A Battle of Resolve (Pt. 2) – Whipping the Story into Shape

Oct 16, 2014
2014 Oct 16
Janet Hsu

Hallo, hallo, hallo! Boy have I missed you guys, but with all the Comic-Con goodness that was going on, we wanted to make sure that word got around that “Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy” will be coming out on December 9 th in North America, and 2 days later on the 11 th in Europe!

As for this week’s blog, originally published on October 25, 2002, this is part two of Mr. Takumi’s blog about writing the initial draft of “Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All”. In case you missed it, Mr. Takumi recounts in part one about how he was ordered to write out the rough draft of the entire game in three and a half months–and right after returning from vacation, no less! And now, without further ado, here’s part two!

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My first order of business was to figure out how to best make use of the three and a half months I had been given. I figured if I dedicated half a month per episode to writing just the dialogue, five episodes would take two and half months. That would leave me with just one month to draft the entire game’s story “prototype”. Breaking that down even further, it meant that I only had one week to sketch out the plot and tricks for each episode.

One whole episode per week… Talk about stressful.

“Prototypes” are… well, they’re the heart of not just the story, but of Ace Attorney itself. The first, most important element to consider when writing an episode’s prototype is what the central mystery will be. After determining that, I have to figure out the necessary “tricks” to pull off the big mystery, and then the hints the player will need to solve the tricks. After that comes the story that will bind the series of hints together, and finally, the characters that will convey that story to the player. With the massive number of things to consider in creating just one prototype, I had to really buckle down and put my nose to the grindstone.

One month later…

Despite my belief that it would be absolutely impossible, I had somehow managed to finish writing all five prototypes.

Two and a half months after that…

Despite my belief that it would definitely be absolutely impossible, I somehow managed to write the dialogue for all five episodes. Printed out, the text filled roughly six binders. It was 1,500 pages in all — the result of three and a half months of work.

Throughout the entire process — from when I started envisioning the prototypes up through the actual writing of the dialogue itself — I kept a daily “story diary”. Re-reading it now brings a tear to my eye, as it reminds me of such times as when I was focusing so hard on one of the prototypes that I had begun to question if what I was writing was even interesting at all. But ever so slowly, I pressed on with a whole lot of doubt in my heart and a guillotine blade named “Deadline” hanging over my head. The will to keep on going… I guess you could say it came from my stubborn pride and my love of Ace Attorney.

As an aside, a lot of people have been asking me recently, “How do you think up those stories anyway?” which is a rather difficult question — and one without a single, simple answer. Each episode comes from a different place and requires its own method of thinking to flesh it out. Sometimes, they even take off without me in some rather unimaginable directions.

I’ll begin sharing some of the backstories and “making of” stories about each episode in a few weeks. Until then, please try to solve every case in the game on your own, everyone.

I figured if I dedicated half a month per episode to writing just the dialogue, five episodes would take two and half months. That would leave me with just one month to draft the entire game’s story “prototype”. Breaking that down even further, it meant that I only had one week to sketch out the plot and tricks for each episode.

Maya: Maybe I should try writing sometime. I bet I’d be great at it!

Phoenix: Sure, why not?

Maya: But I wonder how you’re supposed to come up with tricks and stuff…

Phoenix: I doubt there’s some sort of shortcut. You probably just have to think, think, and think some more.

Maya: But I heard that Takushu paces back and forth when he’s thinking up new ideas.

Phoenix: Maybe that’s how he takes his ideas from tiny buds to fully-blossomed flowers.

Maya: Oh, come on, Nick! You’re not taking me seriously here!

Phoenix: Ha ha ha, sorry. But honestly, I don’t know that there really is any one way to come up with plot ideas.

Maya: Don’t people say that ideas just come to you when you’re nice and relaxed, like after a long, soothing bath or a peaceful stroll?

Phoenix: You know that’s just a saying, right? I mean, I can guarantee that anyone who’s THAT relaxed isn’t thinking about work.

Maya: Oh?

Phoenix: Plus, I doubt anyone actually thinks it’s the perfect time to take a soak and stroll when something’s due the next day. They’re more likely to think, “I’d better do something before I give myself ulcers!”

