Developer experiences from the trenches

Developer experiences from the trenches

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Nice Writing, But Why Do I Care?

Sun 28 August 2011 by Michael Labbe
tags design 

The average video game has writing that is indistinguishable from filler. Writing makes its way into games through dialog and story. One approach to improving the quality of writing is to employ inspired writers. Unfortunately, this is as useful as a VHS repairman unless you design in reasons for the player to care about your writing in the first place.

It is not just the writing that needs to improve. We need to refine the techniques to bring narrative to the player, making the experience personal through integration into the core game. In the order of most to least effective, here are some examples of methods that have been used:

Giving the player a reason to care about the story is as important as the story itself. The humor in Portal 2 is a lot more personal because you are unfolding it by moving forward. Imagine the game popping away to cutscenes to crack the same jokes. It just wouldn’t be about you anymore.

Interactive story progression requires a set of techniques that, when employed, ensure the player is paying attention when the story unfolds. It also helps the story progress at a pace they can comprehend.

First person shooters have done a pretty good job of making people care about their stories. But what about platformers or turn based strategy games? There is a lot of work to be done before these genres have empowered their writers.

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