Monthly Archives: December 2007

Happy New Year!

We had a great first year and hope you did too! We thought we’d leave you with something fun to shoo out the old year. Did you guess the game dialog from last week? With game writing improving by leaps and bounds, you may never see something like this again, so enjoy!

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Filed under Amusing diversions, Guess that game dialog!

Best of Writers Cabal Blog – 2007

It’s that time of year again. The time when people tend to look back, think over their accomplishments, and wonder, “What the heck have I been doing with my life?!?” We’re going to go for a somewhat lighter take on the year-end review with an inside look into our stats and some highlights for the year.

Since the Writers Cabal Blog premiered February 18th, 2007, we have hosted two giveaways, written and designed for a number of games, and even saw our first joint project hit the shelves: THE WITCHER. Here’s how all this played out on our blog:

  • Posts: 140 (not including posts we wrote but then never posted)
  • Comments: 224 (not including the 7,743 spam comments from all over the world!)
  • Page Views: 11,631 direct hits (not including those subscribing via RSS feed)
  • Biggest Month: November

Rather than picking only posts with the most hits, we thought we’d highlight the best posts throughout the year, whether it be due to hits, due to comments, or because we say so.

Our first blog series:
Helping the Writer “Get it” Part 1
Helping the Writer “Get it” Part 2
Helping the Writer “Get it” Part 3
4 Things Not To Do to help your writers “get it”

Our first controversial post:
Motivating with story
Motivating with story, part 2

Our first workshop:
Writing for Fantasy Game Worlds
Why does Fantasy Resonate with Modern Audiences?
What is Lacking in Fantasy Computer RPGs?
What’s Important in Fantasy Storytelling and Game Design?
Q & A from Writing for Fantasy Game Worlds

Our first (joint) game:
The verdict is in! Game reviews of The Witcher
GameSpy 2007 PC RPG of the Year, GameSpy Special Award: Surprise of the Year
IGN 2007 PC RPG of the Year, PC Best Story Runner-Up
Voodoo Extreme 2007 Best PC Exclusive, Best Computer Role Playing Game
GameSpot Readers Choice 2007 Roleplaying Game of the Year
Shacknews 2007 Roleplaying Game of the Year
Gaming Heaven 2007 Game of the Year
Gaming Trend 2007 Game of the Year
AIAS 2007 Roleplaying Game of the Year Finalist
PC Gamer Magazine 2007 RPG of the Year
(If you want an autographed copy of THE WITCHER, see here)

Most foreign language in a single post:
Gender unknown: writing for French translation

And, my personal favorite…
Most blatant effort to attract 33 percent of all internet traffic, if you know what I mean:
Nipples! The Witcher UK

We’d also like to give a big shout out to, Manifesto Games, Dave Gilbert at Wadjet Eye Games, Joyce at, and Chris Avellone for prizes, links, and all the goodies that helped get our blog off the ground and running. Of course, we wouldn’t have done it at all if not for you, dear reader. Thank you for all your support!

What’s in store for next year? Well, you’ll just have to stick around and find out. We have some exciting announcements in the new year, so subscribe, check back, and keep on reading!

Question Mark Guess that game dialog! This week we’ll literally ask you to guess the infamous line of dialog that came from ZERO WING! If you can’t remember, check back next week to see what the line was.

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Filed under Guess that game dialog!, Writers Cabal

How to get the audience to believe you

I was watching a documentary series about different kinds of evil, and when I heard about this trick, I immediately saw its usefulness in just about any type of writing.  Ready for it?

When people listen to a statement, they default to thinking it’s true.  Usually they take a moment to process it, then decide whether that original assumption was right or not.  What certain evil people do is make a statement they want someone to believe, then interrupt this processing time.  The interruption prevents the listener from reassessing the original statement, and so in his/her mind, it will remain true. 

