How Big Is a Game?

So you want to write your own game, eh?  How many words do you think go into a successful game product?

I took a look at two game books I have on hand: Mountain Witch, a typical perfect bound 100-200 page indie book, and the V:tR Chronicler’s Guide, a typical hardcover 128-256 page mainstream book.

Picking a page out at random from tMW, (95) one with lots of text. I pick a few lines and count the words: 9, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 14.  I use 10 as my words per line, since it’s a round number, and later stuff will skew the total upwards anyways (as we’ll see later.)

There’s 37 lines on the page, including paragraph breaks.  This page doesn’t have any sidebars, footnotes, art, headings, or white space, which are all over the place in tMW.  I like sidebars and footnotes, but I think Timothy Kleinert and Joshua Newman went a little overboard.

Anyway, that’s 370 words per page, assuming the page is crammed full of words, which they aren’t.

The highest numbered page in the book is ‘140,’ but there’s actually 160 pages.  If that was ALL text, tMW would be almost 60,000 words.

It’s not all text.  And some of those pages aren’t even the game, and didn’t involve any writing by the author: there’s art, there’s ads, there’s whitespace and title pages.

Suppose you want to write a 100 page indie game.  You’re looking at between 30 and 40 thousand words.  150 pages is going to be between 45 and 60 thousand words.  That’s assuming very straightforward block formatting and lots of lots of text.  I imagine 25,000 words could easily be 100 pages.

I’ve written 25,000 words.  I can write 500 words a day without even thinking about it, which means I can pump out three bad indie games a year.  Not too shabby.  I won’t, but I could.

Let’s look at the Vampire book.  This is the work of multiple authors, so it’s a lot longer.  There’s the typical whitespace, headings, art, and sidebars, but to a much smaller extent than tMW.  Picking a good texty-page, I get 74: I go for ten words a line again, but there’s two columns and 57 lines in each colum, for 1140 words a page.  At 192 pages, that would be almost 220,000 words.  I’m eyeballing a 128 page hardcover at 100,000 to 130,000 words, depending on formating, which is a whole lot of words.  (100,000 is more than I’ve written so far for my two novels, combined.)  If I push myself to the bring of insanity, I can write 1,500 words a day.  So I could write 3 such books a year, but I’d be a complete nutjob*.  And the books wouldn’t be any good.

Just a random thought on formatting, and how many words actually go into a book.

*Moreso than already.  Quiet you.

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