How do you expect games to be written?

We’re in the midst of scoping out our next project and our developer has gone out of his way to read books to learn more about the writing process. Yet an article in Gamasutra unwittingly highlighted two divergent ways to go about writing a game. Different approaches can lead to confusion, especially when a writer’s style conflicts with a developer’s expectations of How It Should Be Done. We’re here to help you articulate those expectations so that your writer, however he/she prefers it done, can cater to your needs.

There are many more than two ways to write a game. Roberta Williams of the adventure series King’s Quest reportedly developed story by drawing a map of the world, the items, and the characters. Jane Jensen of the Gabriel Knight series began with a story outline. Now these two approaches may seem mutually exclusive, but they were able to combine their styles to create arguably the best of the King’s Quest series: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow. The take-home message? Whatever your expectations, you can work with a writer with a different approach from your own, as long as there’s good communication.

Even if this is your first game, you do have expectations or assumptions on how a game should be written. Here are just a few questions to get you thinking:

1. Characters. Do you expect the PC and NPCs to change over time? Where do you stand on the age-old debate: do players see their avatars as themselves, or do they accept them as characters they’re playing? There’s no right or wrong answer here — just know where you stand and express your opinions to your writer.

2. Story development. Are you a Roberta Williams or Jane Jenson? Do you expect a story outline first or are you more interested in incorporating gameplay mechanics/puzzles first? Do you prefer to start with a theme, like “Fire & Ice,” and work from there? When I spoke to Neal Baer of Law & Order: SVU last month, he helped his writers develop story structure first, then added depth in later iterations. Where do you stand?

Asking these questions will initiate conversations that will improve your working relationship with your writer. What questions do you think are an absolute necessity when working with a writer?

Question Mark The previous line of dialog came from the PS1 game “Resident Evil.”
Check back next week for a new line of game dialog!

Published in: on May 18, 2007 at 7:42 am  Leave a Comment  

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