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Landfish

The Curse of the Game Writer

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This is such an old and bitter topic for me. On the one hand, game writers are faced with the denial of the public. Games are respected only by those who play them, which is an ever increasing number, but it will be long before we have any serious respect. Worse yet, we face an enemy from within. The development process still has no place for writing; we''re ignored. Programmers think we''re useless, producers will never take a chance on us, because they don''t have to. The audience will settle. Despite the quality of writing, games vastly outsell books. This is a fact. This is now the only medium in existence where we cannot ply our trade alone and succeed. No, we need to learn to code, or learn to draw... but nobody will take just a writer. ---This is where the post gets fanatical It will end, one day. One of us will break in and show them something that they didn''t think possible. But to do that we need to show them the strength of this medium, the things it can do that nothing else can. I AM GAME-WRITER, HEAR ME ROAR! This is the ONLY exclusive game writing forum on the net. This is an opportunity. People just might say: "Yep, GDNet, that''s where all those brilliant game writers came from. Why? Because they were the first to give the writers their own forum." There are questions that remain unanswered, yet I see around me the people capable of answering them, and even generating questions that have not yet been asked! How does one create a story that remains coherent in the face of customizable main characters, possible supporting character death, and just basic decision-making on behalf of the player? What tenets can we establish? Who among us actually has the strength to get such a game made against all odds? Don''t comment in answer to these questions. Rather, start threads of your own asking them. I will respond, and hopefully others. Comment here if you see what I am talking about. ====== "The unexamined life is not worth living." -Socrates "Question everything. Especially Landfish." -Matt

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Ooh, another typical Landfish post. I could post a counter to this, but Landfish has seen it all many times before So I will just say this:

Writers who struggle to make games more like stories will fail.
Writers who adapt their art to suit games better will succeed.

When I say this, I refer to this quote from the previous post: "How does one create a story that remains coherent in the face of customizable main characters, possible supporting character death, and just basic decision-making on behalf of the player? What tenets can we establish?" These are important concepts. A game is not a book, and the writing for it is a very different beast indeed. We need people who embrace games for the type of entertainment they bring, not people who criticise games for not performing the same function as a book. Writing for games is not about steering a sprite through a novel. I still see too many people post stories without any concept of how they relate to the game. That''s not game writing; it''s just writing. It doesn''t contribute to games any more than the latest 3D engine contributes to books.

A small example, which I posted recently somewhere: anyone played the "choose your own adventure" books, or the "Fighting Fantasy" series? For those who haven''t, these were books where you could make decisions while reading them, flipping to different pages depending on your choices. So the reader (player) got to influence the story in this way. Similarly, the writer had to create a story that contained sensible branches and interesting options for the reader. This is just one example of where "writing" was adapted to a different structure with some degree of success. I think this is what will be required of writers for story-based games to become more prevalent.

[ MSVC Fixes | STL | SDL | Game AI | Sockets | C++ Faq Lite | Boost ]

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This sounds identical to the rants on the Game Design forum where they harp how noone will take a chance on them. Videogames first of all are not books. Chris Crawford has done a lot of research on interactive fiction if your interested in that. I've talked with him in real life, and he's a real amazing guy btw.

A game's first focus is fun, which is primarily supplemented by gameplay . The reason you as a game writer will most likely not have full control (ala a director) is because the project's focus is not on the writing. Noone will disagree with you that some games rely on good writing, and need to have a good writer for the player to fully experience the game.

quote:
Original post by Landfish
No, we need to learn to code, or learn to draw... but nobody will take just a writer.


What game development experience do you have? Many people on here assume that because they do not program, or do not do art, they should be the creative guy on the team. What excludes the people who have put enough time to learn their trade that's neccessary for a game from having creativity? Us programmers are in the industry because we want people to play our games! Not so that we can bend over backward making someone with no professional development skills dreams' come true. Although I'm neither an artist or a musician, i can say the same for them too.

A game writer has headed a project before. Remember Phantasmagoria....*crickets*......anyone? Game's that try to be novels are better left as the latter. Again, check out my Chris Crawford link if your interested in interactive fiction, it may just have a big future.

quote:
Original post by Landfish
Don't comment in answer to these questions. Rather, start threads of your own asking them. I will respond, and hopefully others. Comment here if you see what I am talking about.

Theres already too much shoulder patting on this forum, there's no need for you to ask that only positive responses be included.

