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Article Ideas About Writing For Games


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#1 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4819

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Posted 21 March 2013 - 03:53 PM

It's been proposed that I write one or more articles for this crossbones thing.  I occasionally enjoy writing educational non-fiction, whether about writing theory and techniques or other topics.  But I don't want to reinvent the wheel by covering a topic that many people have already covered well in existing how-to-write books and intro-to-creative-writing classes and similar websites.  And I'm not qualified to write anything about getting a job as a writer within the industry, so I'm preemptively crossing that topic off the list.  But other than that, this is a general call for suggestion of what you would actually like to read articles about.  It can be either about game stories and scripts, or about game technical writing such as design documents.  I'm also interested in writing things about game design, so you may as well toss those ideas in too if you have any.


Phone game idea available free to someone who will develop it (Alphadoku game - the only existing phone game of this type is both for windows phone only and awful. PM for details.)


I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me. I also love pet-breeding games.


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#2 Poigahn   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 518

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Posted 21 March 2013 - 05:25 PM

It seems as though many are writing articles geared for the beginner, myself included.  What I hope sets mine apart, is that I also wrote a simple game to go along with it.

So, for me personally, I would like to see an article(s) that goes 1 or 2 steps beyond the beginner level.  I struggle with C++, because of the so many cryptic coding.  Even when I read the books on games and C++, the author uses methods within user defined classes without adequately explaing what is going on.  So, HELP.  I would be willing to collaborate,  May I could pose problems I have through what I am trying to learn and program them, and you could answer in an article.

 

I figure if I have the question, many others do as well, but just don not know how to ask properly.  Then I coild tell you if you answered the question I asked.


Your Brain contains the Best Program Ever Written : Manage Your Data Wisely !!


#3 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4819

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Posted 21 March 2013 - 06:56 PM

It seems as though many are writing articles geared for the beginner, myself included.  What I hope sets mine apart, is that I also wrote a simple game to go along with it.

So, for me personally, I would like to see an article(s) that goes 1 or 2 steps beyond the beginner level.  I struggle with C++, because of the so many cryptic coding.  Even when I read the books on games and C++, the author uses methods within user defined classes without adequately explaing what is going on.  So, HELP.  I would be willing to collaborate,  May I could pose problems I have through what I am trying to learn and program them, and you could answer in an article.

 

I figure if I have the question, many others do as well, but just don not know how to ask properly.  Then I coild tell you if you answered the question I asked.

Um, I'm a bit confused by the C++ example.  I did make it clear that I'm talking about writing game stories, right?  And design documents, maybe.  But it has nothing to do with coding, I'm not a programmer.

 

But, as an example, it's true that I'd rather writer for people who are beyond the beginner level.  So I need to find out what they are struggling with in terms of designing game stories or creating design documents.  The thing I've struggled the most with myself is plot, but it has been my experience that only a small percentage of writers are interested in reading about plot.  Character arc and theme are closely related to plot.  Word choice and sentence structure I don't give a crap about and think other people obsess about them too much.  POV seems like a straightforward choice to me and is another thing I'm confused why people angst over.  How to work with beta readers and how to be a beta reader are useful topics, but I've read pretty thorough discussions of them.  The history of writing theory from Aristotle to present things like act theory, hero's journey, snowflake method, MRUs, scene and sequel, and vector theory interests me, but again it doesn't seem to interest a very large percentage of writers - I offered a free class on it and no one applied to be a student. dry.png

 

I think what most writers want to talk about, if they want to talk about anything at all, is their own stories.  But this doesn't work very well because they mostly aren't interested in each others' stories.


Phone game idea available free to someone who will develop it (Alphadoku game - the only existing phone game of this type is both for windows phone only and awful. PM for details.)


I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me. I also love pet-breeding games.


#4 Poigahn   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 518

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Posted 22 March 2013 - 02:52 AM

Um, I'm a bit confused by the C++ example. I did make it clear that I'm talking about writing game stories, right? And design documents, maybe. But it has nothing to do with coding, I'm not a programmer.

