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Nexusfactor

Game Writer and Programming

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I'm reading a book that teaches how to properly write for video games. Near the end, they suggest that even for a writer it will look good in a portfolio that they used tools to produce a level or a small demo to show, because as a narrative designer your going to have to talk to different departments (programming, art, etc.) to get your ideas across.

Although the book is recent, it list some very outdated tools, for example, Neverwinter Nights level editor. The whole point is, you create a level/game, and sent it out for feedback, and used that feedback to make the game better, and you're able to understand in a small way what each department is doing.

Now, I have some experience with C#/Java(not enough to make a game) but none with Python/PyGame. The studio I'm interested in working at works with Unity. Which would look better, learning Unity/C# or learning Python/Pygame, and creating a playable level? I'm learning towards Python, because if I do learn it enough to make a game, to me, it shows I took the initiative to learn something new, and create a level. I'm not going for a programming position, but a Game Writer/Narrative Designer.

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Firstly, it will always be better if you have experience with the tools that are used by the company you're applying to. Therefore Unity is better than Python/Pygame here.

However, if you're applying for a writer/narrative designer position, any programming capability is likely to be wasted and not a good use of your time. "The initiative to learn something new" is not useful if the thing you learned is not of interest to your potential employers. Yes, initiative is good. Better would be some directly applicable experience.

A small counterpoint to that is that dedicated narrative/writing positions are very rare; and you're more likely to get employment if you have some more general game design skills too. So design work (e.g. level design, system design) is not necessarily a waste of your time. (Programming work however, beyond basic scripting, is.)

You might consider making a mod for a well-known game (e.g. Skyrim) since it has modern tools and is relatively easy to test (whereas a mod for a lesser-known game might not be easy for the studio to play).

You might also consider using an interactive fiction tool like Twine or Inform; this lets you focus on the narrative aspect with a minimum of distraction, and also makes the demo easy to distribute.

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It depends largely on the size of the company, and whether they can afford to compartmentalize.

I'm working under the assumption here that the narrative writer position there is a narrative designer role instead, in which case you may need to script in-game moments as well (not just write the lines for someone else to integrate).

It is hard to predict how this implementation would play out as it would unmistakably be custom, but having a feel of the Unity engine would certainly help in that regard.

Are you in touch with anyone over at that studio? Perhaps you could ask them what the role entails (if there is one).

So, in theory, I don't think it would hurt to show initiative, and the fact they're using Unity tells me they're likely not AAA (which often have their own engines) and maybe fewer than 300 heads. In this case, go for it, it might just help.

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It depends largely on the size of the company, and whether they can afford to compartmentalize.

I'm working under the assumption here that the narrative writer position there is a narrative designer role instead, in which case you may need to script in-game moments as well (not just write the lines for someone else to integrate).

It is hard to predict how this implementation would play out as it would unmistakably be custom, but having a feel of the Unity engine would certainly help in that regard.

Are you in touch with anyone over at that studio? Perhaps you could ask them what the role entails (if there is one).

So, in theory, I don't think it would hurt to show initiative, and the fact they're using Unity tells me they're likely not AAA (which often have their own engines) and maybe fewer than 300 heads. In this case, go for it, it might just help.

 

I would say the studio is mid-sized, and probably don't work with just Unity, they develop for mobile devices and social networks. I would assume, in addition to Unity, they probably use other engines as well, perhaps one written for Android devices, but it's only an assumption.

Sadly, I'm not in touch with anyone at the studio, it's just me. I've seen game writer/game designer, but never that term narrative designer used directly.

The only reason I asked if it would help to know Pygame(or another engine) is, the book I'm reading suggests in addition to Unity, other software to make levels/games, for example, as stated a level editor, Game Maker or Twine. That's all good, but I wanted to show I had the capacity to learn as well, and work in a language that I've never used before. There is another thread that talks about this. I understand a narrative position might not program directly, but the book states, you'll be talking to other departments, and it might help to know what there capable of doing.  

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It depends largely on the size of the company, and whether they can afford to compartmentalize.

I'm working under the assumption here that the narrative writer position there is a narrative designer role instead, in which case you may need to script in-game moments as well (not just write the lines for someone else to integrate).

