WHY RHIANNA WHY!?!?!?

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So Rhianna Pratchett is a fairly big name in game story writing nowadays, taking a quick look at her Wikipedia page she has either written or co-written the story on the following games:-

Beyond Divinity
Stronghold Legends
Heavenly Sword
Overlord
Overlord: Raising Hell
Viking: Battle for Asgard
Mirror's Edge
Prince of Persia
Overlord: Minions
Overlord: Dark Legend
Overlord II
Risen
CSI: Fatal Conspiracy
Bioshock Infinite
Tomb Raider
Beat Buddy: Tale of the Guardians
Thief

This is a fairly varied list but how can all these games be written by the same person? The tone and quality vary ridiculously.

After playing Thief through recently I can tell you the story makes about 0 sense while Bioshock and Tomb Raider are two of my favourite stories in gaming.

Either way, are you surprised by any of these games, have you played any that you love or hate the story? How do we feel about probably the most prominent female figure in video games development?

well it happens. It ain't easy. I'm sure Richard Morgan is a good writer in his own right, but look at the disjoints in Crysis 2's story. Good setup, pretty familiar premises, but not as full of an execution as it could have been.

Cormac Mc Carthy's an awesome novelist, but his 1st foray into screenwriting for "The Counselor" didn't prove as good.

Consider maybe it's not the writer but sometimes clashes with the format, and the rest of a large teams ability to interpret where the writer wants to go. Even with a pretty good writer Sometimes you can still hit and sometimes you miss in video games, most everything you do and see as a player has to align.

When it didn't back in the old days we were younger so we didn't care as long as it played well.

I love Rhianna Pratchett (figuratively speaking. although she is rather tasty, too), but using Infinite as an example of her craft might be stretching it. Her credit is something like 'additional writing', which in actuality could mean she just wrote a couple of lines for a vending machine or misc NPC... Agreed about Tomb Raider, as long as we're talking Lara's arc and not the pointless 'plot' which telegraphed its every juncture in skyscraper high neon.

I'd actually like to play a few of those on that list, primarily to see how she handled certain characters - Mirror's Edge and Heavenly Sword being two, even if I gather it wasn't exactly her at the height of her character narrative powers or influence.

Was she a lead writer on Thief?

Darth Rosenberg:
I love Rhianna Pratchett (figuratively speaking. although she is rather tasty, too), but using Infinite as an example of her craft might be stretching it. Her credit is something like 'additional writing', which in actuality could mean she just wrote a couple of lines for a vending machine or misc NPC... Agreed about Tomb Raider, as long as we're talking Lara's arc and not the pointless 'plot' which telegraphed its every juncture in skyscraper high neon.

I'd actually like to play a few of those on that list, primarily to see how she handled certain characters - Mirror's Edge and Heavenly Sword being two, even if I gather it wasn't exactly her at the height of her character narrative powers or influence.

Was she a lead writer on Thief?

Says story writer and cinematics for Thief so I'm guessing so.

You're right about Bioshock but y'know, she had a hand in it and I bet most people don't have a clue she did, I didn't.

Veldt Falsetto:

Darth Rosenberg:

Was she a lead writer on Thief?

Says story writer and cinematics for Thief so I'm guessing so.

I don't think she was the lead writer. According to her twitter she did "some world building stuff a few years back" and a few of the "pre-rendered cinematics."

http://www.incgamers.com/2014/02/rhianna-pratchett-chose-talk-work-thief

It's kinda unclear what exactly she did write, but doesn't sound like the lead writer to me.

To me everything in Tomb Raider made about zero sense as well. The rest I haven't played or were too bland for me to even remember the plot.

I don't care who writes the stories. It could be a famous author or a 12 year old. As long as the story is engaging enough to keep my attention . For me story> gameplay. I don't bother with finding out who wrote it or whatnot. Anything other than devs/publishers i don't really care.

Honestly, as far as I'm concerned, that seems like a rather crappy list of game stories. Granted, I haven't played most of those games, but the ones I have played or at least know a little bit about don't really impress me. Mirror's Edge is probably the best of that list as far as I've played, and I'd still say that was an incredibly weak story. Maybe Tomb Raider was good (still haven't gotten around to it), but I don't really have high expectations if my best experience with the writer was Mirror's Edge.

Veldt Falsetto:

This is a fairly varied list but how can all these games be written by the same person? The tone and quality vary ridiculously.