This sounds pretty evil, right?  Well, if misleading your audience is evil, then all writers are evil.  Here’s how it would work.  You want your viewer/player to suspect Joe, so you have someone who is trying to frame Joe say something like, “Joe is a killer just waiting for an opportunity.”  Or you could have someone who’s just misguided about Joe say the same thing.  Then immediately you interrupt your viewer’s processing of this information with a huge distraction.  The distraction could be relatively mild, or something as large as an explosion.  Your viewer/player will accept the idea “Joe is a killer” until you do the big reveal. 

I’ve certainly seen plenty of movies where the clues are laid in, so subtle you can’t even find them.  What’s interesting with this technique is it’s not so much a clue as a misdirection the audience will blame itself for not recognizing.  Obviously Sally was framing Joe, or obviously Sally didn’t know what she was talking about with Joe, but for some reason, I believed what she said when she said it. 

I wish I could test how successful it was in different media and also the degree of distraction you’d need for it to work.  This technique would be the most difficult in prose, since the reader can interrupt him/herself at any time.  I’m wondering if an act break, which might leave to, say, a commercial would be sufficient distraction, or whether that would leave the viewer with too much time to dismiss the statement.  Anyone have any thoughts on this?  

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Happy Holidays

We’d like to wish our friends, family, and readers a happy holiday season! Even though you may not be in the same city, state, or country, we hold dear the connection we’ve had during this time.


As I prepare to return to France in the new year, I am hopeful that we’ll see many wonderful games in the future!

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The biggest mistake in game writing feedback

Some developers are making a big mistake when it comes to giving feedback in game writing.  Are you one of them?  We posted a series on feedback in game writing not too long ago, and reader Martha had this to say:

“This is actually good general feedback for ANY creative process. Number 1 is especially good: remember to hear the request UNDER the request.”

Feedback in game writing tends to follow a unique pattern, however.  Developers are most likely to make requests to accomodate gameplay or production issues.  And what is the request most often really about?  In many instances, the feedback really concerns some story or writing issue.  Developers can save a lot of time if they give good feedback about the writing or story.  Once that issue has been addressed, the gameplay or production issues are a relatively easy hurdle. 

I admit I have been guilty of saying “We can’t do that” first before addressing the story, and sometimes it is appropriate.  At one point, I was pitched the idea that the player would be put in prison and have to fight his/her way out of the level.  While this idea is pretty standard fare in single-player games, this was an MMO.  If the entire point of this story was for the player to feel trapped, it could never happen in an MMO, especially one designed for a casual player.  How would the player log off?  How would the player leave to go help his/her guildmate with a quest?  The premise would get lots of pushback from designers and players alike. 

Not all stories are so linked to gameplay, however.  On another game, we played with an idea that involved the player saving a crazy man, who, in his madness, had made a mess of his life.  Player would then go on a series of quests to fix his life.  The feedback on this story centered on issues like “We don’t have that gender NPC.  We don’t have that type of area here.  We can’t do this chain.”  After we pointed out that all the specific quests could be changed while keeping the story arc the same, the developer at last revealed the true issue: He just didn’t like the story.  We came up with another idea that sat better with the developer and moved forward.   

Clearly giving story or writing feedback first can save you time and hassle.  If you’ve helped your writer “get it,” then you should have few gameplay concerns anyway.  What may come as a surprise is that writers actually want story feedback — it’s what they’re listening for.  If you don’t feel confident giving story feedback, make sure you hire writers who can support each other that way.

Question Mark Guess that game dialog goes on hiatus this week.  Check back next week for more, or throw out your own line of dialog and see if we can guess it!

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Filed under Outsourcing, Writing

Witcher (UK) – Prize Winner Announced!

Happy Game Blogs Giveaway!  For the past week we ran a competition here at the Writers Cabal Blog where every comment that you left on the blog put you into the draw to win a copy of THE WITCHER (UK), co-written by yours truly.  

We conspired with a select group of other game bloggers to give away other games.  Check out their sites to see who won!  

Roll of the diceFrom our pool of eligible posts, we selected our winner by a very appropriate role of the dice.  And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for, the winner of THE WITCHER is…

Martha from Hoboken, NJ!  

Congratulations, and Martha will be getting her very own copy in the mail soon.  In addition, we’ll be answering her comment in a post all its own. 

