Storybuilding Frequently Asked Questions
Is storybuilding a genre or a game experience?
A storybuild can be used with an educational or gaming experience, particularly if there are puzzles to be solved and conflicts to be resolved, but most games are not storybuilds. Games that are storybuilds include a backstory, character development, and intentional consideration of literary elements and/or devices.
Does age writing and storybuilding use the same process?
Because the Myst, Riven, Uru experience was one of the first highly successful storybuilds, and the storytellers at Cyan call their work age writing, it is a common practice for storybuilders to themselves age writers. To be an age writer is to master the art of storybuilding.
How long have 3D immersion storybuilds been around?
Storybuilds have been around a very long time, but 3D immersion storybuilds had to wait for technology to catch up with the concept. After all words were invented to in lieu of hard to decipher commerce illustrations. Cuneiform was simply more portable than complex pictures that could be misinterpreted (unintentionally or deliberately). By the time sound got attached to the letter, and stories that were always an oral tradition turned into scripted art form, the high and mighty were well on their way to separating out those who could read symbolism and those who couldn't.
There's been wars about this situation of words versus images. Tons of them, because misinterpretation of words happens everyday too (unintentionally or deliberately). With every author's generation technology has changed the way we read what someone else is thinking. it is unknown whether social media, videos, digital illustrations and One Note (or the like) collaboration will help to remedy the issue of not getting a point across. Likely it won't, because perspective is entirely experiential.
An immersive experience brings up the Alice's admonition that there is no "use in telling a story without pictures or conversation." The 3D storybuild, the latest in the long history of trying to get view across is certainly worth a good try. Through wars or only fist fights, it attempts to meld again text with object. Ezra Pound would be thrilled about text and object; likely less thrilled with the illustration.
Does storybuilding happen intentionally?
Storybuilding does not happen unintentionally. Planning and designing a beautifully rendered world has it's virtual place, but worlds without backstory, ongoing stories or character transformatiions are not storybuilds. Neither are simulations storybuilds. A storybuild's foundation is rooted in text and picture book stories written for the last 8,000 or so years. If you include stories written about hunts on cave walls, the legacy is longer.
Building a story requires the age writer to define a setting (time and place) and create a character narrator and/or hero (first, second or third person fictive), who will achieve a goal. The goal could be as simple as completing a walk down a path and considering all the flora and fauna, but best storybuilds usually include a complex problem to be solved, or a mystery to be unraveled.
Are roleplaying worlds considered storybuilds?
Roleplayers often use storybuilds for their roleplaying venue, but storybuilds are not built for the purpose of roleplaying. It is necessary for the storybuilder to invite in avatars to play out certain roles to activate a story. Storybuilders provide their own fictives, who can work together or in conflict with one another to move the plot along.
This is not to say that storybuilders never intentionally consider using roleplaying avatars in their happenstance plans for moving the plot along. One of the most interesting nonlinear issues the storybuilder faces is what to do with a character, who gets involved with real time events, or in real time conflicts with roleplaying avatars.
If an age writer's world is left open to roleplayers, the writer should consider these issues a gift, serendipity, manna. Adding in real time drama to the storybuild makes for authenticity and its easy flowing fun for the author to see what will happen.
A note of caution: Visitors, roleplaying avatars and fictive characters are not always focused on the same objectives. Using the "lateral" device is one of the most enjoyable aspects of storybuilding, but it can be a sticky wicket. In Ruby's personal opinion it is a sticky wicket that produces a rich fodder well worth any tears or frustration with revising a story to include nonlinear happenstances.
Is storybuilding a kind of literature?
Storybuilding is working on becoming a literature. Between the technological bugs and the fist fights over what simulations means, there hasn't been enough storybuilding accomplished to ensure its continued existence, but there are indications it is being recognized - not necessarily voiced, but recognized and developed by dozens of world builders. It is a literature in progress.
In the not too distant past Cyantists (Cyan Worlds builders) published a trilogy of stories that introduced the Uru experience. While the Myst Reader isn't a deep and complex read, it is a thoughtful page turner that makes a point and enhances the wondrous visual experience an explorer faces when they enter the world. Several years after the trilogy was published the group built an "illustration" world for a traditional book author. Adding such an illustration to the book jacket is yet another way of blending text and immersion experience.
How much does storybuilding cost?
