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View Full Version : I'm writing a video game!



JoNightshade
07-28-2009, 02:31 AM
My husband is a programmer. He and a couple of his buddies from where he works (a video game company) have decided to get together and make their own little iPhone game, an RPG.

Then the other day he's like, "So... we kinda need a writer...?"

Turns out, these guys only really care about the design and mechanics. The artist has some ideas for what things should look like that are pretty awesome.

The story? Completely up to me. Whee!!!

I have been itching to get into this medium. Every time my husband plays a game I just find myself groaning at the dialogue and thinking, "I could do SO much better than that. If only they'd hire some decent writers..."

Zoombie
07-28-2009, 02:37 AM
Sweet!

Now, my advice is to work closely with your husband and his buddies. Se, gameplay and plot should not be separate. Rather they should compliment and work together...that's an angle that a lot of game Devs forget and its their failing.

JoNightshade
07-28-2009, 02:43 AM
Sweet!

Now, my advice is to work closely with your husband and his buddies. Se, gameplay and plot should not be separate. Rather they should compliment and work together...that's an angle that a lot of game Devs forget and its their failing.

Oh, yes, absolutely. One thing that always bugs the heck out of me is the artificial way the story interacts with actual gameplay. Like, that character on the screen is supposed to be me, and yet I have no control over his choices? The story always tries to "force" you into certain pathways - drives me crazy. I've already come up with a frame narrative that explains the player's interaction with the world. I'm going to try to make everything as natural as possible.

Actually, I find this aspect really cool because it plays to my strengths. I am very, very good at taking a given set of parameters and then fitting a story/ad/whatever into the necessary restrictions in a way that feels very natural. So I'm excited about taking their ideas about how they want the game to play and then incorporating that into the story.

Shoeless
07-28-2009, 03:19 AM
Congratulations on the game-related writing job. Have you gotten slapped with the big ol' Non-Disclosure Agreement yet?

Unfortunately I'm currently working under the shadow of one of those, but maybe one of these days I can talk about it.

Zoombie
07-28-2009, 03:53 AM
Well, no, linearity is fine, Jo. Its just when the game shifts clunkily between STORY and GAME with all the grace of a car crashing that things get grumpy.

Pepper
07-28-2009, 03:56 AM
Congrats! :D I've always wanted to write a computer game. Like you, I'm often left thinking "Geez, I could do better than this". Definitely something I'd like to do in the future. :D

Shoeless
07-28-2009, 04:03 AM
Congrats! :D I've always wanted to write a computer game. Like you, I'm often left thinking "Geez, I could do better than this". Definitely something I'd like to do in the future. :D

It's because for the most part, writers tend to be brought into the process well after the design documents for a game and actual coding have begun. Usually they're expected to just shoe-horn whatever narrative or dialog they can into a game and then just hope for the best. Rhianna Pratchett (yes, the daughter of THAT Pratchett) has been doing extensive game writing work for many years now and she has some interesting insights--and frustrations--about the process.

There are exceptions to this course. In the genre of Japanese role-playing games, writing tends to happen alongside--or even before--game development begins. And in the West, a few developers such as Bioware and Funcom tend to work on the narrative aspect of games before--or alongside--the development of the game itself.

But yeah, for most games, the narrative tends to be an afterthought, unfortunately.

maxmordon
07-28-2009, 04:11 AM
Any ideas so far? We would love to hear it... or is it meant to be sekrit?

LOG
07-28-2009, 04:54 AM
My husband is a programmer. He and a couple of his buddies from where he works (a video game company) have decided to get together and make their own little iPhone game, an RPG.

Then the other day he's like, "So... we kinda need a writer...?"

Turns out, these guys only really care about the design and mechanics. The artist has some ideas for what things should look like that are pretty awesome.

The story? Completely up to me. Whee!!!

I have been itching to get into this medium. Every time my husband plays a game I just find myself groaning at the dialogue and thinking, "I could do SO much better than that. If only they'd hire some decent writers..."
I dislike you now...-_-

JoNightshade
07-28-2009, 07:05 AM
JJM: :tongue


Any ideas so far? We would love to hear it... or is it meant to be sekrit?

