Hoping for a Storyboard Ending

As I’ve said before, I’m really reaching for these article names. Anyway, I just wanted to briefly touch on the idea of Indie developers doing storyboarding for their in-game cinematics.

I don’t know how typical I am to the average Indie developer (I’m talking the lone-wolf developer doing it all alone), but I didn’t start out with any storyboards for Odin’s Eye. I thought to myself that the end-game cinematics would be so short that it would be a waste of time to do any type of storyboarding. I already had an idea of what I wanted to do there, so off I went, with my half-formed plan.

It was a disaster. There was nothing that I could use from that first attempt.

So, I knew then that I had to do more than open the editor and start to throw things together. Without any formal training, but some basic idea of what a storyboard was supposed to look like, I started to create my first draft of the storyboard. I say “first draft” because you will need to move cells around to get the scene flow that you want. That may be a storyboards greatest attribute…the fact that you can shuffle the cells around if you don’t like the way each shot flows into the next.

There is another reason why I said “first draft”, and I actually made the same mistake again. A little background may be helpful in understanding the mistake I am referring to. I spent quite a lot of time in art classes when I was young. I wanted to make cartoons like all the ones that I loved, so that is what I planned to do with my life. Spoiler, I didn’t do that. Anyway, I would spend hours drawing things. Anything, really. I eventually lost my love for art, but that is a bitter story that I won’t share, and it isn’t important anyway. I can draw. At one time, I could draw really well, but not great. So when it came time to create the storyboards for Odin’s Eye, I thought this would be a good opportunity to pick up my pencils and create the storyboards that way. I had at one time been talented and skilled enough to do that, so why not? Well, that part about “had at one time” is key. Compared to your average person, I can still draw well. But to attempt to do something like create quality storyboards? Nope.

After wasting the better part of a day creating a portion of the storyboard for the cinematic that plays when the player fails in Odin’s Eye, I stopped in disgust. The art was terrible (for someone who spent years in art classes), and I hadn’t even finished the storyboard. The next morning I was honest with myself. I admitted that I didn’t have it anymore, and that to continue like that would waste at least one more day. That was time I didn’t have to waste.

I decided to play to my strengths, such as they are. I had animations and models right there in the editor. I knew how to use Sequencer so that I could create the cells for the storyboards using actual in-game assets. The very same assets that were going to be used in the cinematic itself. Why not just use those instead of wasting a bunch of time? Ego could have gotten the best of me, but I always try to be honest with myself. This was a case where it paid off. So, how did I make this mistake again? Well, the same reason why I made it on Odin’s Eye, to be perfectly honest. For some reason, I believed that I could create it faster with my pencils than I could in Sequencer. I was wrong then, and I was wrong now.

Even though I didn’t look up the proper formatting for a storyboard, if there is such a thing, it was immensely helpful to have something to refer to when laying out the cinematic in Sequencer. I review the storyboards that I create many times during the process of creating the cinematics. No matter how they are made, they will be useful to have, so don’t hesitate. You will waste more time redoing things by “winging it” than it would take to create some storyboards. They are worth the effort.

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