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Dangerous Advice: “Worldbuild only enough to support the story.”
by Deborah Teramis Christian on 03/28/14 01:23:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


There is a common piece of advice given to world builders that I take issue with. It is often prescribed as the answer to the question “how much world building should I do? How much is too much?” That advice is this:

“Do only enough world building to support your story.”

This statement is usually aimed at fiction writers and narrative designers, but the same advice (worded a little differently) is given just as often to game designers working on rpgs, adventure modules and campaign settings. (A qualifier. What I am about to say here applies equally to fiction and rpgs. I’ll say “story” or “narrative” interchangeably, but if you are developing game worlds, please read this as “rpg, campaign, or adventure setting” instead. The same principles apply. )

There are two ways to interpret this advice. In one, it is taken to mean that what you present on the page should be germane to the story, and not given in infodump form. Don’t talk about how frizzbots are manufactured unless frizzbots are used in the tale. Fair enough. That’s good writing craft.

In the other interpretation it is taken to mean that the writer only needs to develop the world just enough to have a rationale for what shows up on the page.

It is the second meaning of this advice I take issue with. Whether it is aimed at fiction writers or game designers, I strongly disagree with this misguided rule of thumb. In most cases it is a mistake to develop a setting in this relatively minimalistic manner, for that is the best way of all to produce shallow and derivative settings.

Why is this a problem?  One of the most common concerns I hear from world builders is that their story world might not be original enough, that aspects of it might be cliched or overdone. And then there are those who “wing it” as they go; since the world building they do along the way is indeed “just enough” to support what’s on the page, they figure they’re good to go—until they get deeper in the story, and discover big holes they must now fill. Or they have a sinking feeling that the narrative is getting away from them, or they are painting themselves into an untenable corner through the accrual of inconsistencies in a setting that has been developed piecemeal, “just enough to support the story.”

These writers often wind up here precisely because they have followed this wrong-headed world building advice. Instead of keeping writers on track, it can very easily create exactly the kind of hackneyed settings and narratives they so earnestly wish to avoid.

Why does this happen? When we do not create a robust world—a rich tapestry that is an organic whole—then our subconscious minds offer a wealth of “creative” detail to fill in the blanks we have left in the conceptual landscape. But it turns out that these details often aren’t so creative after all. They are drawn from things we already know, have read a million times, seen overdone on TV and in media, and so on. Essentially, when we shortchange the world building work, we make assumptions about our world that rely on our subconsciously stored ideas of what is fitting for that sort of a setting. Note: not the specific setting we are creating, but the kind of setting it reminds us of, based on everything stored in our memories. Every fantasy novel we’ve ever read, every B-grade movie, all the role-playing games that were just so-so, not great: all this and much more melt into an undistinguished pool of stuff we draw on for inspiration and ideas about how a setting should be.

“I want a fantasy land with knights,” we say—but if we don’t do much concrete world building beyond that, then by default our mental shorthand for “fantasy medieval Europe” comes into play. Drawing on unconscious assumptions and associations, pretty soon we are emulating everything else that has ever been done in that kind of a setting. (Anyone who has read Tolkien, or work inspired by LOTR, or played D&D, or indeed been immersed in fantasy anytime in the last 40 years will be mightily tempted to add elves and dwarves to the mix as well.) And that is how we end up introducing regurgitated history, tired tropes, overused themes and narrative elements into the setting we had hoped would be original and exciting instead.

Generally speaking, if you want to create a robust world that is uniquely your own, with fresh material that is not simply a rehash of tired tropes, you must do world building that extends beyond the immediate needs of the story or rpg setting.

This is the crux of the issue: we need to break out of the “unconscious assumption/association” realm when it comes to detailing our settings, if we want to produce really good, original work, and doing a minimum of world building (“just enough to support what’s on the page”) is usually insufficient to get us there.

The more we focus only on what’s on the page, and worldbuild with only that end in mind, the more we are fixating on the tip of the iceberg. We become unmindful of the hidden mass—the rest of the fictional world—that is not immediately in sight and oblivious to the impact that mass can have on what we see in the story.