Good question. Not sure how the guys feel. Haha. Anyway I'll say my husband has described the setting as "post-apocolyptic steampunk fantasy." That is, the characters live in a medieval-ish fantasy world among the ruins of a high-tech civilization which bears a resemblance to old Jules Verne-ish artwork.

There will be a certain amount of ambiguity about the protagonist (you) and whether he/she is altruistic or evil. Your companion, the most visible character throughout the game, will likely be a non-Caucasian teenage female. (I sort of pushed that one on the guys; now the artist is all excited about it.)

As for the specific plot, I'll keep quiet about that. :)

Shoeless
07-28-2009, 07:32 AM
Sounds like that old TSR pen and paper game Gammaworld.

But the Fallout post-apocalyptic vibe is hot again thanks to Fallout 3's recent success, so this could do well.

JoNightshade
07-28-2009, 08:45 AM
Back after looking up Gamma World... :)

It's a bit different in that this isn't actually future-earth. It's more like your generic fantasy world.

Shoeless
07-28-2009, 09:01 AM
Back after looking up Gamma World... :)

It's a bit different in that this isn't actually future-earth. It's more like your generic fantasy world.

Oh okay, that's an interesting twist. So it's post-apocalypse in some other setting with fantasy roots. Yeah, that is different.

Crystal Dynamics did something sort of like that in the 90's with their "Legacy of Kain" series. It was an interesting premise. The first game was about a guy (named Kain) who got turned into a vampire and then went on a massive rampage across the world to get revenge. At the end of the game, you were given the usual "Choose good or evil" ending, and if you chose the bad ending, the fantasy world was basically plunged into hell as Kain became a God of Vampires and ruled the world.

The sequel, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver decided that the canon ending WAS the bad ending, so you have a fantasy world that was totally devastated by this godlike vampire society. Interesting stuff.

LOG
07-28-2009, 09:10 AM
As for the specific plot, I'll keep quite about that. :)

How could you?! Whats-their-name has been totting about that sig of common spelling mistakes for who knows how long now, and you still do it...

Zoombie
07-28-2009, 09:11 AM
I remember Soul Reaver...the demo, at least. It was pretty neat!

I like this, and I like the idea of a non-caucasian female. Will there be romance? I do love a good romance!

Shoeless
07-28-2009, 09:25 AM
I remember Soul Reaver...the demo, at least. It was pretty neat!

I particularly liked the shifting mechanics of the first Soul Reaver game, where you would transition from the real world to a ghost world where astral structures and other features allowed you access to areas you couldn't get to in the real world. Soul Reaver 2 took it a step further by changing the mechanic to shifting through time, so a devastated church could be revisited in its pristine state before the vampire rampages occurred.

JoNightshade
07-28-2009, 10:46 AM
How could you?! Whats-their-name has been totting about that sig of common spelling mistakes for who knows how long now, and you still do it...

Do what? I'm sure I've no idea what you're talking about, with your little doctored up quote... ;)


I like this, and I like the idea of a non-caucasian female. Will there be romance? I do love a good romance!

Right now, I'm thinkin' no. Well, as I told my husband, "You know me. If there's romance at all, it's going to be weird, awkward, and probably kind of disturbing."

Zoombie
07-28-2009, 10:54 AM
Awww

<bums>

Bmwhtly
07-28-2009, 01:26 PM
my husband has described the setting as "post-apocolyptic steampunk fantasy."In other words, it'll be set in Awesome :D

Good Luck!

maxmordon
07-28-2009, 06:20 PM
JJM: :tongue



Good question. Not sure how the guys feel. Haha. Anyway I'll say my husband has described the setting as "post-apocolyptic steampunk fantasy." That is, the characters live in a medieval-ish fantasy world among the ruins of a high-tech civilization which bears a resemblance to old Jules Verne-ish artwork.

There will be a certain amount of ambiguity about the protagonist (you) and whether he/she is altruistic or evil. Your companion, the most visible character throughout the game, will likely be a non-Caucasian teenage female. (I sort of pushed that one on the guys; now the artist is all excited about it.)

As for the specific plot, I'll keep quiet about that. :)

I see, for some reason reminds me a bit Final Fantasy. Will there be different endings depending on wether you're altruistic or evil? Am I asking too much? :P

Shoeless
07-28-2009, 08:27 PM
I see, for some reason reminds me a bit Final Fantasy. Will there be different endings depending on wether you're altruistic or evil? Am I asking too much? :P

Oh yeah. Final Fantasy VI had a little bit of that vibe, didn't it?