  I guess I was a bit confused as well. When you asked for suggestions, you breifly touched on areas of interest.  You should have stated that you were not a programmer!!  If not that, Then you should have clearly stated your strengths and field of expertise.

  Unfortunatley, if you yourself struggle with a plot, how could you possibly assist in designing game stories ( Potatoe - Potahtoe) and design documents.  Stories revolve around plots, some side stories elvolve out of plots.  Design documents grow out of plots. 

   <Sidebar:  MRUs ?  I am not a big fan of this type of abbreiviations,  The only ones who know what you are reverring to is the ones who know what you are referring to.>

the proper way to use such an item, especially in a forum such is this is to first spell it out   >>  My Rainy Umbrella(MRU)  then everybody knows what you mean. Now when I use MRU everyone knows that I am Refferring to My Rainy Umbrella


Your Brain contains the Best Program Ever Written : Manage Your Data Wisely !!


#5 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4819

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Posted 22 March 2013 - 03:59 AM

This is the "writing for games" forum, in the forum group "the creative side", and the thread title also says writing for games... that means stories, not programming.  This might not be clear to a non-native English speaker?  But still, everything I mentioned in the first post had to do with writing words, none of it had to do with writing code.

 

Because I've found plot to be the most challenging topic of writing, it's the one I've studied the most and know the most about now.  In some cases the teacher who has struggled with a topic is better suited to teach it than the teacher who had an instinctive understanding of the topic and never really had to work to understand it.

 

MRU is indeed a mysterious acronym, but it doesn't actually get much clearer if I write it out as "motivation-reaction units".  It's a theory about how to construct scenes, it says that each scene needs to have both a section about a character's motivation and a section about a character's taking action in response to something.  I was including MRU as one of several examples of modern fiction theory that may be something of interest for an intermediate or advanced writer to learn.


Phone game idea available free to someone who will develop it (Alphadoku game - the only existing phone game of this type is both for windows phone only and awful. PM for details.)


I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me. I also love pet-breeding games.


#6 Stormynature   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2824

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Posted 22 March 2013 - 07:44 AM

Okay whilst I completely admit to laughing while reading the previous posts and fully realising that it is an occasional result of communication, lets get it on track.
 

so first of all -- If you are reading this forum and you are not sunandshadow or myself and you have an opinion regarding what types of articles you would like to see created for this particular field i.e. writing for games....then SPEAK UP!

 

This is a creative forum -- That means we should be able to develop entirely different ways and ideas of making articles and more over we should NOT be afraid of expanding the boundaries of our purview in this forum.

 

Writing for games - is not only creative - it can be technical -- for example writing the basic instructions on how to play the game. It does not have to be directed purely at writing that is used in games - it can be an article that looks at a game and analyses its writing/lore etc. A recent lounge thread highlights one such approach taken by a feminist blogger. Writing for games includes issues such as creating content for use in marketing materials, you must look at dynamics like how do you plan for a sequel yet give the player the experience of a full-bodied game, it looks at issues like how do you write interwoven storylines that individually hold up as well collectively contribute to the overall game plot (and believe me when I say that this often poorly handled as shown by many people saying things like "I am here to kill a dragon and this game has got me picking apples for an old lady which has nothing to do with the dragon or killing 15 giant bees in order to get a hat). It comes down to issues like learning to create entirely new languages for use in games...can we say klingon or elvish or spell names and character names.

 

 

The point I am trying to make is this: Do not simply think that writing a story to be used in a game is all there is. But in all honesty how many people out there know that? And if you don't know this stuff or other related issues  - why aren't you writing your suggestions for articles in this thread. Writing for games is the poor cousin in the site and damned if I aint going to drag it out of the doldrums it has been malingering in for a while - So start talking and help make this forum a font of inspiration.


Edited by Stormynature, 22 March 2013 - 07:46 AM.