Maya: On second thought… maybe professional writing is not the job for me.

Two and a half months after that…

Despite my belief that it would definitely be absolutely impossible, I somehow managed to write the dialogue for all five episodes.

Maya: So… it ended up being no biggie after all.

Phoenix: Well, just between us, Takushu apparently kinda, sorta regrets ending on such a high note.

Maya: But why?

Phoenix: Because he exceeded everyone’s expectations.

Maya: Um, isn’t that a GOOD thing?

Phoenix: Not if you think about it this way: Takushu has basically proven that he can write this huge amount of text in a super short period of time, right? But it’s not like he wants to do that every time. So by setting this precedent, he’s kind of screwed himself over for the rest of eternity.

Maya: That’s so like you to think about the future, Nick. But I say it’s more important to focus on shining as bright as you can while you can in the here and now.

Phoenix: …Like how a candle shines at its brightest just before it burns out?

Maya: Yup! Just like that!

Phoenix: Well, Takushu does admit to liking the thrill of cutting it close to his deadlines, and the feeling of really zeroing in on something and being in the zone. Just thought I’d throw that out there…

Maya: Oh? Well, maybe he prefers that to having too much time on his hands? 

The will to keep on going… I guess you could say it came from my stubborn pride and my love of Ace Attorney.

Phoenix: There’s actually one other motivating factor he conveniently left out…

Maya: No way! What is it?!

Phoenix: You’ve gotta promise to keep this a secret, though. Promise?

Maya: Yeah, I won’t tell a soul! Now hurry up and tell me!

Phoenix: It’s whiskey.

Maya: …I don’t get it.

Phoenix: It’s like Takushu’s gasoline. It’s always one shot — straight — just before he starts writing.

Maya: Wh-What?! Isn’t there a rule about no drinking allowed during work hours or something?!

Phoenix: Of course there is! That’s why he only does that when he comes in to work on the weekend or late at night… and on the down low.

Maya: B-But there’s no way he could get away with that sort of thing with all of his co-workers sitting nearby, right?

Phoenix: He’s got a few tricks up his sleeve… like replacing the contents of his energy drink bottles and stuff…

Maya: Ohhh, so he uses tricks not just in his mysteries but in real life, too!

Phoenix: Apparently, it fires him up and gets the blood flowing to his brain.

Maya: Is that so…

Phoenix: He likes to say that the more he drinks, the stronger he gets.

Maya: I don’t think anyone should put much stock in that…

Phoenix: One weekend, he had a small run-in…

 

Takumi: ………… *is busy wrestling with the story*

Division Leader: Hey, Takumi. You must be in a bit of a bind if you’re here on a Sunday.

Takumi: Ah! M-M-Mr. Mikami! H-H-How are you?! *trembles like crazy*

Mikami: You’re looking a little flushed in the face. Everything okay?

Takumi: Y-Y-Yes! Just p-p-peachy!

Mikami: You’ve gotta take better care of yourself, you know. You can’t live off of energy drinks alone!

Takumi: O-O-Of course, s-sir!

 

Phoenix: …I really worry about that man sometimes.

Maya: Yeah… He’s not exactly looking “strong” there, is he? Besides, he should know that if anyone figures that trick out, he wouldn’t be able to use it anymore.

Phoenix: Actually, he was found out pretty quick because late-night Takushu is one suspicious character.

Maya: …It figures.

Phoenix: In fact, whenever he seems even slightly off, his boss gets angry and yells, “Takumi! Did you sneak a drink behind my back again?!”

Maya: Well, who wouldn’t get suspicious after all that…

 

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Thank you, Mr. Takumi from 2002! It certainly sounds like it was rough, and you used some… shall we say, questionable tactics… but you made it through all right, it seems! Although… why do you keep talking about how there were “five episodes” in the second game when the final version only has four? Hmm… Me thinks some detective work is in order.

Join me again next time as I present another round of characters! “Great People Around Town” will be interviewing the assistants that make our protagonists’ lives easier, and quite frankly, more entertaining!

Until then!

Catch up on previous blog entries here!