Novel vs. Game

I currently have an idea for a fantasy story and/or video game. The problem is, it seems like it could go equally well in both directions. So, what are the dis/advantages of doing something as a novel as compared to as a game?

In a game, the player knows exactly what they are seeing, which might not be what you want them to see. On the other hand, if you describe it well, a reader will understand exactly what you want them to understand.

You got your peanut butter in my chocolate!

No, you got your chocolate in my peanut butter!

Why not try them both, via Interactive Fiction?

How about Adrift?

Whoops, I see you are already a MUDer.

What do you mean by videogame?

Commercial PC game?
Console game?

Each has its own strengths and weaknesses.

It should be a game, a novel, a movie, a novelization of the movie, a comic book, a breakfast cereal, a floor wax, a snack chip, a birth control method, a Saturday morning cartoon series, a trading card game, a line of action figures, a line of in-action figures and a condom.

By ‘game’, I’m thinking eventually a PC game, although I don’ t know about the ‘commercial’ bit. I’ve already written a text-based game that is the basic, basic, BASIC framework of what I want it to be.

Well then, pass it around the room, and let us try it out, before we decide.

Alright. I don’t have any place to host the game, but email me if you want to see it. There is also a beginning of a story based on the same idea - same thing, email if you want to see it.

There are a number of differences in telling a story through a game.

Gameplay trumps narrative. You have to give the player something challenging to do moment-to-moment and this often diverts his thoughts from the story. Even if its a straight adventure game the player is going to spend a lot more time thinking about the puzzles than he is about the characters.

When I was doing Tom Clancy games we’d typically have 16 missions per game. Compare that to the 3 or 4 big action set pieces you have in a Clancy book or movie. Often with a game it feels like you’re fitting the story into the corners.

This means that you have to deal with the player’s attention waxing and waning. Player have a hard time following complicated plots because their attention keeps getting pulled out of the story. If your plot has lots of twists and turns it might work better as a novel.

Players also have a very low tolerance for exposition. In a novel you have the room to explain things and give background. In a game the player is always trying to surge forward. You have to be satisfied with impressionistic washes of description – just enough for them to get a hint before they get bored.

Stories function best in games when they’re used to add weight to the gameplay. They tell you why you’re doing what you’re doing. But they’re definitely not at the core of the game. They’re there to support the fantasy.

If your primary interest is telling the story … write the novel.

Ok. I have played your game. Not too bad, but too action filled to be text based. If you want it to be a hobbyist-type thing, you though make it a visual game, either one of those rogue-type games, with text descriptions, but with your cursor controlling the hero, or an Ultima type one, with sprite baised graphics. VIII , or IX style. However, if you want to be published commercially, I would say you should write a novel.