Story Concepts & Development for Novels, Comics, Games, Film and TV

The Note that Changed Everything

More discussion on how the concept for Young Justice: Legacy was created.

THE NOTE THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING

Last time I discussed getting the parameters of the story organized for Young Justice: Legacy, and with those in place, it was time to start building a game story…

I still strive to follow the advice I got early in my writing career, which is to write stories that I would want to see (or in this case, play) myself. So, I knew I wanted the game story to start small and build in magnitude, like a good action film. It needed to have a strong central problem that would sustain the player’s interest for the length of a game, and would compel them to travel the world in order to solve it. It needed to feel like it fit within the YJ universe. It needed to have a memorable boss fight (and boss) at the end, and on top of all that, it had to incorporate the 5-year gap events we wanted to tell.

I know that, initially, that must seem like a tall order, but I have to admit, it’s just this sort of “puzzle” that excites me as a writer. [That isn’t to say fulfilling it wasn’t hard, but there was still plenty of room to “play” within the requirements, and I like to think each struggle I have makes me a better writer than I would be otherwise.]

But back to the story development…

From a story-building perspective, I felt the core of the story would begin with the villain and what peril he or she posed to the YJ team. And given the nature of the DC universe, it made sense to (eventually) escalate the danger to a global threat.

Here are a few examples of early villain/global threat concepts I submitted to WB:

– Lex Luthor is collecting pieces of the Spear of Reckoning, an ancient Greek weapon with the power to destroy the world.

– Ra’s Al Ghul is combining the Blockbuster serum with basic elements to create a monstrous, lethal elemental army.

– Desaad is using magna-disk technology to create an Apokoliptan weapon of mass destruction.

Hopefully, you can see the general creative thread. They all had potential, each with a different set of benefits and challenges.

Initially, I was leaning toward the Spear of Reckoning storyline because Greece automatically evokes a sense of ancient history and mythology. Since superhero universes, as a whole, are intrinsically futuristic, it seemed a rather cool juxtaposition to have the threat be some sort of ancient weapon. Also, breaking the Spear up into pieces would give the YJ Team a very clear macro-objective: collect the pieces before the bad guys can execute their plan.

[Other details were already forming as I brainstormed the spear idea as well, as I had some familiarity with DCU’s use of the characters from the Greek pantheon. Some of my initial thoughts were that the Spear could actually be Zeus’s lightning bolt, and that Wonder Woman would be a natural and useful source of information as the story unfolded.]

Turns out WB liked that general concept as well, but with one very important NOTE…

They didn’t want the origin of the weapon to be Grecian. In the world of Young Justice, Zeus is a nice guy, and a supporter of mankind. So he wouldn’t make for a suitable villain.

They wanted something older, something even more ancient.

They even made a couple of suggestions.

We needed story concept approval as quickly as possible, and it really couldn’t wait a whole other week for the next conference call. I remember being in the conference room, ticky-tacking away on my laptop, looking up possibilities while the meeting continued. Story wasn’t the only approvals on the agenda that day, so there were other things to discuss…

Ultimately, what they were asking for wasn’t just a cultural change. It meant coming up with a new “weapon” as well, which needed to fit the game, as well as organically fit the culture it was coming from.

In my search, I came upon a lead on an ancient myth that I thought we could wrap the whole story around. Not only did this new idea give the project a more unique visual style, it inherently suggested more interesting locations for the Team to travel to, and even hinted at a story that could sort of turn the Earth-16 universe on its ear – but still made complete sense AND met WB’s needs.

To boot, the myth was singular to this particular ancient culture and provided the game with a distinctive boss to fight at the end of the game.

By the end of the call, I presented the new idea (with a bit of on-the-spot improvisation, if I’m being honest), and within in the next hour, we had ourselves a game story.

Whether WB intended it or not, The Note had just made the whole game stronger.

Yep, we were officially on our way…

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