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The security panel let out a mocking cackle; I needed to find better narrative.
March 5th 2002, 19:01 CET by Matthew Gallant

A college sophomore wrote in today, asking for advice on breaking into the game industry as a writer. What else could I say? It seems that the focus on how a game looks, sounds, and plays overshadows what should be an equal concern.

Two simple questions:

1) Should writing just be lumped in under the "Game Design" column?

2) Why the hell is there an "Excellence in Audio" award at the Game Developer's Conference awards but not one for writing?
C O M M E N T S
Home » Topic: The security panel let out a mocking cackle; I needed to find better narrative.

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#1 by jjz
2002-03-05 19:09:16
1)  Sure.  2) Who knows.
#2 by Charles
2002-03-05 19:13:37
www.bluh.org
1) I don't think so.  Game Design and writing are separate.  A game can have excellent design and horrible writing, and vice versa.

2)  Because there is Excellent Audio out there, but not much for excellent writing =)

Life imitates Art.  Art imitates Life.  Monkeys imitate other Monkeys, and Monkeys can be pretty dumb. -- UncleJeet
#3 by Leslie Nassar
2002-03-05 19:28:24
http://departmentofinternets.com
1.  Yes.
2.  Because while there is, occasionally, excellent audio in games, there is no evidence of a game ever having good writing.
#4 by Leslie Nassar
2002-03-05 19:29:10
http://departmentofinternets.com
two posts, and i was too lazy to read either of them.  yay apathy!
#5 by Caryn
2002-03-05 19:29:35
carynlaw@pacbell.net http://www.hellchick.net
I have to say, all the topics that have been coming through the submission pipeline lately are really good. This is another topic that I really wanted to see pushed to the front page since I love games and writing (and I secretly have been dying to get to the point where I get to use my writing skills in making a game -- but I guess that's not so secret now).

My answers to the two questions posed:

2 first: I think there should be an award for writing, definitely.

1. Should writing be lumped under the "Game Design" column? Part of me wants to say yes and part of me wants to say no. Yes, because writing for a game isn't like writing for any other media, and I think the closest analogy is writing screenplays, but even that's far off because of the interactivity in games. No, because the story is an integral part of the game's design -- the things that create the obstacles or decisions that the player must face are part and parcel of the story.

Maybe Max Payne would be a good example to analyze here. I'm thinking aloud here as I write, so hopefully this isn't too jumbled. Let's forget about any criticisms about the dialogue for the moment because they're not really relevant to the discussion, and maybe Petri, Scott, or George will jump into this discussion. Max Payne had a well-written story (again, not necessarily dialogue, but the story was pretty good). It was very detailed and rich -- you could have written Max Payne as a novel, easily. But the game offered few large-scale decisions for the player: the player couldn't deviate from the path set out by the writer. Max Payne's story was almost independent of the game design. Sure, it provided motivation and background narrative for Max to do the things he did, but if you remove the story, the game design itself, I don't think, is affected. In fact, stripped of its story, Max Payne would look a lot like Quake 2 or DOOM or Wolfenstein, but with a different look and and with some cool stuff like bullet time thrown in. Note that this isn't a criticism of Max Payne -- in fact, it points to how well-written the STORY was, because the story helped make it a great game (in my opinion), in addition to the game design, which included bullet time, the A.I., etc.

But at the same time, you can't just write a story and turn it into a game, I don't think. How tightly writing and game design are linked is dependent on the game. Deus Ex was a good example in which the writing and the game design were linked much tighter than in Max Payne or other games, because you had more decisions to make that affected the flow of the story.

I don't think I explained myself very well there, but that was a try, at least. I'd like to see a tighter link between writing and game design. I think there's a lot of possibility in there that hasn't been explored yet in games and it's something that's been on my mind quite a bit lately. Many games try to take a story and turn it into a game, or take a game and give it a cursory story to give the player a reason to be in that universe. I think there's more that can be done beyond that with writing.

- Caryn
Everyone has a signature but me.
#6 by Duality
2002-03-05 19:35:41
Dualipuff@yahoo.com http://stratoscape.ath.cx/
The problem I have with having a screenwriter or author designing the story for a game is that they may not be too familiar with the medium and are thinking of their story in the medium they are accustomed to, not this one.  Not that there is no way of becoming familiar with it.

