A wise man once told me what game developers really want is writers who “get it.” You don’t want to explain FPS, turn-based strategy, or what works and what doesn’t in games. However, unless you’re making the exact same game you’ve made before, you’ll have to let the writer know about your game’s system. So, unless you have your writer sitting right next to the Lead System Designer, here are the top three ways to help your writers “get” your game system:
1. Give them a build or prototype
At South by Southwest, CME’s Zeb Cook supported this method as the way to get writers in tune with the game. In our experience, actually playing your game answers many of the questions that might come up to a writer. Relying on a build or prototype solely, however, leads to questions when design features are added or removed.
Chances that the developer will give writers a build: Low to medium.
2. Give them relevant design documents
Don’t be afraid. Unlike many programmers, writers generally like to read. If you keep the design documents up to date, you will equip your writers with the added ability to recognize when design changes may affect story, dialog, and character. Unfortunately, as Damion Schubert pointed out in his winning GDC talk, design docs aren’t always kept up to date, and thus may do more harm than good.
Chances of the developer giving the writer the design doc: Low.
3. Give them a designer they can ask questions
You already have someone handling the writers — but is this person best equipped to answer system questions? Consider assigning someone in your design department. Note: this need not be the lead — simply any designer versed in systems who can take the time to writer questions.
Chances of developers giving writers a go-to person: High.
Tomorrow, return for Part 2 — helping the writer “get” the story. In the meantime, have you had other successes communicating systems to remote workers?