So, you might be wondering, “Aden! Where have you been? We haven’t heard anything from you in a while. We thought suicide has finally gotten to you!”
First of all, suicide is always with me. He’s like this room-mate. We’re like this ” close. He’s chilling out, playing a little Soul Calibur. It’s all cool.
Secondly, the reason I’m not as active online as previously is because I now have a job! Well, actually, I’ve always had a job. I freelance around the place. And some part-time here and there. And yes, those count as jobs too. But now, I have a real job! Well, not a real job. And it’s not a permanent thing either. It’s project base. And I’m only hired for three weeks at the moment. But! It’s a job…I guess.
Anyway, the job I’m talking about, if you haven’t figured it out already, is as the writer for an indie game company. The setting’s pretty basic. It’s a sci-fi adventure romp.
Of course, a basic sci-fi adventure story could be easily written in novels or shorts. But since I’ve started writing for the game, I’ve went to research and read-up on the difference of game writing and traditional writing.
And while there are indeed many similarities between the two in terms of crafting the story, characters and lore, the process of writing itself is quite interestingly different, and I am sharing that here today in bit-size format (Get it? Bit-size format? It’s a computer joke? Get it? Let’s just get on with this…).
I take myself as a storyteller first and a writer second. My main goal in doing any story is to tell a story. Writing just happens to be my preferred medium. But I also have had semi-pro and professional experience across a variety of media, like films, animations, and games.
So, from experience, writing for each of these fields entails a different mindset. For films and animation, a writer must take into account the style, directing, and most importantly, camera angles. For games however, I consider it to be the ultimate challenge for writers.
There are a little of everything, depending on the game. In a full-fledge game, there will be animation, dialogues, flavour text, information bubble, and sometimes, if lucky, glossaries of the world.
But there is one major difference. In traditional writing, writers are to embed the descriptions of the world into the narrative. For game writing, the only time I will be actively describing the world is during the planning stages. Throughout the actual writing, the act of showing the world falls to the graphic artists and musicians, but the act of setting the mood falls on either the writer, the designer, or better yet, the collective creative team.
We also have to take into consideration for the programming side. Especially on a small team where to streamline the process, everything should flow from one pipeline to the other. If you write in the traditional word document, it might be useless to a programmer. For this project that I’m working on right now, most of my main dialogues are written with an excel sheet. It also helped that I have a basic understanding of programming, and can relatively get the gist of how to better aid the programmer in making the process simpler.
Another major aspect is the scale. For this game we’re working on, I’m looking at about 7,500 lines of dialogue, which translates to roughly 100,000 words. This provides enough story for a 20 hours game. But of course, this is a game, so most the game itself still represents a major part of the entertainment experience.
Working on the game mean writing for a group. You’re writing for the artist. You’re writing for the designer. You’re writing for the programmers. So every basic information must be done in a way that can make logical sense to most average observers.
Game writers often work hand-in-hand with the rest of the creative team (designer, artist, musician), because the writer is the one creating the emotional impact, the one making the game feel. So us writer must be able to convey the same sense to the crew.
While the design of the game might not seem like a creative thing in terms of storytelling to most people, I find that the most demonstrably false idea. The main reason I took on the project was because the premise interested me. I’m allowed to create a world of characters and lives on a universal scale. But also, the gameplay was fascinating.
I believe that with a proper tweaking of the design and good dialogues on my part, we can convey a strong emotional story through the gameplay alone.
Games provide writers an exceptional opportunity. The chance to put the audience into the scene, to be there, instead of just looking form a third person view or as a stand-in in a first person world.