On the other hand, a screenwriter may not have too much to differentiate as both movies and video games are required to have constant action.

I don't know of a game that has been written by a screenwriter.

*smooches*
#7 by Gunp01nt
2002-03-05 19:38:51
supersimon33@hotmail.com
Writing alone doesn't make a game.

If someone does ONLY writing, he'll no doubt make it very complicated to make up for the fact that that 's all he contributes to the game (or because he has nothing elso to do or because he will concentrate on the writing) which harms the simplicity of the game and possibly makes the game less accessible.

look at peter molyneux: he doesn't know anything about graphics or programming but he does the game design... and as we all know that didn't make B&W as good as he promised.

I think most development companies don't want someone who only does the concept writing and stuff, if the rest of the team can also do that. and publishers won't be so eager to pay someone like that if they think his role in the development is only marginal.

<<< Do you believe in a god that tells you lies or do you believe in me? >>>
#8 by Narcopolo
2002-03-05 19:48:10
I don't think that writing and design are separate in narrative games, though they may be in a game where the story doesn't matter.  In which case whether it's separate is kind of moot.  The more the strength of the game rests on the story, the more tightly writing and design will be coupled.  I think that Mr. Gallant should tell his college sophomore to write text games.  It'll teach design, more important than learning game writing.

At such a time when writers become technicians and not necessarily artists, as it is in Hollywood with people called script doctors coming in for two weeks and breathing some life into the dialogue or whatever, then there will be awards for the original writer who gets shafted otherwise.  And lots of self congratulation about the originality of games and how writers are the neglected auteurs.  But at this time, writers aren't even needed enough for there to be a standard way of dealing with them.  Adventure elements in games seem to be less prevalent than ever, and the genre itself is comatose as a commercial entity.

Audio is disdained in TV and film too, but the more you study it the more you realize it's power over the mood of the piece.  This is even more true in many games, the quality of the audio in Max Payne is rather more important than the quality of the dialogue.  The quality of the audio in Quake has a great deal more impact on the actual game, on the gameplay and your perception of the experience, than what the hell you are fighting for.  

Actually I've discovered personally that studying audio has increased it's power on me too.  If you want to really know, then take a tape recorder and a powerful mic and headphones (most important ingredient) and try walking around with them on for a day.  You'll spend a ridiculous amount of time flushing your own toilet like you are tripping.  Just try not to get killed crossing the street.
#9 by Caryn
2002-03-05 19:48:20
carynlaw@pacbell.net http://www.hellchick.net
I don't think a writer would be hired full time at a game company, but they certainly can be called in on contract as a consultant of sorts. The developer/publisher usually has the story in mind already; what they can use is someone to come in during the game's development and oversee things like dialogue (a good writer could improve heavily on dialogue in games, which has a tendency to sound cliche and flat in most), make sure the story is consistent, offer some creative advice based on the game story's skeleton (if given a basic story -- say, a cop framed by someone in New York City out to get the people who framed him -- how would the writer, based on his experience in crafting a good story, envision the story unfolding and what details would he include to make the story exciting to move through?).

- Caryn
Everyone has a signature but me.
#10 by Narcopolo
2002-03-05 19:50:31
#7 Gunp01nt

If Peter Molyneux didn't know how to program, then he'd never have become a game designer.  Please think about this.
#11 by Gunp01nt
2002-03-05 19:57:14
supersimon33@hotmail.com
the problem is: how many games nowadays would actually require a writer? scratch off the arcade, sports and racing games. Scratch Serious Sam (I mean, come on! there was only so much dialog in the game...)
then take a look at how many games nowadays are multiplayer only.

Fact is: the number of games that actually have a lot of story and dialog are limited (even counting Baldurs Gate, RtCW, and I dunno what...) so there generally isn't much need for a writer. Hence why there is also no award for it, also because that wouldn't be fair because it would rule out all games without any story or dialog in it.



But everyone here seems to think writing is limited to story and dialog, whereas I think it is more of a Peter Molyneux type of role... a writer should have some control over the essence of the game, not only the textual content. A writer should also make up the characters and enemies in the game, describe all the locations.... stuff like that. he should be some sorta brainstormer and project leader at the same time, who makes up the story and content according to which the programmers, modellers and mappers work.

