Chronicles of A Third World Storyteller – Episode 3: Tool for Writing for Games & Dev Diaries!

Week 8 – Meeting with Christy Dena, Experience Game Writer/Narrative Designer

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This week, I had a meeting with the Games Department Coordinator of SAE Brisbane, Christy Dena about writing for games. She’s a well-accomplished writer-director-designer in games, films, digital theatre etc. Basically she’s the right person to talk to, about writing for games. And what a meeting it was. She gave me many tips and resources I could use to write for games. There is too many to cover in this blog, so I’ll try my best to sum up her tips:

1. Spreadsheet is My Best Friend

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This is the one that I cherished the most. Maybe to many senior game writers and game developers, this is nothing new. But to me, it’s the one I’ve been wanting to know the most. Yes, I’ve googled and did research about writing for games. With the help of Adrian Forest, one of the Game Design lecturer in SAE Brisbane, I know and understand a lot about writing for games.
But the answer are too many to choose from. There seems to be no right or wrong answer when writing for games. And I know, deep inside the games development, there must be a unified format to write for games. There must a tool that many game writers lean on more when writing for games. And that tool is, a simple spreadsheet.
“But why spreadsheet, Fedya?”, some of you asked. Simple, it’s a tool or format where game programmers and designers can understand what you’re trying to write. During the course of time in games development, they have multiple spreadsheets that they used to communicate within their team, and it’s no strange that copywriter/writer/narrative designer of the team using the same tool as well (example above).

2. Be flexible in writing for games.

One thing that I have to realised and REALLY, REALLY REALISED is that, games have iterations. And they change throughout the development. Most of the time, it doesn’t even look anything like the its iteration when it reached beta. And most of the time, it is better that way. Sometimes, the designers and developers have massive ambitions in creating a game with robust mechanics, animations, visuals etc, and it had to be scaled down.
Bottomline, They have kill their darlings,  and you as a game writer/narrative designer, should do the same thing. So as a game writer, I have to be prepared to change my writings, in accordance to the games that I’m writing for, at any point in time. This is to make sure in order to make sure that my writings stay cohesive with the game that is being developed. And that is really important, when you’re writing for games!

3. Limit your writings. Write as succinct as you can. Especially for “dialogues”.

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Unlike my blogs, it is the utmost important rule to write as little as possible, when writing for games. Films do have similar rule, but in games, the word counts is a lot lesser than that. How many RPG games or adventure games that you play that makes you feel like the dialogues are taking FOREVER to finish? See, that’s what I want to avoid when I am writing for games, or when I’m writing dialogues for games.
So that’s pretty much it. Onwards to weekly updates of the projects:

 

Projects Updates:

1. NeonKnight – Dev Diaries/Trailer

CURRENT STATUS OF THE PROJECT:

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So yesterday (12th November, 2016), with the help of my good buddy, Julian, I filmed 2/3 of the 2nd Dev Diary for NeonKnight. Why 2/3 of the dev diary? Because one of the programmers couldn’t made it to the filming session due to scheduling conflict. But other than that, I am really happy with the audio, lighting, eyeline as well as the interview being recorded.  Editing process will begin this week, by Julian.
As for the rest of the dev diaries, it will be recorded tomorrow (14th November, 2016), again, with the help of Julian. And that editing process will also begin this week. Since we filmed the dev diary above in The Void, the real challenge is to make sure we can make the background, at least as good as it. Though it’s just a minor problem, really.
As for the trailer, I am still waiting for the recorded footage by the developers. It will probably be done by next week. Looking forwards to editing it.

 

2. The Wisp – Corporate Video

CURRENT STATUS OF THE PROJECT:

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TIPS WHEN FILMING UNDER A HOT SUN: Bring sunscreen and water bottles! It was really when we were filming this last Thursday (10th November, 2016). The sun wasn’t kind to us. But the game developers of The Wisp toughen up, and stay strong throughout the rest of their interviews. It may seem like I’m doing another dev diaries and technically, it kind feels like it it s going to be a dev diary. But, the idea is to show a different side of them, as game developers.
So far, we’ve recorded 1/3 of the footage we needed to piece it together. The other shots will be capturing them doing stuff other than them sitting in front of a computer. Again, with my friend, we’ll be filming the rest of it throughout this week and the next. The next recording will commence on this Tuesday (15th November, 2016) and This Friday (18th of February, 2016). And on that time, we will bring umbrellas and waterbottles and sunscreens and whatnot! Watch out, sun! You’re going down!

 

3. Incapacitor – Mockumentary-style Dev Diaries

CURRENT STATUS OF THE PROJECT:

We only had three hours (or four) to filming this (video above. NOTE: it’s a rough assembly) and we did it. The lighting was rough, but the good thing is that, we’re doing a mockumentary-flavored dev diary. So it is (somewhat) forgiven if the lighting is bad. Sadly, Julian (my cinematographer, also my best friend) didn’t have a proper shoulder rig to work with. Now that I think of it, he could use a tripod and make it a monopo-I’m digressing, point is we still get the message across.
As a director to this mockumentary, Ben and Che, the two of the six developers working on Incapacitor, are really great to work with. They’re not shy being in front of camera at all, which is great. Sadly, both of them, along with the rest of the crew are too busy for me to write a more elobarte mockumentary-flavored dev diaries(final script here). So, we settle with just this, and the rest will be a more casual dev diary with Ben, being the MC through the videos.
The next dev diary will be recorded this Thursday(17th November, 2016).

 

4. Invader From The Deep (working title) – Commercial

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CURRENT STATUS OF THE PROJECT:

I didn’t have enough time to do much on this project, since I am busy with the rest of it. Will catch up to it next week. The assets for the “tower” enemies in the game are almost done. Now, I just need to find good production designer/costumer to help making it look as cheap yet good-looking as it can be.

 

5. Hand of Rogues (working title) – Copywriter/Commercial

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CURRENT STATUS OF THE PROJECT:

Not much to be done for this project yet. But I need to make sure I am prepared for it, when it happens. So, I’m planning to play Munchkin (the game where they want my writings to have similar tone) with my friends to see what makes Munchkin funny-yet-witty writings, work.
Also, I think I need to look at another funny card games, so that I don’t fall into the trap of having a writing tone, too similar to that of Munchkin. I need to respect myself more as a writer, to write something more original and unique!

6. Iris – Lead Writer

CURRENT STATUS OF THE PROJECT:

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See, the reason why I’ve been asking around about writing for games or the process of it, is because I want to know how to write better for this game. I understand that the game is a story-driven game (aka Narrative game). But, it doesn’t mean it is easy. I have (probably) all of the freedom to write a narrative within Iris to my advantage. The script (or story arc) for this world will be done within this. Will update this section once I finished it.
Also, how awesome is that character design? That’s Dox, our lead protagonist of Iris.

 

Final Thoughts

Things are getting more and more hectic as weeks gone by. I need to stay focus and scale down some of my ambitions within all of these projects. Better to have really really good small things, than big mediocre things, right?
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