Highlights from GDC 2009

Authors from Writing for Video Game Genres: From FPS to RPG

Authors from Writing for Video Game Genres: From FPS to RPG

If you were at the book signing for Writing For Video Game Genres: From FPS to RPG at GDC 2009, thank you for coming!

As you can see from the photo, several of the authors were in attendance.  The interest was so high that the publishers even brought down the first IGDA Writers SIG book, Professional Techniques for Video Game Writing and sold those too.  In a rare instance, my co-author David Michael and I also signed our book, Serious Games: Games That Educate, Train, and Inform.

For photo highlights, check out David Michael’s blog, Joe Indie.  (Quick, before he starts blogging about something else!)

I contributed to Edge Online‘s GDC 2009 coverage and will also be contributing session write-ups to GameDev‘s GDC 2009 coverage, including Patrick Redding’s talk on AI dialog systems.

In addition, I’m starting up my twitter channel, so if you would like to keep tabs on Game Design Aspect of the Month or my other blogs, please do visit or subscribe.

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

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Published in: on April 2, 2009 at 2:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Book Signing at GDC 2009

If you’re headed to GDC next week, be sure to pick up the latest IGDA Writers SIG book, Writing for Video Game Genres: From FPS to RPG.  It’ll be on sale at the GDC bookstore as well as on AK Peters’ Web site, Amazon.com, Borders.com, and in most major bookstores.

Plus, a special “Meet the Authors” book signing event will take place on Thursday, March 26, 2009 from 5:30p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center, 747 Howard St., San Francisco, CA 94103, at the IGDA booth in the lobby outside of the exhibit hall.  We’ll be there and so will other game writers like Haris Orkin, Richard Dansky, Evan Skolnick, and John Feil.

Let us know if you can make it and we’ll say hello!

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

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Published in: on March 19, 2009 at 1:53 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  

A Return to Storytelling

I’ve just returned from the Engage! Expo (formerly Virtual Worlds 2009), which focuses on virtual worlds rather than MMOs.  In the case of virtual worlds, sometimes developers have the Field of Dreams notion of “if you build it, they will come” and there’s nothing planned for activities or story other than “they’ll just do social stuff like mini-games and chat.”  For years, people have heralded emergent stories as the greatest thing ever, but if the realm of activities are mundane, the emergent story may be boring and uneventful.

In the first part of the hour devoted to narrative in the conference, Jesse Cleverly reminded us that stories exist to help people make sense of the world.  Therefore, stories have order.  If you look at a screenplay, you may realize that there is economy in words and action (“arrive late, exit early”) and that it’s nothing at all like slice-of-life vignettes.  Stories, in fact, are fashioned.  Emergent story is about taking what happened and fashioning it into a story.  It’s about storytelling.  If I just rattle off “I drove to Wal-Mart.  I bought toilet paper.  I came home.” —  Wow, that’s incredibly boring.  Obviously, there’s an art to storytelling.

Just as Jack Buser, who’s responsible for SCEA’s PlayStation Home, yearned for a missing social component in online play, Jesse Cleverly remarked that storytelling in interactive media is not a brave new frontier like people say.  Maybe we are yearning for a return to the storytelling of yore, those days when people listened to minstrels and poets.  They’d crowd around and yell comments.  Perhaps the poet would embellish or refine the story each time.  These storytellers traveled from town to town and eventually, these stories became myths.

When I did the panel on Writing for Fantasy Game Worlds, one question I asked was about how D&D compared to computer RPGs.  The panelists all had vivid memories of their campaigns in D&D.  The storytelling had reeled them in.  They remarked that computer RPGs were tremendously lacking in the level of interaction when compared to a D&D session.  The storyteller can modify the story at will, embellishing or altering the circumstances to heighten the drama.

So, what do you think?  Do you think computer games represent a desirable return to traditional storytelling or is it a divergence?

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

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Published in: on March 12, 2009 at 8:12 pm  Comments (4)  

Got a problem? Fix it.

That’s what engineers do!

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Published in: on March 5, 2009 at 9:33 am  Comments (1)  

It’s Coming: Game Design Aspect of the Month

Here’s your chance to contribute to a new blog!

I’m seeking contributions for Game Design Aspect of the Month, a thought-child generated by the new IGDA Game Design SIG mailing list.  Each month, guest bloggers from the game industry analyze a game design issue, delve into past examples, highlight elegant solutions, or present new ways of handling or thinking about the issue.

I’ve already got a couple game designers lined up to participate, but I’m also interested in hearing from academics, programmers, artists, and writers, since it’s good for us game designers to listen to others’ perspectives.  I see Game Design Aspect of the Month as a way for the game design community to have a group-think — so it’s also okay to respond to a blog post with your own.  Plus, it’s always interesting to see the processes of other designers.

Topic suggestions are also welcome, but I want questions along with the suggestions to direct the discussion because often times, the topics are very broad.

If you’re interested in participating, e-mail me directly because the launch is imminent!

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

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Published in: on February 26, 2009 at 9:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Game Console Photo Spread

Think you know game consoles?  Then take a walk down memory lane with Sande’s presentation at the IGDA NYC’s Pecha Kucha night!

For Pecha Kucha night, each slide lasts 20 seconds.  There are 20 slides in all.  Are you ready? Here we go!

Did you manage to guess any names or dates?

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Published in: on February 19, 2009 at 4:39 pm  Comments (2)  

Are more game developers hiring contractors?

After a day full of CNBC’s documentaries on the subprime mortgage crisis and various Ponzi schemes on Monday, it’s clear the economy is on everyone’s mind. The game industry appears to be no different. CNN recently pointed out that businesses are hiring more independent contractors. Is this true for the game industry?

One of the biggest motivations for working with contractors instead of staff involves a changing business model. According to the CNN article, as businesses move to a project-based model, contractors make more sense.  While many game companies efficiently move workers from one project to the next, not all of them are quite so organized.  Contractors are a great alternative, especially when funding runs low, projects are canceled, or even when you successfully ship your game.  From CNN:

There are also big economic incentives to hire freelancers, he said. Businesses cut the costs of benefits and payroll taxes and often don’t have to buy new equipment or find work space for a freelancer.

Not to mention you don’t have to lay off a contractor.  But you still have to pay them 😉

If you are looking to hire game designers or game writers, feel free to contact Writers Cabal via our website.  Of course, if you’re looking for other kinds of game contractors, we can point you in the right direction as well.

In the meantime, which game companies do you think will weather this economic crisis the best?  Which the least?

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Published in: on February 17, 2009 at 9:59 am  Leave a Comment