Sunday, October 9, 2011

How to write a gamebook part 10 - proofing and playtesting

I've done a bad thing.  I've forgotten to cover something very important to the writing process, which is what I what I do when I actually write a book.

I write the storyline, put it into a flow diagram then write out the paragraphs and test the system.  It's all over, isn't it.  Of course it isn't.  You need to proofread the book and make sure that the game system works.

Proof reading is not just an add on that you have to drag yourself through after you have done all the hard work of actually writing the book (I'm still trying to convince myself of this although I still think that a book is finished once I type the final word).

When you are writing a gamebook, the spelling, punctuation and grammar are not the only things you have to make sure you've done correctly.  You then have to make sure that your game system works.

Proofreading need not
be a harrowing experience.
Armed guards not required.
Reviewing the book bit

I find it very useful to leave my gamebook alone once I have finished it.  If I try to proofread it straight away, I am too 'immersed' in the book to see its mistakes.  I need to give myself time to get a new perspective on it.

Even after some time, I might still be blind to my own mistakes so I get someone else to check it, usually my wife who has very good attention to detail.

I find this does the trick, but I found these good tips if you want to be more systematic and disciplined in your proofreading.

Reviewing the game bit.

It helps to read your book out
loud and get other people to
I have found another gamebook guide online that has fortunately not made such an oversight.  It tells you to make no less than six read throughs of your gamebook.

Run 1 – Punctuation
Starting at section 1 I go through every single section (not following the actual story but instead read section 1, then 2, and so on) to myself. What I am doing here is checking for spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors. The key to doing this is reading out loud. You may sound stupid to your family members but reading every word in your story out loud to yourself is the easiest way to catch grammatical errors.

          Run 2 – Connection
Using the Story Bubble Chart should eliminate the problem of sections accidentally not connecting correctly. However, while writing it is not hard to accidentally write 331 instead of 231. If something like this occurs while you are reading through your gamebook first consult your Bubble Chart. You should be able to see where the problem is. If the problem is not solved by that you may have to scan through until you find the correct connecting section.

Also, while doing this make sure you keep an eye out for sections that may have been reversed. For example, text on section 21 allows the character to climb up or down a flight of stairs. To climb down, you must turn to 200. To climb up you must turn to 322. Somehow you could easily mix up the numbers so section 200 should actually contain the text of section 322 and vice versa.

I would also like to add to this advice that when I was looking at the connections of some of my gamebooks, I would gravitate for the successful path and ignore the paths that would eventually lead to failure.  This was a bad bad thing that I did.  All the paths should be analysed.  However, since I can sometimes get too connected to my writing to the extent that I cannot see my own mistakes, I find having someone else read it (see run 6) very important.

Here's the one guy who thinks that
you shouldn't test books for combat
          Run 3-5 – Combat Difficulty
Game balance is important. This process includes three different runs. First create a character using highest possible stats. For example, in Lone Wolf, using a character with starting values of 19 Combat Skill and 29 Endurance. Run through the adventure, making sure that combat is not entirely too easy for your character. If the main character is rarely, if ever, receiving damage, than you may want to up the strength of the enemies the reader will come across.

Next run through it again, this time using a mid-level stat character (E.G. Lone Wolf with 14 Combat Skill and 24 Endurance). Combat for this character should be enough to make it difficult for the character to get through the story.

For your third run you make a character with the lowest possible stats (E.G. Lone Wolf with a Combat Skill of 10 and Endurance score of 20). Run through the adventure again. The adventure should be extremely difficult, warranting needing to run away or use skills and disciplines to get the main character out of difficult situations. However…it should NOT be impossible to make it through simply because a reader rolled lowest possible stats.

Run 6-? – Outside Influence
The looks you might get if you
misuse apostrophes.

Have a friend run through the adventure. Better yet…have several friends run through the adventure. If you have someone who did not write the adventure they will be able to spot grammatical errors, story inconsistencies, and flaws in the writing that you might have missed. This also helps with determining the difficulty of the adventure. See how often they reach sections with ‘auto death’. While running your characters through you were able to avoid them because you knew where they were. If it is far too easy for a character to die while running through your adventure your friends will surely say so.


  1. This is why we have Demian providing such services for the Fantazine.

  2. And a very well put together Fantazine it is too!