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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Writing For Games

The Average Gamer links to a great interview with sometimes game and sometime comic writer, Gordon Rennie:

When you approach developers looking for freelance writing work, you’re often met with total
indifference or polite astonishment, as if the idea of hiring a professional writer on their games has never occurred to them before. Look at the games industry recruitment sites and see that ads for writer vacancies are as rare as hen’s teeth.  The latest Edge had a careers supplement to coincide with the London Games Fair; pages and pages of features looking at every kind of job skill involved in games development.  Well, except for writing, of course.  Despite what’s said in public, it simply doesn’t seem to be something many companies value.
-- But It's Not ART... [ScottishGames]

There's also a great jab that most writing needs are fulfilled by "a level designer, mission scripter or a pal of the producer’s" - which I have to giggle because the only game (dev) writer I've known was ... a pal of the producer. Course, he was also a great writer - but I still get to giggle.

This is yet another perspective on something everyone kinda already knows. The question I'd posit is ... we all know people will buy a game with decent gameplay but poor storytelling. I mean, sure, we say we want both - but can we prove people will buy a game with poor gameplay but great storytelling? I'd half-heartedly say Indigo Prophecy was that game ... although I don't think that's fair to the gameplay and honestly the story wasn't that great.

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Weefz said...

Indigo Prophecy was "all right" on both counts. I think Dreamfall was probably the game you're looking for.

Judging from Ragnar Tornquist's post the answer would appear to be "No, people won't buy it but you'll get a bunch of award nominations."

Not a surprising result, is it? Everyone I know buys games on the basis of three things: Review scores, word-of-mouth and series loyalty. Crappy gameplay will kill you on all three of those. I certainly don't recommend Dreamfall to anyone without warning "Uh... you like story in your games, right? Coz there's not much else."

Josh said...

Yeah, I'd say you're right - a better match.

To echo the sentiment that followed the idea of publishing books on the web ... do you go to your computer to read?

Do you pick up your controller to watch a movie?

We like to pretend the answer is yes, but it's really not. It's really just to have fun.

That said, I'm still a defender of certain cut-scenes. But I wouldn't play a game just because of them.

Weefz said...

Uh.... yes, to the first one ;) Mostly because my bookshelves are full and nobody I know reads sci-fi or fantasy, so I can't get rid of them.

I get what you mean. For all my talk about writing, I'm not a fan of shoehorning hours of plot into every game. It would just be nice to see an RPG that goes beyond "Ye must go forth and clear the thieves from the Docks and save mine daughter from the trolls and then be discovered as the chosen one and save the universe by killing the dragon/lich/evil prince of darkness." A bit of originality and humour wouldn't go amiss.

Gears of War did a great job of balancing action and story. Not much dialogue but what was there made you feel like Delta Squad were really characters instead of NPCs. Who doesn't think fondly of The Cole Train? :)