Top 3 problems plaguing game production: the writer solution

Our buddy over at Gameproducer.net asked readers to volunteer their biggest problems in game production.  So far, the comments center around these three issues:  time, money, and the team itself.  We thought we’d offer up a few solutions for dealing with these issues when working with game writing and story.   

TIME
When you’re racing to meet milestones to make your hard and fast ship date (do those exist?), writing sometimes comes in last.

  • Hire writers.  Many developers write content for their games and rely on a number of excuses not to hire writers.  when crunch time hits, it’s better to focus on your core strengths.  A producer should spend his/her time producing; a designer should focus on designing.  The only thing worse than someone spending too much time on tasks they’re not suited for is having to spend even more time to fix the resulting work.
  • Hire outside writers.  By doing so, you will take a lot of pressure off of your core team, so they can focus on key tasks.  The outside writers can help prevent burn-out, which itself can cause production delays. 

MONEY
I know what you’re thinking: “You just told me to hire writers, but my main issue is money!”  When it comes to managing money, people most often stumble not because they have too little money, but because they don’t wisely use the money they have.

  • Use your writers to save money.  If you have a story-based game, writers can help you reduce scope without sacrificing story quality, thus cutting down on your costs.  Opposed to programming, art, and music, you’ll also notice that simple text takes less time and is actually pretty cheap.  If you’re going super-low budget, you may in fact only need text and programming to make a game. 
  • Use your writers, not your team.  You do not want your $250,000-a-year creative director spending his time writing “Good job!” “Excellent!”  You will save money by hiring writers at a reasonable rate and letting your team do what it does best. 
  • Hire outside writers instead of internal writers.  If you expect intermittent need for a writer, like many developers, an outsourced writer can save you money.  As long as you stipulate it in the contract, you will not have to pay for the downtime when you have nothing for the writers to work on. 

YOUR TEAM
One of the commenters on Gameproducer.net pointed out that if a producer has a bad team, the producer is 50% at fault.  Whether that’s true or not, here’s a few tips on how to make sure that, at least, you’re managing a great writing team.

  • Go with experienced writers.  Writers with some experience working in games will be a lot easier to manage.  This fact almost goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. 
  • Help your writers “get it. If you’re working with experienced game writers, they should already get the game medium, but you need to go the extra step and help them “get” your project. 

Of course, finding writers who share your vision and work values will also make your team function better, but this idea doesn’t only apply to writers.   

What do you think?  Do you experience other production issues related to writing?  We’d love to hear about it! 

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