Using an online app called “Lucid Chart”, we developed a system for tracking the possible paths of the branching story called our “Node Tree”. Going chronologically from left to right, every block in the diagram represents a node of our story. Each node is a section of plot that may or may not happen depending on the choices the player makes throughout the experience. The lines connecting them show the ways the decisions take the player from one node to another. When the narrative reaches the end of one plot node, it will check the status of the relevant decisions made by the player and take the story along the correct path to the next logical node.
When writing the script designing the experience, the team was always able to reference this chart to determine which possibilities could occur and which couldn’t. With five choices, there were 2^5 (32) possible versions of the story. Instead of writing each one discretely, this chart allowed them to be written all at once. The team was able to check what information had been revealed along each path to the player and write accordingly.
Finding Balance in Story Beats
Early versions of this document lacked a symmetry in design flow. This is the first version of node tree:
As is evident when compared to the final draft, it is distinctly less symmetrical and equal across all paths. Through testing our story on sample players, we learned that each version of the story needed to pass through similar dramatic beats regardless of path. This ensured that all 32 versions of the story were narratively satisfying without having to test all of them individually. As the diagram evolved, the nodes were split into columns wherein every node served the same story purpose. For example, all of the three versions of node 5 function as a false victory for the main character. This means they all feel like they naturally come from all of the node 4’s (build up), and they all organically flow into both of the node 6’s (reversal of fortune). Sorting the possible nodes into their dramatic function let us test the success of the writing without going through 32 different scripts.