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Writing Video Games

Discussion in 'Games' started by mythique890, Oct 10, 2011.

  1. mythique890

    mythique890 Sage

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    I'm not sure if this belongs here or on the game thread... because it's about games, but also a writing question. Feel free to move this if it's in the wrong place.

    Anyway, I know it's ridiculously hard to get a video game made, but I've been toying with the idea of writing one just because (and my husband is studying video game design, so you never know). But how is it done? The best way I can think of is an enormous flowchart, or maybe a giant map with corresponding flow charts based on location. What kind of format is normally used? I think it could be a really exciting project.

    I'd either like to write an open world game or a straightforward action/adventure.

    Is there anyone out there with game writing experience? How do you go about it? Even people without experience, any ideas on how it could be done?
     
  2. Myth, I have a friend who is in the design phase I will ask him your Q and see what he pops out with :)

    So far as MMO's go I prefer ones what have some ending. The open ended ones become a perpetual JOB, which is the exact op of the point. (at least to me)
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2011
  3. mythique890

    mythique890 Sage

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    Thanks! That would be great! Don't worry, I'm a fan of endings, too. :)
     
  4. julienlegault

    julienlegault Scribe

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    There's the design document, which is kind of like a proposal/bible for the game detailing mechanics and plot, along with everything else needed for a creative proposal, such as how work will be divided, timelines—everything. Other than that, there's no standard for much of it as far as I've seen. If you want to work just on the narrative part of a game, you can usually get by with point-form ideas and word documents, or charts when you need them.

    As for organization, everything can usually be grouped into mechanics or narrative. Mechanics are the rules and behaviours of your game, right down to the way the code runs, and narrative is the flavour, tone, setting, world, characters, etc. Keeping a vision statement or synopsis of what you want to do is a good idea, and it will help you when you start going into details about smaller aspects of the game and you need to make sure you're on track. You won't need to plan out everything to propose your game to people, but if someone wants to work on it, the remaining details will need to be filled in eventually.

    This is kind of rambling so take what you will from it. I feel like there are a few points that are useful for video game writing:

    • First of all, your ideas, when it comes to actually designing the game, can and will be cut. Restraints such as time, coding and hardware can cause setbacks right up until it's finished and you may find you have to leave out parts of your game idea that you were really attached to, but it's part of the medium.
    • There are not many video game writers. With limited budgets, many game developers do multiple jobs, and having a writer is a luxury many smaller studios can't afford. There are exceptions, but the more you can help with anything else, be it art, music or management, the more likely it is that people will want to work with you.
    • The best video games combine mechanics with narrative seamlessly. When writing stories, worlds or characters, try to imagine ways that the player will feel the story through the actual physical play. For example, if it's an environmental game, making nature a key component to a player's success in the game would help weave in the theme. Maybe they have to keep planting things or monsters appear, etc. Always be looking for interesting and unique ways to do this, and you'll find yourself miles ahead of the game.
    This is generally how I go about writing for games. My references are my experience with independent developers and video game design students; I work on things like music and art, as well as writing, usually on my free-time. To be honest, everyone likes being a part of the writing/idea process, whether they be artists, coders or musicians. Games are very much designed by committee at the end of the day, and it's best to come in with general ideas and fill in the details with the people you will be working with. Ask you husband about game-jams and events where students and amateurs get together to make games within a set time limit, like a week or a few days. They are really fun and you don't need a lot of experience, and there's usually no "quality limit" so you can make something simple by yourself or with a small team. They are very stress free and encouraging events!

    I'll end my rant now, lol. I hope this was insightful!
     
  5. OK John says : "Flow chart you main points, invest in post it's for additional details, have a trash can nearby because you will end up tossing 99% of them anyhow. Once you have done this a few times, you can map out your world, then figure out what code restrictions you face. Not to mention money."

    Hope that helps.
     