I don't think Ms Pratchett has a lot of clout. I get the impression that she gets brought into projects where narrative was something of a second thought, she often talks in interviews about how games need to bring in the writers earlier and get them more involved with everything in the project. If you look at the games with really strong narratives, it tends to be the lead designer whose been the writer who really pushed it. It's those instances where the designers are on board with the story and making sure the two match up well and make sense.

A traditional scenario for Rhianna I expect goes something like this. 'Hi we need a writer. Our game plays like this, we want it to have this tone and the central character to look this and be X. We've completed a couple of levels and we plan to do these too, except we not sure which ones will make it into the final game. Also we may add in some new levels later. Could you write us some cutscenes and dialogue so that the levels make sense?'

In fact I wouldn't even be surprised if they've made parts of the cutscenes without her input before and asked her to make the rest fit, or write the story so that scene fits in with everything else.

She does this for a living, they probably don't pay her well since she's never the main creative input and she probably gets brought in to touch up bad projects. I think that probably explains why the quality and types of work vary so much

EDIT: Even games with creative leads which are onboard with the story have a lot of this. The Uncharted games were written with the set-pieces already under construction, which is why Uncharted 3's story feels so messed up and disjointed. They had a list of things they wanted to do and then came up with a story to explain them afterwards

gargantual:
well it happens. It ain't easy. I'm sure Richard Morgan is a good writer in his own right, but look at the disjoints in Crysis 2's story. Good setup, pretty familiar premises, but not as full of an execution as it could have been.

It was one of those games where the writer was brought in halfway through production and alot of the levels were already built. That's just setting yourself up for a narrative fizzle, really.

Alls I know for sure is that she desperately needs to convince her father to get into games again. Back in ye olden days there were a sparse few Diskworld games, but that was ages ago. AGES! We need an open world Discworld rpg asap. I'm thinking get Double Fine to do it ala Brutal Legend.

This needs to happen.

I've only played the Overlord games, but could she be a consultant co-writer for the female characters?

The mistresses in Overlord are strong, ambitious women who are almost an equal to the Overlord, so perhaps she helps write the female characters to ensure they're good examples of women without being over the top or unrealistic and offensive examples of females in those games.

Animyr:

gargantual:
well it happens. It ain't easy. I'm sure Richard Morgan is a good writer in his own right, but look at the disjoints in Crysis 2's story. Good setup, pretty familiar premises, but not as full of an execution as it could have been.

It was one of those games where the writer was brought in halfway through production and alot of the levels were already built. That's just setting yourself up for a narrative fizzle, really.

Yeah. Back in the days studios used to trust themselves to create good narratives in games. They stuck to the core mechanics and challenges of the game, and expanded the lore and a story outward from there. Not that writers and filmmakers haven't helped but then again, in contrast with Crysis 2, Marc Laidlaw was involved with Half-life early in the process.

Its a shame that FPS and action games demonstrate the most hampering of narrative in video games single player, when in their inception they were the games that blazed trails in suggestive and uninterrupted storytelling.

Veldt Falsetto:

Darth Rosenberg:
I love Rhianna Pratchett (figuratively speaking. although she is rather tasty, too), but using Infinite as an example of her craft might be stretching it. Her credit is something like 'additional writing', which in actuality could mean she just wrote a couple of lines for a vending machine or misc NPC... Agreed about Tomb Raider, as long as we're talking Lara's arc and not the pointless 'plot' which telegraphed its every juncture in skyscraper high neon.

I'd actually like to play a few of those on that list, primarily to see how she handled certain characters - Mirror's Edge and Heavenly Sword being two, even if I gather it wasn't exactly her at the height of her character narrative powers or influence.

Was she a lead writer on Thief?

Says story writer and cinematics for Thief so I'm guessing so.

You're right about Bioshock but y'know, she had a hand in it and I bet most people don't have a clue she did, I didn't.

Whatever hand she had in Bioshock, the writing is mostly Ken Levine's job. He wrote out the arc of the story, so I'd guess the issues Rhianna had writing Thief stem from the fact that she's usually an assisting writer who didn't have the experience to take on a lead writing role.

I read these forums, I sometimes even post. You've all been fairly polite, if curious, about the topic of... well, me. I appreciate that, so I thought I'd respond to a few things said in this thread about my career and the choices I've made. Please excuse any typos, this seems to have turned into a typing at 3am scenario.

Okay, here we go...

