Develop 09: The Writing Process

By Kieron Gillen on July 22nd, 2009 at 2:38 pm.

The first panel which was something of a disappointment. There’s a tendency for industry panels to turn into a reinstatement of the accepted wisdom (Or, at least, the accepted forward-looking wisdom). Even as someone not actually in development, there was little about the writing process which was new to me. That said, one of the panelists – James Swallow – is a writer on Deus Ex 3, and let out a few minor details on the process, which are worth reiterating.

The panellists were the aforementioned Swallow (Maestrom), Justin Villiers (Games still under NDA) and Andy Walsh (A heaving mass of games). There’s much about process – the wisdom really is that you need a writer as early in the process to get the best out of them, and there’s no standardised place where writers enter. Get a guy in late, and basically you’re just getting a guy who’s hanging wallpaper in an already existent house.

(That line’s mine rather than the panellists by the way. I suspect that’s my biggest disappointment with the panel. For a group of writing, I’d have hoped for more sign of writerly flair in their presentation)

The method most seemed to hail involved a centrepiece writer brought on earlier – a Narrative Designer or Narrative Director, analogous to any other head of department on the team – who is the one who oversees all elements of this sort in the game. As the development amps up, assuming a text-heavy game, other writers are brought into fill other roles. Some will concentrate on barks, others cut-scenes and so on. There seemed to be a general agreement there’s too much work for one writer to do.

(And while the industry seems to agree with that, and it seems to be the sane thing to do, I wonder about it. When our general high-point seems to be Planescape Torment, where half of its 800,000 words were apparently written by Designer/Writer Chris Avellone, you wonder whether what games actually need is someone to go absolutely mental and take on the Sisyphean task rather than doing the sensible thing.)

Perhaps the most interesting point for an actual gamer is the understanding that what we’ll often dismiss as shit writing is nothing to do with the writing at all. In the earlier example, if a writer is brought in after they can change the structure, they’re often left dealing with plot holes that they can only paste over. Even if they are earlier, if the design team add levels that need to be integrated, the writer has to work out a way. And then there’s implementation itself, the time to script stuff in game – the time to make the dialogue actually work in game is always underestimated. My take away message was something which I already knew, but is worth restressing: it’s safer to damn a game for bad writing rather than a bad writer, in the same way blaming Quality Assurance for bugs is unfair.

Walker’s perennial bugbear of bad voice-acting and how to get the best was explored thoroughly, with notes on how much and how little extra detail you should add to a script to make sure an actor understands the line. In short, key words. And the best option, of course, is to just be there. Also interesting was the back and forth with a publisher wanting a maximum efficiency of voice-over and a developer not being able to implement everything that’s been recorded. If a publisher sees that only half the dialogue they taped is actually in game, they suspect waste, and cut the budget for next time. Of course, this just means that half of *that* dialogue ends up in it, making it far worse.

And finally, the Deus Ex snippet. Swalow talked a little about how writing isn’t just words. You use every tool available, including the environment the player passes through. As such, in Deus Ex, they’re embracing the pathetic fallacy and making each hub area in the game actually mirror the rollercoaster of emotions which the lead is experiencing. At a time of tension, you’ll enter a gloomy, cramped hub. If a major opponent has been defeated and things are looking optimistic, expect the next hub to be a wide-open space and generally airy. In other words, the writers influence the art team and the art team influences the writers – as when you see the environment which results, it inspires the writers to take a different angle.

[Main-image clip-art taken from here.]

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61 Comments »

  1. Mike says:

    I think I’d object to Planescape being cited as a high point. First of all, can you actually have a ‘high point’ in that sense? What’s the high point of literature? Catch 22? Pride and Prejudice? Bridget Jones’ Diary?

    Second, Planescape is dense, and long and rich, but I’m not sure whether I’d say it was the best written game ever (this is perhaps a slight reiteration of point one). Many other titles spring to mind for completely different reasons. It’s a broad spectrum.