In short, quit complaining. The industry does not owe anyone a chance at heading a project so that person can show his/her genius to the world. You get to do creative stuff by learning a trade that's required for a game's development, and then implementing it. Everyone is welcome to join the industry, it's not like hollywood. Theres several resources on this site to learn from, check them out and then join a team as a non-ideas guy (someone who actually makes the game).

One last thing. Your ideas aren't God's gift to gaming! . The high-level design of the game isn't that important, its what comes at implementation time that makes or breaks the project. A good game developer works with his/her team to come up with a complete project, and modifies it endlessly throughout the life of the project to make it fun. There are no epic ideas that are perfect, and should be implemented without question or change!

LandFish, you can become the world's premire game developer if you try hard enough. Get rid of all your notions that someone else is keeping you down. Just live with the hardships, and make the best of them. Only then will you succeed and flurish in this industry. The world isn't perfect, and noone gets anywhere by trying to get others to change the world for them.

Good luck,

- Kevin "BaShildy" King
Game Programmer: DigiPen
www.mpogd.com

(edit: formatting)

Edited by - BaShildy on January 29, 2002 11:09:32 PM

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Well...I have to disagree with you Bashildy, on several points.

You make games out to be nothing more than the work of programmers. If this was true, creating tables, and then modifying their contents in mySql would be a great game, because a hell of a lot of programming goes into that. Now you do concede "that some games rely on good writing." But you fail to realize that games are trully innovative in one of two ways: They are technologically stunning and bring new effects to the game, or they are amazing works of art, bringing new plot/stories/background/DESIGN/WRITING to the game.

"A game''s first focus is fun, which is primarily supplemented by gameplay. The reason you as a game writer will most likely not have full control (ala a director) is because the project''s focus is not on the writing."

Some games should focus on the writing. Writing makes some games great. Gameplay is often lacking in today''s games, and that is completely linked to a lack of writing. Or too much writing being given to the programmers.

You want to write, and you are a programmer? Great. Go ahead. But arguing that all games should be done that way is mindless drivel agreeing with a cookie cutter industry that releases Quake clone after Quake clone.

"The high-level design of the game isn''t that important, its what comes at implementation time that makes or breaks the project." Please reread that aloud, and then refer to "MySql Deathmatch" and "Quake Clone #628356235986". Games with lots of good work put into them, that succeed because high-level design doesn''t matter so long as the programming gets done.

If someone would realize that good writers are out there that should be given projects, the entire industry would benefit from the creation of new ideas in and for games (This in itself is another long post of mine, but basically new ideas = more gamers = better for the industry overall).

And what better place to look for writers or at least get ideas about writers to incorporate into projects than gamedev? What irks me the most about your thread is you are entirely too fucking preachy (Yes I know it rubbed off and I am doing the same thing). Why do you even bother to read from this forum if writing and writers are so unimportant? Why bother read here if "Theres already too much shoulder patting on this forum"? You misinterpreted Landfish''s entire post. It was not meant to gather positive responses and sympathy cries from the downtrodden writers, it was meant to make you think. It was meant to gear writers towards thinking about how get their ideas into games, to make better games for a better, diversified industry. Landfish has posted plenty of thought provoking posts in the past, not all of which I agree with, but at least they make you think.

"One last thing. Your ideas aren''t God''s gift to gaming!" His ideas are presented better than 99% posted here, for the discussion they lead to. Read through old posts.

"In short, quit complaining." EXACTLY. QUIT COMPLAINING. Your whole post is centered around complaining. Don''t ride such a high horse and talk down to people who contribute more than you do for much longer than you have.

Disclaimer: I am a programmer, not a writer, and I would like to design my own games. I just recognize that non-technical team members can and should be used to enhance a game. I also am in no way affiliated with Landfish, and in no way wish to be. He''s crazy.

--OctDev

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quote:
Original post by OctDev
Well...I have to disagree with you Bashildy, on several points.

You make games out to be nothing more than the work of programmers. If this was true, creating tables, and then modifying their contents in mySql would be a great game, because a hell of a lot of programming goes into that. Now you do concede "that some games rely on good writing." But you fail to realize that games are trully innovative in one of two ways: They are technologically stunning and bring new effects to the game, or they are amazing works of art, bringing new plot/stories/background/DESIGN/WRITING to the game.