There are two costs associated with storybuilding. One cost is the reader's cost. The other cost is the writer's cost. Both costs often prohibit the average reader from taking the 3D virtual leap.
1. Reader's cost involves access to a server (computer or online) where the world is displayed, and a video card that will render the 3D digital image, so they can see it. Many computers do not include these cards, and mobile devices are not viable either. The way around this issue is to see photographs or machinima of storybuilds; however, the immersion factor will be limited to what is felt in a movie theater. The creators of Myst and Riven provided point and click immersion 20 years ago. Cyan Worlds, latest production Obduction may also work on more computers, and it is being built with Oculus Rift in mind.
2. Author's cost involves access to a server (computer or online) to build the world, and several other tools and skills that are listed here
There are several different processes that are used to build stories. Some are costly and some are not so costly. The open sim metaverse is still free to use. So are other elements used by builders. The most important technical matter to consider is a good graphics card and a delivery server with enough capacity to handle a detailed storybuild. How detailed the build will be is up to the storybuild author.
Does it take special skills to craft a storybuild?
Yes, but more traits than skill, curiosity, wonder, patience and most of all a fall down giggling sense of dark humor.
Depending on your level of art/texture/shape expertise and a general knowledge about the technology you are using, the skills used to craft a storybuild are commonly used by all world builders. It does help to know how traditional stories are written. It will come in handy to know that the best stories are character driven (even if that character is a thunder storm personified), and there is beginning. middle and probable end to a story (even when the author is streaming consciousness).
Storybuilders who are hesitant about taking on the challenge will find that working collaboratively with a group is a sound idea. There are so many technical facets to learn that knowing someone who already built a story can save you weeks of time. On the other hand, some folks work through their learning curves best on their own. A little collaboration and a lot of independent work is usually the best process to use.
How long does it take to build a story?
A one character, one region story does not take too long to build. Building the setting (terrain) and laying down the objects (plotting) will likely take 3 weeks to a month. If the build is larger, includes complex problems and/or puzzles to solve, the build will take much longer.
Frustrating though it may be for the writer who wants to evoke a specific mood from the world visitor, there are hundreds of objects and scripts available to freely use or purchase for first builds. As skills are honed there will be less need to spend time shopping, but shopping for unique objects or artifacts is also fun and inspiring when you need a break from building. Storybuilds like other world builds are scenes built with terrain and objects, but that terrain and those objects don't necessarily need to be built by the storyteller. The storybuilder is a set director. What the storybuilder lays down to support her/his character is what matters.
How can I use storybuilding to illustrate my writing?
Because so may readers do not have the technology to see a storybuilder's world, it is useful to know how to podcast, vidcast, photograph and otherwise create ways for readers to see builds. Blogs provide a great way to keep up with news about the build, and blogs provide an explanation for what isn't seen in the world. Blogs are also useful during the building phase, because it takes time to lay down objects with thoughtful intention. It also takes time to write out user displays and notecards that can help with story transitions.
Every time fictive, Ruby O'Degee, builds a story, she starts a blog for that world. Blogger continues to be the easiest and less expensive way to coordinate her many worlds effort (The Lakewater Project). She likewise asks her visitors to start an explorer blog, so that they can record their journey, problems, and mastery of interpreting her worlds.
Why is storybuilding a simultaneous exchange between text symbols and visual objects?
Storybuilding throws out the interim rules about whether to use symbols (text) to define objects. The lesson that encourages writers to paint pictures with words is still a lovely way to express a vision, but technology has provided a illustrative portability and immersion 3D experience that helps to clarify the mind's eye with or without words. Why not combine the two? Advertisers have done it forever. Sneaking over to Dairy Queen for the dipped cone is not done by the power of words alone. All the guilt, self loathing, and sugar drops give way to image of cold and delicious cream covered with chocolate. Immersion drives the consumer to the Queen for soft serve.
Arguably, only the costs of printing/portability and the intentional coding of good books ( only for those who could read) kept text and graphics apart.
Does a storybuild require a backstory?
Most storybuilds include a backstory. Sometimes visitors, who become fans are nice enough to conjure up one for a world, but storybuilders usually like to write their own. It is difficult to write with intention, if a writer does not know where his/her character originated. A best practice for authors is to pre-write their characters' biographies. A good storybuild is usually a connection to another world that branches from a central story, or it is the central story that comes out of a backstory. After writing the backstory it is always good to publish it someplace. It could be part of a hidden mystery to find, or a prologue that stabilizes the reticent and frightened explorer who enters a new environment.
