Innovative Games at GDC 2010

I just noticed that I was included in a list of MIT alumni, in Even More Groundbreaking Alumni-Developed Video Games.   What an honor to be mentioned alongside Looking Glass Studios, and games like Defender, Ms. Pac-Man, and Asheron’s Call. I should mention that Cogs is a Finalist  in the 12th Annual Independent Games Festival in the category of Excellence in Design.  I attended my very first GDC with 1999’s IGF winner Terminus and it’s wonderful to see how the IGF has grown over the past years.

Speaking of innovative games, I will be leading the IGDA Game Design session at GDC 2010.  We plan to have some interesting paper prototypes from professional and student designers alike for you to play, so please come and join in the fun!

IGDA: Game Design SIG
Speaker: Sande Chen (Writer and Game Designer, Freelance)
Date/Time: Friday (March 12, 2010)   3:00pm — 4:00pm
Location (room): Room 228, East Mezzanine
Track: Game Design
Format: 60-minute Roundtable
Experience Level: All

See you at GDC 2010!

Posted by Sande.

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Published in: on February 24, 2010 at 9:13 am  Leave a Comment  

Do we need a game vernacular?

Over the summer, I had the pleasure of participating in the Gamer Confab on Michael Abbott’s blog, The Brainy Gamer.  Along with Justin Keverne, who writes Groping the Elephant, and Roger Travis from Living Epic blog, we discussed social games, game vernacular, Denis Dyack, Wizard 101, game pricing, auteurs, narrative design, and game genres on this episode of The Brainy Gamer podcast.

http://cdn4.libsyn.com/brainygamer/bgpodcast25-03.mp3?nvb=20091218234701&nva=20091219235701&t=00b1916d3b75225a96e53

Posted by Sande for Writers Cabal.  We write games!

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Published in: on December 18, 2009 at 6:04 pm  Comments (1)  

Story in MMOs – Beckett Massive Online Gamer

Are writers the unsung heroes of MMOs? The Sept/Oct 2009 print edition of Beckett Massive Online Gamer features an article with a number of MMO writers, including two faces that you might know quite well. The article covers the frustrations of writing for MMOs and what the future has in store for story.  Why are we bringing it up so late?  We didn’t know about it until someone recognized our pictures!

This post brought to you by Writers Cabal, a game writing and design partnership.

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Published in: on December 8, 2009 at 11:34 am  Comments (1)  

Writing for Video Game Genres Book Review

If you haven’t yet picked up the IGDA Writers SIG book Writing for Video Game Genres and want to know the full scoop, check out this recent book review from Slashdot.

Here are some other editorial comments:

A must-have for the bookshelf of any game writer, no matter what genre they’re working in. It was equally fascinating and useful for me to read the chapters about genres I’m experienced in and the chapters about genres I’ve never worked in. –Steve Meretzky, VP of Game Design, You Plus

For those of us swimming in the murky waters of games storytelling and narrative design, Writing for Video Game Genres: From FPS to RPG is not only a life raft, it’s one with a treasure trove on top. Seldom do we erstwhile swimmers get this lucky. Read, learn, and build the rafts of the future. –Rhianna Pratchett, Writer and co-narrative designer on Heavenly Sword, Mirror’s Edge, and Overlord

The Writer’s SIG has assembled an impressive group of experts who deliver spot-on advice for tackling gaming’s many genres. I wish I had read this 20 years ago. –Bob Bates, Veteran game designer, writer

You can purchase Writing for Video Game Genres from the publisher, AK Peters, or on Amazon.

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Published in: on November 25, 2009 at 9:25 am  Comments (2)  

Five for Writing Interview

Short post, short interview up on Richard Dansky‘s personal site, Snowbird Gothic.

Each week, he gives five questions to writers of all kinds: game writers, comic book writers, novelists, etc.  This week, it’s me.

Also, if you’d like to vote on Game Design Aspect of the Month’s next topic, please go here.

Posted by Sande for Writers Cabal, a game writing and design partnership.

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Published in: on March 16, 2009 at 8:34 am  Leave a Comment  

The Witcher heads to XBox 360 and PS3

If you haven’t heard the news already, the Witcher is making its way onto consoles!  The Witcher: Rise of the White Wolf will feature a totally new engine, new artwork, and a new interface.  As you can see, it’s not an ordinary port.  It’s a whole new reconstruction of the Witcher for the XBox 360 and the PS3.  The only thing that remains the same is the story.

Electric Playground, a daily video game news show broadcast on G4 Canada, recently interviewed Sande about her experiences working on The Witcher.  You can see the interview here.

For new screenshots, check out the latest CDProjekt interview at IGN and see below for the trailer.

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Published in: on January 29, 2009 at 1:47 pm  Comments (3)  

Top 10 best and 5 worst titles for games

Looking for a list of the top ten games? Keep looking! Today we’re judging games on a different criteria: their title. Following up on last week’s post on how to title your game, here’s a list of the top 10 titles for games followed by the 5 worst titles.

