In my last three games, I have worked with writers who had never worked in games. I observed that they went through the same phases before feeling comfortable with their tasks, so I thought it could be helpful if I wrote them down.
Please, keep in mind that these are my observations and, hence, are completely subjective.
I hope you find it useful!
First Step: Overcoming Your Fear
Writers believe we need to make the game before, so they can write a story over it, but it’s hard to do it that way. Gameplay and Story are developed systemically, one affecting the other as both are fleshed out, but I have found out that is often easier to start by writing a story and then gamificating it. Let’s put it this way: they just need to write a story, and we will find a way to represent that story with the tools we have (our gameplay mechanics, our 3D assets and our imagination).
Writing a story and gamificating it afterwards doesn’t mean its gameplay is going to be weaker. In fact, it’s going to be better.
If they think they have to make something different to write a script for a game, they get blocked, because they are waiting for an input that will never come.
The solution is pretty simple: they only need to write a normal script.
Second Step: Self-Gamifying Your Story
Now that they have understood that we only need a normal, regular script, they start writing it and they discover it is taking them much longer than they thought. In fact, it is taking them much longer than a regular script. Needless to say, they get worried, and consequently blocked.
Their problem in this stage is that, unconsciously, they are trying to think from a gameplay perspective as they write. They try to handcraft their story to include gameplay situations or to describe these situations, and this slows them down, because it is something really difficult and they don’t have the necessary information to make it: What are the game mechanics? How long would it take to play through this gameplay situation I just imagined? How would be the experience from a narrative experience? Will the players grasp what I’m trying to convey here if I lean too much on gameplay?
There is an interesting fact here: If they have worked in games before, they will probably end up doing exactly this, and it will be just fine. It’s only the first times that your work might be more difficult, but as you learn the tools of the trade (what kind of things you can ask from a 3D artist, or what scenes will require expensive and specific cinematics) you will become more and more comfortable pre-gamifying your stories.
Third Step: Realization
- They just write a simple, regular script.
- The developers elaborate a proposal of how can that story be represented through the means available (gameplay, assets, time, effort, etc).
- They meet and talk about it. They reach a consensus.
- They all go back to their places and start working in what will be probably an awesome game.
NOTE: Again, this last step is not a requirement; if the writer has some gaming experience he/she could gamify part of the story as described in the second step, speeding up the process.