It is hard to predict how this implementation would play out as it would unmistakably be custom, but having a feel of the Unity engine would certainly help in that regard.

Are you in touch with anyone over at that studio? Perhaps you could ask them what the role entails (if there is one).

So, in theory, I don't think it would hurt to show initiative, and the fact they're using Unity tells me they're likely not AAA (which often have their own engines) and maybe fewer than 300 heads. In this case, go for it, it might just help.

 

I would say the studio is mid-sized, and probably don't work with just Unity, they develop for mobile devices and social networks. I would assume, in addition to Unity, they probably use other engines as well, perhaps one written for Android devices, but it's only an assumption.

Sadly, I'm not in touch with anyone at the studio, it's just me. I've seen game writer/game designer, but never that term narrative designer used directly.

The only reason I asked if it would help to know Pygame(or another engine) is, the book I'm reading suggests in addition to Unity, other software to make levels/games, for example, as stated a level editor, Game Maker or Twine. That's all good, but I wanted to show I had the capacity to learn as well, and work in a language that I've never used before. There is another thread that talks about this. I understand a narrative position might not program directly, but the book states, you'll be talking to other departments, and it might help to know what there capable of doing.  

 

 

Well, Android is one of the deployment targets of Unity, so all the more reason to use this engine.

At a mid-sized level, the business would take a big risk relying on several techs, so in all likelihood, they have 1 or 2, preferably 1, and in this case, that's Unity. It is also an engine that has much popularity with vendor-level studios, so definitely one worth looking into.

 Not sure Pygame would be worth looking into, though perhaps something like Construct which is graphical in nature and generally easier to approach. That book presents an obtuse conclusion though as I'm not sure working 'a bit with Unity' will really let you know much about what other departments are doing with it. Programming isn't something you just pick up along the day within 1 month's crash course, so I suggested a way to make it valuable to you (scripting).

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Speaking from the position of someone who occasionally interviews potential employees, it's worth considering that any benefit of having a broad skillset on your resumé can be cancelled out if it gives us the impression that you're trying to be a jack-of-all-trades, rather than a master of one. It might help you get a junior designer position as those are basically "do a bit of everything" roles. Beyond that, specialising is better.

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Well, Android is one of the deployment targets of Unity, so all the more reason to use this engine.

Wasn't aware of this!

That book presents an obtuse conclusion though as I'm not sure working 'a bit with Unity' will really let you know much about what other departments are doing with it.

The book isn't saying that you'll fully understand what the different departments are doing, it's saying you're going to talk to different departments, so it helps to get an idea of what they're doing(for example, if you're working from scratch with Unity, you're probably going to have to create you own assets(sprites, game items, enviorments, etc..), sounds, scripting, and so on. Understand in a small way how everything is put together. 

At a mid-sized level, the business would take a big risk relying on several techs, so in all likelihood, they have 1 or 2, preferably 1, and in this case, that's Unity. It is also an engine that has much popularity with vendor-level studios, so definitely one worth looking into.

A quick browse of the studio's job openings, and I think they're working with Unity exclusively. All the more reason to give it a try.

Edited by Nexusfactor

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Speaking from the position of someone who occasionally interviews potential employees, it's worth considering that any benefit of having a broad skillset on your resumé can be cancelled out if it gives us the impression that you're trying to be a jack-of-all-trades, rather than a master of one. It might help you get a junior designer position as those are basically "do a bit of everything" roles. Beyond that, specialising is better.

I'll add a few caveats to this rule:

 

As Ubisoft claimed a few years back, certain disciplines and roles require a 'jack-of-all-trades' mindset to begin with.

Game Designers, Product Managers, and to an extent, Producers all require far-reaching transversal skills, and in some cases, 'horizontal' development is more desirable than going in-depth. Assistant Producers, for example, benefit more from having decent managerial capabilities and having a better understanding of how things are getting done within their allocated team/dept, etc.

 

But I agree with your point wholeheartedly that adding skills far beyond the immediate scope of what's expected from the job one's applying for and performing 'average' on everything relevant is probably a tactical mistake.

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