I cannot say that I’ve had a long and illustrious career in writing for games, but I’ve worked on a few different titles by now, and they are all vastly different. When I write novels and short stories in my spare time I have found a style of writing that I am comfortable with and that transcends individual pieces. This is not even remotely true for the games that I’ve worked on. For Magnetic the writing was almost always directed at the player in the form of comments from the people monitoring the player. It was all delivered in real time, and had to be adapted to what the player did. It was also meant to be read out loud by the voice actor and their personal styles and voices. This sort of commentary is very different from writing something where the character has dialogue options, or a cutscene where other character interact with each other. It was not about who you where as a player, but what you chose to do through gameplay.
When I sit down with a new concept or game I try to find that games particular “voice”, not just in the writing that is seen in game but for character descriptions and other internal documentation as well. If you can find that voice early it really helps set a lasting tone that you can use throughout the project and that helps carry the narrative forward. It can be just as crucial as having a set art style, or a clear structure for your scenes and levels in a game. For Medusa’s Labyrinth the narrative is not delivered through Voice, but through notes found in the environment. They narrative they convey is different from the one you are experiencing as a player, but it was written to complement it, give it depth. Hopefully it will help the player understand what has happened in the game world more clearly, and perhaps see it in a new light.
When we sat down to pinpoint what Animal Blamdown was supposed to be about we had some very clear guidelines. We wanted it to be a fun game, we wanted players to laugh and have lots of references to other games, TV-shows and popular culture. So when I tried to find the voice for Blamdown I knew it had to be something different from the other games we have worked on. Below you can see one of the character descriptions I’ve written for the game. I’m not sure I’ve nailed the voice just yet, but I feel like I am on to something. What that is I have no idea, but it seems to be working so I am sticking with it for now. Let me know what you think in the comments!
When the sergeant grew up his father told him that there were two kinds of chickens. The kind who where Chickens and the kind who where not. The young chicken did not really understand what his father meant, but he sure as hell wasn’t going to be the wrong kind of chicken. As it turns out, his father missed one kind of chicken: the only that the humans who owned the farm wanted the young chicken to become. The fried kind.
The sergeant narrowly escaped the massacre that took the lives of all his siblings, managing to claw and peck his way out of the farmhands’ hands and flee out into the wild. After his escape he set up base camp in the isolated woods and started training for the coming conflict. 100 wing ups before breakfast, then run the obstacle course, War squeak-practice and martial arts, the sergeant kept his schedule strict at all times.
Sgt. Chicken did not know when the war would come, or who would start it. But when it did come he knew just what kind of chicken he was going to be.