As some of you are aware (and it's great to read that the weird and occasionally messy world of a games writer is gaining a bit more understanding) I don't originate these stories. It's not a case of me rocking up to a developer and going 'Hey I have this GREAT idea!' It's more a case of a developer coming to me and saying 'Hey! We have this great idea/game design/set of levels/characters etc. But we need some story please.' This makes it quite a different ballgame from most other entertainment mediums.

My role is to take what they have, flesh it out and get it working in the game within the boundaries set by the developer - be they time, budget, design etc. What you get to work with can vary depending on how far development has already progressed. There's likely to be some spine of a story, some levels designed (in Mirror's Edge's case a whole game) and often a bit of character work. By and large it's at least what the developer will have needed for their pitch doc/proof of concept/green light etc. and enough to get folks actually building stuff.

The reason I (and other games writers) talk about the need to get writers/narrative designers in earlier is it would make our role a whole lot easier and more satisfying if *we* helped originate this kind of stuff. When you work as a hired-gun, rather than an imbedded writer, that hardly ever happens. Sometimes this is because the devs want to do it themselves, or they don't know where to find a games writer. Perhaps they're just not ready yet, or not used to thinking about story and writer at the same time. Often there can be an assumption that the 'word bits' are easy, cheap and that can easily be slipped in somewhere down the line. These attitudes unfortunately bypasses the skills that writers/narrative designers have for character and world building. Something that, you'd think, could be pretty useful to the development process.

It's getting a little better. People actually know games writers exist now and they're starting to use them more frequently. Although it's by no means industry standard. However, *how* they use them is still an ongoing battle of square pegs, round holes, miscommunication, mismanagement and occasional bouts of heartbreak. It really is a painful adolescence but hopefully we'll emerge on the other side as fully functioning grownups. Probably.

As for the titles I've worked on - Some have been in a lead writer capacity, such as Tomb Raider or the Overlord games, although I was the only writer on the latter. I didn't just write the ladies, BTW, I wrote the men too. Because it would be, frankly, a little weird not to. Yup, you get the ladies AND the men with me. I'm a full service provider.

Anyway...others jobs have been about supporting another writer (Prince of Persia.) A few have been the efforts of writing teams, such as Thief, Risen and Bioshock Infinite.

I took on these, as someone pointed out very varied titles, for an equally varied number of reasons - I fell in love with what the developer was trying to achieve, I was a fan of the franchise, I was helping a mate out, because I was asked and had the time, I was recommended by a former colleague, and, in one instance, because of a shared history involving a gay, escapologist tortoise. No job ever came about the same way.

Admittedly, not all have turned out the way I'd have liked. This has been for a variety of reasons, not least of which has probably been a little naivety on my part about the realities of what could be achieved within the aforementioned boundaries. We're all learning here.

Some I'm really proud to have been part of. Tomb Raider, for example (particularly Lara's journey which was my main focus) and the Overlord games, which were as fun to make as they are to play. Sometimes things go your way, sometimes they don't.

Creatively, on a broader scale, I still feel like I've only just got started; that I have many more stories to tell and become part of, both in games, and other mediums (a lot of my work is in comics and screenplays these days.)

As for most prominent female developer, I don't think I am. I've just been at this gig for a long time (16 years including my time on PC Zone) and I've worked on some high profile games. I try to use that position, where possible, to stand up for issues I care about within the industry that I love. I have a burning need to at least try to make things better.

This post isn't to justify anything in particular. If you don't like the games I've worked on, then no post of mine is going to make you change your mind. However, there's a lot of misinformation out there about what games writers in general do, so I thought I should sprinkle a little clarity into the mix. Hope it's of interest to those who care about such things.

Thanks for reading.

Rhi

Leather_Raven:
I read these forums, I sometimes even post. You've all been fairly polite, if curious, about the topic of... well, me. I appreciate that, so I thought I'd respond to a few things said in this thread about my career and the choices I've made. Please excuse any typos, this seems to have turned into a typing at 3am scenario.

Okay, here we go...

As some of you are aware (and it's great to read that the weird and occasionally messy world of a games writer is gaining a bit more understanding) I don't originate these stories. It's not a case of me rocking up to a developer and going 'Hey I have this GREAT idea!' It's more a case of a developer coming to me and saying 'Hey! We have this great idea/game design/set of levels/characters etc. But we need some story please.' This makes it quite a different ballgame from most other entertainment mediums.