I have to disagree with you on this point. It seems that by "They are technologically stunning and bring new effects to the game, or they are amazing works of art, bringing new plot/stories/background/DESIGN/WRITING to the game" you are saying that art/story are the only things that can make a game spectacular. I was trying to point out gameplay is the make or break in most game designs. Other things like interface, graphics quality, special effects, and yes writing are important and are what makes a good game great, but these things do not save a game that does not have good gameplay.

quote:
Original post by OctDev
"A game''s first focus is fun, which is primarily supplemented by gameplay. The reason you as a game writer will most likely not have full control (ala a director) is because the project''s focus is not on the writing."

Some games should focus on the writing. Writing makes some games great. Gameplay is often lacking in today''s games, and that is completely linked to a lack of writing. Or too much writing being given to the programmers.



I completely disagree with that statement. Writing does not usually have that drastic effect on gameplay. I said that some games need great writing, but not all of them require it. Mario, Zelda, Counter-Strike all do fine without writing. Dragon''s Quest however would be much less of an experience without the story. I do agree that programmers should not be bogged down with creating dialogue half-way through project development. That job is better handled by a level designer, or a Writer if the team has one.

quote:
Original post by OctDev
You want to write, and you are a programmer? Great. Go ahead. But arguing that all games should be done that way is mindless drivel agreeing with a cookie cutter industry that releases Quake clone after Quake clone.


I think your stereotyping what happens when programmers have seniority on a project. Not all of us (I understand we carry the same title) are gore obsessed developers. Not all of us even like Quake. People who do not program != creative game ideas, as well as People who do not program != only can make quake.

quote:
Original post by OctDev
"The high-level design of the game isn''t that important, its what comes at implementation time that makes or breaks the project." Please reread that aloud, and then refer to "MySql Deathmatch" and "Quake Clone #628356235986". Games with lots of good work put into them, that succeed because high-level design doesn''t matter so long as the programming gets done.


If someone would realize that good writers are out there that should be given projects, the entire industry would benefit from the creation of new ideas in and for games (This in itself is another long post of mine, but basically new ideas = more gamers = better for the industry overall).


This is more or less the same quote I refuted in the previous quote. Anyone is capable of a good idea. Only good developers (programmers, artists, musicians, etc.) can make that work as a full game concept. The writer''s responsiblity on the project is to make the game''s world and characters believable and interesting. Its not the writer''s job to come up with the entire game. The industry in its current state rewards clones because of funding, not because we can''t come up with good ideas.

quote:
Original post by OctDev
And what better place to look for writers or at least get ideas about writers to incorporate into projects than gamedev? What irks me the most about your thread is you are entirely too fucking preachy (Yes I know it rubbed off and I am doing the same thing). Why do you even bother to read from this forum if writing and writers are so unimportant? Why bother read here if "Theres already too much shoulder patting on this forum"? You misinterpreted Landfish''s entire post. It was not meant to gather positive responses and sympathy cries from the downtrodden writers, it was meant to make you think. It was meant to gear writers towards thinking about how get their ideas into games, to make better games for a better, diversified industry. Landfish has posted plenty of thought provoking posts in the past, not all of which I agree with, but at least they make you think.


I''m new to the game writing forum. I started in the game programming forums, then wandered to the game design forum. I wanted to read ideas on good story techniques because I''m interested in them. I work mostly with multiplayer games which don''t require a story, but in the future I may want to try my hands at some story focused project. I never said that writers are unimportant, i was claiming they aren''t the most imporant person on the project usually. I''ve seen many times in both this and the designer forums where people get on soapbox''s claiming how their job is the most important yet the industry casts them down and doesn''t give them control of the project. These posts were not the purposes of these forums, and do nothing to help game development.

I didn''t know LandFish has posted things in the past (since I''m new to this part of the forums) but it sounded like the same old rants I''ve heard in the other forums.

quote:
Original post by OctDev
"One last thing. Your ideas aren''t God''s gift to gaming!" His ideas are presented better than 99% posted here, for the discussion they lead to. Read through old posts.

"In short, quit complaining." EXACTLY. QUIT COMPLAINING. Your whole post is centered around complaining. Don''t ride such a high horse and talk down to people who contribute more than you do for much longer than you have.



