The WGA strike and game writers

You may have been reading this blog since November and been thinking to yourself — is the Writers Cabal living under a rock? Why has there been no talk about the WGA strike? The answer is both simple and complex. The strike covers many issues, not all of them obvious. We’re also both WGA members and game writers, so we find ourselves in an odd situation as we continue to work while others don’t. But at the end of the day, the WGA strike has had only one clear and non-debatable effect: more people are playing games.

What the strike is about
The Writers Guild generally wants a fair piece of the profits for its members from both DVDs and the internet. Much ado has been made about shows such as THE OFFICE which created original content for the internet, but the writers got paid nothing. Whether this strike comes too early because no one knows the right revenue model for the internet is anyone’s guess. The Directors Guild of America (DGA) recently settled their contract negotiations with the producers (AMPTP). Many have assumed that whatever the DGA negotiates the WGA will have to accept, but that remains to be seen. Ultimately, the strike is an attempt to deal with the slow shift in power away from film and television and toward the internet and other media. That said…

What the strike is not about
In this contract negotiation, games are not an issue for either the Writers Guild or the AMPTP, because most guild signatories (producers who work exclusively with WGA members) don’t make games. It appears animation and reality merely serve only as bargaining chips this time around, too, in case you were keeping track.

Why the Writers Cabal is still writing
As WGA members,Picketing at FOX we are not writing for any struck company. Since most game developers have little or nothing to do with the AMPTP, that means we continue to write for various projects. However, in our wayward youth, both of us did the Hollywood thing, so we support the efforts of our guild-mates. I happen to be based in Los Angeles, so I walk the picket line on days when I can afford a few hours away from writing.

The strike and games
However the strike ends up, the lack of new scripted television has sent about 26 percent of viewers to their computers or consoles and are playing more games, according to a recent survey. I’m sure they’re finding story-driven games more fun than the latest episode of American Gladiators 🙂

Got any questions or angry words about the strike? We’ll do our best to answer them!

Question Mark Last week’s game dialog came from GRIM FANDANGO. John Green guessed it right! Stay tuned for more Guess that Game Dialog!

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Published in: on January 22, 2008 at 2:32 pm  Comments (3)  

A question for game developers on feedback

Here’s a question for any developer who handles game outsourcing or works with writers. In my experience working with game developers, the kind of feedback I receive ranges from the helpful and thorough to the virtually non-existent. The single common denominator on all the games I have worked on has been the speed of the feedback we receive: it is almost always slow in coming. 

The reason, it would seem, is obvious — developers are busy and writing is not a priority. Yet even when working with a developer who cared deeply about the story and the production could not commence until the story was set, I had to wait weeks for any sort of feedback. In television, executives earn their pay by giving feedback and shepherding the project from concept to script to episode. For better or worse, their entire job is to give feedback.  Game developers who manage writers or outsource don’t have that luxury. You wear many hats and cannot or do not devote that much time to giving feedback to the writers. 

Here, then, is my question.  How can we get feedback from you in a timely manner?  We have implemented a few strategies thus far: 

1.  Put feedback in the contract.  In a recent contract, the developer agreed to give feedback on our deliverables within a set period of time.

2.  Ask for feedback and explain the urgency.  This strategy has been hit and miss, mostly miss.  While working under contract, we asked for feedback on a concept that required approval or denial before we could complete our milestone. Even with reminders, they did not give us any feedback, so we were forced to make a decision on our own on as to what to submit.

3. Ask for feedback by a certain deadline. This strategy has been much more effective, but for some reason does not sit right with me, probably because it feels like I’m telling someone how to do their job. How do you feel when this happens to you?    

Which strategies do you approve of? If you know of another way to get speedy feedback, now’s the time to share. In fact, please answer by Tuesday, January 22nd at 2pm EST, or the world will explode. 

Question Mark Guess that game dialog! What game did the following dialog come from?
Manny: Any messages for me?
Eva: Besides the one about the poisoning?
Manny: Yeah.
Eva: I only have one other message for you, Manny… I’m not your secretary! I don’t take your messages! So get it through your thick skull, and stop forwarding your phone to me!
Manny: All right, but that sounded more like FOUR messages to me. In my heart, though, you’re still my secretary.