<<< Do you believe in a god that tells you lies or do you believe in me? >>>
#12 by Duality
2002-03-05 19:59:44
Dualipuff@yahoo.com http://stratoscape.ath.cx/
Gunp01nt:
Using a defiinition from a previous thread -- do you mean complication or complexity?  I ask, because I agree with the notion that complexity is not necessarily a bad thing in that definition.

I don't think you can fairly say that a writer will "no doubt make it very complicated to make up for the fact that that's all he contributes to the game."  I would hope that if the writer knows the medium he's working with, then he would know the limits and restrictions and work within those bounds (I understand that a writer, ideally, shouldn't be limited by anything, so perhaps the screenwriting comparison is even more appropriate).

I think its all a matter of how much story the developer wants integrated with their story.  Croteam certainly does not need more writing than they have, but I think a game like Max Payne, while a good story; would have been even better had it an integration that Caryn mentioned.

*smooches*
#13 by "Rich Brown"
2002-03-05 20:04:55
rich_brown@mindspring.com
1) I think it should be lumped under game design.  From the in-game dialogue, to the backstory, to the manual, to in-game text, written or spoken words can do a lot to effect your enjoyment.  As text-based games don't really rocket up the sales charts anymore, we've probably moved past the point where words can deliver the bulk of the experience, but think of what the idle guard dialogue did in NOLF vs. the cliched, horrible dialogue of C&C Renegade.  Or say, Duke Nukem's dialogue, copyright issues aside [duck]. The effect isn't necessarily as obvious as something like snappy graphics or interesting game mechanics, but it definitely impacts the suspension of disbelief.  What about the Fallout manuals? Before you even put the disc in the drive you're sucked in.  I'd say writing contributes a lot to the design.  Good writing probably won't save an otherwise mediocre game (like say, if Tarantino or somebody had written the dialogue for Daikatana), but one could make the argument that for a game like Max Payne, the charmingly overblown noir dialogue helped pushed it over the line from pretty-looking-shooter-with-a-neat-dodgy-thing to bonafide hit.  


2) dunno.
#14 by crash
2002-03-05 20:10:02
two simple answers:

1. no.
2. because computers don't have prose cards installed.

- if you can laugh at it, you can live with it.
- "Hey, how 'bout this: fuck you." -LPMiller
#15 by Funkdrunk
2002-03-05 20:14:12
jflavius@bellatlantic.net
Gunp01nt

look at peter molyneux: he doesn't know anything about graphics or programming


You don't really believe this?  Do you?

Funk.
#16 by Funkdrunk
2002-03-05 20:14:48
jflavius@bellatlantic.net
OOOps.

Narco beat me to it.  Must remember to read whole thread first.

Funk.
#17 by Gunp01nt
2002-03-05 20:15:29
supersimon33@hotmail.com
Narco:
If Peter Molyneux didn't know how to program, then he'd never have become a game designer.  Please think about this.

I will, but that's not my point. I'm not bashing Molyneux here for doing no programming, I'm simply saying that he does no programming, no artwork, no modelling, no mapping... he just does the game design and that's what he'll concentrate on.

<<< Do you believe in a god that tells you lies or do you believe in me? >>>
#18 by Ashiran
2002-03-05 20:17:29
#7 by Gunp01nt
look at peter molyneux: he doesn't know anything about graphics or programming but he does the game design... and as we all know that didn't make B&W as good as he promised.

As pointed out P. Molyneux knows full well how to code. The reason why the game in gameplay failed for Black & White is because he concentrated way to much on the AI and player - creature interaction. The actual gameplay was longwinded and a hassle and obviously not paid enough thought.

As for writing in games. For most games the story is just a crutch to explain some "kill this" or "destroy that" objective. Even games like Starcraft suffer from that. Yeah the overall story is great but in the end it's usually stating some excuse to crush the enemy base. There was enough variation though to make it pretty unnoticable.

It can be done differently. The story for Hostile Waters was written by Warren Ellis, one of Britain's foremost comic book authors. Basicly the story was of such a level that as the difficulty of the campaign rose it would fit in the story.
*small spoiler warning*
You start out by fighting normal tanks. Then stronger bio enhanced tanks and finally the selfconsious biocritters. Each is more difficult to engage.
*end small spoiler*
Point is, while most missions indeed revolved around blowing something up if you stripped the story from the game then you would be left with a game that made NO sense whatsoever. And thus very crappy.