First of all cheap blow, you don''t know what I''ve done in the past for game development. I''m young and haven''t paid my dues like many developers, but I have helped run a site for more then 6 years for independent multiplayer game developers. I also have worked on a few popular games such as ARC and Bejeweled. Your right on that I was talking down to him when posting and for that I appolojize. I want these forums to be about actual game development and not complaining about how me/my job/japan does game''s so much better then everyone else, but why don''t me/they get a 7 figure budget for a game?

quote:
Original post by OctDev
Disclaimer: I am a programmer, not a writer, and I would like to design my own games. I just recognize that non-technical team members can and should be used to enhance a game. I also am in no way affiliated with Landfish, and in no way wish to be. He''s crazy.
--OctDev


It seems we are in the same boat. I never said non-technical team members can''t enhance the game. I said people other then the artists, musicians, and programmers should usually not have full control over the project. Seniority comes after you''ve proven yourself. I just feel that the people who do the complaining are the ones who haven''t made a game to begin with. Once you''ve gone through a full project cycle, you understand why bad games turn out the way they do. I honestly wish I could always be on a truely innovative artistic game every project, but after serving on more then my share of projects I know it won''t always come true.

It''s almost never the "industrys" fault for not allowing someone to make their epic game. Its becaues that game is not as epic to everyone as the creator thinks, or that the idea was never fully panned out.

I''m glad we have a forum like this so we can all collabarate on what it takes to make our games better, and that''s why I get passionate when I feel someone is trying to hog attention to themself. That attention is better used on good topics in this or the other forums (and espcially not in GDlounge :/ ).

If you want writers to become more reconized and praised, work harder! And post your work here, I''d much rather read your work then debate what''s wrong with the industry.


- Kevin "BaShildy" King
Game Programmer: DigiPen
www.mpogd.com

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quote:
Some games should focus on the writing. Writing makes some games great. Gameplay is often lacking in today''s games, and that is completely linked to a lack of writing. Or too much writing being given to the programmers.


Why should any game in particular focus on the writing? What about the writing will make that game great? And what does the writing have to do with the gameplay anyway? Are you saying that Tetris would be even better with a harrowing storyline about love and betrayal set against the backdrop of wartorn Bosnia?

As for the programmers as writers problem: that isn''t just the programmers, but rather that most writers are hacks, period. Just turn on your TV to see what''s getting written today, or take a stroll down the fiction section of your local bookstore and pick up a random story. Yech. Give some Quake3-addled wannabe fanboy with a hankering for Scully/Buffy slashfic the writing position on your game and hold your nose, because it''s stinker time. No need to let your graphics coder do the dirty deed.

quote:
If someone would realize that good writers are out there that should be given projects, the entire industry would benefit from the creation of new ideas in and for games (This in itself is another long post of mine, but basically new ideas = more gamers = better for the industry overall).


No one should necessarily be GIVEN anything. Prove you''re right, rather than throw a tantrum here, and the projects will come. Ally yourself with a writer and make your Blair Witch Project that shows how great writing can make a great game even better (a point with which I agree actually). I anxiously await your results.

Feel free to ignore anything and everything I''ve said. There''s no high horse here, I have trouble enough just getting on and off my mountain bike.









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I apologize for the rant. Your original post struck me as somewhat trollish and disrespectful; after reading your response it is clear that either you did not convey some of these things in the first post, or I misinterpreted and jumped to conclusions. I interpreted it as an attack against non-technical team members, posted in a non-technical forum; it is clear now that you meant (please correct if I am incorrectly putting words in your mouth) that they should not necessarily be granted full control, of which I agree.

I still disagree with some of your points. And I see that I did not clearly state some of mine. My main point is that writing can have value for certain games, where as I thought your point was that writing had little to no intrinsic value in the game community, and should be applied to other industries.

I was not trying to say that only writing/art can make a game spectacular. I was saying that writing is a viable possibility to make a game great, as much as technology, gameplay, etc. I do not want to get into a game''s overall balance discussion, that should be another thread in the design forum. But any piece of a game''s balance can contribute greatly to making it a wonderful game, if it is superbly done. This can be applied to writing. Gameplay itself is always of importance; your original post led me to believe that flashy screen shots were the most important aspect. Yes, without decent gameplay, a game cannot do well, but with ok gameplay and another superb aspect, you can have a great and unique game.

Touching on another point, I feel that writing in general can lead to uniquesness not now seen in games, and that is my main reason for defending it when I think it is beind discredited unfairly.

I agree not all games need great writing. Totally. But again, good writing leads to uniqueness. I like seeing variety in the industry.