My role is to take what they have, flesh it out and get it working in the game within the boundaries set by the developer - be they time, budget, design etc. What you get to work with can vary depending on how far development has already progressed. There's likely to be some spine of a story, some levels designed (in Mirror's Edge's case a whole game) and often a bit of character work. By and large it's at least what the developer will have needed for their pitch doc/proof of concept/green light etc. and enough to get folks actually building stuff.

The reason I (and other games writers) talk about the need to get writers/narrative designers in earlier is it would make our role a whole lot easier and more satisfying if *we* helped originate this kind of stuff. When you work as a hired-gun, rather than an imbedded writer, that hardly ever happens. Sometimes this is because the devs want to do it themselves, or they don't know where to find a games writer. Perhaps they're just not ready yet, or not used to thinking about story and writer at the same time. Often there can be an assumption that the 'word bits' are easy, cheap and that can easily be slipped in somewhere down the line. These attitudes unfortunately bypasses the skills that writers/narrative designers have for character and world building. Something that, you'd think, could be pretty useful to the development process.

It's getting a little better. People actually know games writers exist now and they're starting to use them more frequently. Although it's by no means industry standard. However, *how* they use them is still an ongoing battle of square pegs, round holes, miscommunication, mismanagement and occasional bouts of heartbreak. It really is a painful adolescence but hopefully we'll emerge on the other side as fully functioning grownups. Probably.

As for the titles I've worked on - Some have been in a lead writer capacity, such as Tomb Raider or the Overlord games, although I was the only writer on the latter. I didn't just write the ladies, BTW, I wrote the men too. Because it would be, frankly, a little weird not to. Yup, you get the ladies AND the men with me. I'm a full service provider.

Anyway...others jobs have been about supporting another writer (Prince of Persia.) A few have been the efforts of writing teams, such as Thief, Risen and Bioshock Infinite.

I took on these, as someone pointed out very varied titles, for an equally varied number of reasons - I fell in love with what the developer was trying to achieve, I was a fan of the franchise, I was helping a mate out, because I was asked and had the time, I was recommended by a former colleague, and, in one instance, because of a shared history involving a gay, escapologist tortoise. No job ever came about the same way.

Admittedly, not all have turned out the way I'd have liked. This has been for a variety of reasons, not least of which has probably been a little naivety on my part about the realities of what could be achieved within the aforementioned boundaries. We're all learning here.

Some I'm really proud to have been part of. Tomb Raider, for example (particularly Lara's journey which was my main focus) and the Overlord games, which were as fun to make as they are to play. Sometimes things go your way, sometimes they don't.

Creatively, on a broader scale, I still feel like I've only just got started; that I have many more stories to tell and become part of, both in games, and other mediums (a lot of my work is in comics and screenplays these days.)

As for most prominent female developer, I don't think I am. I've just been at this gig for a long time (16 years including my time on PC Zone) and I've worked on some high profile games. I try to use that position, where possible, to stand up for issues I care about within the industry that I love. I have a burning need to at least try to make things better.

This post isn't to justify anything in particular. If you don't like the games I've worked on, then no post of mine is going to make you change your mind. However, there's a lot of misinformation out there about what games writers in general do, so I thought I should sprinkle a little clarity into the mix. Hope it's of interest to those who care about such things.

Thanks for reading.

Rhi

Nice of you to drop by, and drop some personal tidbits on the inside of game writing. Maybe there are some things that all of us and you included can infer about how well other game's stories gelled from previous playing experiences. I hope you get more opportunities to flesh out more narrative adventures from their inception in the future.

Leather_Raven:

and, in one instance, because of a shared history involving a gay, escapologist tortoise.

Rhi

I'm thinking there is quite an interesting story there... or maybe better yet a game?

And thank you for dropping by and telling us a bit about how you do what you do. We really are all fans of not just the games themselves but also the process and how they come to be.

The Madman:
Alls I know for sure is that she desperately needs to convince her father to get into games again. Back in ye olden days there were a sparse few Diskworld games, but that was ages ago. AGES! We need an open world Discworld rpg asap. I'm thinking get Double Fine to do it ala Brutal Legend.

This needs to happen.

Unfortunately, he's so far along in his Alzheimer's he's pretty much out of the game. His latest books have been... off. To my mind, his mind has already died; it's just his body that's still walking around. T_T

Don't get me wrong. I respect the man greatly, and love his work dearly. But he's gone now.

BrotherRool:
I don't think Ms Pratchett has a lot of clout.