Do we need to write an encyclopedia detailing our world before we can get into stories set there? Of course not (although people who are allergic to detailed world building are quick to leap to that extreme to illustrate why more world building is a bad idea).[1] Should we instead focus exclusively on what is needed to support the narrative or adventure setting as it reads on the page? I say no. We should almost never build worlds with only the immediate needs of the narrative in mind.[2]

There is a middle path to be found. If our narrative is the visible tip of the iceberg that is our fictional world, then the quality of our work depends on our familiarity with the body of that iceberg and understanding how it informs the tip that we are so busy presenting to the world.

The Standard Advice, and What’s Wrong With It

What does it mean to develop a world only enough to support your story? It means, for example, that if you describe your protagonist’s wedding, you need to know what the local marriage customs are, but don’t need to spend time developing customs found in another part of the country that is never touched on in your story. If your adventure takes place in a village, you don’t need to design the nation it is located in first. If you’re describing court intrigue or the cause of a war, maybe your focus is on personalities that carry the narrative, and you don’t need to develop extensive history and social issues that fuel the conflict.[3]

As far as it goes, there is nothing wrong with those examples. The standard fiction writing advice, seen in that light, corresponds roughly with the rpg “bottom up” design approach. From that angle, the “just support the story” strategy encourages us to focus on things of immediate importance.

However, the advice itself doesn’t really stop there. The broader implication is, “If you are doing more world building than the story (or game setting) needs on the page, you’re doing too much of it.”

In fact, this is often said in so many words in critiques of world building. One of the most strongly worded (and inflammatory) exhortations in this regard is found in M. John Harrison’s 2007  (in)famous blog post calling world building the “clomping foot of nerdism.” This post, aimed at world building in fiction, got certain segments of the blogosphere up in arms. Since the blog where this originally appeared is no longer online, I will quote the core of the post here:

Every moment of a science fiction story must represent the triumph of writing over worldbuilding.

Worldbuilding is dull. Worldbuilding literalises the urge to invent. Worldbuilding gives an unnecessary permission for acts of writing (indeed, for acts of reading). Worldbuilding numbs the reader’s ability to fulfill their part of the bargain, because it believes that it has to do everything around here if anything is going to get done.

Above all, worldbuilding is not technically necessary. It is the great clomping foot of nerdism. It is the attempt to exhaustively survey a place that isn’t there. A good writer would never try to do that, even with a place that is there. It isn’t possible, & if it was the results wouldn’t be readable: they would constitute not a book but the biggest library ever built, a hallowed place of dedication & lifelong study. This gives us a clue to the psychological type of the worldbuilder & the worldbuilder’s victim, & makes us very afraid.

Fiction writers are not the only ones admonished to avoid “too much” world building. In the realm of game design, a highly visible example of this attitude can be found in the well-known Kobold Guide to Worldbuildingwhere award-winning game designer Wolfgang Bauer even references Harrison’s “clomping foot” analogy when he states,

The whole process of designing a campaign setting is sometimes referred to as worldbuilding, but this is a bit of a trap. ‘Worldbuilding’ implies an encyclopedic approach, and this is exactly wrong. It is giving in to the ‘clomping foot of nerdism’ […] The designer’s instinct should be to provide only that which is relevant, to provide the most immediately useful material and nothing else…[G]iving in to that [encyclopedic] instinct is poison, because it means providing huge reams of useless data along with the nuggets of gold. (page 10)

Besides the fact that the act of world building is not always and inherently encyclopedic, the error in these arguments is this: both Bauer and Harrison (and many others who go on in this vein) have conflated world development work done with what is actually presented to the audience. This confuses the work of world building with the writing of exposition in the text presented to readers. Exposition of the wrong sort can be a boat anchor in any rpg, and can completely deflate a fictional narrative—but this is a matter of writing craft, not of world building itself.

If world building burdens a story or game setting, that is not due to the fact that the design work exists (in whatever measure), but rather is the fault of how that information is conveyed. One certainly need not dump “huge reams of useless data” into a narrative, a campaign setting, or on the heads of unwitting readers who will drown in irrelevant material. These ‘pitfalls’ warned against in the above quotes are things I would characterize as potential newbie errors. I do not generally see them in well-balanced world building for fiction or rpgs, and they are certainly not an inevitability of the process.[4]

In any case, it seems the urge to avoid “too much” world building is why this kind of advice (“to provide the most immediately useful material and nothing else”; “a good writer would never attempt to [exhaustively survey a place that isn't there”]) is so broadly prescribed to writers.