JoNightshade
07-28-2009, 08:34 PM
Hm, good question. I don't think there will be alternate endings. I haven't gotten that far. It's not so much that you have to decide by the end whether to be good or bad; not that simple. This is sort of the cool gameplay component I came up with so I don't really want to give it away, but it's more like your true identity is ambiguous. So you may play thinking you're doing everyone in the world a lot of good, but by the end you may realize that you've just screwed everyone royally - with or without meaning to. And even then it won't be totally obvious, so maybe you did try to do good? Or maybe you didn't?

I feel like I'm totally copying what the developers kept saying about Bioshock before it came out. And yet it's totally different. I fail. Nevermind. ;)

Shoeless
07-28-2009, 09:03 PM
I feel like I'm totally copying what the developers kept saying about Bioshock before it came out. And yet it's totally different. I fail. Nevermind. ;)

Damn. Bioshock. That's a tough act to follow. Even 2K Games isn't following it. Or it seems like it, since Kevine Levine isn't on the sequel. I think even he got scared of trying to top himself.

JoNightshade
07-28-2009, 09:17 PM
Haha, yeah. Our game is in NOOOO way going to even compete with that. I mean, it's a little iPhone game made by 4 people. :)

icerose
07-28-2009, 10:34 PM
That's awesome. I've been really into Final Fantasy for most of the series so that's something I've always wanted to do was write a video game and watch one of my stories come to life in that medium.

maxmordon
07-29-2009, 12:15 AM
Don't forget to check out some reviews (especially negative ones) to know what not to do...

Not sure if Zero Punctuation would be appropiate...

William Haskins
07-29-2009, 01:15 AM
congrats, jo.

if you can write one without going insane*, the future is yours.

*though i'm living proof that one can be insane and continue to write them.

SPMiller
07-29-2009, 02:23 AM
In my limited experience with game development, the story and the art are the two most significant assets in any game project, but companies will generally invest much more time/money in art than in story. In comparison, the programming part is easy (and I'm speaking as a programmer here).

What you need to do is talk over the tools you'll want to use to recreate your story within the boundaries of the game's systems. Your husband and his buddies will probably roll their own solution, but you need to make sure it can do everything you want it to do.

Shoeless
07-29-2009, 02:42 AM
Don't forget to check out some reviews (especially negative ones) to know what not to do...

Not sure if Zero Punctuation would be appropiate...

Ben Croshaw is a genius.

SPMiller
07-29-2009, 02:52 AM
Oh, yes, absolutely. One thing that always bugs the heck out of me is the artificial way the story interacts with actual gameplay. Like, that character on the screen is supposed to be me, and yet I have no control over his choices? The story always tries to "force" you into certain pathways - drives me crazy. I've already come up with a frame narrative that explains the player's interaction with the world. I'm going to try to make everything as natural as possible.I'm glad that you're interested in nonlinear story development. However, you need to consider the impact of story structure on QA.

Each player choice involves multiple options, each of which will lead to other choices. The number of "paths" you can follow through the story can increase dramatically depending on how many choices and corresponding options you provide. And every single one of those paths must be tested somehow. Otherwise, you run the risk of nasty bugs.

As you can imagine, that testing can be a whole lot of work. Compare that complexity to the simplicity of a story composed of linear events, each of which leads directly to the next with no deviation. The testing in that situation becomes much less time- and money-consuming.

Consider that you need to create content to support every path of your story.

Consider also that most players will never try out every possible path. Some may only play through once and miss out on all that content and testing you labored over.

Really, I love nonlinear video games. They're awesome. But the amount of work involved is cringe-worthy.

JoNightshade
07-29-2009, 03:57 AM
Guys, guys... trust me here, I'm not going in blind. :)

To clarify: When I'm talking about linearity, what I hate is how forced it feels. My goal is not to create a world without a linear story... in fact it has to be very linear. My goal is to make that linearity feel NATURAL rather than frustrating. I work in marketing so I know how to frame things to get people to come to one conclusion. You know what I mean?