Having a established writer on the team I see as a good thing.

Btw. For those who like a good story driven game I would recommend this one. The voice acting is excellent aswell.

I'm sorry but I don't pray that way.
#19 by Gunp01nt
2002-03-05 20:17:41
supersimon33@hotmail.com
Funk:
You don't really believe this?  Do you?

ah come on, don't be a nitpicker, you get my point even though that may not be true don't you?

By the way... Steve Jackson said in the Black & White diary that Molyneux DOESN'T know much about modern programming and graphic design, that's why he sticks to the concept...
DO YOU BELIEVE THAT?

<<< Do you believe in a god that tells you lies or do you believe in me? >>>
#20 by crash
2002-03-05 20:18:48
Gunp01nt:

I'm not bashing Molyneux here for doing no programming, I'm simply saying that he does no programming, no artwork, no modelling, no mapping... he just does the game design and that's what he'll concentrate on.

well, at least you're saying it with conviction. i guess that's good for a couple of points, anyway.

- if you can laugh at it, you can live with it.
- "Hey, how 'bout this: fuck you." -LPMiller
#21 by Gunp01nt
2002-03-05 20:20:55
supersimon33@hotmail.com
Crash:
well, at least you're saying it with conviction. i guess that's good for a couple of points, anyway.

don't I get the full points because what I said was also true?

<<< Do you believe in a god that tells you lies or do you believe in me? >>>
#22 by Leslie Nassar
2002-03-05 20:31:54
http://departmentofinternets.com
I'm simply saying that he does no programming

You're simply wrong.  Accept it and move on.

What is your involvement with Black & White?

I am the person responsible for the overall design, but I am not the designer, the whole team designs. I'm also programming the Villager AI.
#23 by Bezzy
2002-03-05 20:41:56
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
I'm not bashing Molyneux here for doing no programming, I'm simply saying that he does no programming, no artwork, no modelling, no mapping... he just does the game design and that's what he'll concentrate on.


He has a degree in CompSci or similar. I think he used to code Cobalt or databases or something... just before he found the guy who was to make/making the engine for Populous. He's also well known to be dyslexic (to what degree, I do no know) and some say, that's where his super creative powers come from (while those in the know know that he just doesn't get as much hassle from marketing as most sweatshop developers. He's Peter Molyneux, ferchrissake! Marketing's King Midas!)

As to the topic, although writing in games is certainly underexplored, we're still fighting an uphill battle to get game mechanics brought further into focus. Ain't nothing wrong with pointing out that writing in games sucks, but if a game has great writing, and is a shitty game.. what's the point?

In the future I would like to address a the used of dialogue and plotting in games, but for the time being I'm focussing on gameplay concerns and nothing else. Because I can. And I am. And... wait, never mind. I always take stuff so personally.

There is no just cause that a fool will not follow. HALLO MISTAH!
#24 by Gunp01nt
2002-03-05 20:47:36
supersimon33@hotmail.com
szcx:
You're simply wrong.  Accept it and move on.

wrong as where molyneux is concerned maybe, but what I said wasn't a Molyneux subtopic but in regard to the actual topic. don't bitch about details being wrong but look at the whole please kthx or do you really have nothing better to do?

<<< Do you believe in a god that tells you lies or do you believe in me? >>>
#25 by Fugazi(werking)
2002-03-05 20:48:00
What about Undying? Clive Barker was on hand to aid in the creation of that game. I personallly enjoyed the game (except the constant level loading) but it didn't sell too well. Anne McCaffery (sp?) has had a couple of PC games made about her novels...they sucked. The infamous Wheel of Time was based upon Jordan's writing but it too didn't fare well in the marketplace. I bought it Warren...but it killed my P200MMX at the time so I gave it away.
I think games require a much different approach than a novel. It's much closer to a (screen)play I think then a novel. A novel is not contrained by mechanics, technology limitations etc. while the stage and screen are...just like game development.

So, in answer to the questions posed:

1. Yes, "writing", scripting, coding etc. are too intertwined for them to be seperated into distinct categories.
2. Because good writing is very subjective, less glamourous than graphics or audio, and quite rare in interactive entertainment.