Thanks to everyone else for your participation in both the competition and community on the Writers Cabal Blog. If you didn’t win, you can always pick up a copy of THE WITCHER via download or order on-line.   

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The joys of writing…

It’s a special moment in a writer’s life, when s/he looks over old writing and comes across, quite randomly in the middle of the piece, the four words all writers love to see: “WHY DOES THIS SUCK?”

It just goes to show you that we really are our own worse critics.

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How to manage ego in games

It’s funny where you’ll get little pearls of wisdom.  I was wandering around in circles today in front of the AMPTP — that’s the coalition of Hollywood producers that the WGA currently has an issue with.  I ended up speaking with a writer who had gotten started in animation and recently made the transition to live-action primetime.  We spoke about animation writers, who are generally just cooler than live action writers, and he had a great reason why. 

Many primetime writers end up with large egos, and there’s no way to take them down a notch.  Many of their shows are great.  Many of their shows are watched by millions.  But in animation, all you have to do when anyone gets too big for hir britches is lean in and say, “Dude, it’s just a cartoon.”

Should game developers have the same attitude as animation writers?  Nothing is just a game anymore.  It’s “just” an outgrowth of the oldest form of entertainment on Earth.  It’s “just” a billion dollar industry.  It “just” entertains people all over the globe, young and old.  Many of us make games because we wouldn’t dream of doing anything else.  How could we possibly say, “It’s just a game?”

We can and we should.  Not because the game industry is “just” anything, but because to work on an intensely collaborative medium, we need to manage our egos to create something worth playing.  We’re creating a fun experience; it should be fun to make, too.  So next time someone leans in and says “Dude, it’s only a game,” don’t think he’s denigrating the great medium of games.  He’s probably just telling you to check your ego at the door.  

It’s not too late to enter the win THE WITCHER UK!  Contest ends Wednesday at 8am PST. 

Question Mark Last week’s game moment came from ZOO VET. Did you guess? More Guess that Game Dialog to come this week!

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Filed under Collaboration, Writing

Win the Witcher UK and more!

Merry Game Blogs Giveaway! In celebration of the holidays, over the next week the Writers Cabal and a select group of other game bloggers will be running a competition for fun and prizes. will be giving away a game for the person who suggests the best name for his new computer game!
Wadjet Eye Games Blog will be giving away a choice of prizes: CD-ROM versions of BLACKWELL LEGACY and BLACKWELL UNBOUND or a poster of BLACKWELL LEGACY! Just write a line of dialog for Rosangela Blackwell, Joey Mallone, or both and if your dialog is chosen, you’ll win a prize AND Wadjet Eye will try to include your dialog in the next BLACKWELL game.

Our prize – a copy of THE WITCHER (UK) for PC! If you’re just now hearing about it, check out some reviews… and if you want a spoiler, click here. With 80 hours of gameplay, it should take you well into January 😉

How do you Win a Copy?
All you have to do is comment on the Writers Cabal Blog until Wednesday, December 19th, at 8am PST. We’ll choose one random comment left during the week on any post on the blog. That commenter will win a copy of the game- it is as simple as that.

The comments do need to be legitimate (that is, on topic and adding value to the conversation), but you can enter as many times as you like – each relevant comment that you leave is an ‘entry’.

Then check back next Wednesday to see if you won! Look forward to conversing with you!

Question Mark Guess that game dialog! This week’s line of game dialog: “Looks like we have a winner in the non-stop vomiting sweepstakes!” Check back next week to see where it came from.

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Filed under Amusing diversions, Guess that game dialog!, Writers Cabal

Say hello to Sande at the IGDA NYC Holiday Party!

Yes, Sande will be at the IGDA NYC Holiday party, so say hello!  If you really want to spook her, say “Anne can’t get a return flight on the 11th or 12th,” then walk away, like it was the most normal thing in the world.

Party safely everyone, and check back later this week for an exciting surprise!

Question Mark Last week’s game moment came from the MEGAMAN series of games. Did you guess? More Guess that Game Dialog to come this week!

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Filed under Amusing diversions, Guess that game dialog!, Writers Cabal