“Designing Episode’s Interactive Fiction in Three Phases”

This is an outline of a polarizing GDC talk by Michael Dawson.

  • The mobile audience is an interrupted audience.
    • It wants bite-sized stories.
    • Five-minute episodes.
  • Pick a concept that your audience will love.
    • Ask what they already like and analyze it.
  • Use the best practices from Hollywood screenwriting (Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder, Story by Robert McKee).
    • Three-act structure.
    • Story outlines.
  • How is mobile different?
    • Change the pacing. The setup, the first act, should be in the first five-minute episode.
    • Design in portrait. Have fewer characters.
  • Have interactivity in mind from the start.
  • Go from script to playable ASAP.
    • Have authoring tools with stock art.
    • The comic timing may not translate.
  • Internal review loop.
  • Pilot/soft-launch -> iteration.
    • Ratings (feedback scores).
    • Drop-off.
    • Look for 50%/50% choices.
    • Dollars earned per story start.
      • Premium choices (like bonus outfits). Emphasize the pay-off of the choice. Choices about the player character work better.
  • Cover design.
    • Face close-ups are good.
    • Two guys in a picture does better than two girls for the Episode audience.
  • Support agency and identity across stories.
    • One avatar across stories.
  • Nothing about the story should feel sacred. You can change anything to make it better.

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Tags: game design, notes, video games.