I'm going to go ahead and agree wholeheartedly with this. She's got a bunch of projects under her belt, but most studios that make writing a priority tend to have dedicated writers. Anyone who brings her in is probably going to either regard story and dialogue as back-burner priority, or has her playing second fiddle to someone else. Like the executives.

Tahaneira:

Unfortunately, he's so far along in his Alzheimer's he's pretty much out of the game. His latest books have been... off. To my mind, his mind has already died; it's just his body that's still walking around. T_T

Don't get me wrong. I respect the man greatly, and love his work dearly. But he's gone now.

Untrue actually, he's not doing that bad these days. Link Almost all his problems thus far have mercifully been physical as opposed to mental, in fact Sir. Pratchett recently signed a new deal for another ten books in upcoming years.

Plus I quite liked Snuff which is a recent book of his. Not as good as Thud or Guards! Guards! maybe, but still a damned fine Sam Vimes tale.

The only games I have played that have been written by her is the Overlord series. Those were amazing pieces of writing. Great humour, great story, and great everything. But judging by her track record she appears to enjoy complex plots and storylines. I've heard Thief has a weird, magic-based storyline. Bioshock has... the ending that we all know, and Overlord has a decent amount of plot-twists.

I did play and greatly enjoy the overlord games, and this could explain partially my enjoyment for the new tomb raider...

also, could possibly explain why I liked the new bioshock but thought the previous two games were a bore to play ^_^

After reading her post, it does seem like alot of stuff does happen behind the scenes that we aren't always aware of, especially in creative control of the plots development.

Leather_Raven:
Snip

Awesome of you to drop by! It's really cool to see the perspective of someone inside the industry on these forums. Do you have any advice for people considering games writing as career?

Writing credits can be misleading. A lot of times, the guy (or girl) listed as "head writer" only wrote up the basic plot outline and edited what all of the other writers came up with (oh yeah, depending on the size of the game individual levels/characters/conversations will generally be divvied up between the junior writers on the team; Obsidian's writing quality is REALLY uneven because they give different characters to different writers, so while Chris Avellone might be one of the best writers in VG history, Joe Blow the NPC writer isn't going to be turning in memorable work). That might explain the vast gulfs in quality re: stories "written" by Ms. Pratchett.

Leather_Raven:
It's getting a little better. People actually know games writers exist now and they're starting to use them more frequently. Although it's by no means industry standard. However, *how* they use them is still an ongoing battle of square pegs, round holes, miscommunication, mismanagement and occasional bouts of heartbreak. It really is a painful adolescence but hopefully we'll emerge on the other side as fully functioning grownups. Probably.

Yeah, I imagine it would be tough to write characters under the circumstances you described. Plot in-and-of itself is not so bad, but creating a character can be a very intimate process. Honestly, if I wrote for games, I would probably just get fired for putting my foot down and saying to the development team: "Look, I am the writer here and what I say about the character is final."

I will have to respectfully disagree with your quoted paragraph, though. In a sense, it is not a maturation of the industry so much as a severe issue with certain developers. For example, Konami -throughout the PSone era- usually had the writer as the lead developer of their projects, and it worked quite well for them, bringing Metal Gear Solid, Suikoden, and Silent Hill. Particularly Suikoden and Silent Hill, the two best-written series ever made. The process you are describing seems to be common, but one that is simply borne not out of the infancy of the industry, but out of particular practices of particular developers and publishers. Really, there is no guarantee that the industry will ever grow out of this practice unless specific changes are made.

Some studios write games like films (one main writer who does everything) and some do a TV style (TellTale being a good example of using a round table workshop format). Problems arise in story when you have too many people who think "they" know what is best for the story. Thief had problems with design on many levels, and this sort of mismanagement is unfortunately quite common in the industry. A good script can make a terrible movie, all based on execution and how it is handled.

I'm not saying giving writers total creative freedom is always the best thing, but for many of the major studios there is a ton of oversight on story and creative development. With a strong, single guiding hand, this can be fantastic. It also usually takes many iterations before release. Even a game praised for its story like Bioshock went through years of development and tuning before the story turned into what was released.

There's also a major gulf between indie games and AAA. I was a writer on Consortium, and we had none of this oversight. We also didn't have a budget of millions of dollars, and when people put their money in, they want a say in how a game develops. Exactly the same as in the film and television industry, it's just something that is part of how entertainment is made. thehorror2 is correct though on his statement, even though I was a writer on the game, I wrote no dialogue. My work was entirely in the Information Console, ARG writing and various other bits and pieces. There are a few different levels of how writers work on games.

