You may be surprised to know that the world of video games relies heavily on scripts, and those skilled in movie writing can seamlessly transition into this dynamic and ever-evolving domain. Contrary to the notion that breaking into the film industry is daunting, the gaming world often welcomes fresh talent with open arms. In this exploration, we will delve into the intricacies of crafting a video game script, shedding light on its unique aspects and the pathways to securing opportunities in this creative realm.
How to Write for Video Games?
Understanding the nuances of writing for video games is crucial, given the interactive nature of this medium. Unlike feature films, video game scripts are not static; they respond dynamically to the choices players make, shaping the storyline accordingly.
The Idea or Concept
Every game begins with an idea or concept. What’s the core of the story? What objectives will the player pursue? Whether it’s surviving a perilous location, rescuing a princess, or defeating a disruptive villain, the central concept must be crystal clear. While writers in gaming companies may not always be part of the initial concept creation, they are often hired to breathe life into these ideas through compelling scripts.
World building in gaming is akin to laying the foundation of a cinematic universe. What makes the game’s world unique? Why would players want to immerse themselves in this created reality? Unlike traditional screenwriting, where character development takes precedence, game writing often starts with world building. It sets the stage for a captivating gaming experience.
Characters are the heartbeat of any narrative, and games are no exception. While many games feature a central protagonist, some adopt ensemble casts, allowing players to assume different roles. Take, for instance, “Until Dawn” (2015), where players control multiple characters, each decision influencing the narrative. Crafting detailed backstories for characters is vital, providing players with a deeper understanding of their motivations and actions.
The relationship between design and script is a unique dynamic in video game creation. Sometimes the script serves as the blueprint for the game’s design, while in other instances, the design inspires the script. This flexibility sets game writing apart from traditional screenplay writing, illustrating the symbiotic relationship between narrative and design.
In video game scripts, dialogue takes center stage, differing significantly from traditional movie writing. The key distinction lies in the incorporation of decision trees, where players make choices influencing the storyline. This demands a departure from linear dialogue to multiple options, allowing players to shape the narrative through their decisions.
Within the script, multiple dialogue options are presented, reflecting the diverse choices players can make. These decision trees create a dynamic narrative, offering players agency in determining the course of the story. The challenge for the writer is to ensure that each dialogue option contributes meaningfully to the overall experience, enriching the player’s engagement.
In video game scripts, the concept of Story Flow takes the form of an intricate map, similar to a beat sheet in traditional screenplay writing. However, this map is dynamic, illustrating how choices made by the player influence the storyline. For instance:
Every decision made has repercussions, affecting not only the immediate outcome but also the player’s character traits and future storylines. This interconnectedness adds depth and complexity to the narrative.
Impact on Character Development
The player’s decisions can profoundly shape the personalities and traits of the characters. An example scenario involves Character 1 deciding to help Character 2. Depending on this choice, Character 2 could survive and later become a crucial ally or, if neglected, seek revenge. This layer of interactivity amplifies the storytelling experience.
Writing the Script: Balancing Linearity and Complexity
Crafting a Multi-Faceted Script
While there is a central storyline that guides the game, the script expands into multiple branches, offering diverse outcomes based on player decisions. This makes the video game script substantially denser than a traditional screenplay. For instance, the script for “Until Dawn” ran a staggering 1,000 pages, highlighting the intricacies involved in managing various storylines and potential outcomes.
Script Format and Tools
Despite its complexity, the video game script adheres to a familiar format, compatible with screenwriting software like Final Draft. The challenge lies in effectively managing the branching narratives within this format, ensuring coherence and engagement across multiple storylines.
Understanding the Production Process
Pre-Production: Setting the Stage
Before the writer steps into the scene, a larger game development company often undergoes a meticulous pre-production stage. This phase involves a comprehensive analysis of the market and competitors, identification of target audiences, formulation of marketing strategies, and decisions regarding the game’s platform and revenue model (ads, in-game purchases, fixed costs, etc.). Additionally, artistic elements, such as character designs or key world features, may be drafted during this stage.
Production: Where Game Writers Shine
Crafting the Blueprint
As the writer steps into the production stage, a basic outline and script are crafted. Simultaneously, a prototype of the game is developed, serving as a testing ground for employees and selected professional players. This iterative process allows for feedback-driven adaptations, shaping the script into a fully realized narrative.
Dynamic Design and Development
Unlike movies, where production kicks off after a locked script, game writing and design evolve concurrently. The writer collaborates closely with designers, ensuring that the narrative seamlessly integrates with the evolving game mechanics. The transition from 2D to 3D introduces complexities, including sculpting, texture work, and animation, depending on the chosen platform.
The Symphony of Sound and Voices
Production in the gaming realm extends beyond visuals to encompass sound, music, and voice acting. Actors breathe life into characters through voice recording, and the game is infused with carefully selected or composed music. This holistic approach contributes to the immersive experience that defines modern video games.
The Code Confluence
In tandem with script development, the coding process unfolds. Coders bring the intricate web of multiple storylines and game elements to life, ensuring a seamless and responsive gaming experience.
Beta Testing and Error Rectification
Before a game reaches the market, it undergoes rigorous testing. Professionals are enlisted to play the game, identifying and reporting any errors. This crucial phase shapes the final product, allowing for refinements based on real-world gameplay experiences.
Post-Production: Beyond Launch
For some games, like the ever-popular Fortnite, post-production is an ongoing journey. Continuous updates and changes, including alterations to the game map, keep players engaged. The post-production phase is not merely about fixing errors but also about evolving the game to meet the dynamic preferences of its player base.
Decoding the Paycheck: How Much Do Game Writers Earn?
For Video Game Writers in the United States, the annual income typically falls within the range of $70,000 to $85,000. However, it’s crucial to note that these figures can vary based on factors such as experience, the scale of the gaming project, and the reputation of the game development company.
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