  2. The Poisoned Sponge says:

    While obviously it varies depending on what kind of game you’re making, I do feel that at least having a storyboard set up before you begin working out what you’re going to do seems like the most obvious, most common sense way to make a game. I’ve never really understood the concept of making a bunch of levels, then just tying them together with story afterwards.

    The dialogue and such doesn’t have to be there from the get-go, but it’s like you see with certain films; you’ll have ‘story’ by one person, and then the film is ‘written’ by another. Without a solid sense of where the game starts, where it goes, and where it finishes, the narrative is going to feel stilted at the very least. Not every game has to go from city, to jungle, to mountain, to lava.

  3. Sovietmudkipz says:

    TLDR;

    j/k. It’s interesting that you think this was worth writing about- and how i’m now cognizant over what my own processes are when I read something related to my interests. I do feel that the audience for game journalists is really lax on what they read.

    But then, it’s because we (okay, well me anyways) appreciate both spin and no-spin. We like to hear no-spin to get a general sense of the game, and a general feel on its short-comings. This is a state natural to the more experienced writer. Also, we really do appreciate spin to point out game-breaking flaws (most of us aren’t stupid enough to believe it’ll be half as bad in these articles after successfully identifying the spin), or brutally beating a game to a pulp.

    The only think I don’t like is when the writing seems not like criticism but a sales pitch (gamestop).

  4. Alaric says:

    You know what interests me? How did Overlord II end up having such a terrible plot after having been touted as having “real” writer Rhianna Pratchett work on it? Is it in spite of her efforts or because of them?

    Curiously enough she also worked on the original Overlord, which had a significantly better story.

  5. Hermit says:

    It’s a shame they didn’t follow up the writing process discussion with the equally important question of how to actually get that information to the player. Ingame notes and books are good for background material, but not everyone’s going to read them. You never can be sure that your player is going to talk to a certain NPC. The more ways in which you can present the story to the player, the more likely they are to engage with it.

  6. sigma83 says:

    Mind, she also wrote for Mirror’s Edge, which I thought was pretty good

  7. QBall says:

    I’m not particularly a fan of story-driven gaming, I’d rather have the option of following the story or just run around guns blazing. For example, Doom, if you wanted to find out about the story, you read the manual, like I did in the car on the way back from buying it (I was 12 at the time, and I still am on many levels…)

    That way, the level designers can go crazy, the writer can’t really be criticised for anything much and we get the option of following the storyline or just blasting away with a massive grin.

  8. Gregorix says:

    Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was a good example (I think) of a game where the writing / voice acting / scripting was pretty well intergrated. The art direction as well, seemed to match what the Deus Ex 3 guys are looking for.

  9. Tei says:

    Maybe videogames writing is not writting TEXT. Is writting a history.
    You can use words, but you need to translate these words to something else, I don’t know.. colors, textures, models, gameplay devices, text, sounds, etc.

  10. Mike says:

    Yes, I’d agree, Tei (although I think the panel was specifically about text).

  11. Hermit says:

    Agreed, Tei. Which is where it’s important to get your text (books, conversations, etc) writers involved early on – that way they’re involved in the early design process and can influence the art direction a bit too. Bioshock does this well – people often point at the radio and logs as the main story device, but if you stick on the Art Subtitles you notice a lot of subtle stuff in the world which further develop the themes and backstory.

  12. Stupoider says:

    To be honest, the game which I see as having the best writing would be Psychonauts. Fantastic writing right there. :D

    It’s a shame Tim Schafer isn’t there though. :(

  13. SanguineAngel says:

    It strikes me that no matter what game your making, as long as there is an element of story telling taking place, the writer (the head writer, or the only writer) should be there right at the beginning. It actually seems ludicrous to me that this is not standard practice. Surely this should be a vital part of any design document?