The reason I’m dissecting this standard advice at length is because this is so often repeated it has become “given wisdom” to many writers, and I think it sets us up for the problems I noted at the start—the blithe production of derivative tripe. A lot of this has to do with the flawed premises that writing “just enough to support the story” is based on.

Flawed Premises

The first error in the standard advice argument is this: “World building that goes beyond the needs of the story or game is a waste of time and effort.”

In some circumstances this claim might at times be true, but it is not always or even generally valid. Put another way, while a “waste of time and effort” is a possibility, it is not a given for all or even most instances of world building.

In my experience, most world builders who write dense background material also come to see networks of association between the various elements of their larger world and how these impact the narrative or adventure setting they are creating. Most of the material is, in some manner, relevant—if not to the immediate narrative, then to associated stories or adventures, or at the very least to the feel and sensibilities of the setting in general.

In my own case, only a fraction of my world building work appears “on the page” in story or rpg, but the body of work is frequently referenced by myself and affects the ongoing continuity and development of my worlds, often manifesting in seemingly minor details thatdo appear in my narratives and games. This level of development is not wasted effort for me. It serves a purpose if not in the immediate narrative, then in shaping the story world in meaningful ways, and does not require an encyclopedic creation or infodump to do so.

Is it necessary to do in-depth development to tell a single story or frame part of a campaign? Usually not. Is it necessary to do this to better envision my world? Yes. And does this quality of vision in turn affect the details and content of my stories and games? Absolutely.

Defining How Much World Building is “Enough”

The question of how much world building is actually useful, and in what context, is closely linked to the second flawed premise: the assumption that “too much world building” can be simply defined as “development work that does not support the immediate needs of a story, or is not immediately useful for a game.”

If we are concerned to not waste our creative juice on “pointless” world design, we must first more carefully define what is truly “pointless” and what serves a purpose. In other words,whether or not something serves the needs of the immediate narrative may not be the best criterion for determining what world building is actually necessary or desirable to do.

The third premise here, perhaps not so much flawed as simply not generally true, is the notion that putting work into world building is not only a time sink but an energy drain, diverting us from the more “proper” endeavor of the actual writing of story or game. At times this rationale is overtly expressed, as it is in this piece of writing advice:

I see a lot of people going wrong in the direction of too much world-building. They do so much work before they start writing, they never actually get into the story. – Myrealana, commenting at

Yet I would point out that anything we do that is related to creative writing, which is not the story itself, also risks becoming a diversion that avoids the main task. Some authors get lost in character bios and plot notes, writing thousands of words of   background but never a single story chapter. Some game designers dally endlessly in map creation or designing dungeon traps without ever getting down to the serious work of crafting the campaign setting.

The truth is that for a writer who chooses to procrastinate, there is no shortage of time sinks and creative energy drains to aid the process. World building may be an appealing detour for this purpose, but those woods are not so deep that writers simply must get lost there. If one is using world building to avoid narrative writing or game design, then one needs to reassess why avoidance is going on in the first place. It is not the fault of the world building process per se.

The Biggest Pitfall

Aside from flawed premises, the actual advice itself often leads to a problematic situation, and this is the biggest reason I call this “dangerous advice.”  What happens when you worldbuild only to meet the needs of the story on the page?

By constraining our view only to what is of immediate relevance, we too often worldbuild with blinders on. I think the number one hazard here is that the fictional world is too easily developed in a skewed and shallow manner.

Of course, a “shallow” world does not sound like a desirable thing, but other than the negative connotations, how does this come about and why does it matter? Here’s why:

When we give short shrift to social, historical, and other factors that shape a world, then absent a unique, organic background that dictates otherwise, our sense of invention tends to fall back on familiar themes and tropes and historical or fictional tidbits that we already have in our subconscious. We may alter details, but when we plug these “inventions” into our work, the end result is something that can easily feel trite or derivative and unoriginal.

So how do we break out of this trap of unintentionally regurgitating tired tropes and ho-hum concepts? Original creative material springs out of unexpected, fresh connections and unusual developments in our setting. Anyone who has felt a world come alive through the process of actually writing the story, discovering its nature as they go, knows the thrill of unexpected tidbits leaping lively off the page. But when we need to plow this fertile soil more deeply and erect more of a world building structure to support our narrative, it is then that we can falter. The less we have laid the groundwork for good, original world building beyond the immediate needs of the narrative, the more likely we’ll churn out “default inventiveness”: a rehash of ideas we’ve absorbed elsewhere.

