Yesterday I talked about how level designers can map out their interactions with game writers. But today we’re talking to you, content designer! “Now, wait a minute,” you’re thinking. “As a content designer, I am a game writer.” True, true. You’ve happened upon the eternal conundrum… who the heck are game writers, anyway?
For the purpose of this post, I will break up the overly broad term “game writer” into two: writer and content designer. The writer may create the story, develop characters and plot arcs, write the dialog, and brainstorm ideas for worlds and monsters. Content designers, on the other hand, do everything the writer does while programmers are yelling at them ;). Seriously, content designers have the added bonus of breaking the story into fun, feasible missions or scenarios and are usually in charge of implementing them into the game.
If you as a content designer are working on a project with a writer who’s brought in early, chances are the writer is there to help formulate the game story. In this case, you’re in a unique position because you’re more likely to understand the restrictions of the game system in its current state, while still being able to translate it into terms a writer can understand. A writer with little content design experience will be relying on you to educate him or her on how it all works. When I worked on staff in content design, we brought on a writer with little experience with our game format. The writer made a few mistakes which would have been impossible to implement, but with our feedback he was able to correct those in future writings.
Giving feedback to the writer leads into the most common use of a game writer: dialog. You’ve mostly finished your job in content design, but maybe you have chosen to outsource in some way the game dialog. This situation is definitely the time to kill your writer with information — about the characters, the feel, the theme, any bit of information will be helpful. Most importantly, however, is early and thorough feedback. Your writer needs to know sooner rather than later if s/he is offtrack. This fact can easily be forgotten when you’re busy trying to finish the game. On a project we wrote dialog for, the developers seemed to forget us in the latter phases of the game, but we remained confident because their feedback had been so thorough in the beginning.
Overall, remember the writer is there to make your life easier, so have fun with it! Stay tuned next week for the system designer. In the meantime, I’m curious, have you ever heard of a content designer who was not also a writer?
Guess that game dialog! Today’s line: “I HAVE FURRY!!!” Check back next week to find out where it’s from.