    I mean, when I am planning any project – especially a creative work – I will firstly design it. I am sure this is something that happens with computer game design, as I am not sure how a single whole could ever be made out of so many parts without it. Surely, any storyline will be included at this stage. Sure, it may change and grow from there, but is really should be a part of it from the get go.

    Craziness! It explains so much though.

  14. Dante says:

    I can think of more than a few games that smacked of having the writer arriving late to the party and desperately trying to tidy things up before the game shipped.

    Mirror’s Edge comes to mind.

  15. Kieron Gillen says:

    Mike: I muddied it with “seems” to imply it’s not the only position. But it is the one which always turns up in terms of writer-lead games writing. I suspect you’d see exactly how many people love Planescape’s writing if you wrote a piece saying “Planescape’s writing is mediocre at best” or whatever

    Sovietmudkipz: I’m not sure I understand what you mean. You seem to be writing about Games Journalism? Is that right? In which case, you’re off topic. This is about writing for videogames not journalism. If not, can you ellaborate?

    KG

  16. jalf says:

    Isn’t it kind of skirting the issue to simply say “Get a writer involved as early as possible”?

    I mean, if the question had been how to get good graphics, would we consider “Get an artist involved as early as possible” a good answer?

    It seems to indicate “we, as game developers, have absolutely no clue how to create a narrative in our games. So the best we can do is hire an expert to come have a look, just like we would if the toilet was clogged up, or we needed to get rid of a vermin infestation”.

  17. Pantsman says:

    I feel like I’ve missed something. What pathetic fallacy is the Deus Ex team embracing?

    @Dante: I hope that’s what happened. It says something rather discouraging about Rhianna if it’s not the case.

  18. Kieron Gillen says:

    Pantsman: I’ll add a wikipedia link to the term. I probably should have done already to be clear.

    KG

  19. Pantsman says:

    @Kieron: It’s not even eleven AM, and already I’ve learned something today! Truly, this deserves such an enormous link.

  20. Archonsod says:

    Writing is pretty much doomed as long as they keep thinking in terms of story rather than scene.
    It’s the same with any new media; it took television around a decade to realise that presenting a visual radio program; consisting of between one to five people stood in front of microphones, was not actually the optimal format for a visual medium.
    Gaming’s the same. The fundamental point of games is interactivity, and any attempt to railroad a storyline is running counter to that. It’s why games which have professional writers behind them tend to suck more than not; it seems the skillset which makes for an excellent linear storyteller does not transfer too well into an interactive or improvised format.

    In fact, I wonder if they might not be better off hiring theatre directors. Thinking about the games which had a strong storyline in recent years it seems to be more about scene rather than story; it’s not that the story being told is strong, but the presentation, particularly in terms of how you pass the story to the player. It’s much more akin to theatre than narrative; you have a limited ‘stage’ in which to provide the information and story you want to get across to the audience/player, and since the actor/player is not within your control you need to do so via non-direct methods; visual or audio effects.

  21. Dante says:

    @ Pantsman

    I’m almost certain that’s how it happened, just look at how the entire plot is squeezed into those horribly animated 2D cutscenes.

    I couldn’t disagree with Archonsod more by the way. Thinking that writing is all about crafting a cool scene or two is one of the big problems with game writing, it only perpetuates dumb muscle epics with incomprehensible plots.

  22. qrter says:

    Mind, she also wrote for Mirror’s Edge, which I thought was pretty good.

    What!? The writing in Mirror’s Edge is laughably bad!

  23. Xercies says:

    @Archonsod

    I would kind of agree with you buit not taking story away completely. I see the best written stories(or maybe not best written stories but the best plotted stories) are the ones where the game creator is actually the one writing the story as well. So maybe we shouldn’t be hiring professional writers but trying to coax the people that are making it to have a story as well as a world.

    Since i think actually not having a story is very limited sometimes. Yes there are a few Games that don’t need stories(Quake is a very good example) but I think a lot of games do need stories.