Redacted, if you're interested in game writing, I wrote a piece for the Vancouver Sun a while back on it. I'm by NO means a AAA writer, but i've had a lot of sit downs with game writers, so maybe it can offer some advice. Rhi could give a lot more info I'm sure on that front.

Basically though, to get into game writing you need to just get out there and do it.

http://blogs.vancouversun.com/2013/07/30/how-to-break-into-the-game-industry-part-3-on-writing-for-games-and-the-impossible-ish-dream/

She wrote or added to the shit narrative of Bioshock Infinite? Hooray.

Though you do have Prince Of Persia listed there. Which is one of the best stories experienced on last gen.

Is it supposed to be a good thing that she wrote for Bioshock Infinite and Tomb Raider? Because I found the stories in both games to be awful: pretentious drivel and trying-too-hard grittiness respectively.

Oh wow I'm just going to geek out for a bit that we've had Rhianna Pratchett post in the thread. That is so cool =D

The Madman:

Plus I quite liked Snuff which is a recent book of his.Not as good as Thud or Guards! Guards but still a damned fine Sam Vimes tale.

And in fairness, it's really hard to write a better book than Thud! or Guards!Guards! =D Many a writer has gone through their entire lives without being able to do it.

I really dug Raising Steam, there's such a visible sense of change in that book. It's always been great how the Discworld has change and grown older along with the books and Raising Steam is where the comes together, all the pieces have been sown, the society is right, the technology is right and suddenly everything's different and they're heading towards the future at a speed unlike anything they've seen before.

Racism and sexism and just generally excluding people who are different or want to be different is one of the oldest themes of the series and the Discworld has been struggling with battle for people's rights and respect for pretty much forever. And Raising Steam is the book where they win, the important people are all on board and society has reached the point where it can say 'You're not okay with this person? Then push off'. It's the last chance for people to adapt or they get left behind. The grags are no longer the powerhouse of Thud! setting society, they're the ones who need to fix themselves because no-one has time for them anymore. The anti-climax highlighting that is absolutely beautiful.

And all those themes, they fit so perfectly with both the huge optimism and upheaval of the Industrial Revolution and the idea of trains themselves. It's not a coincidence that all my descriptions have been things like 'moving forward' and 'being left behind' , TP is just so good at instilling the essence of an idea.

Video games, its how it goes. Not really a big fan myself of her work (dont see anything all that special to be honest) but in games it usually depends on how much the devs/publishers want the story to matter or just use it as a vessel for specific gameplay mechanics or set-pieces. The best story (story-telling at least) in games are the ones that mix gameplay and story well into eachother like Spec Ops The Line, Psychonauts and Metal Gear (this one just story-telling, and certainly not all the time).

Its stuff that usually comes from a very focused team with a very good and defined direction and goal. Clearly Thief wasnt that.

Leather_Raven:
-Snip-

Interesting stuff you're sharing with us here and it certainly explains a lot of the things I've seen in some of the franchises I'm fond of. While I don't do writing work myself, I do roleplay with friend online so I've seen some variations of this via so I can certainly see how this sort of thing isn't going to be most... creatively encouraging environment.

That said... thanks for sharing and good luck with future projects. :)

[REDACTED]:

Leather_Raven:
Snip

Awesome of you to drop by! It's really cool to see the perspective of someone inside the industry on these forums. Do you have any advice for people considering games writing as career?

I think Rich Dansky's post on the Ubisoft blog is a great summary.

http://blog.ubi.com/the-write-stuff-on-becoming-a-game-writer/

And since there has been some confusion in the comments relating to this post over at Kotaku http://kotaku.com/the-perils-of-writing-video-games-1535739986 I thought I'd clarify that I wasn't trying to say that writers somehow get this great ocean of freedom in other entertainment mediums. Many scripts are not written on spec, they're brought to the writer by the director, producer, studio etc. for a variety of different reasons. Of the four screenplays I've worked on so far, the first the story initially came from the director and I fleshed it out, the second was an adaptation of a novel (Warrior Daughter), the third was a page-one rewrite (still a huge amount of creative freedom on that) and the fourth is also an adaptation (Wee Free Men.)

However, the point I was trying to make is that freelance games writers don't originate the stories from the off. In-house writers partially do, but it's likely to be hand in hand with the design (as it should always be, regardless of whether your writer is internal or external.)

