Tag Archives: Narrative Design

Signing comics and talking games at San Diego Comic Con!

It’s happening! In a week, nerds of the world will unite at Comic-con for another fun-filled extravaganza. I’ll be doing a comic book signing at Kymera Press of a limited edition PET NOIR #5. Git yours as it’s not yet available on their site! I’ll also be speaking on video game writing along with a panel of illustrious greats! Like the villain in every movie, I say “Join usssss!”

Here be the schedule:

Crafting Story for Video Games
Thursday July 19, 2018 4:45pm – 5:45pm
Room 6BCF
Video game veterans from Telltale, Riot, Xbox, and other companies share tips and techniques they use for making successful game narrative. They’ll share real-life examples and behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the origins of some of the most popular video game characters, worlds, and stories.

Signing Pet Noir
Sunday, July 22 2pm
Kymera Press, Booth #2003
Pet Noir is an adaptation of Pati Nagle’s series of linked short stories, “Pet Noir.” In “Pet Noir” feline investigator Leon, with opposable thumbs and the ability to talk, is possibly the most dangerous cat in the galaxy. The comic is drawn by Anna Giovannini, inked by Laurie Foster, colored by Liezl Buenaventura and written by Anne Toole.

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Released! Where the Water Tastes Like Wine

Where the Water Tastes Like WineWhere the Water Tastes Like Wine is a Narrative-Adventure game about traveling, sharing stories, and surviving manifest destiny. I was one of the writers, and now you can buy it and play it right now on Steam! It’s perfect for the you-shaped person reading this post right now!

Although it’s finally available for all to enjoy, it’s already been picking up some steam (sorry for the pun) on the indie scene. It won the Developer’s Choice Award at Indiecade:Image may contain: 1 person

It’s also been nominated for Excellence in Narrative in the Independent Game Festival (IGF), along with some other awesome indies:

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It’s also picked up a lot of great reviews and ratings from players on the Steam page. Once you buy Where the Water Tastes Like Wine, don’t forget to leave your own rating!

 

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Do you have the essentials for game development?

If you’ve haven’t yet mastered game development, never fear, Game Development Essentials is here! Returning to her successful Game Development series, Jeannie Novak edited this well-reviewed third edition featuring yours truly discussing narrative design. I’m quoted along with other luminaries such as Warren Spector, David Brin, and Richard Bartle. In fact, I’m featured opposite the lovely and talented Chris Avellone, whose picture looks much better than mine, damn him.

I was not offered compensation for contributing or shilling the book here, but if you do decide to buy the book here, I get a little Amazon commission.  Enjoy!

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Game Together or Die Alone

GDC Online is just around the corner, and I will be there speaking on a fabulous panel on writing stories in multiplayer games, including co-op, competitive, MMOs, and social games (of doom!).
 
Game Together or Die Alone: Writing Co-Operative Campaigns
Monday, October 10th, 2011 3:00- 4:00 Room 3

Co-op campaigns with strong story elements are more and more common. Creating a cohesive narrative for a game with drop in/drop out co-op can be uniquely challenging. A panel of experienced writers who have worked on a wide range of co-op games, spanning different genres and styles, will talk about how they met the challenge. Co-op campaigns discussed will include Marvel Ultimate Alliance Two, Guild Wars, Pirates of the Burning Sea, Red Alert 3, Call of Juarez: The Cartel, and Dead Island.

Takeaway: Attendees will learn how other writers have created narratives and characters for co-op games. They will learn the tricks, the tips, the pitfalls, the problems, and maybe even a few solutions.

Intended Audience: Game writers, narrative designers, producers, game designers, level designers, quest and mission designers. Anyone interested in crafting a narrative for a co-op campaign.

Come on down to enjoy the fabulous insights of fellow panelists and afterwards, let’s grab a beverage at the Ginger Man!

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How to avoid powerlessness and apathy in game design

We’ve been exploring the seven deadly sins of game writing and design.  Whenever players cease to care about the game or its outcome, they experience the despair or acedia of sloth.  Players will most likely despair when they don’t have any choice, when the player is actually powerless to affect the outcome.  Players may cease to care and give up, giving in to apathy and sloth.  Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way, and here are just a few ways to stop the feeling of powerlessness.

1. PCs have the same abilities whether the player controls them or not
If a character can’t climb walls during play, but he can during the cut scenes, players can feel frustrated and apathetic about the whole game.

It works in the opposite way as well.  Final Fantasy VII is one of the hallmarks of RPG games, and even made our list of essential RPGs from a writing standpoint. One woman told me this story, however. A little girl was enjoying the game when the scene came up where suddenly you could no longer control Cloud’s movements. You know what’s coming. When Aeris dies, the girl turned to her mother and said, “Why doesn’t she just use a Phoenix Down?” Indeed, by that time you could easily resurrect “dead” characters with a Phoenix Down, but you couldn’t save Aeris because the story demanded it.