  24. Dante says:

    To elaborate, writing consists of many different aspects, and elevating one over the other in significance is fallacy. Each is as important as the other, which is not to say each must be equally good to succeed, but instead that each has to potential to make a work great. Here’s my definitions, which are of course by no means definitive:

    Idea: The ability to come up with an entertaining and original idea to base your work around, be it plot, setting, character or theme. The ability to come up with something singular and imaginative. Hard sci-fi often elevates this trope above all else, with writers like Asimov working almost exclusively on their ability to form an interesting ‘what if?’ scenario.

    Plot: The ability to structure a work so that the narrative flows in an appreciable way. Allowing dramatic events to occur at the right times, and making the ‘action’ rise to a crescendo and fall appropriately. Thrillers and mysteries elevate the plot above all else, using well timed twists and turns to grab the attention.

    Character: The ability to craft interesting and believable characters that resonate with the viewer. Not necessarily sympathetic or even empathetic (possible not a word) but deep and engrossing. The ‘character study’ is obviously this taken to extremes.

    Form: Simply put, the ability to put one word in front of another in an entertaining fashion. The use of style and craft to make words flow in a lyrical fashion. This is most obviously seen in verbal comedy (Oscar Wilde being the master) but also applies to those writers who like grand speeches (Paddy Chayefsky, I’m looking at you).

    And all that just pertains to literature, if you move to say, comics, you get visual imagination thrown into the mix, theatre adds movement, film adds both, and games add interactivity, but they shouldn’t be elevated above what’s already there.

  25. Dante says:

    Bugger, failed to close the bold.

    @ Xercies

    I think you’re coming at it from the wrong angle, those creator/writers are already talented writers in their own right. And it’s because they’re overseeing the direction of the plot that it works.

    It’s this belief that writing isn’t hard and everyone can do it that results in these poorly written, generic games that we see so much of.

  26. Travis Megill says:

    I’m not sure that qualifies as pathetic fallacy. It’s just a reflection of the character’s emotional state, and doesn’t actually attribute human qualities to the inanimate.

  27. Tei says:

    Quake has history. That history about Ancient Gods tryiing to break into our dimension to devour our souls.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cthulhu_Mythos_in_popular_culture
    ////////////
    is set more or less in an adaptation of Lovecraft’s universe. The later episodes are inspired by several dark fantasy influences, notably that of H. P. Lovecraft; the end game boss is named Shub-Niggurath (one of Lovecraft’s mythical “Ancient Ones”) and the end boss of the first episode is named Chthon, although there is little resemblance between the game’s portrayal and the original literary description. Some levels have Lovecraftian names such as the “Vaunts of Zin” or the “Ebon fortress”.
    ////////////

  28. TeeJay says:

    I’m not sure I like games with “strong” story lines … I often find myself clicking through dialogues and speed-reading text, thinking “just get on with it!”

    I do like a *bit* of story and a *bit* of detail, but usually I want action, exploration, loot, to ‘game’ the system and mess around – I don’t really want to feel like I am reading a novel or watching a movie. I am often happy with silly/nerdy stuff that seems to have be stuck in there by the game designers as a joke – far more than wordy, polished stuff that takes itself really seriously.

    In fact I often *invent* my own interior dialogue and “story” as I play, I don’t necessariy need to be spoon fed or told what I (my character) is feeling, second by second – I can decide that for myself – along with what I *really* think about various NPCs etc. I don’t really want this all written out for me in detail by someone precious writer who takes themselves very seriously.

  29. Obscura says:

    What!? The writing in Mirror’s Edge is laughably bad!

    Its not “laughably bad” at all, i really enjoyed it. IT was fairly obviously troubled though, and the 2d sequences jarr the player, pulling you out of the world. but in terms of the actual writing, its great. good voice cast as well. Unfortunately it very much has the vibe of budget strings being tightened during development.