Check back next week to see if you guessed right!

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Published in: on January 17, 2008 at 2:20 pm  Comments (3)  

Witcher nominated for Writers Guild Award!

It’s official!  THE WITCHER, the first joint project of the Writers Cabal, was nominated for a Writers Guild Award!

While THE WITCHER has already earned accolades from IGN and GameSpy, among others, the WGA nomination has special meaning for us, because it specifically recognizes the story and writing.  This nomination puts us game writers beside the likes of Damon Lindelof & Drew Goddard, writers of LOST; Bryan Fuller, writer and creator of PUSHING DAISIES; and Diablo Cody, writer of JUNO. We have long believed that good storytelling was not the exclusive territory of linear narrative.  This nomination proves it. 

We are terribly grateful to our co-nominees at CDProjekt — Artur Ganszyniec, Sebastien Stepien, and Marcin Blacha — for introducing us to the world of The Witcher.  We lift a virtual mug in your direction!  

Other nominees in the Videogame Writing category include the writers behind Sierra’s CRASH OF THE TITANS, D3 Publisher’s DEAD HEAD FRED, EA’s THE SIMPSONS GAME,  and Sierra’s WORLD IN CONFLICT.  Congratulations to everyone!

Question Mark Last week’s game line came from Anne’s recent session playing DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION SUPERNOVA. Did you guess it right? More Guess that Game Dialog to come this week!

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Published in: on January 14, 2008 at 5:43 pm  Comments (6)  

You know you’ve been writing games too long when…

We’ve been building this list for a little while, but when the IGDA mailing list we’re on brought up the topic, we figured it was time to post! So here it is: You know you’ve been writing games too long when…

1. You find yourself using $playername$ in casual conversation. Ex: “Yeah, I wouldn’t wear that dress on a date. It’d be like, ‘Yes, $playername$, I am an idiot.'”

2. You watch a movie, the actor looks into camera, and you think, “Wow, he’s looking right at player.”

3. When you hear the word “shopkeeper,” you immediately have flashbacks of merchant screens.

4. You use medieval-speak when talking to friends, co-workers, relatives and you don’t even notice.

5. You’re doing some research on-line for names and before you realize it you have entered into the search field: “mini boss of nebulousness.”

6. You watch a movie and afterwards, your critique is “That’s totally not re-playable.”

7. You start giving people excessively specific directions. Ex: “Take this dish to the sink in the kitchen, then return to me.” Okay, so this never happened to me, but it’s only a matter of time.

8. You’re trying to recap a linear story for “normals” and you keep saying “player” instead of “the main character.” They look at you strangely.

Got any other moments from the game developer’s perspective? Share so we don’t feel like we’re the crazy ones!

Question Mark Guess that game dialog! What game did this line come from: “Marvelous! Perfect! Perfect! Marvelous! Great! Perfect!” Check back next week to find out where it came from.

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Published in: on January 9, 2008 at 8:58 pm  Comments (2)  

Happy New Year!

We had a great first year and hope you did too! We thought we’d leave you with something fun to shoo out the old year. Did you guess the game dialog from last week? With game writing improving by leaps and bounds, you may never see something like this again, so enjoy!

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Published in: on December 31, 2007 at 12:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

Best of Writers Cabal Blog – 2007

It’s that time of year again. The time when people tend to look back, think over their accomplishments, and wonder, “What the heck have I been doing with my life?!?” We’re going to go for a somewhat lighter take on the year-end review with an inside look into our stats and some highlights for the year.

Since the Writers Cabal Blog premiered February 18th, 2007, we have hosted two giveaways, written and designed for a number of games, and even saw our first joint project hit the shelves: THE WITCHER. Here’s how all this played out on our blog:

  • Posts: 140 (not including posts we wrote but then never posted)
  • Comments: 224 (not including the 7,743 spam comments from all over the world!)
  • Page Views: 11,631 direct hits (not including those subscribing via RSS feed)
  • Biggest Month: November

Rather than picking only posts with the most hits, we thought we’d highlight the best posts throughout the year, whether it be due to hits, due to comments, or because we say so.

