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sunandshadow

Game-specific Writing Techniques

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It occurred to me that the ''6 elements'' thread is only asking about writing traditional fiction. I would also like to ask you all, what''s the most important difference between writing normal fiction and writing for a game? Have you discovered any useful rules of thumb for converting writing from one form to the other? I personally find it very difficult to deal with the fact that most games don''t allow for stream-of-consciousness narration. (This is first or close third narration where the viewpoint character''s thoughts convey a large amount of emotion and analytical commentary on the story''s events as they occur.) And then there are branching-dialogue and branching-plot, two concepts essential to most game writing but utterly alien to the standard novel or short story...

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The problem is, I don''t think games qualify as fictional writing. They more likely qualify as fictional games. Where does prose come into play in a game? Dialogue? An introduction in the manual? Cut scene narration?

I advocated something called the situation a while back. Essentially, the writer creates a set of slots which can be dynamically filled at runtime be the program. The writer must focus on scene believability, constraints, outcomes, and the situations have to be of interest, but not necessarily of significance.

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sure bishop_pass, but a rose by any other name...

of course there are inherent differences, and obvious similarities.

why can''t games use stream-of-consciousness? of course not the whole time, but what if you have lots of short cutscenes (or long ones) and dialogue... what if you did something new, and added your character''s thoughts into the game? just because something hasn''t been done doesn''t mean it wouldn''t be a great idea.

branching. you''ll end up writing numerous stories. you have choices, of course: they can end up with the same basic plot, but a slightly different ending and different cutscenes, or the pieces can break off totally and spurn a whole new story.

dialogue. wow. this is tougher. its like writing... heck, i don''t know... well, a game. lol. but with words. but not dynamic, i guess. this is just a lot of work trying to make every branch and choice of the dialogue lead somewhere and have every piece fit together. this just takes time to plot out and write, its not so foreign from normal writing.

so what if you are trying to convert a fictional story into a game? theres no char GameWriting = char(ShortStory); or anything simple like that. i would suggest you read alan dean foster''s ''the dig'' and then play the lucas arts game of the same title. you get a pretty good idea of how to do this type of thing.

i wasted most of my creative thought for the night making a 3d eyeball here and here and i can''t pull my thoughts together well enough to add anything else... sorry.



There''s nothing so tragic as seeing a family ripped apart by something as simple as a pack of wolves. - Jack Handy''s Deep Thoughts




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The sunandshadstress is the matriarch of this forum, and ultimate arbiter of our differing views. Maybe she could shed some sunlight on the whole shadowed affair?

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In my opinion, with game specific writing, you might do like if its for an RPG game, you''d start with the concept as you might with writing a fictional piece.

Then perhaps determine the elements as in the other thread, but obviously here you would need to also consider if the game were to have multiple endings, to enhance the replayability of it. But herein this would need you tie in your writing with the game design. So how would you do it? Create several scenarios of possibilities and draw the story through each scenario individually and then determine how you might write it? Or write the story and then create scenarios/possibilites from what you''ve written?

So then here would obviously become the basis of the branching dialogues and plots. So how do you work this into the detailed but specific design for the game''s developers. Would you need to create triggers for the player to NPC relationship? Also what may set off these triggers? Clearly the more details you work on, the easier it becomes to design the game''s specifics, and importantly perhaps this would set some of the conditions of the game''s AI.

Of course then you may get the situation where you''re deviating away from the original goal of the game''s concept while you are working out the nuances of perhaps the very first point of where the game branches.

It would be important to keep in mind that you *have* to give the player *something* to do during the game. You''re not giving them a guided tour of your world are you? You want them to *EXPLORE* your world, so that they would want to adventure within it. So to make it (more) explorable for them, you would need to expand around inside the world. If they wander off the path, you dont want them to walk into a black wall do you? You need to make it plausible that they may walk off the path.

Clearly I''m starting to make this post turn into a game design post rather than a game writing one. But perhaps I''m demonstarting here unwittingly that game writing may end up tangling into the game design as well.

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Game writing? That really depends on the work enviornment and platform.

For example, we do a lot of work using liscenced characters. So, we have to make sure our writing is like the liscence. It''s easier said than done. Adding anything new, such as generic enemies, cunning villians, or plot points not directly covered in the series, is pretty heavily frowned upon here.

If you add in the fact that we don''t have a dedicated writer (responsiblity for that bounces to whoever is willing to volunteer for it), things get more difficult. Often it''s a matter of the boss coming in and saying "Guys, I need XYZ by tomorrow morning. The liscencer liked it, and wants to see it more in depth."

For this place, the most important difference is one of dealing with the hierarchy. Often, we''ll have to make a whole lot of writing decisions in little to no time. Then these decisions will be looked at, and questioned by several layers of people who aren''t writers. If we''re lucky, they''ll give us some difficult feedback. If we''re unlucky, well, the last time we were unlucky we got chewed out for using the scientist from one episode as a source of information. Then all our work was deleted, and replaced by the intro text to the series.

Rules of thumb I use.
1. Don''t take it personally. Sure, it seems obvious, but when the boss is saying things like "Do the fish guys ever leave the fish planet? No! Do the jungle guys appear anywhere but the jungle planet? No! No one crosses between worlds but the hero and the villian!" It really made me want to get in his face and explain that the whole series takes place on the planet Earth.

