How to write FOR GAMES

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How to write FOR GAMES

Post  Duke of Spoot on Thu Sep 22, 2011 3:47 pm

Basic Idea:
If you want to write a book or a short story, there's a procedure for that. When you write for a movie, there's a totally different procedure, and the result is a screenplay. Games are neither books nor movies, and should NOT be written using those procedures.

I am excited to see that many writers have joined this group, and your writing skills will definitely be useful in the coming development cycles. One thing to note, however, is that this isn't a creative writing class. I'm sure you all understand the content differences, but there are also differences in process. There are three main reasons for this:

  1. Unlike creative writing, often in video game development you are writing someone else's story, rather than your own. This means that everything you write must be approved. Don't write your 120-page opus and find out that your lead designer prefers vampires to wizards.

  2. In both creative writing and screenwriting, generally most or all of the writing is done before anything else. Video game stories, on the other hand, are usually being written while the programmers program, the musicians compose, and the artists draw. These people can't wait for you to finish a fully dialogued plot line before they start their jobs.

  3. More than in movies (and especially with independent/low budget development), story and dialogue are forced to adapt to the technical constraints of the programming staff. It sucks to be two thirds of the way through your story about gargoyles that shoot lasers from their mouths when the programmer tells you that gargoyle flight paths are REALLY hard to program and the laser physics aren't working and the game would be a lot easier to make without either of those things.


For all of these reasons, it isn't advisable to write a story in the regular way (i.e. from beginning to end before anybody else begins work). Instead, video game writing is an expansive process. This means you will begin with a rough frame of the entire plot, characters, and setting, usually about three to five pages long. Once that is approved by everyone, you can expand on everything to create a general outline, usually 10 to 12 pages long. Once that is approved, you can fully flesh out the details of the plot, get that approved by everyone, and then fill out the dialogue.

Having everyone's approval prevents you from going to far with an unworkable idea. Also, by giving people updates on the development of the story, you give them a chance to work while you are working. By the time you are finished with the plot, the art, music, and programming will be ready to begin setting up the game!

Just as a quick reference, the steps that I propose are:

  1. A rough frame of the entire plot, characters, and setting: 3-5 pages

  2. General outline, creating more specific places, character back stories, important items, etc.: 10-12 pages

  3. Flesh out the plot, creating a general timeline, all the important places, characters, and items are described. If you are working on a 3d game or a game with major cinematic sequences, this is the point when you generally begin story boarding those sequences, setting up camera angles, and other general Director-like things: 20-80 pages, depending on the length of the game.

  4. Add dialogue. After this step you can begin hiring voice actors (depending on how far along everyone else is): at least 40 pages usually, can be a shit ton more.


Last edited by TheShadowMaster on Mon Sep 26, 2011 1:32 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : It's good advice. I'm makingit a Sticky. ~The Shadow Master)
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Duke of Spoot

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Re: How to write FOR GAMES

Post  thasric on Fri Sep 23, 2011 11:15 am

Very well thought-out. I approve.
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Re: How to write FOR GAMES

Post  nintendude794 on Sun Sep 25, 2011 4:28 pm

thasric wrote:Very well thought-out. I approve.

Agreed, indeed. Somebody oughtta sticky this thread!
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