Our 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 Things Not To Do to help your writers “get it”

Our first controversial post:
Motivating with story
Motivating with story, part 2

Our first workshop:
Writing for Fantasy Game Worlds
Why does Fantasy Resonate with Modern Audiences?
What is Lacking in Fantasy Computer RPGs?
What’s Important in Fantasy Storytelling and Game Design?
Q & A from Writing for Fantasy Game Worlds

Our first (joint) game:
The verdict is in! Game reviews of The Witcher
GameSpy 2007 PC RPG of the Year, GameSpy Special Award: Surprise of the Year
IGN 2007 PC RPG of the Year, PC Best Story Runner-Up
Voodoo Extreme 2007 Best PC Exclusive, Best Computer Role Playing Game
GameSpot Readers Choice 2007 Roleplaying Game of the Year
Shacknews 2007 Roleplaying Game of the Year
Gaming Heaven 2007 Game of the Year
Gaming Trend 2007 Game of the Year
AIAS 2007 Roleplaying Game of the Year Finalist
PC Gamer Magazine 2007 RPG of the Year
(If you want an autographed copy of THE WITCHER, see here)

Most foreign language in a single post:
Gender unknown: writing for French translation

And, my personal favorite…
Most blatant effort to attract 33 percent of all internet traffic, if you know what I mean:
Nipples! The Witcher UK

We’d also like to give a big shout out to Gameproducer.net, Manifesto Games, Dave Gilbert at Wadjet Eye Games, Joyce at Joycecom.com, and Chris Avellone for prizes, links, and all the goodies that helped get our blog off the ground and running. Of course, we wouldn’t have done it at all if not for you, dear reader. Thank you for all your support!

What’s in store for next year? Well, you’ll just have to stick around and find out. We have some exciting announcements in the new year, so subscribe, check back, and keep on reading!

Question Mark Guess that game dialog! This week we’ll literally ask you to guess the infamous line of dialog that came from ZERO WING! If you can’t remember, check back next week to see what the line was.

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Published in: on December 27, 2007 at 1:22 pm  Comments (7)  

Win the Witcher UK and more!

Merry Game Blogs Giveaway! In celebration of the holidays, over the next week the Writers Cabal and a select group of other game bloggers will be running a competition for fun and prizes.

Gameproducer.net will be giving away a game for the person who suggests the best name for his new computer game!
Wadjet Eye Games Blog will be giving away a choice of prizes: CD-ROM versions of BLACKWELL LEGACY and BLACKWELL UNBOUND or a poster of BLACKWELL LEGACY! Just write a line of dialog for Rosangela Blackwell, Joey Mallone, or both and if your dialog is chosen, you’ll win a prize AND Wadjet Eye will try to include your dialog in the next BLACKWELL game.

Our prize – a copy of THE WITCHER (UK) for PC! If you’re just now hearing about it, check out some reviews… and if you want a spoiler, click here. With 80 hours of gameplay, it should take you well into January 😉

How do you Win a Copy?
All you have to do is comment on the Writers Cabal Blog until Wednesday, December 19th, at 8am PST. We’ll choose one random comment left during the week on any post on the blog. That commenter will win a copy of the game- it is as simple as that.

The comments do need to be legitimate (that is, on topic and adding value to the conversation), but you can enter as many times as you like – each relevant comment that you leave is an ‘entry’.

Then check back next Wednesday to see if you won! Look forward to conversing with you!

Question Mark Guess that game dialog! This week’s line of game dialog: “Looks like we have a winner in the non-stop vomiting sweepstakes!” Check back next week to see where it came from.

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Published in: on December 13, 2007 at 7:51 am  Comments (14)  

Say hello to Sande at the IGDA NYC Holiday Party!

Yes, Sande will be at the IGDA NYC Holiday party, so say hello!  If you really want to spook her, say “Anne can’t get a return flight on the 11th or 12th,” then walk away, like it was the most normal thing in the world.

Party safely everyone, and check back later this week for an exciting surprise!

Question Mark Last week’s game moment came from the MEGAMAN series of games. Did you guess? More Guess that Game Dialog to come this week!

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Published in: on December 11, 2007 at 4:59 pm  Leave a Comment