"Good health" is merely the slowest rate at which one can die.
#26 by Martin
2002-03-05 21:00:12
http://www.mocol.nu
A couple of short answers here...

1) Depends on the game. A game that has an actual story, perhaps written by a writer, should be credited for that.

2) Because audio does so much more for a game.

-- Martin
"Burger me!"
#27 by Leslie Nassar
2002-03-05 21:06:19
http://departmentofinternets.com
wrong as where molyneux is concerned

That's all I needed to hear, you Irish-hating fuckmonkey.
#28 by Martin
2002-03-05 21:07:11
http://www.mocol.nu
Then again, we need to define what "writing" means first. Is it purely a story that the game uses or, as someone (sorry, me lazy) said; the entire world, specific locations, detailed characters, etc, etc?

-- Martin
"Burger me!"
#29 by crash
2002-03-05 21:08:41
Gunp01nt:

don't I get the full points because what I said was also true?

you would if it were. it ain't, so you don't.

kthxbye

- if you can laugh at it, you can live with it.
- "Hey, how 'bout this: fuck you." -LPMiller
#30 by Petri Jarvilehto
2002-03-05 21:09:35
petri@remedy.fi http://www.remedy.fi
#5 by Caryn
  
Max Payne had a well-written story (again, not necessarily dialogue, but the story was pretty good). It was very detailed and rich -- you could have written Max Payne as a novel, easily. But the game offered few large-scale decisions for the player: the player couldn't deviate from the path set out by the writer. Max Payne's story was almost independent of the game design. Sure, it provided motivation and background narrative for Max to do the things he did, but if you remove the story, the game design itself, I don't think, is affected. In fact, stripped of its story, Max Payne would look a lot like Quake 2 or DOOM or Wolfenstein, but with a different look and and with some cool stuff like bullet time thrown in. Note that this isn't a criticism of Max Payne -- in fact, it points to how well-written the STORY was, because the story helped make it a great game (in my opinion), in addition to the game design, which included bullet time, the A.I., etc.


Yeah, we made a conscious decision that Sam would write the storyline so that it's never really required. The idea was to allow for the brainless "shoot everything that moves" players to have good time as well, so you're really not required (or forced) to follow the story. We were working on a pretty ambitious project with almost zero track record, so we figured it was a good idea to try to play it safe on at least some of the aspects.

The weird part is that it turned out to be very challenging to write the story this way. It soon became apparent that we couldn't depend on the player finding any clues or anything and thus the story couldn't ever reference back to any details.

I believe in telling stories inside games, and I think there's a lot of new ground that nobody has tried to cover yet, but in the future we certainly must integrate the story directly into the gameplay.

#13 by "Rich Brown"

but one could make the argument that for a game like Max Payne, the charmingly overblown noir dialogue helped pushed it over the line from pretty-looking-shooter-with-a-neat-dodgy-thing to bonafide hit.


*grin* I think it's really important to separate from the pack, and even if some people get turned off by the dialogue, it's a small price to pay for the differentiation.
#31 by Post-It
2002-03-05 21:10:01
keithlee@speakeasy.net
Good writing can make or break some games. Max Payne, with all its graphical wowness, "bullet-time", and high quality audio would have fallen pretty flat without the story. I mean the gameplay was dead-on and righteous fun but what kept me playing was to find out what happened. I'm not saying the writing was great, in fact it was just a spin on the trite "new york cop" story cliche. Yet, it was still the best plotted/planned action game in recent memory. There was a definant tempo to the game. You could feel the introduction, rising action, climax, and the conclusion. Most games made nowadays don't even attempt to do that. The Remedy team definitely deserrves mad props for intergrating this into their game. I mean out of nowhere they created a franchise. Everyone 'knows' Max Payne and his background, and what motivates him. Does anyone care what motivates you or even know what motivates you in Quake/Unreal/Serious Sam/Renegade/any other generic FPS?

