Well, since I’m busy making a webcomic mini series for next month and also seem to be spending quite a bit of time playing a computer game (called “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines”) at the time of writing, I thought that I’d take a look at another interesting thing that playing games can teach you about making webcomics, writing short fiction etc…
One of the interesting things about many computer games is that, although they might contain quite a few levels or even a large “open world”, there are always limits on where the player can explore. Most of the time, this is done for purely practical reasons (eg: a game company might have the time and/or budget to build a large city for the player to explore, but it might only contain 20-100 buildings that the player can actually enter.)
Whilst some games take the “open world” approach, many other games limit the player to exploring smaller areas in order to provide a much more focused and “deep” experience. For example, although “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines” contains quite a few complex buildings that the player can explore, it only contains about four “open” areas, each of which only consists of a few streets. This allows the game designers to focus more on making these smaller outdoor areas interesting, whilst helping to ensure that the player doesn’t get too lost whilst exploring.
This focus on a limited number of locations is something that is worth bearing in mind if you’re making webcomics or writing short fiction.
If you’re writing short fiction or making a 3-8 panel webcomic update, then the main focus needs to be on things like humour, storytelling and characterisation. What this means is that you should probably only include 1-3 different locations in each comic update or short story. Because you don’t have too much room, you need to focus on locations that are actually relevant to the story.
So, with short fiction especially, choosing a location can often be a surprisingly important thing. For example, this short story of mine is about a futuristic city that has experienced a power cut. Although other locations are mentioned in the story, the events of the story take place within a single room. This allows me to focus more on both the characters and the story than if I’d tried to write about lots of different things happening in different places.
Plus, by focusing on a very limited number of locations, you can also spend more time describing those locations in detail. Detailed descriptions of one or two locations will make your story more dramatic and atmospheric than if you try to describe a larger number of locations in much less detail.
Likewise, if you’re making webcomics, then using a more limited number of locations can be a good way to save time (eg: drawing the same simple background multiple times is quicker than having to plan and draw lots of different backgrounds) and also to give your webcomic a lot more “personality” too. After all, familiar recurring locations can often become part of what a webcomic is about.
Of course, the problem with doing this in a webcomic is that using the same backgrounds repeatedly can be visually monotonous. But, there are lots of sneaky ways to get around this.
For example, in dramatic panels, you can use a solid black background – this places emphasis on the character who is talking, it’s quick to draw and it adds some visual variety to the comic update too.
Likewise, if a character is talking at length about something, then you can use a “cutaway” panel – just add the narration to a box at the top of the panel and then add a small illustration of whatever it is that the character is talking about. Here’s an example from the upcoming webcomic mini series that I’m preparing at the time of writing:
So, yes, looking at explorable areas in computer and video games can teach you the value of only including a small number of relevant locations in your short stories and/or comic updates.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