Writing Fellion: An Authors Reflection
Writing the story of Lights of Fellion was some of the first major writing I undertook after leaving college. Through some encouragement of a professor and friend, I had been able to have a short memoir published, but otherwise, most of my writing was for school or personal use (poetry that should never, ever, ever see the light of day). When I was hired to Seismic Squirrel, I worked on some minor writing projects before Don Mottaz approached us to work on a game for him. At the time, I was still only working on contract, but I hoped for more so I asked to throw my hat in the ring. They agreed, and over the next two weeks, I poured myself into writing the story proposal for what would become Lights of Fellion.
Find a World Already Alive
The first draft of the story pitch had nearly 50 pages of narrative with illustrations I had bought off Fiverr. I couldn't tell you where the story came from besides me sitting, staring at a wall for a while, and writing down every idea I had while thinking of my favorite movies. I started with the basic premise, that there is a world under attack by the darkness. Who was this darkness? Where was it coming from? Why did it cover the world? What does a world look like that has been covered in darkness for so long? Slowly but surely, I came up with details for this world, and fortunately, some of it sounded pretty cool. Turned out afterward that this was total overkill, but I had no idea what a story pitch was supposed to entail, so I wrote everything: the history of the world, the history of its different locations, the characters, their backstories, the mechanics, the different races in Fellion, their societal structures, their conflicts and roles, and the metaphorical imagery behind it all. Everything in Fellion was in scope, and by George, I was going to show everything!
I wish I could say it was purely diligence that motivated me to write all those pages, but it was also an obligation to the world I had imagined. The Sazi, Celestians, Skylighters, Fae, Attendants, had all become alive in my head; The Blue Cliffs at Ressor, Where the Giants Fell, and The Deep Shadows were all real places that needed to be described. The hours where Don was choosing which story to go with was nerve-wracking: not only was my future in the game industry on the line, but this world I had created was as well. Fortunately, he loved it and asked only for a few tweaks before moving forward. Everything was looking up!
Appreciation vs Creation
Turns out creating a fantasy world on paper is a lot easier than implementing the story into a game. I’ve always loved story games, Hellblade, Bioshock, and A Plague Tale have, as cheesy as this sounds, changed how I look at the world. But translating story appreciation into story creation is not as easy as it sounded. The story needed the capacity to change when played; the player was looking forward to making their own choices, even if on a linear path. There is no way that I can assume every action of a Player, their desires, their playstyles. Chances are, the story I create will be entirely different than what is experienced.
Lessons Moving Forward
Right now, the unknown Player is the biggest issue that I am running into while constructing the game is integrating choice into a clear story that I have envisioned. How linear should it be? How should choices affect the ending? How expansive should the dialogue be? The solution is as simple as it is frustrating: rewrite after rewrite after rewrite after rewrite with the hope that one of them comes out of the oven perfectly baked. When everything comes together, it somehow becomes a whole when previously it was nothing but scattered ideas. That also could be totally wrong, I guess we’ll just have to find out.