This is not always a bad thing (and as they say, in fiction there is nothing new under the sun), but if we want our setting to be uniquely its own and to feel fresh to our audience, we need to give it room to grow organically. Very little in fiction is entirely original, so perhaps we will inevitably have elves and dwarves and Tolkienesque influences in much of our fantasy (for example), but when the whole is deftly knit together and the world building is sound, it will feel like new territory to the reader.

This cannot be achieved by “filling in the blanks” with old tropes and default bits of societies and culture—yet that is what we must fall back on if our world building is shallow.

Doing more development, rather than less, allows us to weave a richer tapestry. Not only will our story or game have more depth, but these layers of details—even if they never appear on the page (and most of them won’t)—become the fertile field of invention for the fictional world. Unexpected connections and associations, new insights and ideas, grow out of this body of work. Because of the breadth of this foundation, the new things we add to our world have “legs,” and we are in little danger of generating a trite and cliched world.

Obviously I advocate for going beyond the immediate and obvious needs of the story. But if world building only for the needs of the story or game is “too little” development, then how much is actually enough? I have some thoughts on that that I’ll share in a future post.


1. A common fallacy is the assumption that if you don’t willfully constrain yourself to a modest amount of world building, you will somehow fall off the deep end and write encyclopedias worth of irrelevant miscellanea instead. Yes, some world building aficionados do that. But most of us have more discriminating output control than that—or at the very least, insufficient time to go there.

2. I qualify this blanket statement with an exception: if we are writing short fiction that is a one-off tale in a setting we do not (initially, at least) plan to use again. This is the most self-contained and insular of narrative units (one-off flash fiction is a great example of the breed) and it is often the case that stories like this simply do not need much if any world building beyond what appears on the page.

3. In my critique of this standard world building advice, I am mainly speaking to people creating worlds that will appear either in a lengthy work like a novel, be used for a multifaceted purpose like a campaign setting, or folks writing short fiction in a setting they are open to revisiting in the future.

4. Bauer’s larger point here, though, which I agree with, is that you don’t want to bury your audience in unnecessary detail—which, again, is a matter of writing craft.


This post originally appeared at the World Building Academy blog. Get free world-building how-to and weekly tips for list subscribers here: 

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Bart Stewart
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This reads very much like something I could have written. So I agree with every word. :)

I also think the middle way -- do enough world-building for you to understand why that unique world works the way it does -- is best. That's because I see both extremes:

1. "Only build the minimum world info necessary" sounds like advice given by someone who doesn't enjoy world-building. It's not about other creators; it's about them. It's exactly right to point out that not every bit of world lore must appear as an "As you know, Bob..." moment. But deep lore has value if it improves what does go into the actual book/game.

2. At the same time, some people do have "world-builder's disease," that leads to reams of words and pictures of imaginary places and zero story or game. I suffer from this malady. I know it is real, and "don't do so much world-building (if it's keeping you from making something of that lore)" is useful advice for people like me.

Based on these endpoints, I see two solutions. One is to take the valuable part of the "don't overbuild worlds" advice as "make sure you do sonething with your lore." That is, you personally should get better at both world-building and storytelling.

The other option is to find a creative partner who complements your world-building strength with their own gift for storytelling. That doesn't always work for novels, but it's not unreasonable for games. Two people with these specializations can iterate off each other's work to arrive at a product that offers engaging characters and stories set in a world that's worth exploring.

Deborah Teramis Christian
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I like this: "Make sure you do something with your lore." That's a perfect distillation of my screed. :)

Ron Dippold
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Besides the extra richness a good world can provide, the wheels really come off the ad-hoc world when you get to the sequels.

I'm not sure if it's feasible or wise that every game put in as much worldbuilding up front as Kingdoms of Amalur did (after all, they ran out of money), but while playing Reckoning you could really tell the consistent detailed history was there and it did add substantially to the feel. I wanted to know more, and I'm sure a sequel/MMO would have had sound footing for that.

