Rewriting Your Game From Memory

@lamemage gives hard advice. Rewriting Downfall from memory suuuuucks.

There’s a thing I do when I design games — this is real secret squirrel, behind-the-curtain stuff — which is that after I’ve written a draft or two and playtested a bit, I take everything I’ve written and just put it away. Make a new folder, slap a version number on it, and hide everything in there.

Then I start with a brand new blank page and write the entire game from memory. Blank page. No peeking.

Caroline and Marc are slaving away on Downfall and Eden, respectively, so I suggested they give it a try. Because that’s what friends do: torture you when you’re down.

@lamemage And right after I tweeted that I had a breakthrough. Fuck you.

Sure it’s a great way to test your memory and see if you can remember your own text but that’s not the point. It’s the direct opposite, in fact.

The more you play a game, the more you understand it. That goes double for when you explain the game to someone else. You may not realize it, but your insight into the game has improved so much that the old text is holding you back. If you started from scratch (ehh? see where we’re going?) you would write it in a much more clear and elegant fashion.

Freed from your old structure, you may even find that the game in your mind is very different now. Elements that seemed necessary and critical just fade away. Better ideas take their place. But if you sit down in front of that old text, you have to chisel and hammer to break free. With a blank page, you write what you would say at the table.

I’m not saying it will be easy. It’s a bit of work. But it’s worth it.

Give it a try. And then curse me. And then thank me.

    Ben Robbins | May 6th, 2014 | game design | show 5 comments