections” to “Sections” and click on “Publishing.” Next page click on “Explore Publishing.” You’ll see 3 menu buttons, “Publishing,” “Earth,” and “Magic.” Press “Publishing” and then choose the subcategory “Fiction.” “Earth” means originating anywhere on the planet. Click “Magic” and you will see categories like most funded, newest, most backed, etc. Pick one, then spend some time going through the projects.

You’ll see projects that funded in the first 24 hours, and projects with 2 days to go with only $1 pledged. Spend a few minutes looking through each project, and you’ll see why one funded and the other didn’t. It’s pretty apparent.

I found elements I liked in a couple of successful projects and tried to make my page look like theirs. Some common elements: lots of good graphics, clear, concise writing, and a (short!) video.

80% of successful campaigns have a video. Don’t stress over this. With the help of my artist I produced a 2.5 minute audiogram narrated by my main character, an artificial intelligence. A real one. The whole thing took maybe 6 man-hours between us. I think it looks really good.

Art. You need it. It must look professional. During that research you’re doing on other KS projects (you are doing that, right?) look at how they handled the art. 95% of it happens in the “Story” section. I put in a couple of cover/wallpaper images in the body and had my artist make some arty section headers. The section headers are things you make up yourself to break up the “Story” block. Mine are: Mission, What Is A New Dawn, Why an Audiobook, Synopsis, Why Is This Different, Accolades and Awards, Reviews of the Podcast, and Funds Breakdown. Yours can be anything you want them to be.

From KS the project description (Story): “Describe what you’re raising funds to do, why you care about it, how you plan to make it happen, and who you are. Your description should tell backers everything they need to know. If possible, include images to show them what your project is all about and what rewards look like.”

My final “Story” length was 660 words. Long enough to be informational and interesting, short enough to read quickly.

There’s lots more to tell you about Kickstarting. I’ll be back with as much of it as will fit in this space next week!

Bob’s promo video is 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.