  6. mythique890

    mythique890 Sage

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    Julien- thank you so much! It was insightful, as I know nothing about the game-writing process and couldn't find any good sources online. My husband and one of his best friends are both learning code (my husband does ok with it, but his friend is really good) so I'll talk to them about the constraints of code. Writing stories has gotten me used to "killing my darlings," so I have an idea of what that's like. It's great to know that writing is usually a team effort, and it makes sense. Are there a lot of small game designers out there? What does it take to start your own game design company (not seriously considering this, just curious about the process)? Game-jams sound like fun. I live in an area that's sort of smashed between two colleges, so I bet I can find something around here!

    Blue Lotus- Thank you and tell your friend thank you! Post it's will go on my list. Right now it's all for fun, so I'm not too worried about the money (in my imagination I'm rich, ha ha).
     
  7. julienlegault

    julienlegault Scribe

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    It depends where you are. I know in Toronto there is a really strong emerging group of young hopefuls. Nowadays, there are tons of small studios. The iPhone and iPad market, along with services like the XBox Live Arcade and the Playstation Network, offer developers a place to show off their small projects. A lot has been done even with just simple flash games online. Many teams can be as small as two or three people. I'll throw you some examples of the types of games that are possible with a small team.

    "Every Day the Same Dream" is a short flash game. You can play it at the link. Very unique and a great example of a strong narrative that still feels like a puzzle game.

    "Sword & Sworcery" is an amazingly well-made game with the style of a classic exploration based RPG, with great visuals, a strong tie in with music and their original soundtrack, and interesting writing as well. It's for iPhone or iPad (or iPad Touch I think) but it's worth looking at, even just to see some of the previews. The Superbrothers are a team of two; I heard them speak in Toronto last year, they are very down to earth and essentially started as two guys in a basement lol.

    "Braid" is a fantastic game developed by developer Jonathan Blow. It's Super Mario with time control, and a simple looking rescue-the-princess story evolves into a complex, poetic narrative that questions the meanings of love and life. It was very well made, and most of it was done by a single person!

    As a writer you are probably used to not making tons of money, which is good, because as an indie video game designer, it will be no different. But it's good to do what you love. That being said, starting a company can be as easy as making a hit iPhone game, which has been the case before. And games like Minecraft can start as small projects, but now the creators make a decent amount of money off of it.
     
  8. mythique890

    mythique890 Sage

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    Thanks! I'll check out the links later tonight when I have a little more time. I watched my husband play "Braid," so I know about that one. I googled game jams and there are a few around here, so I'll look for more information on them, too. :)
     
  9. myrddin173

    myrddin173 Maester

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    You might want to give this episode of the Writing Excuses podcast.
     
  10. morfiction

    morfiction Troubadour

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    Interesting. I'm working on a project and had asked on here for help with on an old project. I won't hijack this thread with ill news though. I'm just saying I'm in a collaborative process right now with many people, I'm a writer who is fairly inflexible given so many tasks at once... can't do it all by myself.
     
  11. mythique890

    mythique890 Sage

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    @Myrddin, thanks! I'm working my way through Writing Excuses, having only discovered them a month or so ago, so I'll check that one out for sure.

    @Michael Woodard, I remember that thread. So it didn't work out? What are you working on now?
     
  12. morfiction

    morfiction Troubadour

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    New project with some of the crew from the old game. I have been tied up too much by RL to contribute much with the latest project which I wrote about in a follow-up thread on this forum.
     
  13. AlexanderKira

    AlexanderKira Minstrel

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    Video Game Writer

    I am a sophomore in High school. What I am thinking about doing is going to college and taking a creative writing course, maybe at Full Sail, provided I can even get in there. I would love to hone my writing skills, but also I would love to learn how to write for video games. I understand that a lot of video game companies can't afford the luxury of having a writer, instead they have people doing several jobs, but maybe if I am good enough they would take me. I have always loved gaming, but most games have just terrible stories. I always thought it'd be cool to make one that is almost story driven. Is it a lost cause? Some of my inspiration is The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, great story, Deus Ex, and Elder Scrolls. I mean I would just love to see my story come to life in a video game, and make it change based on player decisions. Maybe just a silly dream...but oh well :p
     
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