Games Writing (Channelling My Inner Ogre)
I had the recent good fortune to land a writing gig at Larian Studios.
Myself and a few other writers were enlisted to create scenes and dialogue for the upcoming Baldur's Gate 3 game (no spoilers here!).
Although I have priors in writing, having published blogs and articles for a bunch of companies - not to mention my own authoring efforts - this was my first foray in game writing.
The Baldur's Gate franchise - set in the Forgotten Realms, Dungeons and Dragons campaign setting - is a vast world with multiple fantasy and mythical creatures from goblins to ogres. The rich tapestry of characters, languages, and history is showcased in the various wikis dedicated to D&D.
There is a massive fanbase and the challenge for me - as someone who was unfamiliar with the world - was to immerse myself in it, and capture the voice of the characters. Having an advance copy of Baldur's Gate 3 helped, allowing me to play various roles and study the character interactions, and player options which would advance the storyline.
What the team are creating is incredibly exciting and I was thrilled to have been a part of it for the past two months. Rubbing shoulders with senior writers, untangling plot knots, birthing new scenes, the painstaking detail that goes into understanding character motivations - all these things really offered me a unique insight into how successful games (make no mistake, this will be a monster hit) are carefully constructed.
With a tight feedback loop and working in tandem with the senior writers, my own writing skills have been strengthened and it's given me a thirst to explore similar opportunities.
The games that I have enjoyed in the past have never been those with fantastic graphics. Typically, I'm much more interested in games that are driven by strong characters. Games where I'm emotionally invested in the outcome. That, in my opinion, is best achieved through the medium of writing.
Understanding a character's reason for doing what he does - how they interact with others.
In short, telling a bloody good story.
In many ways, it's the same as cinematic movies. Having a big budget blockbuster with amazing effects often leaves me feeling hollow afterwards, especially as far as the characters are concerned (The Hobbit is one that springs to mind).
Final Fantasy, Harvest Moon, Legend of Zelda. These games were relatively simple from a plot perspective, weren't necessarily renowned for their effects, but years (decades!) later, they are still nostalgic to many gamers.
Is it any wonder that some of those classics are revamped for a new generation of gamers who may be fatigued from the high-adrenaline, high-octane, combat-driven and dizzying graphics of contemporary titles?
As a writer/developer it's an exciting time as more people are drawn into gaming - especially during these weird times - quarantining preventing many from going outside, and offering more opportunities for friends to connect and network online.
Who knows where things will lead, but one thing is for sure - a good story will continue to be at the heart of it.