On the other hand, Blizzard writes great dialogue and small arcs, but their Warcraft 'lore' is completely ridiculous, self-contradictory, and a joke. Which is understandable because they're just making it up as they go along - Warcraft (1) was an obvious case of 'just enough lore to ship' and they've said as much. The result is that the individual plot-lines can be great, dialogue can be great, but plot is always just one incomprehensible MacGuffin to the next, and the only two factions thing guarantees ludicrous twists and ridiculous justifications for why some groups are in some factions (Undead, particularly).

Resident Evil... hoo boy. Nothing really needs to be said beyond 'Resident Evil 6'.

Killzone: Shadow Fall is great fun mechanically (when you're not trapped inside), but starts off with the worst plot point I've /ever/ seen in the first 30 seconds of a game (and there's a lot of competition) just to set things up. And that meandering direction is typical for the series - world building seemed to be 'we've got the ISA and the Helghast, what more do you need?'

If you've got one auteur providing the vision and making its up as he goes along, then maybe you can get Metal Gear, where nobody can agree if it's brilliantly convoluted or a dog's breakfast, but at least there's an argument. Though even Kojima's admitted recently that some retconning has to be done for Phantom Pain because it's all spiraled out of control.

I'm sure other people have more egregious examples of plot (not mechanics) coming off the wheels for sequels.

Deborah Teramis Christian
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I think you're right, Ron - handwavium might carry an audience through one installment of a narrative, but it gets stretched thin pretty quickly when taxed.

Jonathan Jou
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Sage advice, Deborah. I think you rightly and expertly tease apart the notion of "the world in the author's mind" and "the world the reader needs to see." It's definitely a case where moderation is best, and as far as rules of thumb go I would recommend people who haven't developed their own writing process to not get hung up developing details of the world if it doesn't play a part in their story.

That said, I think Tolkien's "distant mountains" sum things up best. A story without unexplained, briefly mentioned details feels like a world that doesn't exist outside its plot points. If the hero wields a sword, it's a good idea to name it, to be able to describe who owned it, who forged it and so on, and it's great to be able to refer to the nomadic swordsmiths whose techniques have been lost to time. Unless the story calls for it, the ore from which the sword was forged, the mines from which that ore was mined, and the people who discovered those mines are too far removed from the story itself to be important.

In many ways, if the author actually knows where the story is going to end, I'm very much in favor of building the world the story needs. A tightly knit story with no loose ends isn't one that needs unrelated details, and so long as every loose end is tied by the time the story is over the world is as fleshed out as it needs to be. I like stories that leave no unanswered questions and don't answer any unasked questions either.

That said, if the story is intended to open up to allow for additional characters and story arcs, the world needs to be developed sufficiently to handle that. I agree that it feels sloppy when a story leaves crucial details to the reader's imagination, or worse, contradicts previously minor details to drive the current plot progression.

If an author can build a consistent, believable world on the fly, I'd see no issue with them developing as much as they needed for the story and no more. But it's definitely a good idea to know where your story could go, and to make sure the world you're building can support those possibilities.

Brandon Van Every
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The risk of focusing on worldbuilding, especially as an offline process the reader will not see, is you are thematically investing in the logic of that world as a simulation. Not in the psychological effects of the writing craft upon the reader. Indeed that is where the "clomping foot of nerdism" disparagement surely comes from, and I say that without having read the original source material at all. I get it. I've killed plenty of good writing ideas by trying to flesh them out with logic and environmental consequences, trying to world-build them. Sometimes you must trust your instincts regarding the psychological effects you are trying to create in the mind of the reader, and that can mean eliminating explorations, not cataloguing them. "Why are ghosts scary?" If you poke at the concept of a ghost too long and try to world build its consequences, the psychology of the ghost will die on the vine. "Why do I find this Salvador Dali painting interesting?"

Daniel Pang
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I think there's a good dialogue to be had here, at the same time it's also worth noting that there is no "right" way to approach story. There are many, many ways a story can be told, and the sheer volume of research that's been done in the field of literature, where we're only working through the medium of words alone, should tell us that much.

Then we're talking of lore and games and worlds and places to explore, and the entire thing just gets increasingly complex, even as developers struggle with the issue of player agency and using story as a tool to get people to care about what their avatar is doing in-game. And that's still only talking about one type of game.

