I recently did an interview with Stephen E. Dinehart that was just published to his site.
In an age when I can’t talk about the details of what I’m working on, Stephen asked some very good questions that let me talk about the philosophy of what I’m working on.
Thanks to Mr. Dinehart for the opportunity.
As reported by Gamasutra, my old nemesis Owlchick and I will be doing a presentation at GDC Austin with the antagonistic title “Writing for MMOs: You’re Doing It Wrong.” Doing the panel was Tracy’s idea; the title was mine.
I have no idea how we suckered the GDC folks into accepting our proposal. No doubt they’ll live to regret it. Hopefully we think of a few interesting things to say in addition to rehashing the drivel from our contribution to that book with the horrible cover.
It will be my first trip to Austin and my first presentation at a GDC. Somebody better buy me one hell of a steak for all this trouble.
Okay, it’s not technically my book per se, but I did coauthor a chapter with my old (and I do mean old) comrade, Tracy “Owlchick” Seamster. The book is called Writing for Video Game Genres: From FPS to RPG, and its contributors come from the Writers SIG of the IGDA. Our chapter is, as you might guess, about writing for MMOGs. The rest of the book covers pretty much any type of video game you can imagine.
Obviously the focus is on writing, so you don’t have to worry about me jamming a bunch of opinionated design theories down your throat (after all, you get those for free on this blog). If for some reason you find this book appealing, you can pad my wallet with a hefty .002 cents per copy royalty by ordering the book directly from the publisher, via Amazon, or from Barnes & Noble. Word is it may even show up in your local bookstore at some point.
Let me warn you ahead of time that I had to hold back a bit on some of the details I would have otherwise included had my current project been on the shelves already (have to protect the secret sauce, you know), but I think the stuff Tracy and I put together is nonetheless useful for anyone thinking of becoming a writer for an MMOG.
I’m most proud of the fact that I now have something tangible to show my mom to explain what I do for a living. Video games she doesn’t get, but a book she will understand.
The BioWare Austin folks are talking a lot about Star Wars: The Old Republic. And they should, because it’s without question one of the most anticipated MMOGs on the horizon, thanks in no small part to BioWare’s reputation for making quality games.
Besides meditating on the size of one’s lightsaber, a major point of emphasis that the devs focus on is the role of the player as hero. For instance, the lead writer discusses making the player feel heroic:
Daniel Erickson, Lead Writer BioWare Austin: The k’lor’slug is 20 feet tall, and horrible, and can eat your face … and that’s what you fight at level one as a Sith. The first thing you ever fight in the game is that thing. And you never do anything less heroic than that. There are no bunnies, no rabbits, no snakes …
A noble goal, that of relieving players of the burden of killing all those tens of rats. This has caused many to consider the role of the hero, including some folks I happen to know. But while I agree with the general goal of making the player feel heroic, there’s a lot more to it than just the type of creatures they fight. Continue Reading »
Lots of attention lately has been focused on the quality of writing in MMOs and other games, so I imagine that a number of would-be writers would see this as a great time to jump into the industry. Over on F13′s game dev board, I responded to a thread started by a poster confused about the term “narrative designer” and how that differs from a writer. In the interest of thrift and the desire for relevant blog topics that don’t have to do with Richard Bartle, I thought I’d present an updated version of my thoughts here.
Here’s the thing. There’s a huge push right now for telling better stories in MMOs, so naturally most people assume that means hiring really good writers.
But I would point out an important distinction. I think it’s even more crucial to hire really good storytellers. There’s a difference. Continue Reading »
As anyone who watches TV knows, the Writers Guild of America has been involved in a bit of a strike. That isn’t stopping them from announcing winners for their annual WGA Awards, although there will be no ceremony held.
For the first time, an award will be given for videogame writing (scroll all the way down to the bottom of the list to see the nominees). GameDaily wonders if this is the first step in recognizing the growing importance of writing in games.
As someone who earns a living doing this sort of thing, the role of the game writer is a topic that’s been on my mind a lot lately. There’s no question that many of the hottest games in recent memory–from a wide variety of genres–depend heavily on great writing and storytelling. Titles as varied as Call of Duty 4, Mass Effect, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, and Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction are all extremely cinematic and feature a ton of great writing.
Are MMOs there yet? Not quite. As fun as WoW is to play, it’s not going to win any awards for its writing. But as the genre grows, I think it’s inevitable that game makers find a way to meld great stories and writing on top of the style of action MMO players enjoy. The trick, as is true with any kind of writing, is to give your audience the instant gratification they’re looking for while subtly guiding them into a deeper experience.
Would bringing game writers into the WGA be a good thing? Well, I’d certainly like to see the actual writers on games receive appropriate compensation and credit for their contributions, but the recent strike illustrates that unionization is a complex issue. Besides all that, the role of writing in games is unique enough that it would be hard to just lump it in with movie, book, or TV writing. For now, I’d like to see game writing continue to evolve on its own and hopefully find unique ways to address the challenges its facing.
Sometimes my English degree demands to break free of its geekish bonds.
My coworker Nancy sent me a link to this blog the other day in response to my quoting the opening passages of the Canterbury Tales in Middle English. Back in college, I was required to memorize the first eighteen lines of the general prologue in its original dialect, and as with the Shakespeare passages I have learned, I was determined to retain these bits of lore to impress other nerds at parties.
Anyway, the interview with Paris Hilton is a particular scream if you’ve ever had to slog your way through Middle English. And this post has some nice images you can throw into the latest F13 thread to prove how learned you are.Â Simply brilliant.
Okay, back to talking about non-nerd things, such as video games. Yeah…