2. Don’t tie players’ hands
Even in linear stories, options are nice for players. If a player can’t find the workaround you envisioned, s/he just might stop caring. On a larger scale, allowing players to choose an ending that is meaningful rather than forced upon them, like in THE WITCHER, can make them feel quite powerful, and may encourage replayability as well.

3. No deus ex machina
Players actions should actually decide the outcome of the game. The opposite, deus ex machina, means “God’s” actions lead to the outcome.

In games, God’s actions can be both positive or negative. In Final Fantasy V for Super Nintendo, players must stop the destruction of crystals. Every time you arrive to save a crystal, it is conveniently destroyed just as you get there. On the other hand, in Resident Evil 2, you can defeat the big boss when Ada miraculously hands you the keys to the kingdom by tossing you a missile launcher. Convenience in game design is still convenience and can leave the player feeling nerfed.  What’s the point of going after the crystal if it’s going to be destroyed anyway?  Why can’t the guy with the missile launcher defeat the big bad?

Eliminating powerlessness may be an admirable goal, but some players actually enjoy a bit of it in moderation if it deepens the story.  You will have to decide for yourself what experience you want the player to have and work from there.

Have you seen better examples of powerlessness in a game? Have their been times when you actually enjoyed a sense of powerlessness in a game story or design?

This post brought to you by Writers Cabal, a game writing and design partnership.
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Inaugurating game writers: A scramble for power or respect?

Happy Inauguration Day!  As the TV news waxes on about the shift in power, my thoughts shifted to power in game development.  Those of you who work in development may have witnessed power struggles between designers and programmers, or between producers and everyone else.  It could be that you, as a developer, aren’t concerned about whether story and writing is relevant in games or not.  Your concern may be with what writers really want — is it respect or power?

Respect
Many developers, writers and otherwise, believe that if developers respected writers more and gave them the same amount of time to work as other departments, then the quality would improve.  Therefore, respect for the craft must come before the craft can prove itself as a necessary component of game development.

On the other hand, bringing in writers early won’t make a great deal of difference if you don’t bring in the right writers or work with them effectively.  In this sense, respect must be earned, not given.  Fortunately, you have this blog to master some of these hurdles already.   Do you think respect comes first for writers, or that writers must first earn it?

Power
What is the real price of bringing in writers early and integrating them more fully into the development process?  Some executive producers and creative directors prefer to create the story, and view writers as a potential enemy that could lampoon their stories.  In this sense, writers are seen as a threat to their power and their ability to effect their creative vision.

On the other hand, developers who bring on writers to improve their stories find they have the power of choice.  If you don’t like the writers’ work, you can ignore it.  If you like it, you are in a position to take the credit for bringing on good writers.  Writers are rarely in a position to usurp your position.  In this sense, writers can actually boost your power within the company.  How do you view writers’ power at your company?

Quality
“Narrative designers” like us seek to weave story and theme throughout every aspect of the game.  It may sound like we’re trying to take over your game!  But are we really after power?  Certainly, there may be a few writers out there who really want to be in control.  However, I would say the majority of narrative designers and writers want the same thing the artist and programmer want — an opportunity to perform at the height of our ability and use what we do best to improve the game for the player.  Power, respect, what-have-you are just means to this very important end.

Are you ready to inaugurate writers into your development team? What do you think the biggest stumbling block is to making a place for writers and narrative designers in games — lack of power and respect, or something else entirely?

This post brought to you by Writers Cabal, a game writing and design partnership.
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Where to find stories on story in games

With all the excitment of the new year, you may have missed some of these articles on writing in games.  Integrated storytelling, story structure, story and theme as a basis for game concepts, and the awesomeness of good characters have preoccupied the minds of developers in the past two months.  Check out the results:

Hey Game Developers, Learn How To Use Your Game Writers!
I do not think this link is what you think it means. A familiar refrain, this article summarizes a Develop article on incorporating writers into the development process. Of greater interest, however, are the comments at the end, which include players love of story and distaste for poorly delivered story. See, it’s not just us!  Add your two cents to the conversation there or here…

Analysis: Storyteller And Game Narrative
Emily Short explores whether letting your players in on story structure makes it more or less fun for them.

Idea Origins
This article explores different ways games are conceived. Oddly enough, it discusses theme with story, but doesn’t use the more literary definition of theme, which usually is some comment on mankind. Instead, theme is just the story or setting which pervades the game. What’s your take on it?

The GLaDOS Effect — Can Antagonists Rule The World?
Is this article about how much fun it is to play a villain, or is it about how a well-written and engaging character, villain or protagonist, can carry a game? You decide.

What’s your take on these articles?  See you next week for more sin!

This post brought to you by Writers Cabal, a game writing and design partnership.
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