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Hajo The Dreamer

Writing descriptions for game elements

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Hello together, for my current project I'll have to write a lot of detail descriptions for items. It's an RPGish environment, and these descriptions are meant to carry both, information about the item itself, and a bit of stylish, atmospheric impression. The game is not story-heavy, so the item descriptions are not linked to any story happening, but rather are self-contained. Also most items can appear in many locations of the game world, so the descriptions cannot refer to the items environment, since that can differ drastically from one occurance of the item to another. Basically there are two levels of information a player can get. First there is a "look" action, that will respond like this: "You see a wooden chest." And there is an "inspect" action, that will bring up the full description after the output of a "look" action: "You see a wooden chest. It is made of firm wooden planks. The planks have darkened from old age. It appears to be quite heavy." English isn't my mothers tongue and I'm not very skilled in writing. I need some advice how to do better. Also I feel uncertain about the detail level to give in such descriptions. Telling about size: "You see a wooden chest. It is about 10 spans wide, 4 spans tall and 6 spans deep, and made of firm wooden planks. The planks have darkened from old age. It appears to be quite heavy." This looks awkward, I mean the size details have a big overweight in the sentence and maybe aren't that important at all. "Big" would be enough, maybe ... What would you, as player, like to see in such descriptions? Items that can be picked up will give all technical details like size, weight, damage stats, defense stats and whatever each item has anyways. These descriptions are what you get before you pick up an item, as a result of looking at it carefully, maybe also touching it. Any hints how to write good item descriptions? [Edited by - Hajo The Dreamer on March 20, 2008 9:49:21 AM]

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If possible, get a native English writer to write them, because in my opinion humor is probably the most important thing a game can put in its item flavor text. This is one area in which WoW sucks and Dofus is actually much better - try reading some item descriptions in their wiki. (Some are not very good translations from the original French though.)

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Thanks for the link to their Wiki! The descriptions indeed have a good sense of humour, at least it matches mine :) Maybe I can draw some ideas from there.

I'll try to get help from native speakers, at least to review the descriptions if I actually get something written more than a few profane sentences about each item - or maybe even then rather, in the hope for getting better ideas. People usually were quite helpful in the past when I asked.

For the time being I'll try to give ideas about the use of the item, the visual appearance, and maybe some details that the game graphics cannot transport, like weight, material details, smell or similar. Must see if I get that really done. Size is obvious from the graphics, so that isn't needed in the description, I think.

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