Actually I think Max Payne is one of those games that is more than the sum of its parts. Graphics were very good, but not revolutionary. Audio very good, but not exceptional. "Bullet-time"-innovative new feature, but not worth building an entire game around. Story-fantastic in terms of gaming, poor compared to other media. Most games are lucky if they get any one of those areas right, and Remedy got them all down pat. All combined, they turned Max Payne into the best Action game of the year last year. If more games paid attention to all the details like they did (especially in terms of story and character development) we'd see games of much higher caliber. Oh, and no offense to you Petri or the other guys at Remedy, just a little friendly constructive criticism is all.
#32 by Gunp01nt
2002-03-05 21:11:09
supersimon33@hotmail.com
szcx:
That's all I needed to hear, you Irish-hating fuckmonkey.

I know you're just fucking around about that but I'll try anyway: why do you keep saying I said that? I never did. If you're confusing me with someone else get your brain sorted out but quit that bullshit ok?

<<< Do you believe in a god that tells you lies or do you believe in me? >>>
#33 by Gunp01nt
2002-03-05 21:12:34
supersimon33@hotmail.com
Martin:
Then again, we need to define what "writing" means first. Is it purely a story that the game uses or, as someone (sorry, me lazy) said; the entire world, specific locations, detailed characters, etc, etc?

and of course everyone was too busy bashing me for getting the details wrong, to notice I already said that in #11 (bottom paragraph)

<<< Do you believe in a god that tells you lies or do you believe in me? >>>
#34 by Leslie Nassar
2002-03-05 21:13:03
http://departmentofinternets.com
Yes you did.
#35 by Greg
2002-03-05 21:14:10
Writing in games is really another component of the design. Some games need it, others do not. I'll bring up the example of Tetris. Tetris has really solid game design, simplistic as it may be. But there is absolutely no need for writing. However, any structured role-playing game or an action game with plot should have decent writing, since the games tend to revolve around it. Writing is just as integral a part of the design for those games as level design is for FPS's.

As for question 1, should it be lumped in with "Game Design", I think if things like level design are separated, then writing should be separated. But I assume that "Game Design" encompasses all aspects of the design, and I think that the writing of a game, or the world it involves, is part of that design.

Greg

-Swallow it all and be glad, for a shilling I've paid and a shilling's worth I'll be having!
#36 by Gunp01nt
2002-03-05 21:14:28
supersimon33@hotmail.com
Yes you did.

then tell me where or shut up because I honestly cant remember saying that.

<<< Do you believe in a god that tells you lies or do you believe in me? >>>
#37 by Leslie Nassar
2002-03-05 21:17:58
http://departmentofinternets.com
Monday, February 4, 8:12pm
#38 by Gunp01nt
2002-03-05 21:21:14
supersimon33@hotmail.com
Monday, February 4, 8:12pm

sorry but I won't bite.

<<< Do you believe in a god that tells you lies or do you believe in me? >>>
#39 by Caryn
2002-03-05 21:24:18
carynlaw@pacbell.net http://www.hellchick.net
gunpoint:

look at peter molyneux: he doesn't know anything about graphics or programming


Leslie Nassar's quoted Molyneaux interview:

I am the person responsible for the overall design, but I am not the designer, the whole team designs. I'm also programming the Villager AI.


- Caryn
Everyone has a signature but me.
#40 by Gunp01nt
2002-03-05 21:30:13
supersimon33@hotmail.com
thanks caryn for rubbing that in twice.

I suppose it would have hurt your 'manhood' if you DIDN'T respond to that huh? :P :)

<<< Do you believe in a god that tells you lies or do you believe in me? >>>
#41 by UncleJeet
2002-03-05 21:30:21
I think the main reason we don't see "Writer" listed in the credits of games is because everyone is a great writer, in his or her own mind.  Writing is seen as one of the all time great "get rich quick schemes" of our times, which is sad because that assumption is wrong on far too many levels to even begin to discuss.

Why pay some snooty literary type to come write out lines of dialogue, or manual narrative, or game narration - when you can simply do it yourself?  Hell, you coded this whole 3-D engine, it's no big task to do something simple like writing!

Blah.  At times it seems that everyone is working on the perfect novel (or the perfect game design) - the problem is, they're delusional.  Writing isn't easy, folks.  Some writers may make it look easy, though.  Harlan Ellison can write up a decent story about anything, given a couple of hours and a vague topic.  One of his favorite pasttimes is taking a bit of info from someone in an audience, then writing the story in front of the crowd.  That kind of writing takes talent that maybe one in a bazillion people has.