I also think games have something traditional media does not, in that we're giving the player - the audience- an active role. One of the greatest storytelling tricks in writing is to give the reader just enough information so that they figure it out for themselves; whatever is playing inside their heads, if their imagination is sufficiently stimulated, is something personal and powerful and incredible that nobody else can emulate.

When this is taken into account, the decision to only present as much lore as the plot needs has some kind of rationale behind it beyond not wanting to waste resources and time writing lore/worldbuilding, which in a zero-sum development game can be just seen as navel-gazing.

But then we're back to the issue of plot, and whether or not players even care about the plot. The idea of games as an interactive medium where the player has a direct conscious influence on what happens requires reams of lore, and in many cases successful games have been content merely to present a large world rich with lore and history and let the players run amok in it.

I figure it all comes down to the purpose. So many times a game just ends up as an extension of the designers' egos, where you press a button to look at what the designer wants you to look at, you do what the designer wants you to do, just like everyone else. The player's reduced to a circus animal jumping through flaming hoops, or a passive seat on a rollercoaster designed by someone else. If that's the case, more power to you - it's far easier to design a cohesive, singular narrative and contained lore around that narrative than it is to build a complete world.

I believe games exist as celebrations of the player. In many cases, building a hackneyed world of cliche is not the worst sin - it's having a world where the lore conflicts with the lore that's been built up in the player's mind. Part of why Mass Effect 3's finale was so negatively received was that the villains who had been built up over half a decade turned out to have simplistic motivations unlike what had been teased in the series' inception.

Andrey Coutinho
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I believe more/less worldbuilding tend to appeal to specific tastes. Some people are fascinated by the intricacies of that imagined world... they look at it like a child looks at a new toy. They experiment with it. They explore it and try to discover it. They try to put things together like a puzzle. If the world is not well fleshed out, or if there are inconsistences, then it feels like a boring or broken toy for them.

Others are more into the feelings or the message that is expressed by the work. They get absorbed by what the characters are thinking or feeling, what's going to happen to them, what does it all mean. They relate to the situations.

It's entirely possible to merge the best of both worlds, but at the same time, it's really hard. Worldbuilding is a very technical, logical, objective craft. Even when we're talking about fantasy worlds, that have to do with one's imagination, putting a whole universe together is a very cold, rational craft. For the most part, you'll be inspired by objects and human's perspective and knowledge on objects when building a world.

The story itself, however, tends to have everything to do with human relationships, how humans relate with other humans on a very personal level. While you have to be objective about a lot of things, the insight needed is one about interpersonal relatioships.

Not every reader is ambivalent regarding these things (although most think they are). The same can be said about writers.

I don't agree with the notion that narrative creations have to be balanced in terms of worldbuilding, character development and other aspects. Being balanced is one option. Going all-out on one of these aspects is another option. These alternatives tend to attract different types of public. In general, I believe narratives should be judged mainly by their best or strongest elements. But that's just my perspective.

Stewart Spilkin
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A few points that occur to me are; you are talking about world building as in the creator imagining the world for themselves, and world building in the sense of sharing that imagined world in the finished product (novel, game, etc) These are two very different things, and should be carefully treated as such.

You also imply that world building to suit the needs of the story requires less effort that world building more broadly, but that is a false argument. Let's say I spend 400 hours world building specifically to the narrative; is that less valuable than spending 400 hours more randomly building the world? I would argue that given equal amounts of labor, the more specifically targeted world building gives more value to the creator and the audience.

Building a world, and then trying to come up with some compelling story that can happen in it seems backwards to me. Come up with a great story, and build the world around it. That world can be as rich and detailed as the creator wants it to be, but it serves the story, not the other way around.

Even at Rockstar we always started our games with the mechanics (which in games are somewhat analogous to the plot points in a story) then story, then world. Sure you have to have some notion of the world to start with, but the detail is created to serve the story.

If telling a story is your main goal, it is a much greater risk if you find yourself trying to mold a story to fit the world you so painstakingly created, rather than build a world around the story you are telling. As I alluded to earlier, I don't think the criticisms you mention are really about amount of effort, but more about priority. Resources are always finite, and creators are always seeking the right balance, but I would much rather see a great play on an empty stage than a boring meandering mess on an amazing set.

Ron Dippold
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Far more in-depth comments here than usual. I think you hit a (good) nerve.