With over 100 RSVP’s to the event, we’re pleased the Writing for Fantasy Game Worlds panel got so much interest! Panelists Daniel Greenberg, Jeff Gomez, and Steve Balzac captivated the audience’s attention with anecdotes, advice, and frank discussion. While the purpose of the panel was to delve into the writing and design of fantasy game worlds, it also highlighted the need for writers in game development.
Tracing the roots of computer RPGs back to live-action and pen’n'paper RPGs, the panelists stressed the importance of storytelling in audience enjoyment. While computer games often do not live up to its predecessors in terms of storytelling, fantasy titles can still retain a mythic quality. It’s not just the narrative elements of orcs and elves, said Greenberg, but the story itself must resonate with the audience. To do this, Gomez advocated building a story bible that included the mythos and a deep analysis of the themes integral to the property. Greenberg noted that for all the games he worked on that were connected to The Lord of the Rings, he wanted to portray the theme of fellowship.
Balzac talked about magic systems and how the story material itself led to the magic system. When he set a game in the world created by H.P. Lovecraft, he ended up writing the Necronomicom with its dark arcane magic. Magic would not be a simple zap in this world. Players would have to read through tomes of secret knowledge to learn spells.
The panelists were hopeful that game developers would pay more attention to storytelling in the future. This would involve more interesting choices, rather than a set “good” path and a “bad” path. Stories need to be better than just backdrops. In addition, aspiring game writers were told to be cognizant of game design and level design disciplines.
When it was all over, people wanted more. One question was about conducting future workshops on game design and writing. We’re still mulling it over. But we’ll let you know.