Yet, everyone thinks they can write.  It's kind of like stupidity.  Most people actually think they're the most intelligent person in the room - no one ever wants to admit they're not that bright.

But anyway, to address the actual topic: 1.) I don't give a shit, and 2.) See above.

I can't remember who said, a few posts above me, that a writer working on dialogue and such would hurt the game because that's all he does.  He would "go overboard" so to speak.  (Witness Max Payne's dialogue.  *shudder*)  This may be true in many cases, but at the same time, all a texture artist does is create textures.  All the sound man does is record sounds.  Yet, you're not accusing them of going crazy with the detail, are you?

The real trick to writing for a game, I think, would be for the writer to drop all pretense and self love, and commit himself to being paid to do a job - and being paid very little at that.  To many writers get so caught up in trying to create "art" that they forget that whatever it is they're writing needs to be good.

So what's good for a game's writing?  Gripping prose and narrative in the manual, that's where you can go all-out with your "l33t writing skillz" - but for the actual game, just do what's required and leave it at that.

If the designer wants some dialogue written from a certain point of view, and he wants it to say such and such in two lines, then that's what you do.

And let me address the writer-as-designer shit right here.  The designer is the designer - not the writer.  I think this can best be illustrated by understanding that the game designer "writes" the plot, and the writer fills in the details.  The designer must be in full control of the overall plot in order to create an effective gameplaying experience.  The writer's job, therefore, is to flesh out that design - when asked - by contributing human voice to the characters' and their situations.

Now, having said all that, I can't remember the last time I played a game with anything coming anywhere close to decent or passable writing.  Well, ok, I can.  The LucasArts adventure games of days gone by had both excellent design, direction, writing, and acting.  But those were adventure games.  They were writing.

How much dialogue do you need in Quake?  In Resident Evil?  In any action game?  Answer: None, really.

We need talented writers in RPG's, in games like Deus Ex, Thief, etc.  Deus Ex had passable writing, I suppose, but most of it was schlock.  (Sorry, Warren S.  I still love the damned game!)

A lot of the "bad writing," however, comes from the mentality that permiates gaming.  Until we can elevate our pasttime above the polygonal realizations of pre-pubescent boy fantasies, then having the leather clad heroin look serious and spout off tripe like, "The most important thing to realize is that the very fabric of time hangs in the precarious balance of our tenacious leaders, who have grown evil and corrupt by the very fundamental forces of the power they possess in their possessive claws!"  *shudder*

Anyway, until we get storylines that actually warrant decent writing, then crap can pass as decent.  Hell, it's the same reason eskimos eat blubber....what else is there but the yellow snow?

I'm fighting terrorism by playing violent video games!
#42 by Bezzy
2002-03-05 21:36:01
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
I think I get irritated with the idea of games that truely do not need any plot (or theme come to think of it) that sort of, throw one in hap hazardly, almost out of cowardice.

When I see these little 2 paragraph "setting the scene" introductions in id's various manuals, and I think of the people who value them, I just want to scream "It's a fucking game, genious" and be done with it.

Either you do a story well, or not at all.

There is no just cause that a fool will not follow. HALLO MISTAH!
#43 by Caryn
2002-03-05 21:36:10
carynlaw@pacbell.net http://www.hellchick.net
Was Marc Laidlaw a full-time writer who was brought on to do Half-Life's story, or was he working on Half-Life and wrote as a separate thing? (He published a novel or a book or short stories, I can't remember which -- someone lent it to me a while back and I never had the chance to read it).

Anyone know?

- Caryn
Everyone has a signature but me.
#44 by crash
2002-03-05 21:37:09
writing in games will improve when it ceases to become writing for games.

in my opinion.

- if you can laugh at it, you can live with it.
- "Hey, how 'bout this: fuck you." -LPMiller
#45 by Gunp01nt
2002-03-05 21:38:03
supersimon33@hotmail.com
Caryn:

in Gordon's locker in the game are two books (prolly novels) by Laidlaw but I never read anything of him.

<<< Do you believe in a god that tells you lies or do you believe in me? >>>
#46 by Petri Jarvilehto
2002-03-05 21:40:07
petri@remedy.fi http://www.remedy.fi
Why pay some snooty literary type to come write out lines of dialogue, or manual narrative, or game narration - when you can simply do it yourself?  Hell, you coded this whole 3-D engine, it's no big task to do something simple like writing!


