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Why a Game Writer is more important than the Programmer in a Team

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Want to be a writer? Forget it mate! You are better off learning to program, now that's a useful skill.

I love these words. They remind me of the time I hit my head against the wall repeatedly as a small child. Don't ask me why I was doing that by the way, I suspect I may have knocked the reason for doing so right out of my head.

I am a writer.

Writing is a very simple skill. Anyone can do it. The reality is though most people do not, nor ever will write well. Yes, you can learn to write with every word grammatically correct in its place and without any flaw. That skill doesn't make you a good writer.

If you have been reading previous entries of mine in the Journal you will have realised I tend to have creative titles. This is deliberate. I want people to read the Journal, I want people exposed so to speak. For the record, I don't truly believe that any role in a team making a game stands above any other role, each member serves a function and the synthesis of those functions is why everyone is there . But for those who came in to rage at me for such a blatantly evil title I say the following: Welcome smile.png You have fallen prey to my deceitful devices and are now sitting down reading these words. Allow me to introduce myself.

I am a writer. A weaver of words to create realities out of falsehoods, a communicator of ideas, a spreader of disinformation and generally an annoying sod who is arrogant with his words but would like to occasionally inspire the imagination of others. My task is simple. I am writing the story to Project Veritas. Writing for a game is very different from writing a novel, short story or even this post right here in one major respect. You cannot write in a vacuum, every step of the way through the game's development you need to be around and involved. Rewrites happen constantly for many reasons: ideas evolve, maps get changed, the pacing of story bogs down or speeds up too fast, budgetary constraints cut entire levels, new enemies are produced, the list never ends...until the game is done. At which point someone then points out a glaring omission in the story and you have to rewrite a section for a patch implementation.

A good story can make banal game play transcend into an enjoyable gaming experience. A poorly crafted story can leave a bitter taste in the mouth. Not all games require or need a story though, for example Tetris. I suspect sometimes that this is why game writing is seen as less valuable to the gaming experience than other skill sets. It is not essential to making a game...except I don't really like the way that is phrased as it is in my opinion constrained inappropriately. What is a more honest statement to my way of thinking would be: some games require a story to enhance the gaming experience and some don't.

Edit: I have no idea why this wasn't posted earlier - so it is about 6 months old. I must have intended more wisdom to be added to this post only to come face to face with the fact that I am not wise.

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It is difficult with roles in game development. Yes, writers are important, especially in story driven games. The trouble begins when a game runs on low budget, in this case the roles get compressed on single team members, eventually only on a handful. The real trouble is, that you need more manpower in certain roles, e.g. often artists first, then programmer, then sound/design/writer.


As example, my hobby game project team consists of me (~80% of my sparetime) and a friend (~20% of his sparetime). Believe me, I'm working in a lot of roles and to be honest, I would be glad to surpase a lot of roles to others, because I see, that my skills are lacking in certain areas. But I have no budget to pay them accordingly. If I would have some budget, I would invest it in the most obviously shortcoming, which are graphics related when listening to the testers. Eventually the gamers themselves dictate what is most important in a game, and art seems to be the most important at the moment. Hopefully this will change in the future, when more indie-productions with less than AAA visuals get more momentum.


As writer, or game designer, I fear, that you need to skip the no/low budget indie productions and need to look for either studios or indie productions with some budget at hands. Best to work as freelancer for payment, build up some portfolio and try to get some payed jobs.


Wish you good luck.


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I don't disagree with what you are saying Ashaman - It normally does comes down to budgetary constraints and what is essential to producing a game. But as I am not seeking to be employed in this field it has never bothered me to work on indie budget of zero dollars or maybe the offer of a 2 minute noodle :). Mostly my post was about the nature of the writer being a commodity of value within the industry of game development even if not necessarily perceived that way at times. As the tools that enable non-coders to create games become more and more powerful it will be interesting to see long-term how the relative values perceived on the different forms of contribution to a game will change.


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This is why I should check on previous journal entries - My apologies SotL and Navy - I will provide responses soon.


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