    On this subject as a whole, obviously it would be silly to say EVERY game needs a writer from day one, some forms of interactive entertainment simply don’t need it. But others do. With a game such as Bioshock, i cant imagine even designing a single level without somehow considering how the world you’re building got this way. Its all interwoven with the plot.

    When Pixar write a movie, they spend over a year on the writing process, and the storyboarding process, before anyone touches a computer or locks down a single character design. when you’re entering such an intense and complex development cycle, you need to know what you’re trying to express.

    Im not saying games need to copy movies, they dont. but surely that level of planning can only be a good thing if one of your main goals is to tell a good story well.

  30. Stupoider says:

    Oh, I’d also like to voice my hatred of large sections of dialogue which you can’t skip. I kept thinking I was watching a film in the Matrix trilogy whilst I was playing Assassin’s Creed.

  31. Tei says:

    @TeeJay: The question is. Do you like Portal?. Portal is “just” a puzzle game. You ignored all the “I am trapped in a Cube like experiment here, the experiment end killing me” and played it straight it like a puzzle game?

  32. Gap Gen says:

    I think stories can be very deep and yet not impact the rest of the game negatively. Half-Life 2 had a very minimalist, non-invasive storytelling technique and yet it worked rather well. I think Mass Effect suffered from too much talking – there’s a kind of elegance in brevity, and if all your character is going to do is spout bollocks about how a non-existent piece of technology works, you might as well not bother with that.

  33. Nalano says:

    @Obscura

    I liked the stylistic flare of the 2d cartoon sequences in Mirror’s Edge, and I think the voice-acting was good. However, the world and characters felt rather flat for me: Suspension of disbelief came only in fits and spurts, leaving a large number of fridge moments to jar me.

    The story and its characters felt to me like they belonged in a B made-for-TV movie the Sci Fi network would show during the day to kill airtime. The premise was flimsy, the twists were telegraphed from miles away, and everybody hammed up their roles. Especially the ex-runner.

    I enjoyed the game immensely, but that’s because I’ve gotten used to turning a blind eye to plot.

  34. Dante says:

    For me Half Life 2′s storyline was too minimalist. I missed almost all of it.

    There’s a big difference between caring for dialogue (and I shudder to hear at anything being called ‘too talky’) and ‘spouting bollocks about how a non-existent piece of technology works’ Gap Gen. The latter is over exposising, the curse of bad sci-fi (sometimes I think the quality of a sentence is best measured by how few words in it are made up).

    It’s not that all talking is bad, it’s that bad talking is bad, which is self evident.

  35. Tei says:

    Some good sci-fi also over expose. And I hate wen need it.

  36. TeeJay says:

    @ Tei

    I loved Portal. It had a very light touch, snippets here and here, not vast amounts of over-serious exposition.

    I loved looking through a window and seeing a powerpoint presentation with stuff bitching about Black Mesa winning contracts etc.

    It had graffiti on walls, not cut-scenes where some talking head waffled on with lists of names, or books and journal entries with pages and pages of ‘backstory’. The whole thing was very tongue-in-cheek not over-serious.

  37. SanguineAngel says:

    @ Obscura

    “When Pixar write a movie, they spend over a year on the writing process, and the storyboarding process, before anyone touches a computer or locks down a single character design. when you’re entering such an intense and complex development cycle, you need to know what you’re trying to express.

    Im not saying games need to copy movies, they dont. but surely that level of planning can only be a good thing if one of your main goals is to tell a good story well.”

    Darn tootin’. That’s what I’m sayin. It only makes sense that games go through a full and complete development cycle.

    Also, to Obscura AND Nalano: I really enjoyed all the aspects of Mirrors Edge. Certainly, a poorly planned development cycle may have cause 2d cut scenes but I actually thought the whole thing fit together very well. I got quite involved in the story – which is really rare for me these days. I usually don’t finish games because I lose interest and there’s no hooks pulling me back in.