I don't think that there's really any professional devs out there that would take such a stance on writing. This was probably the situation 4-5 years ago, but considering how far the narrative games have evolved already no sane person would dismiss writing so easily.

I can't remember who said, a few posts above me, that a writer working on dialogue and such would hurt the game because that's all he does.  He would "go overboard" so to speak.  (Witness Max Payne's dialogue.  *shudder*)  This may be true in many cases, but at the same time, all a texture artist does is create textures.  All the sound man does is record sounds.  Yet, you're not accusing them of going crazy with the detail, are you?


I'm damn well accusing texture artist or 3D modellers going overboard :). I think almost any game in the world will suffer from the problem that if no one keeps the art team in check, you're suddenly having characters with 1,00000000 polygons and 47 4096x4096 textures per character. I think the exact same thing applies to writing as well... everyone is really focused on their own task and wants to make the end result as cool as possible, and in the end it's possible that the good intentions result into less of a whole. With artwork it's easy to detect, since the framerate goes to hell... with writing it's much harder to judge, since there are no fixed values to benchmark against.
#47 by crash
2002-03-05 21:46:28
Caryn:

click me plz

- if you can laugh at it, you can live with it.
- "Hey, how 'bout this: fuck you." -LPMiller
#48 by Caryn
2002-03-05 21:47:59
carynlaw@pacbell.net http://www.hellchick.net
crash, it's a 404. But I'm not asking IF he wrote, I know that he did. I want to know if he was a full time writer who got paid to do HL, or if he worked for Valve and wrote his novels while working there?

- Caryn
Everyone has a signature but me.
#49 by Caryn
2002-03-05 21:51:30
carynlaw@pacbell.net http://www.hellchick.net
Petri:

With artwork it's easy to detect, since the framerate goes to hell... with writing it's much harder to judge, since there are no fixed values to benchmark against.


And unlike textures or levels, writing is much less tangible as far as games go. A writer puts words to paper to describe scenes. That writer can't lay down 500 words to describe what's going to happen in a scene in a game and actually have it used. A writer is instead coming in as a mechanic of sorts: they're not going to create a tangible thing that people can read, but instead they're going to work with a designer, ideally, to craft a framework that's both story and game design, but except for dialogue (I'm discounting any story written into a game manual -- I don't think that's what we're really talking about here) no one is actually going to be reading their written words.

- Caryn
Everyone has a signature but me.
#50 by Gunp01nt
2002-03-05 21:56:31
supersimon33@hotmail.com
UncleJeet:
I can't remember who said, a few posts above me, that a writer working on dialogue and such (...big snippage...) all a texture artist does is create textures.  All the sound man does is record sounds.  Yet, you're not accusing them of going crazy with the detail, are you?

funny how a lotta people forget my name... :/

A writer has the ability to provide a story.
If you make a game like: we want a sci fi FPS with a lotta weird aliens in it and a lotta shooting and two paragraphs of story to make it all a big whole then there indeed is no big place for a writer, but there's the danger of every team member doing sorta his own thing, and thus you get zombies, human soldiers, mutants and robots all in one game (Quake for instance). (BTW who always do the concept art for the models? you always see concept art sketches in previews...)

A writer can pre-write all of that. He can make a big story with a game in mind and make up all the characters, all the locations and the entire storyline. the rest of the team then has something to work by, and not a whole collection of separate ideas.
The mappers know what sorta maps to make because (if) the writer describes them in some detail.
The texture artists know what textures to make because the writer defines a setting for the game and for all the locations.
The modellers can work by the character (player, NPC and enemy) descriptions of the writer.

this makes a game so much more connected than f.i. three episodes/missions in completely different places (so many examples of that) with kinda random enemies (Serious Sam is a big example of that, not bashing Croteam because the game is good at what it is).

It also gives the development team much more of a guideline. Of course it would reduce them to mere model-/texture-/mapmonkeys...



The real trick to writing for a game, I think, would be for the writer to drop all pretense and self love, and commit himself to being paid to do a job - and being paid very little at that.  To many writers get so caught up in trying to create "art" that they forget that whatever it is they're writing needs to be good.

<<< Do you believe in a god that tells you lies or do you believe in me? >>>
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