#7 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4819

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Posted 22 March 2013 - 05:28 PM

I asked for suggestions at another writing forum I hang out at, since I figured, the more the better.  Here's a summary of their suggestions:

- what makes a story good?

- how do you analyze someone else's story to figure out how to emulate the things that make it good?

- what makes a strong beginning?

- why do certain stories appear in games over and over again; do they work with gameplay in a particularly useful way?


Phone game idea available free to someone who will develop it (Alphadoku game - the only existing phone game of this type is both for windows phone only and awful. PM for details.)


I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me. I also love pet-breeding games.


#8 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4819

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 11:46 PM

so first of all -- If you are reading this forum and you are not sunandshadow or myself and you have an opinion regarding what types of articles you would like to see created for this particular field i.e. writing for games....then SPEAK UP!

I'm tempted to conclude we just have a lack of game writers hanging out here.

 

I did start writing an article BTW.  So far it's mainly about "what kinds of game stories are there?"


Phone game idea available free to someone who will develop it (Alphadoku game - the only existing phone game of this type is both for windows phone only and awful. PM for details.)


I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me. I also love pet-breeding games.


#9 Stormynature   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2824

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 11:55 PM

I'm tempted to conclude we just have a lack of game writers hanging out here.

 

I am not disagreeing. It is one of the reasons I think we are in need of increasing activity on this forum - Articles is one avenue that we can pursue to increase the resource base likely to grab people from off the larger interwebs through searches. Some other thoughts come to mind as well but am still exploring the possibilities.

 

 

Possibly increasing the scope of the forums purview might be one way. At the moment I am seeing some threads in Game design which would be better sited in here but get left over there partially because the audience is larger and partially because the line upon which they sit wanders between game design and writing for example

 

Would people enjoy a hardcore story-based strategy game?


Edited by Stormynature, 26 March 2013 - 12:00 AM.


#10 jbadams   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 17986

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 02:56 AM

As you also mentioned Game Design, I thought I'd just briefly note that your journal posts on designing a pet game by writing a design document would be a great candidate for conversion to an article or series, as would anything similar. smile.png



#11 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4819

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 05:42 PM

Yeah, the pet guide thing pretty much already is an article.  I went looking for the FAQ about how to formally submit something as an article, but there doesn't seem to be a contributor agreement in place yet, and I wanted to read that first.  I also have art-related reference disgrams over at deviant art that I'd be happy for someone else to include in a larger art article, as they are too small to count as articles on their own.  And I have a class I taught online on the subject of designing a cast of characters (the concept art portion of the design) which I could convert into an article without too much trouble.


Phone game idea available free to someone who will develop it (Alphadoku game - the only existing phone game of this type is both for windows phone only and awful. PM for details.)


I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me. I also love pet-breeding games.


#12 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4819

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Posted 08 April 2013 - 08:35 PM

Here's my attempt at starting this article about writing for games.  It's going to get a lot longer - the following section will be a history of major developments in fiction theory, then there will be a part about how to develop a plot synopsis and other stuff I haven't decided yet.  Suggestions are welcome.  Specifically, is what I've written here so far understandable?  Is it presented in the best order, or would rearranging it somehow be better?  Is there anything else you think should be covered in this first section before I switch to the history section?

 

 

Story Is Meaning

Writing for games is a challenging subject to talk about. First one has to correct the confused people who think it has anything to do with game programming. Nope. We are talking about writing stories for games, though writing documentation and sales copy for games can also legitimately be considered writing for games. But even if we establish that we only want to talk about creating game stories, there are a ridiculously large variety of things that count as game stories.

Types of Game Stories

Some games have no text or spoken dialogue within the game itself. These games may rely on the promotional copy surrounding the game to orient the player, or they may rely on the graphics, gameplay, and sound to tell a wordless story, or they may consider the game elements to be toys which the player can use to tell their own stories. Wordless stories can range from extremely simple to as elaborate as a dialogue-less movie. Toy-like elements can range from only slightly under the player's control to completely under the player's control, and can range from a sparse set of abstract symbols to a rich visual "dictionary" of symbols.