I agree that funding leads to clones. My argument was that some funds would wisely be spent on writers that have proven their uniqueness (sorry to use the same word over and over and over again...it is late). You seem to agree that a writer has a place on the team, and I agree that they should not necessarily have full control. I meant to explain that it would be nice if some teams were driven by the writer, just for the different games that they would produce. I do not think that every team should be controlled in this way, and I do not think that every game should focus on writing.

"I never said non-technical team members can''t enhance the game. I said people other then the artists, musicians, and programmers should usually not have full control over the project."

I agree. I thought you meant that this should never happen; but I agree with usaully not. My entire point is that sometimes, this would be a viable opition that just may produce the next huge game or new genre.

As far as soapboxing, yes, it does happen, yes I have read them...I was annoyed because I knew that this was not soapboxing.

So before I go to sleep...I think we actually have similar opinions, just poor communication!

--OctDev

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And I thought this was done....

Tetris doesn''t need a writer. Most games don''t need a specific writer, especially during development. BUT BUT BUT ALL I AM TRYING TO SAY....It''d be nice to have some completely new/radical/different games available, BECAUSE the teams were writer-centric.
Talented writers do exist; they exist on these very forums (albeit a small %). They have proven time and again that they have novel ways of viewing gaming, and that they bring brand new ideas to the table. These writers and designers have PROVEN this through their history of posts. Writers such as these have earned the chance to control the majority of a development team, because they have proven that they can create something raw and new that people respond to. "given" was a poor word choice; yes, people should not be handed anything, they should work for it. But some few have, and I would LOVE to see a game that they were the project lead on.
My "tantrum" was based upon assuming that writers were being dismissed as ALWAYS COMPLETELY OVERRATED AND UNECESSARY. While often times this is true, it is NOT ALWAYS true.
And as for these lovely little challenges to write something/do something/quit whining (that end every single argument posted on Gamedev)...you''re missing my point. I am not a writer. I don''t intend to be a writer. I am a programmer, and wouldn''t mind being a designer, but would be happiest designing something which I want to play. But I do not discredit the potential writers have for the gaming industry.

GOODNIGHT!!!

--OctDev

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I am a writer. I am a gamer. I am amazed at how often this topic gets dredged up. Stop whining, everyone! Stop whining writers who think there isn''t a worthy place for you in games. Stop whining you coders who think you should be the ones to make all the creative decisions. Jesus people...game development is supposed to be about cooperation. No wonder this odd dynamic exists...we''re two separate halves of the same brain trying to figure out how to bridge the gap. Is it so difficult?

What is coding if not another kind of writing? What is writing of not another kind of coding? They are not so different, in the end.

Kylotan said:

"Writers who struggle to make games more like stories will fail.
Writers who adapt their art to suit games better will succeed."

This is partly true, but I disagree with the tone. It smacks of the whole ''writers have no place here'' attitude that is so counter-productive.

Create a synthesis of these two sentences and you''ll get what I consider to be the truth:

"Writers who adapt their art to suit games better, will be able to help games become a more compelling medium for storytelling".

The disclaimer being that this only applies to those specific games that benefit from having stories.

Any side of this writer/coder duality that thinks they can advanced the art without the other side is dreaming. So get over it and let''s try to figure out how we can work together to make games better!

Man oh man it''s like watching a dog chasing its tail sometimes.

R.

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I just posted a mammoth reply to this thread, and a Page Fault ate it... GRR!

I''ll try to repost something similar - a thought on the role Game Writers should play in game development.

I think, that it was artists that pushed graphics technology to ever greater strengths. It started with ASCII graphics that weren''t detailed enough, so they introduced bitmapped graphics. Then they started complaining about the limited colours, and that got improved. Then they complained about the limited storage space available for static backgrounds. Then they did animation, then came 3D...
The "polycount push" came from artists, who were unhappy that their beautiful models had to be brought down to a few square boxes because engines couldn''t handle it. I''m sure lots of programmers back then were saying "but 30.000 triangles per second is more than enough for ANYTHING you could possibly want to do!" and artists weren''t having it.

So, game writers, you must do the same!
Write stack, reams of paper, and shove it under programmer''s noses. Tell them "I want these characters to say this and this when this and this happens." Show them hard data, and how you intend to use it. It doesn''t matter if you don''t know how to program it, but you HAVE to know what you want the end result to be. Confront programmers with what you envision games could do with stories, and they might just warm up to your vision.


People might not remember what you said, or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.

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