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Open development vs. spoiling the story

Add Comment! By John Graham on October 4th, 2009

We've explained the virtues of open development in depth, but it's not obvious how this development strategy should apply to the Overgrowth story. I've already seen brief discussions about this occur in IRC, and given the 92 comment reaction to Aubrey's storyboard post, I think people may have some strong opinions on this issue.

Please feel free not to watch this.

The Problem

The first time you encounter a good story is usually the best time, and until someone builds a machine that can cause strategic lacunar amnesia, we will only experience stories for the first time once. While treating the story like every other part of our development would still be interesting, it could also spoil the magic of the player's first run-through of the finished game. Therefore we might want to consider following options:

Option 1: Wait Until The End

We can hide all the core story elements (campaign levels and story-related art assets) until the whole single-player campaign is finished. Then, when everything is ready, we reveal it all at once.

Option 2: Multiple Installments

We can release story elements in segments (like chapters) along the way so that the polish is there, but we don't have to wait until the very end.

Option 3: Individuals Decide

We could let preorderers individually choose whether or not they want to see story-related content. One danger is that people might not be able to resist checking out the story early, but may then immediately regret doing so (I'm sure there are some people who feel that way about the video embedded above). Another danger is that people who peek at the story early might end up leaking details and ruining the plot for those who have chosen to wait.

Option 4: Nothing Special

We could keep it simple and just throw story assets into the builds like everything else.

What's best?

We still have some work to do before this becomes an immediate issue, and no matter what, we'll continue to include all the latest tech features and modding tools in our builds. But since the story options are mutually exclusive, we thought we should ask for your thoughts on this issue instead of guessing in the dark. What option seems best to you? Is there another approach I haven't mentioned?


Shout Out: I recently did a podcast with Omaha Sternberg on igameradio.com. To check it out, click here.