The main reason I brought that up was because I get so many queries that basically say 'I have this idea for a game. How do I get it made?' And really the answers are 'Get a job at a studio and work your way up and then maybe, just maybe' or 'Learn how to make games with Unity/Gamemaker etc. and do it yourself or with mates.'

Having worked across several different mediums (basically everything other than novels, I'm sure you can guess why) I can wholeheartedly say that games writing is the most restrictive. Not that it doesn't mean that you can't be creative within those boundaries. In fact sometimes boundaries can make you more creative. But more often than not it depends on the team your working with and the agency and control you're given.

Tahaneira:

Unfortunately, he's so far along in his Alzheimer's he's pretty much out of the game. His latest books have been... off. To my mind, his mind has already died; it's just his body that's still walking around. T_T

That's just bollocks.

The Madman:
in fact Sir. Pratchett recently signed a new deal for another ten books in upcoming years.

I'm not sure where you're getting your information from, but I'm pretty damn sure that's not true either.

Rhi

I doubt Rhianna Pratchett was lead writer for all those games OP. Perhaps some but defiantly not Bioshock: Infinite, chances are some would have been for a character or small arc, not the main plot.

Robrecht751:
-snip-

You were a writer on Consortium? I backed that game's Kickstarter. You mentioned doing the Information Console, just how many writers were there during the development?

Between you and Leather Raven I have to wonder just how many anonymous devs lurk here instead of Neogaff, of as I like to call it 'Rumor City.'

Leather_Raven:
I read these forums, I sometimes even post. You've all been fairly polite, if curious, about the topic of... well, me. I appreciate that, so I thought I'd respond to a few things said in this thread about my career and the choices I've made. Please excuse any typos, this seems to have turned into a typing at 3am scenario.

Okay, here we go...

As some of you are aware (and it's great to read that the weird and occasionally messy world of a games writer is gaining a bit more understanding) I don't originate these stories. It's not a case of me rocking up to a developer and going 'Hey I have this GREAT idea!' It's more a case of a developer coming to me and saying 'Hey! We have this great idea/game design/set of levels/characters etc. But we need some story please.' This makes it quite a different ballgame from most other entertainment mediums.

My role is to take what they have, flesh it out and get it working in the game within the boundaries set by the developer - be they time, budget, design etc. What you get to work with can vary depending on how far development has already progressed. There's likely to be some spine of a story, some levels designed (in Mirror's Edge's case a whole game) and often a bit of character work. By and large it's at least what the developer will have needed for their pitch doc/proof of concept/green light etc. and enough to get folks actually building stuff.

The reason I (and other games writers) talk about the need to get writers/narrative designers in earlier is it would make our role a whole lot easier and more satisfying if *we* helped originate this kind of stuff. When you work as a hired-gun, rather than an imbedded writer, that hardly ever happens. Sometimes this is because the devs want to do it themselves, or they don't know where to find a games writer. Perhaps they're just not ready yet, or not used to thinking about story and writer at the same time. Often there can be an assumption that the 'word bits' are easy, cheap and that can easily be slipped in somewhere down the line. These attitudes unfortunately bypasses the skills that writers/narrative designers have for character and world building. Something that, you'd think, could be pretty useful to the development process.

It's getting a little better. People actually know games writers exist now and they're starting to use them more frequently. Although it's by no means industry standard. However, *how* they use them is still an ongoing battle of square pegs, round holes, miscommunication, mismanagement and occasional bouts of heartbreak. It really is a painful adolescence but hopefully we'll emerge on the other side as fully functioning grownups. Probably.

As for the titles I've worked on - Some have been in a lead writer capacity, such as Tomb Raider or the Overlord games, although I was the only writer on the latter. I didn't just write the ladies, BTW, I wrote the men too. Because it would be, frankly, a little weird not to. Yup, you get the ladies AND the men with me. I'm a full service provider.

Anyway...others jobs have been about supporting another writer (Prince of Persia.) A few have been the efforts of writing teams, such as Thief, Risen and Bioshock Infinite.

I took on these, as someone pointed out very varied titles, for an equally varied number of reasons - I fell in love with what the developer was trying to achieve, I was a fan of the franchise, I was helping a mate out, because I was asked and had the time, I was recommended by a former colleague, and, in one instance, because of a shared history involving a gay, escapologist tortoise. No job ever came about the same way.