TOP 10 TITLES FOR GAMES

10. Dead Space & Left 4 Dead (tie)
Regarding Left 4 Dead, “A perfect concise description of the game and the experience of playing it. I love their B-movie in-game posters too.” – Michael Abbott, the Brainy Gamer

9. Rocky’s Boots
A serious game with a sneakily entertaining title

8. Resident Evil
It sounds serious, important, and menacing all at once.

7. Peggle
“Peggle is adorable so I wanted to play it.” – Tamir Nadav, Vigil

6. Day of the Tentacle
“It sounds funny while evoking an old-fashioned, kind of 50s horror movie feel.” – Tracy Seamster, The Agency (SOE)

5. Master of Magic (aka MoM)
“When you win the game you see a little cutscene with your wizard saying ‘Having conquered the worlds of both Arcanus and Myrror I am truly the one and only Master of Magic!’ So that’s neat. ;)” – John Evans

4. Fallout
Evocative and a favorite title of Zeb Cook, Stray Bullet Studio

3. Civilization
“It is a simple title that very much sums up what the game is all about. If they had gone more complex, it would have sounded weaker.” – Bruce Harlick, NCSoft NC

2. Psychonauts
“Because it’s frikkin’ cool (psychic nauts!). Say it though… /phyyycchoooonnaauuutttsss/! What other name lets you have so much fun saying it?” – Andrew Armstrong

1. A Mind Forever Voyaging
“A Mind Forever Voyaging just has a wonderful wistful quality to it. In a way, it captures the essence of the gamer — a mind forever voyaging. It’s also a Wordsworth reference.” – Tess Snider

5 WORST TITLES FOR GAMES

5. Tabula Rasa
Literally means “blank slate,” so not inspiring. That said, it is also a favorite title for some.

4. American McGee’s Alice
No one likes a show off 😉

3. Irritating Stick

2. Infinite Undiscovery

1. Dominion: Storm Over Gift 3
“Bloody stupid name!” – Jake Simpson, Linden Labs alum

Honorable Mention:
Dead Unity, which never shipped

What’s your take on the list?  Did your favorite make it or not?

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Published in: on December 9, 2008 at 2:23 pm  Comments (7)  
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How to title your game

What’s in a name? As game writers, we are often called upon to title and name all sorts of things — quests, items, design docs ;).  When it comes to the game title, however, marketing and executives play a huge hand in finalizing the name, and sometimes you can tell.  I’ve uncovered a few trends in game titles that work and others… well, not so much.

Funny titles
The most memorable game titles have a bit of the funny in them.  How could you forget a game called Space Bunnies Must Die or Destroy All Humans?  Simple is better; Aqua Teen Hunger Force Zombie Ninja Pro-Am passes funny to reach “Enough already!”

Unfortunately, funny titles generally only work for funny games.  If they had named Halo ZOMG When Will They Stop Sending Me Into These Effed Up Situations? instead, something tells me it would not have sold quite so well.

Punny titles
Fortunately, games with a more serious tone can get away with a bit of humor when there’s a pun in the title.  King’s Quest III: To Heir is Human stands as a great example of a pun in an otherwise dramatic title.  Max Payne, a game with a dark and serious tone, offers a tip of the hat to the hardcore gamer with promises of, well, causing max pain.

Literal titles
Funny and punny titles often work if they have a bit of the literal in them.  Literal titles do the best job of telling the players exactly what they’re in for.  You will never find yourself asking what the game is about.  Great examples include Command & Conquer, SimCity, and the like.  Literal titles don’t have to be that on the nose: Warcraft underlines the point of the game without spelling it out too much.  World of Warcraft is similarly clear — it’s set in the virtual world of Warcraft, roger that!

The importance with literal titles is that they should, in fact, be literal.  Sims Carnival sounds like it should be a literal title, but no, it is neither Sims, nor a carnival.  Another literal title that had a bit too dull of a name?  Adventure.

Evocative titles
Evocative titles bring to mind the mood, spirit, or setting of the game.  Fallout, Defcon, and Eternal Darkness fall into this category and evoke the urgency and darkness of these games and sometimes quite literally the situation.  I personally like Burning Crusade which is both evocative and literal within the game’s fiction.

Unfortunately, attempts at evocative titles often yield the worst results.  Beyond the Beyond and Infinite Undiscovery are prime examples.  What exactly is infinite undiscovery?  Sounds like a quest for missing socks.  One game that never shipped was at one point called Dead Unity.  Take home message?  If you’re having trouble coming up with a name, avoid the evocative title!

Following genre conventions
Occasionally game titles hit the mark by following the conventions of their literary genre, such as science fiction, fantasy, etc.  Day of the Tentacle as well as Sins of the Solar Empire both bring to mind 50’s sci fi and horror movies.  Wrath of the Lich King hearkens back to Return of the Jedi or The Wrath of Khan.  Unfortunately, the sci fi genre conventions and sequel hell can lead to terribly long titles such as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II The Sith Lords.

BA: aka the Best Acronyms
Unlike media such as television, games are usually developed with the hardcore fans in mind.  That means eventually every title will become an acronym to economize typing or speaking, and unfortunately not every title will benefit from the abbreviation.  Days of our Lives becomes DOOL, which makes it seem like a really cool demon.  A lot of DS games took advantage of this with titles such as Dawn of Sorrow and Deadly Silence. Sometimes acronyms get the benefits of a funny title: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed becomes STFU and Masters of Orion becomes MoO.

Try to shovel your title into a cool-sounding acronym, however, and it will just end up seeming lame.  The best acronym ever?  WoW for World of Warcraft, but note how the title is quite literal and grew organically from the game.

Next week I’ll post a top 10 list of best and worse game titles, so comment now with your favorite and least favorite game titles.  And, don’t be shy, share your own best and worst titles for games you’ve developed or conceived.

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Published in: on December 4, 2008 at 2:08 pm  Comments (8)  
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