Like, what I hate in games is when you are forced to do something that seems totally unnatural. For instance: You are in a rush to save the princess from certain doom, but you CAN'T LEAVE THE TOWN until you've helped Bob find his fishing pole. Like... seriously? SERIOUSLY?

BigWords
07-29-2009, 04:21 AM
"You may go anywhere... as long as you go to the library first."

Or training levels which you can't skip, no matter how mediocre they are.

SPMiller
07-29-2009, 11:06 AM
"You may go anywhere... as long as you go to the library first."

Or training levels which you can't skip, no matter how mediocre they are.For a good example of how to do training levels you can't skip, see Portal.

Actually, see Portal for good examples of damn near everything. It may in fact be the best game ever made.

Shoeless
07-29-2009, 11:48 AM
For a good example of how to do training levels you can't skip, see Portal.

Actually, see Portal for good examples of damn near everything. It may in fact be the best game ever made.

This is hard to argue with.

Zoombie
07-29-2009, 12:01 PM
I also can not argue with this.

Shoeless
07-29-2009, 12:05 PM
Whole lotta' not arguing going on.

Zoombie
07-29-2009, 01:03 PM
This is a raging not debate here.

maxmordon
07-29-2009, 02:59 PM
Ben Croshaw is a genius.

I concur, can't wait to see today's review!

tarcanus
07-29-2009, 08:46 PM
Hm, good question. I don't think there will be alternate endings. I haven't gotten that far. It's not so much that you have to decide by the end whether to be good or bad; not that simple. This is sort of the cool gameplay component I came up with so I don't really want to give it away, but it's more like your true identity is ambiguous. So you may play thinking you're doing everyone in the world a lot of good, but by the end you may realize that you've just screwed everyone royally - with or without meaning to. And even then it won't be totally obvious, so maybe you did try to do good? Or maybe you didn't?

It seems you have everything under control, but I still feel the urge to warn you about this. If you give a player a bunch of choices, and they think they are doing the good choices and are happy with the way their character/story is turning out, but then you pull the rug out from under them by telling them later that all of their actions may not have meant anything - well, that's a great way to piss a lot of players off. I know I, for one, like to have my actions validated by results and not have everything I've done recast in a different light - that takes away any and all feeling of accomplishment that I had.

JoNightshade
07-29-2009, 08:48 PM
Trust me. Srsly. ;)

Shoeless
07-29-2009, 10:15 PM
If you give a player a bunch of choices, and they think they are doing the good choices and are happy with the way their character/story is turning out, but then you pull the rug out from under them by telling them later that all of their actions may not have meant anything - well, that's a great way to piss a lot of players off.

Sounds like someone tried helping out the zombies get into Tenpenny Tower in Fallout 3...

SPMiller
07-29-2009, 10:49 PM
Trust me. Srsly. ;)Well, if you've got it all under control, then let us know when you're done.

tarcanus
07-29-2009, 11:44 PM
Sounds like someone tried helping out the zombies get into Tenpenny Tower in Fallout 3...

Nope. I never even did that quest. I got tired of Fallout 3 and never completed the last canonical mission. I capped at 20, then immediately got bored with the bland repetition of areas - raider camp, enclave camp, cave, misc building filled with orcs(oh, I'm sorry - mutants) and debris, misc building filled with raiders and debris, misc building filled with humans and debris, forts.

Same reason I only got to level 7 in Oblivion. There were only a handful of unique dungeons - ruins, fort, town, cave, Oblivion Gate - and they just repeated them over and over and over again.

karmali
02-14-2011, 03:24 PM
Can you explore your thoughts? What platform you would like your writer to make the story?

ElizaFaith13
02-19-2011, 06:55 AM
JO: Grats, that's awesome!

LOG
02-19-2011, 09:36 AM
Eeeeek, zombie!

Kill it! :deadhorse Kill it! :deadhorse

JoNightshade
02-19-2011, 09:48 AM
WTF? Why did this thread get resurrected? As long as it has been, might as well give an update. Game is on hold because my husband got a different job, we moved 500 miles, and he's been working 12+ hour days six days a week ever since.

GameMasterNick
03-01-2011, 09:12 AM
I dislike you now...-_-

Jealousy is ugly... and contagious!

Hope the stars realign for this project!