Admittedly, not all have turned out the way I'd have liked. This has been for a variety of reasons, not least of which has probably been a little naivety on my part about the realities of what could be achieved within the aforementioned boundaries. We're all learning here.

Some I'm really proud to have been part of. Tomb Raider, for example (particularly Lara's journey which was my main focus) and the Overlord games, which were as fun to make as they are to play. Sometimes things go your way, sometimes they don't.

Creatively, on a broader scale, I still feel like I've only just got started; that I have many more stories to tell and become part of, both in games, and other mediums (a lot of my work is in comics and screenplays these days.)

As for most prominent female developer, I don't think I am. I've just been at this gig for a long time (16 years including my time on PC Zone) and I've worked on some high profile games. I try to use that position, where possible, to stand up for issues I care about within the industry that I love. I have a burning need to at least try to make things better.

This post isn't to justify anything in particular. If you don't like the games I've worked on, then no post of mine is going to make you change your mind. However, there's a lot of misinformation out there about what games writers in general do, so I thought I should sprinkle a little clarity into the mix. Hope it's of interest to those who care about such things.

Thanks for reading.

Rhi

Wow, thanks for getting in on this thread! I suppose I shouldn't call you out in the topic and not expect you to catch wind of it on the internet. If there was any doubt in your mind this was in no way criticism on you and your work, I know that people can often hear things regularly and statements build up as attacks. I really enjoy a lot of your work and Thief was the first time I saw your name in the credits and got confused - which is probably what spurred this thread.

I agree whole-heartedly as I am a big fan of narrative and story in gaming, I guess that's why I'm interested in South Park: The Stick of Truth because the writers obviously have a big role in the making of that game. As far as being a prominent female developer (maybe writer is more fair) I say this because despite how much interest is being put into games writing recently you are the only freelance writer I can personally name, the rest being directors/designers who have a hand in writing or control over the whole story and belong to big companies - like Hideo Kojima or Ken Levine and as a big fan of Japanese games I can name a few more from that side of the world.

Just a question...because I am curious, but what do you think about the story and narrative writing differences between Japan and the west? I'm not sure how much you get to play games or what games you enjoy more but there's a very obvious difference in the writing of say Final Fantasy and Mass Effect or Metal Gear Solid and Thief for example, do you think some Japanese games do try and involve the story from a starting level or are they completely the opposite?

Thanks for replying and posting on here anyway, was great to read a real insight into the world of writing

:)
Adam

Robrecht751:
Some studios write games like films (one main writer who does everything) and some do a TV style (TellTale being a good example of using a round table workshop format). Problems arise in story when you have too many people who think "they" know what is best for the story. Thief had problems with design on many levels, and this sort of mismanagement is unfortunately quite common in the industry. A good script can make a terrible movie, all based on execution and how it is handled.

I'm not saying giving writers total creative freedom is always the best thing, but for many of the major studios there is a ton of oversight on story and creative development. With a strong, single guiding hand, this can be fantastic. It also usually takes many iterations before release. Even a game praised for its story like Bioshock went through years of development and tuning before the story turned into what was released.

There's also a major gulf between indie games and AAA. I was a writer on Consortium, and we had none of this oversight. We also didn't have a budget of millions of dollars, and when people put their money in, they want a say in how a game develops. Exactly the same as in the film and television industry, it's just something that is part of how entertainment is made. thehorror2 is correct though on his statement, even though I was a writer on the game, I wrote no dialogue. My work was entirely in the Information Console, ARG writing and various other bits and pieces. There are a few different levels of how writers work on games.

Redacted, if you're interested in game writing, I wrote a piece for the Vancouver Sun a while back on it. I'm by NO means a AAA writer, but i've had a lot of sit downs with game writers, so maybe it can offer some advice. Rhi could give a lot more info I'm sure on that front.

Basically though, to get into game writing you need to just get out there and do it.

http://blogs.vancouversun.com/2013/07/30/how-to-break-into-the-game-industry-part-3-on-writing-for-games-and-the-impossible-ish-dream/

I'm going to also thank you for getting involved, boy what an interesting topic this turned out to be! I'd never thought my throw away post could be so interesting HA!

I think a large part of the story from thief (2014) was cut or just plain forgotten, otherwise I can't explain how the story seems to assume we know what's going on despite never explaining key components.

I think Rhianna can be a good writer, I absolutely loved the world mirrors edge made but generally I only really notice if a story is genuinely bad

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