Feb 15

Weekly Update #287: GENBA Story Planning

After finishing the Valentine’s artwork earlier this week, I was finally able to fully commit myself to the writing for GENBA no Kizuna.
As mentioned in the posting regarding our plans for February, I am currently working on a very detailed outline for the entire rest of the game, so today, I would like to elaborate on that a little, and talk about story planning in general.

Essentially, the planning process for GENBA, or any mystery story for that matter (at least in my case), can be divided into two major categories: story and mystery. No matter what kind of elaborate murder case you come up with, there are countless possibilities to tell a story around it. In a sense, these two categories can be handled completely separate from one another (although I personally prefer it when they are linked together in some way).

To give an example, maybe one day, you suddenly come up with an elaborate trick a killer could use to eliminate their victim. In that case, you already have your mystery. What’s missing now is everything around it: Who is the victim? A ruthless businessperson? A cheating lover? Why were they killed? Out of revenge? Did it happen in the heat of the moment? Maybe it was an accident and the killer intended to kill somebody else? As for the culprit, who are they and why did they resort to such an elaborate trick in the first place? Also, where does the whole thing take place? In an apartment? A hotel? A public space?

Even if the trick puts some restrictions on you (because it could only work inside of an airplane, for example), for the most part, especially when it comes to motives and character backstories, you could go anywhere you want.

Now we can also try to approach this from another angle. Maybe you came up with the story first and you know it’s going to involve a murder, but you haven’t managed to come up with an interesting trick/mystery yet. There is this introverted teen, for instance, and you would like to tell the story of how she slowly comes out of her shell. She ends up attending a party at a secluded resort, which puts her in a situation where she has no choice but to interact with the people she usually tries to avoid. And then, throughout the night, someone ends up dead and she is the only one who picks up on the possibility of murder! Thus, she really needs to take center stage in order to prevent an even bigger tragedy…!

In this scenario, you are restricted by the frame you have set up for your story, so you need to figure out how to work within said frame in order to construct your mystery. Which is not to say that you are extremely limited. In the end, there are countless ways to kill someone! However, you probably won’t be able to use that airplane trick now…

From its initial conception, GENBA went through quite a lot of changes. The whole thing started with the idea of creating a murder mystery in which you’re thrown right into the “action”. You’re a police officer, you arrive at the scene of the crime, the whole murder has already taken place and now it’s up to you to solve it. That has always been one of the core ideas.

Another one I really wanted to implement was “working with a team”, with each member specializing in some other crucial area of crime scene investigation. This idea was sparked by the game Trauma Team for Wii, which essentially does the same thing for medical professionals.

Finally, the last thing that influenced me was the social element in Persona 3 and 4, as well as in Valkyria Chronicles 2. I liked the idea of getting closer to your teammates, so I wanted the investigation team to be a bunch of strangers. During the investigation, you learn their reasons for becoming police officers and you help them overcome some of their personal issues which prevent them from doing a proper job.

So basically, when it comes to GENBA, I came up with the individual character backstories first. The next step was to construct an interesting murder case, which could have been literally anything. As a matter of fact, my initial idea involved two dead bodies being found in an alleyway. There was also a murder at a karaoke bar at some point. However, as some of you may be aware of, I’m a bit of a dino nerd, so eventually, I decided to mash together the two things I love the most. And now, here we are, at the Kaseki residence where the victim was eaten by a T-Rex… oh, how things have escalated, haha.

Even after settling on the “dinosaur”-theme, GENBA underwent quite a few changes. At first, the case was supposed to take place at an actual natural history museum, for instance. But then I came up with the suspect characters and the story I wanted to tell through them, which required a more private location.

From here, many more changes followed, dictated by the new setting and story elements. In the museum, the victim would have been crushed by a T-Rex skeleton, but with the new location (and due to other, spoilery reasons), I changed it to an animatronic. The victim too changed identity, with Ryuunosuke originally being supposed to be our poor “Mr. Munched”, as Shinketsu would put it.

At first, Raptor Pack Productions was making a video game. Then they became indie filmmakers.

The list goes on and on. Even last year, I was still changing minor details and figuring out some of the story aspects. I always knew where I wanted to start and where I wanted to ultimately arrive with this story, but there are so many ways you can take to get to your destination, it was very difficult for me to settle on certain things. What’s the most interesting path to follow? Sometimes, it’s really hard to tell and even now, I’m not sure I’ve picked the most exciting one. But I have made my decision now.

With the outline I am currently working on, it’s time to finally put together all the individual pieces. I have various documents with endless notes and even fully written dialogues/scenes. The individual character stories have been set in stone for a while. I know what the ending of the story is going to be. I know the overall structure of it. I just don’t know about the individual steps to unravel this mystery and where to plant certain events.

I need to order all those notes I have taken during the last three years and that’s what the outline is for. And I think it really helps me a lot. Last month, I was very confused how exactly to handle chapter 2’s writing, sometimes feeling like… maybe there is no way to fit all my ideas into one coherent story.

But now that I have worked on the outline, I have a much clearer image. They’re still key notes (albeit very, very detailed ones), but with this as a guideline, it feels as though properly writing the chapter will almost be a piece of cake. So at the very least, I have gained some more confidence.

Welp, this topic kinda blew up a little. Maybe I’ve rambled and digressed too much. I will talk a bit more about the outline next week, but yeah, planning a story like this isn’t easy, especially when you have already released one that was generally well received. Because now I want to live up to the expectations and not disappoint our fans!

For now, I will continue working on the outline and, once it’s finished, go over it with certain people. Despite some fears and uncertainties, I still cannot wait to share the whole thing with someone and get their impressions! And once I have those, I’ll see where to go next.

Now, as I get back to work, I hope that you will enjoy the rest of your weekend! Until next Saturday, take care :3