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The Banner Saga - Post-funding Update #34

by Couchpotato, 2013-05-31 00:20:10

There's a new post-funding update for The Banner Saga on Kickstarter. The topic of the update deals with the tools the team is using to make the game, the approach taken with story, the travel mode, and the camp.


Story is always hard to talk about when you’re developing a game. Frankly, we don’t want you to know what the story is, but it sounds disingenuous when you just say “We’re working on it really hard! Honestly!”.

Worst of all, there are no screenshots about story. I apologize for this. But there are more screenshots afterward, so keep reading!

We’re going to approach story from a broad level and I’ll make sure there are no spoilers.

So, let’s discuss iteration a bit. As we’ve mentioned previously, we’ve been using Inkle Writer to help us draft the narrative. It’s an excellent tool, and they’ve recently released Sorcery! for iOS, which I wholeheartedly recommend checking out. In a previous update I showed screenshots of the some of the branching options in our first pass. Since then we’ve written a second and third pass, and a serious merging of these passes into what is now, I believe, the final version of the story. The story is pretty much locked down at this point.

Why all this rewrite? There are a few reasons, some simple to understand and some complex. The simple reason is that writing usually involves editing. You have professional editors who go through a story, make notes, help the author move around and modify pieces of the story until it feels and reads well. In a lot of ways an editor is like a writing consultant or co-writer. They make a good story into a great story.

Games don’t have editors. In fact, games often don’t even have writers, they have designers or managers who moonlight as writers, because it’s a game, right? Story isn’t really that important as long as you firmly apply pressure to the compulsion loop part of the brain. At least, that’s how games often feel to me right now. Disclaimer: this is getting progressively better. I don’t mean to look down on writing in games - in fact, it is this potential for greatness that drives us.

But even development studios lauded for their writing prowess usually don’t get to do due diligence. Budgets and time constraints on something as complex as a video game mean that you get one chance to get it right. People with lead and director positions are expected to sit down and nail it on the first pitch, or just accept whatever mess they’ve made and run with it. Usually this means it could have been better. We don’t have a published author writing for us at Stoic, nor a professional editor. But we do have a story-driven game, being written by someone who writes a lot and who wants to see the game industry flourish as a storytelling medium (it’s THIS close), and a guy who acts like an editor even though he spends 10 hours a day being one of the best artists I’ve ever seen.

There are other difficulties. If you took a dozen of the world’s most accomplished authors and had them each work on a video game, I suspect they’d mostly be terrible. In movies, writers become specialized enough to understand how film works, and how to make a screenplay. An author writes in the way that best suits the written format - you can’t just take a book and translate it directly to the screen, you need someone who understands the intricacies of timing, pacing, visual narrative and brevity. They have to turn words into pictures that feel how the words did, and that’s not easy. The film industry has been getting pretty good at this.

Information about

Banner Saga

SP/MP: Single + MP
Setting: Fantasy
Genre: Strategy-RPG
Platform: PC
Release: Released