2. Quick, broad strokes. As far as we''ve ever taken the writing for one of these games, it''s always been better just to toss out a quick paragraph that illustrates where things are in the plot, what changes (if any) happen to the characters, and roughs out the scenario. You can always come back to it and add more later, but chances are that it needs to be done yesterday, and needs to be digestable by people with very short attention spans.

3. Tables, lots of tables. Everything I do gets put into a list. There''s the list of locales with explanations of what they do, usually a space is left in there for asset information. There''s the list of plot points. There''s the list of characters. There''s a list of events. Then there''s tables set up just so that all that''s required is to glance at the table and anyone can figure out what''s happening from any point to the next. Remember, most of the people I''m working with don''t actually enjoy reading but this has to be accessable to them.

4. Situations are great. I''ve never had enough time to actually finish a concept before it was all due. Making sure to have some interestiong situations to put in early on means that I''ll have that much more to work with later.

5. Be open. I can''t stress this one enough. The designers are going to want to have certian elements in. The artists are going to want to have certian things happen. The programmers are going to want to have certian things happen. The producers are going to want to have things happen. If they feel that they can talk to me about it, and trust me on the matter, I''m in a better situation for getting things done. Chances are, but the time I can get to any writing, the design team has allready decided where all the locations and settings are, the art team has picked out a bunch of enemies to animate, and the programmers are ready to tell me all the things that can''t happen in the game (no more than 60 characters on the screen at once). If I can turn all of those things into guides, it''s easier to work with.

Aside from dealing with the people, the other thing I find difficult is finding a good tone. Sure, I can imitate the dialog style of the TV series pretty well. But can I successfully capture the sense of fun that goes through the seires and still throw in enough action verbs to keep the meaningful chunks of work safe from the delete key? I also find that if I''m not careful my writing turns very, very dry.


quote:
Original post by bishop_pass
The problem is, I don''t think games qualify as fictional writing. They more likely qualify as fictional games. Where does prose come into play in a game? Dialogue? An introduction in the manual? Cut scene narration?

I advocated something called the situation a while back. Essentially, the writer creates a set of slots which can be dynamically filled at runtime be the program. The writer must focus on scene believability, constraints, outcomes, and the situations have to be of interest, but not necessarily of significance.


And that post had a lot of stuff I''ve been using in it. However, given the linear design of our games, and limits on space, the relative significance of each scene (and place in time) is pre-determined.


Mind you, I''m not hired as the company writer. I was hired as a level designer and scripter, but I''m doing mostly engine renovations and helping out as best I can when the "We need this design document by thursday" rush comes around. Most of the writing work I do is fill in the gap sort of stuff. We might know that the hero goes to a village, rescues some people, then goes into a cave for a stealth stage, fights a boss, then goes to the mountians and into a portal, which turns out to be a trap. I get to fill in the fact that at the fillage, the chief tells him that their wizeman was captured by the villian and taken to a cave fortress. Then the hero rescues the wizeman, and asks about a way home. The wizeman tells him about a portal that leads to wherever one wishes, but tells him the villan knows of it.

Hope I havn''t rambled too much.

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I think that the most important difference in writing a game, is story flexability(sp eck)... most people like flexability as shown by the popularity of games that allow you to be flexable in the choices you make... Games are slightly more flexable than they used to be-they still aren''t at the level that I want it to be...

-Drugs are bad. Especially if they look like machines. Serial Experiments Lain

-Small girls with a single braid in their hair are all-powerful God''''s. Accept it. (Phar)

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what''s the most important difference between writing normal fiction and writing for a game?

>Dunno is this is the most important, but I find the screenwriting technique of turning narrative into visual action is a great help in getting the material into an arrangement component.


Have you discovered any useful rules of thumb for converting writing from one form to the other? I personally find it very difficult to deal with the fact that most games don''t allow for stream-of-consciousness narration.

This is usually missed, but I find it well represented in charater''s changing perspectives, usually done in cut scenes. Just as in life and character action, stream of consciousness narration can be internally dialoged and if portrayed well or demonstrated in the right context, can easily remind the viewer/player of what is important to the pricipal character.

Adventuredesign

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adventuredesign! i remember some really great posts of yours in the heyday of the game writing forum (when there were more than 4 active threads...)

i guess the only thing that has really managed to help me is to story-line the whole thing. i draw little boxes with what i want to see and write in the dialogue with it (or separately and merge it later) - i just need to know what i want to see and can go from there. unfortunately, i cant really explain the processes i go through... i dont really think about it, i just do things and implement ideas as i have them and constantly improve.

as usual, sorry i cant be of much help. i havent been able to think at all lately... ah... i dont think this is the place to cry, so ill leave now.

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o.0 Ahh, no crying! *hugs redeyegames* Everybody has days when their brain just doesn''t work, or they have no inspiration. Take a nap, take a vitamin, make sure you''re drinking enough water and your bloodsugar level is good, do something different like listening to music or watching some anime - there''s always something that will help, even if it''s just giving your brain a chance to rest and reset. Human beings are very resiliant, and wheen they have faith in their own resiliancy they recover even more quickly.

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