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Hey everybody, how’s it going?
We are Extra Credit and we are here to talk about these.
In this series of weekly videos
we’re going to be exploring the world of game design.
I’ll be doing the talking, James will be doing the writing
and, over here, is our new artist: Allison Theus, providing us with the visual aides.
Alright enough with the introductions, let’s get down to business.
Our first topic:
bad writing in video games.
It’s a very common complaint.
We all love our games, but we can’t help but wonder:
“Why is the writing in these things so terrible?
Really, how hard is it to hire a decent script writer?”
Well, let’s take a closer look.
It’s true: video games have told some painfully bad stories over the years.
And there have been more than a few lines of dialogue
that are just nails-on-chalkboard painful to listen to.
In fact, I think we’ve all been downright embarrassed for this medium at times
by some of the ridiculous things that come out of game characters’ mouths.
But before we can try to find a solution to this problem,
I think it’s important that we understand something:
video game storytelling isn’t just about the writing and dialogue.
Because video games are an interactive medium,
the gameplay and mechanics of the world are just as important to telling the story.
“Narrative”, not “writing”, is what we should actually be talking about here.
All too often, even seasoned professionals talk about “the writing”
as if it existed independent of all the other elements that go into game creation.
Well it doesn’t;
and we aren’t going to be able to create compelling narratives in games until
we wrap our heads around that.
So first let’s answer the big question:
what is “writing” in a game?
It’s what the characters say in cut scenes and dialogue boxes.
It’s those little voice stabs that characters shout out during combat.
It’s also the background chatter that characters spout as the player passes by.
It’s the words in the options menu and the loading screens.
It’s the flavor text describing guns or equipment or alien species.
Ok, so it’s a lot of things, but I’ll tell what it’s not.
It’s not the high concept. It’s not the idea behind a game.
Few games ever start with a fully-baked story that the developer is itching to tell,
much less a complete script.
Most games begin with a mechanic, or a piece of technology,
maybe an art style (or, in some tragic cases, a memo from the marketing department).
This means that a game’s actual writing tends to be constrained from the start.
Writers are often brought in pretty late in the development cycle,
so they usually have to work around whatever development has come before them.
And there are always plenty of obstacles they have to work around.
Sometimes it’s a game mechanic that complicates things.
Consider those games that feature moral choice systems.
If the game’s designers decided to put a two-dimensional moral choice meter in the game
(the ever popular “good or evil” bar),
than all the moral choices the writer writes have to fit within those two dimensions.
Or sometimes a weird disconnect can occur if the
plot and the gameplay conflict with each other.
Consider games where characters can be revived during gameplay,
but then die in the plot line and OH AWESOME my Pheonix Downs are worthless now.
I’m sure you can all think of game mechanics like this that constrain a writer’s options.
But what other parts of development can act as roadblocks?
The art is a big one.
It influences the entire feel of a game.
It establishes a mindset for the player and the personalities of the characters.
You can’t go writing a light, fluffy script for a game with a gothic horror aesthetic
… well …
actually, that could be pretty awesome
… you get what I mean though.
But there are other elements of the art pipeline that can get in a writer’s way too.
Comparatively small things,
like animating voice-acted cutscenes.
Very few games are re-animated or re-lip synced when localized for foreign countries,
which means that character’s dialogue is automatically
constrained to the length of the original sound file,
regardless of what language you are localizing from or into
Voice acting itself has an enormous impact on what a writer can write.
We’ve all seen million dollar cutscenes just RUINED by bad voice acting.
We could do an entire episode on voice acting
And we probably will
Even programming and production issues can interfere with the writing process.
How good is the game’s dialogue parser?
How good are the internal development tools for branching dialogue trees?
Oh and remember: you can’t go writing storylines
that the dev team doesn’t have the time or money to develop.
so it’s clear that there are a lot of development issues that influence game writing,
but trust me, that doesn’t mean I’m letting the writers off the hook here.
Let’s take a look at what’s going wrong on their end.
First off, many “game writers” are hired from outside the industry
and don’t really understand how to write for an interactive medium.
This is all pretty new stuff, and they just don’t have any experience with it.
They don’t understand that,
in an RTS game, when you give and order to a unit
its acknowledgement should be only a second long, tops.
Or that nobody wants to read huge blocks of text in a game.
These types of writers often come from a background where dialogue
or text account for the majority of their audience’s engagement with their work.
This simply isn’t true of most video games.
Consider a TV show,
Consider a TV show, even an action heavy one:
in one hour of footage, you probably have at least
20-30 minutes of dialogue.
But in one hour of gameplay, you’ll often have less than 10 minutes
Our medium is enormously compressed because we have
so many other ways to convey narrative to the player.
Which brings me to our last point:
the general failure to create stories from an interactive perspective.
Video games are a fundamentally different medium
from all other mass media to date.
you can’t just write for it using old techniques
from different media and expect it to work.
You wouldn’t write a movie script the same way you would a novel.
And you wouldn’t write a newspaper column the same way you would a stage play.
So why would you expect writing for video games
to be the same as for any of these other media?
Games can’t tell their stories through disconnected
segments of gameplay strung together by cutscenes.
Games need to tell their story through gameplay.
Narrative should drip from every texture
and be integrated into every facet of the world.
It should come through in the menues and the interface
and in every loading screen.
but, most importantly of all, it should
come through in the mechanics of the game.
The mechanics should teach us about the characters and reinforce the plot line.
They should, fundamentally,
attune the player to their character
and let them explore their character’s actions.
I know it sounds like I’m asking a lot, but we’ve seen it done before.
Consider the Silent Hill games (excluding the most recent ones):
their combat mechanics reinforced the weakness of their characters.
Think about the Dawn of War series
and how much flavor is packed into each race’s voice stabs.
ou understand what it means to be an Ork
simply by hearing them go about preparing for war.
Games like Shadow of the Colossus,
Demon Souls or Bioshock
deliver a great deal of narrative through their world and environments alone.
Even the Katamari games delivered a new kind of
whimsicle narrative through their artistic style, mechanics and use of sound.
Here’s the key to take away from this:
the development team must be conscious of the narrative of their game from the outset.
he game’s narrative should be considered as
all of the elements of the game are created and assembled,
because every part of a game helps to tell its story.
Well, I think that about covers it.
Thanks for watching and see you guys next week!


Extra Credits - Bad Writing - Why Most Games Tell Bad Stories

1855 タグ追加 保存
王卓漢 2015 年 2 月 5 日 に公開
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