Helping the writer “get it:” Part 1

A wise man once told me what game developers really want is writers who “get it.”  You don’t want to explain FPS, turn-based strategy, or what works and what doesn’t in games. However, unless you’re making the exact same game you’ve made before, you’ll have to let the writer know about your game’s system.  So, unless you have your writer sitting right next to the Lead System Designer, here are the top three ways to help your writers “get” your game system:

1. Give them a build or prototype
At South by Southwest, CME’s Zeb Cook supported this method as the way to get writers in tune with the game.  In our experience, actually playing your game answers many of the questions that might come up to a writer. Relying on a build or prototype solely, however, leads to questions when design features are added or removed.
Chances that the developer will give writers a build: Low to medium.

2. Give them relevant design documents
Don’t be afraid.  Unlike many programmers, writers generally like to read.  If you keep the design documents up to date, you will equip your writers with the added ability to recognize when design changes may affect story, dialog, and character.  Unfortunately, as Damion Schubert pointed out in his winning GDC talk, design docs aren’t always kept up to date, and thus may do more harm than good.
Chances of the developer giving the writer the design doc: Low

3. Give them a designer they can ask questions
You already have someone handling the writers — but is this person best equipped to answer system questions?  Consider assigning someone in your design department.  Note: this need not be the lead — simply any designer versed in systems who can take the time to writer questions.
Chances of developers giving writers a go-to person: High.  

Tomorrow, return for Part 2 — helping the writer “get” the story.  In the meantime, have you had other successes communicating systems to remote workers?

Helping the writer “get it:” Part 2
Helping the writer “get it:” Part 3
4 Things Not To Do to help your writers “get it

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Published in: on March 19, 2007 at 2:28 pm  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] where we sing the old “bring in writers early” refrain, you’re right.  When they get it, you’ll have quite an action game on your hands. Published […]

  2. […] where we sing the old “bring in writers early” refrain, you’re right. When they get it, you’ll have quite an action game on your […]

  3. […] game story.  In this case, you’re in a unique position because you’re more likely to understand the restrictions of the game system in its current state, while still being able to translate it into terms a writer can understand.  A […]

  4. […] first blog series: Helping the Writer “Get it” Part 1 Helping the Writer “Get it” Part 2 Helping the Writer “Get it” Part 3 4 […]

  5. […] with washed-up film/TV writers “slumming” it, who didn’t really care about or “get” games.    Others lauded the move, saying that game writing tends to be better than film/TV writing […]

  6. […] to find one who gets the medium.  On top of that, do what you can to help the writer you hire “get” your game.  If you hire the right writer, you will hire someone who, as writer/designer, designs the story […]


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