    Back on track: I do believe that professional writers should be a big boon to computer games. But they need to be a full part of the entire development team from the beginning – with input into all aspects. Just as any other team member should really have input into all aspects – like one cohesive entity cosidering all things fully. When the level desgin and the storyline have to interact (which they usually do!) it only makes sense that both level designer and writer must interact and work together. Then add in all the other members of the team! The fact is, in such an interactive medium, all aspects of the game will be working in tandem all the time.

    Ahem… anyway, point being that the writer(s) should be involved fully from the beginning – from the concept stage.

  38. Wurzel says:

    As stated by one of the articles earlier this week, I’d say that games aren’t about telling you a story; they’re about giving you a framework in which to act out a story, as it’s in the interacting that games really shine. Thus getting someone who understands the key themes of the plot, the symbolism, and also the world itself in early on is crucial if you want to give the player a coherent stage on which they will act out your story.

    I think that there is something to be said for the idea of one individual being responsible for much of the game’s story, e.g. Chris Avellone. That overarching, consistent feel can contribute greatly to a story. If each level or whatever has its own subwriters, it can begin to feel disconnected, like playing a tabletop where the gm switches every other session.

  39. Dante says:

    The one writer/many writers thing has been around for a while, especially in TV.

    One writer will always have the plus point of a unified vision, but the flipside of that is no-one to tell him when he’s gone off the deep end (Hideo Kojima really needs someone like this). And the sheer amount of effort needed to plow out so much material. Aaron Sorkin wrote nearly every episode of The West Wing himself until the end of series four, the quality is great, but the scripts arrived late and were re-written at the last minute, and he ended up so stressed out he developed a drug problem.

    The other end of the scale is writing in a group, this makes content a lot easier, and means the group can critique one another’s work. The problem is that uniqueness can be diluted as everyone vetoes what they don’t like. However this can work if the group is close knit and understands each other and the style of the show. Or a strong head writer who sets the tone, Futurama was written by a pool of writers and the quality was consistently high.

    No one way is better than the other both need good circumstances to work out properly (a workaholic single writer of no small talent and an ability to edit himself, or a close knit group with a strong leader). Advocating one way or another won’t really help games writing improve, because the single biggest reason for all bad writing in any media remains, that some people just can’t write, god bless em, but insist on doing so anyway.

    The best thing you can do is keep these people away and try and find those who can write a story leading it from the beginning, and that means, among other things, making sure that you take a good long look before you hand the reigns over to someone who came up through the coding ranks.

  40. Nalano says:

    @SanguineAngel

    I don’t disagree with you there: The writer(s) should be an integral part of the process and should be there from ground zero. I’d much rather they attempted to create a plot and stylization for their game than not. Even with the wallbangers I think Mirror’s Edge was a fresh breath in terms of an addition to PC gaming.

    ‘Course, I think the Half Life plotline is clunky today, but that didn’t stop me from playing HL in 1998 and thinking, “holy shit, this is an instant PC gaming classic,” so maybe I’m being crotchety in my mid-20s.

  41. Obscura says:

    @Nalano & SanguineAngel

    Much of it is down to personal preferences of course. but in terms of the animation, i felt that it ruined the flow. As an animator, i liked the style, it just didn’t really feel like i needed to be taken out of the world, especially when the engine itself is so pretty.

    Also, the Mirrors Edge comic, also written by Rhianna proved to me that she knew how to handle the characters and tone of the world. In many ways it had what the game didnt, and to me that says that it wasn’t through lack of ideas or ability to write that the game became what it was.

    I think its fair to say shes proved herself as a good games scriptwriter.

  42. Dante says:

    @ Obscura

    Surely as an animator you had to notice that, while the style of the drawing might be good, the movement of the characters was absolutely horrendous?

  43. Obscura says:

    @Dante

    It was obviously rushed, yet again a sign that purse strings were tightened. i would have preferred consistence in the styles, maybe then they could have got the animation better overall. the longer you animate one character, the better it gets.