Whether told with words, graphics, gameplay, or a mix of all three, game stories can be divided into linear stories and non-linear stories. Some games have a completely linear story. A linear story could be completely separate from the gameplay (for example, by being told in between gameplay sessions) or it could be woven into the gameplay. There are even visual novels where there is significantly more story than gameplay. Linear game stories are the most similar to traditional screenplays, comic scripts, novels, and short stories. Some games have a linear story as the game's 'spine', but also have optional linear side stories that exist in a non-linear relationship to the core story and each other.

Some interactive stories branch, with the player's dialogue choices and/or gameplay actions pushing the story toward one ending or another. Other interactive stories don't use branches, but instead use story modules which have no real relationship to each other except in the player's head, though they may effect a state machine or meters/counters which describe the playable character's stats and abilities, or which model an NPC or faction's attitude toward the player character. Some games generate minimal story modules to give variety to recurring quests, these are not in a linear relationship with anything else in the game.

I think that all of these approaches to story, or even lack of story, in a game are equally valid. (Though I'll confess to a personal preference for games that have plenty of story rather than only a little.) At any rate, we've established that there are several different types of game stories. So now let's look at what they all have in common. What is it that makes a story a story?

 

[Sidebar insert thingy: "If this is too abstract for your tastes, allow me to recommend the book Story by Robert McKee as a great practical introduction to writing screenplays and survey of many of the important concepts in modern how-to-write theory.  Screenplay scripts are the most similar popular format to game scripts, and this book is both beginner-friendly and a good one-stop-shop for a beginner or intermediate writer who isn't looking for a deep exploration of theory."]

Actually, let's leave the “what” aside for a minute (I'll come back to it), and instead consider “why”. Why do people consume stories? Why are stories an important element of games? Stories are ancient. People have been telling each other stories since long before writing was invented. Stories are fundamentally human; a person who was unable to understand stories would be regarded as having severe mental damage. Terry Pratchett suggests that humans would be more accurately called “pan narrans” than “homo sapiens”. Like birds showing off their plumage, the little anecdotes we hear and tell in our everyday social interactions are an important part of how we judge each others' attractiveness as friends or potential mates.

Stories are not just for entertainment; they accomplish all sorts of work, both between individuals and within an individual mind. Stories can persuasively communicate complex ideas, such as morals and problem-solving techniques, which are more awkward to try to explain in some non-narrative way. Stories are how we develop our own identities and develop mental models of others' which help us anticipate their behavior and opinions. Stories are how we understand the past, how we deduce who committed a crime and what would be a just punishment. Stories are how we imagine the future, both how to get to desirable results and how to avoid undesirable results. Stories are pleasurable because they can affect our emotions in a way that has been variously compared to getting a massage, riding a roller coaster, and having sex.

Music and sequential art (which includes animated and live-action video) share this near-magical ability to create an emotional experience for an audience; when all three art forms are combined into a game, then made interactive with programming, tremendously powerful experiences can be created. We can begin working our way back to the question of what story is by starting here. What do these three art forms have in common?

They are chronological; they don't just supply a single input to the audience's mind, like most visual art, but instead a whole sequence of inputs. (Any programmers in the audience may want to contemplate the similarity to coding in an interpreted language, where audience members are providing their own assorted versions of the interpreter.) Chronicity is important not just to show a sequence of time, but specifically to show change over time. These three art forms exhibit grammar-like structure: Beginning, middle, end, modular clauses, sequences of parallel items with minor variations, earlier elements that reference later elements, and vice versa. Pattern recognition is how human brains, animal brains, and computer programs decide where to direct their attention at any given time. The grammatical patterns of sequential forms of communication, whether verbal, visual, or musical, direct the attention of the audience to regard some elements of the composition as background context and others as the object to be contemplated, and possibly manipulated. Whether the manipulation is done directly by the creator, indirectly through a character, or by the player, this activity is like an experiment, with the composition presenting the results for the audience's evaluation, and perhaps education.

