Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (2)
Everyone thinks you saved the world three years ago. It was all a lie. The truth is, the “dark lord” you and your friends supposedly slew never existed; you used magical illusions to fake a prophecy. But now, as you relax into a life of fame and luxury, the omens from your false prophecy are happening again, and this time, you had nothing to do with it. Heroes of Myth is a 560,000-word interactive novel by Abigail C. Trevor, a staff member of Choice of Games. I sat down with Abby to talk about her first game with us and the challenges of writing long. Heroes of Myth releases this Thursday, July 25th.
Abby, this is your first game for Choice of Games, and you’ve been on staff for just over two years now, right? Tell me a little about how you managed to write Heroes of Myth and work, and stay sane?
Well, the simplest answer is that I worked during the day and wrote at nights and on weekends. Since 2015 I’d had a system in place where I wrote something every day, though that makes it sound a little more stringent than it really was: it was more like I’d do something related to writing every day, which would sometimes be actually making progress on my current project and would sometimes be plot notes, worldbuilding, outlining, or even drawing maps or charts. I also never gave myself any word count requirements: some days would be fewer than 10 words, some near the end of the Heroes of Myth writing process were over 4000, and the vast majority of them were somewhere in between. I started this to finish a (currently unpublished) novel and switched over to Heroes of Myth a couple of years ago. I’d already been in college or working for most of the time I’d been doing this, so having the discipline to work consistently on the game wasn’t too big an adjustment.
Of course, when the later chapters of Heroes of Myth started to get over 70,000 words long, I was looking at far more writing in a shorter period of time than I’d ever had to contend with when I was working alone on my novel with no deadlines. It was taking over my non-work hours a little more than I would have preferred by the end, but fortunately I managed to finish the game before it got too overwhelming. And aside from beta testing, I’ve been taking a bit of a break from writing since then, which was much needed.
Heroes of Myth is going to be followed pretty closely by another staff-written game, Psy High 2: High Summer. Do you have favorite Choice of Game titles, either from before you started working here, or since, or even ones which are still in the works?
I can’t remember if Affairs of the Court: Choice of Romance was the first Choice of Games title I ever played, but it was definitely the one I fell in love with, a few years before I started working here. Our game design has gotten more sophisticated since then, but I still have a lot of affection for it, and I still remember the glee I felt on first scheming my way to the throne (and the only slightly concerning texts I sent my friends about how much I was enjoying all the different ways the game let me eliminate my competition). I also really enjoyed Cannonfire Concerto and Thieves’ Gambit: Curse of the Black Cat when they were first released, and I ended up doing some of my early editorial and QA training with them once I started working here, which was particularly cool. With the music and the intrigue, Cannonfire Concerto features a combination of things I really adore, and the heists in Curse of the Black Cat are a ton of fun.
Since I started working here, there are lots of games I’ve really enjoyed playing and watching develop. Just a few of these are Heart of the House, Blood Money, The Mysteries of Baroque, and Asteroid Run: No Questions Asked, all of which have beautifully-drawn characters in deeply compelling settings. As for upcoming games, I’ll cheat and say I’m very excited about all the games I’m currently editing – one of which, Crème de la Crème by Hannah Powell-Smith, is currently in full draft review, and might be familiar to some forum-goers!
What part of Heroes of Myth did you enjoy writing most? World-building, NPCs, interesting choices, fight scenes?
Characters and dialogue are always my favorite parts of anything I’m writing, and Heroes of Myth is no exception. In more linear writing I always have to resist the urge to let conversations I’m enjoying writing spiral on forever, and while that isn’t necessarily any more advisable in interactive fiction, I love creating conversations that can branch in multiple directions. Figuring out how a character might respond to all the different things the PC might conceivably say is so much fun. Some of my favorite lines in the game are hidden in relatively insignificant dialogue branches, and I dearly hope people find them!
If you had it to do over, what would you do differently?
Anything that would keep the game from taking over my life quite as much as it did in the final chapters – whether that’s figuring out a better schedule, writing a shorter game, or getting a better sense of how long something will be before I write it, I’m not sure. People always talk about interactive fiction ballooning out of control as the branches accumulate, which is certainly part of the problem, but I’ve never written anything that didn’t come out much longer than I was intending it to be, interactive or otherwise.
Which part of the process surprised you, despite knowing exactly how things go behind the scenes here?
I was only a few months into working here when I started the game, so I certainly didn’t know everything about how things go behind the scenes then, and I’m not sure I’d say I do even now – there are always still new things I’m learning! One thing might have surprised me precisely because I’m familiar with how the process works, which is how quickly things moved once the game was submitted. Which is not to say that we have routine catastrophes or anything, just that I was well aware of all the places where the game could get bogged down, and that more or less didn’t happen. That said, it hasn’t actually been released yet, so I should probably stop talking and may have already said too much.
And what do you want to write next!?
As I mentioned, I’ve been taking a writing break, so I’ve only recently started thinking seriously about concepts for my next game. After the doomsday prophecies of Heroes of Myth, I’d love to do something where the stakes are just a bit lower than the apocalypse – but where the choices you make feel just as important, of course! And somewhere in there I’d like to work in revisions to the novel I mentioned, but I’ve discovered I love writing games too much to put that down for long. When I get all of that ironed out, you’ll be one of the first to know!