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Default BioWare - David Gaider on Writing Games Compared to Writing Novels

January 27th, 2013, 20:10
In hist latest blog post, David Gaider discusses the difference between writing novels, games and comic books. A quote on how con change when you're writing for a game:
And content is something of which you have to be mindful. Unlike with a novel, you are not writing this story alone. You can’t simply write “They rode on their horses to the castle where the dragon awaited!” unless you have horse models, the ability to have character models ride those horses, an area in which they are ridden, a visible castle towards which they must ride, a dragon model and a combat system that allows fighting such a large creature. If the team comes back and says, “letting the player see the castle from the outside will be really expensive… are you sure you want to do that? If so, we’ll need to cut some other levels.” At which point you change what you wrote to “They rode swiftly through the forest, and then there was a fade to black as they arrived in the courtyard. There the dragon awaited!”……“Hmm. Are you sure you want that dragon? Those horse models are really complex to do properly, especially if we need all the character models and their variations to have all the riding animations. Plus you said you wanted jousting. That’s a whole system. To do that and add a dragon, and dragon combat? I dunno.” Then you change what you wrote again: “They ran swiftly through the forest, and there was a fade to black as they arrived in the courtyard. There the dragon awaited!” “We have to cut some levels. That castle courtyard is really expensive, especially considering you only need it for the one scene. I mean, they go there and have the fight and leave after, right? Is it really that important?” Then you change what you wrote again: “They ran swiftly through the forest, and there was a fade to black as they arrived in the forest clearing. There the dragon awaited!” It’s a constant series of back-and-forth compromises, so even once you’ve written a good story and it’s passed muster with the rest of the team you’re still going to have to make changes on the fly. Big ones that will drive giant dump trucks through your plot, sometimes without leaving you enough time to go in and patch the holes.
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January 27th, 2013, 20:10
I think Bioware tend to over do the "story" parts of their game. I could perfectly well do without loads of cut scenes and extended dialogue options and have the story unfold more naturally within the game world. One thing I particularly like in party games as a plot forwarding mechanism is ad hoc dialogue between party members, since that doesn't take you out of the game.
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January 28th, 2013, 04:47
Ah well, at least for some of their games the story is what makes them work at all.

I dont think they over-do the story part, though I think your are not wrong about too many cut scenes. This is not "too much story". Rather "story in the wrong way". But thats just semantics I guess.
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January 28th, 2013, 06:05
Originally Posted by Cacheperl View Post
Ah well, at least for some of their games the story is what makes them work at all.

I dont think they over-do the story part, though I think your are not wrong about too many cut scenes. This is not "too much story". Rather "story in the wrong way". But thats just semantics I guess.
Yes - that's pretty much what I meant. The problem being that the non interactive parts of the story impose too rigid a structure in which the game play has to fit. The more that's spent on particular invariable story elements the less branching you can have, so that you can't develop your character individually. If your character has to say X at time Y in some cut scene, then he/she is forced to develop into that fixed destiny and isn't really under the player's control.
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January 28th, 2013, 07:30
And even worse, that character has to be voiced. So it makes it more expensive, limiting the amount of choices simply by the available budget. Of course it is nice to have a good and complete voice over, but I think the trade-off is not always a positive one.
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January 28th, 2013, 09:49
That castle example is actually very good. I honestly didn't think about how restricting game writing can be compared to writing a book. You always have to take the cost/resources into account. Then again, you don't have to describe what people are wearing and what not when writing story for a game, so I guess it evens out to a certain degree.

The massive differences does prove one thing though: Being good at writing novels does not automatically make you good at writing games, and vice versa.
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January 28th, 2013, 13:55
I never thought about it in those terms before. Every location would have to be created to be experienced visually in a game, where your imagination would be the vector in a novel.
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