I suspect most of you are not all that interested in semiotics (the study of signs, syntax, and meaning). So, let's get more concrete. So far we've said that a story is a communication about how some things change over time. Okay; what things?

At its most basic, a story is about a being trying to accomplish a goal. It can also be about one being with multiple goals, multiple being with one goal, or multiple beings with multiple goals. This being is called the protagonist, a word meaning "one who takes action toward [a goal]". If two of these beings have opposing goals, the other one is called the antagonist, "one who takes action against". (Other characters or groups of characters besides these two can have goals, but that's going deeper into character roles than I want to do here. To make it a good story, the being(s) ought to have emotions and motives driving them to accomplish their goal(s), and there ought to be obstacles for the being(s) to struggle against in the attempt to reach their goal(s). I say being here, instead of human or person, because although humans are the most common main characters, animals, aliens, robots, computer programs, and anthropomorphised inanimate objects can work just as well.

One might assume that in a game this being is usually the player, but this varies depending on the game's genre. In real life, many of us spend at least half of our daily effort toward accomplishing others' goals, and even our own personal goals are often suggested by or imitated from others. It's much easier for a game to provide a goal and ask the player to adopt that goal than it is for the game to allow the player to choose a goal. It's certainly possible to ask the player what their motives are and what goal they want to accomplish within the game, but it's complicated and not very efficient to provide such a wide range of game content that you can allow to player to pursue and accomplish any goal they might think of. Imposing a motive onto the player or assuming that the player will agree with a motive is simpler but problematic, because the player might disagree with the provided goal or motive. If the goal is the core gameplay and the motive is the core game concept it can be safely assumed that the player decided these were acceptable before purchasing the game. One of the purposes of advertising copy and packaging is to tell users what kind of activity the game is offering them (and why it will be fun). An example: in tycoon games the object is to become the best at some type of money-making venture; the fact that a game is a tycoon-type is often specified right in the game's title. Or in racing games the goal is to win races, and probably upgrade your car along the way; a screenshot showing an in-progress race can communicate this easily. Someone who objects to earning money isn't going to even start playing a tycoon game, and someone who has a philosophical objection to competitions isn't going to start playing a racing game. What you don't want to do is take a player who is there to kill bad guys and assume that they are enthusiastically motivated to grow plants, or take a player who is there to solve puzzles and assume that they are enthusiastically motivated to race on dragonback, or many other possible motive/gameplay mismatches.


Phone game idea available free to someone who will develop it (Alphadoku game - the only existing phone game of this type is both for windows phone only and awful. PM for details.)


I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me. I also love pet-breeding games.


#13 TechnoGoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2680

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Posted 10 April 2013 - 06:28 PM

What about an article on why games need writers? Most companies build a game and then tag on some in house to do some writing to tie the bits together and add dialogue.  Considering how cheap it is to hire a writer its a shame that they don't do it more often.  So it would be interesting comparing and contrasting games that have had writer from an early stage or used professional writers to showcase how it improves the overall quality of the finished product.


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#14 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4819

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Posted 10 April 2013 - 07:30 PM

What about an article on why games need writers? Most companies build a game and then tag on some in house to do some writing to tie the bits together and add dialogue.  Considering how cheap it is to hire a writer its a shame that they don't do it more often.  So it would be interesting comparing and contrasting games that have had writer from an early stage or used professional writers to showcase how it improves the overall quality of the finished product.

 

Um... this IS an article about why games need writers?  I mean, it's aimed at writers, you were probably thinking something aimed at producers or lead designers who aren't writers.  But my article is titled Story Is Meaning, and I've got some paragraphs there about why stories are important.


Phone game idea available free to someone who will develop it (Alphadoku game - the only existing phone game of this type is both for windows phone only and awful. PM for details.)


I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me. I also love pet-breeding games.





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