    Besides, we were talking about writing quality, which isn’t connected with animation quality. the writer doesn’t have absolute control over how their work is used further down the line. If a team works well, in an ideal world there should be communication back and forth between everyone involved.

    Mirrors edge isn’t perfect by any means. But i don’t think they are in the quality of the writing.

  44. Dante says:

    Not at all, I was merely surprised to see an animator voice approval for the scenes, that’s all.

    I don’t think the quality of the writing was awful (although it wasn’t particularly good) in fact I don’t think there was anywhere near enough of it, no more than a few vague suggestions as to what on earth was going on.

    Yet another reason to suspect that the writer got a mostly finished game dumped on their desk with a post it note saying “make this make sense”.

  45. Gap Gen says:

    Dante: It’s true that there’s good writing and bad writing, and some people are more understanding of sci-fi bullshit than others – one of my favourite books is Red Mars, which is a huge book with two huge sequels, but its depth and length works well, and despite (apparent) niggles with the science on a very detailed level, it tries to be faithful to the science. Mass Effect’s conversation about how the Normandy’s engine works is precisely the opposite of this – unnecessary and bollocks. If you don’t understand something, don’t go there, as Einstein once sorta-said.

    But yeah, Mass Effect is too talky. Granted, there’s good dialogue and bad dialogue, but I felt that Mass Effect suffered from too much telling and not enough showing. A game isn’t a novel, it’s supposed to be a game, and standing talking to someone about something is a poor way to establish character. If I wanted to listen to pages of sci-fi backstory, I would have bought all the Star Wars novels on audiobook (and yeah, OK, I knew Mass Effect was like this, but the rest of the game was OK). The scene where you’re arresting a crime lord an Wrex just goes ahead and blasts the guy is a good example of how game storytelling should be.

    Sometimes the best storytelling in games is a mix of both talking and action. Deus Ex made you care about characters because your actions and words merged together to decide a character’s fate. What’s better – listening to a sad story about a smuggler who got shot by police, or acting out that story yourself, where your actions decide the outcome?

  46. Tei says:

    @TeeJay: Well.. for some reason your comment made me happy. I will not read the older one, since the last one is soo positive.

  47. Dante says:

    @ Gap

    “Show, don’t tell” is a classic mantra for screenwriting, but if I’m honest, every rule has it’s exceptions. I’d much rather Aaron Sorkin or Oscar Wilde told me rather than showing me, because they tell it so well.

    Of course those are exceptionally talented individuals, but it works for games as well, the more dialogue Tim Schafer writes into his games the better as far as I’m concerned.

    It’s all about playing to your strengths, in the case of Mass Effects it’s not the science of the sci-fi, but in the moments of grand drama. The speech you give when the Normandy takes off is a truly excellent example of utilising interactive dialogue to create something that’s easily the equal the rousing speeches of other mediums.

  48. Gap Gen says:

    Yeah, I’m not saying games should have no talking. But they should be aware of where talking is appropriate and where it is not. And it’s telling that Wilde’s line is “A handbag!” and not a soliloquy on luggage and paternity. I’m not saying Mass Effect is always bad, and yeah, there are good moments (I finished it after all, so I can’t have hated it) but it does need to know when to shut the hell up. Again, it’s possible that this criticism is unfair, and that Mass Effect is all about containing walls of bland sci-fi text, but I like to think that it can do better, and one of those ways is to be more sparing and effective with the way it uses dialogue.

  49. Gap Gen says:

    Oh, also, I didn’t even touch whatever text it put in your log. I assume that was even more obsessive and unnecessary than some of the dialogue.

  50. Fenchurch says:

    @Mike

    Planescape is generally cited because of the depth of options in response, not just the waves of text thrown at you. =-3

    Remember that you could constantly lie and bluff your way into getting quest rewards for things you did or didn’t do! Got to get that jink jink, cutter, aye! ;-)