What is the difference between a storybuild and any other virtual world build?
A storybuild is a character driven and planned build. In most cases it is not a real exact simulation or a social event venue. The storybuild could be an educational build, if the educational facility included a backstory. In most cases the world builder will know if their world is a storybuild. They won't mind if a visitor arrives in the world as a representational avatar (real life self) or a fictive.
Even a shop could be a storybuild if that shop was involved in a larger plot line. Markets, stores and shops that are only built for the purpose of display or commerce are not storybuilds.
Does a written linear story always accompany a storybuild?
No. Emphatic No. While Ruby O'Degee writes a linear accompaniment to her storybuilds, there a several high quality builds that are not accompanied. Like picture or wordless books, the story is revealed though its illustration. Ann Dickerson, a retired teacher continuously encouraged her students to consider the over dependence on words. While there is much to be said about reading only what is written between the four corners of the page, there is also a need to "read" between the lines, and certainly into any text features (including illustrations) provided. Letters are little teensy pictures that strung together form a sound and vision. The costs of printing, wars about words or images and fist fights over phonics withstanding, there is no need to depend on text or visuals. Technology has afforded readers the opportunity to use both simultaneously.
Where do I find other storybuilders?
It is the mission of the Midtown Ladies Guild and the Devokan Trust (both fictional real time groups) to find other storybuilders and bestow upon them roses. A genre is best recognized and developed by more eyes and ears.
Do storybuilds include audio/sounds?
While a build can be a storybuild without sounds, sounds are best. Technology will help with this effort. Ruby O'Degee experiments with storybuild sound every chance she gets.
By the way, the cyantists at Cyan Worlds are masters at incorporating sound into their world stories, and every movie producer knows how sound works to immerse a reader/viewer.
How can I tell if I am looking at a storybuild?
Look for illustration quality, excellent graphics, windlight environments, sounds, characters that leave notes or tracks behind them. If the build is unique and includes a writer's perspective, the build is a likely a story in the making. in the making, because stories do need to be read in order for completion to occur. Stories are a communication device that humans thrive on - must have to exist.
Other methods of determining if builds are storybuilds is in the hands of world visitors and writers. Since this is a redeveloping genre, it will require many opinions about storybuilding best practices to be considered. Nothing is yet set in stone. When it best practices are set in stone, Ruby will likely move on to something else she can piddle with.
Can storybuilds be created collaboratively?
Yes, while the linear story is likely the perspective of one author, the world building, object laying process is open to friends and foes who want to help with decorating the set. Literally hundreds of stories could come out of one small build. Millions from larger ones.
Fore more information about joining a group of working (everyday) storybuilders, please consider the Devokan Trust, a fictive, but real time group that produces some widely recognized builds. In character and out of character labels are not obstacles for this group. They generally ignore the differences.
Note: Per Dot Matrix, Devokan Trust curator: The name originated in a roleplayed story following a group of individuals escaping the destruction of their home world -- taken to be the original Devokan. One of them, Quinquifid Oddenfen, an archetypical steampunkian scientist, had been charged by his late great aunt Elspeth to set up a foundation to "research and restore what had been lost".
The Trust took inspiration from the burned (descriptive?) books found in the Myst Library, from Cyan World's classic game. What "Ages"/Worlds had been lost as a result of this destruction? Might it be possible to re-discover them as Trust members learnt to 'Write' such descriptive books for themselves?
Where is the story in the storybuild?
Please see the Who, Where, What, Why, When and How of storybuilding for the answer. Then go see a build and write one of your own based solely on your journey.
Attributes, Author Biographies and Easter Eggs
Nonfiction 3d immersion worlds need no Easter eggs (not be confused with Easter egg hunt games). The author of a storybuild sometimes non fiction facts about the writer, building team or happenings that occurred in places other than the virtual world that affected the storybuild's planning or outcome.
For example, fictive Ruby's office is furnished with photos of her benefactor with family, friends and colleagues she admires. While the benefactor finds the background, the underground and or the desktop a nice out of the way place to reside, there are times when it is nice to expose the author's crafts, motivations, and skills in an Easter egg. Easter eggs, by the way, rarely resemble an egg. An Easter egg could a be a note in a drawer, paper stuck to the bottom of a shoe or tire, or a photo shoved into pillowcase.