VIDEOGAME WRITING NOMINATIONS
Thrilled to get a nomination for the 2016 Writers Guild Awards for outstanding achievement in videogame writing on Assassin’s Creed Syndicate.
LOS ANGELES, NEW YORK — The Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) and the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) have announced nominations for outstanding achievement in writing for videogames during 2015. Winners will be honored at the 2016 Writers Guild Awards on Saturday, February 13, at concurrent ceremonies in Los Angeles and New York City. Writers Guild of America, West
Pretty chuffed to receive this email message today:
“Congratulations on your nomination for this year’s Videogame Writing Award for your work on Assassin’s Creed Syndicate… I wanted to be in touch with you to extend an invitation to speak on this year’s panel at the VWC Annual Meeting. Each year we ask all of the nominees if they, a member of their team, or the entire writing team would be willing to talk about their experiences creating and writing the game for which they are nominated.”
And thrilled for the editorial team!
UPDATE 14th February:
CONGRATZ and well done to the winner: Rise of the Tomb Raider
Here’s a link to all the nominees and winners: WGA Awards, nominees and winners
This post follows on from the previous one about how to write AI lines for the aspiring video game writer. It gives a practical tip for writing AI lines for open world AAA video games.
To retain your sanity when writing AI lines, it’s necessary to get them down fairly quickly, especially when there are thousands of them to write.
The thing about writing them on your PC, though, filling in one blank space in the database after the other, is that at some point you will get bogged down by the line that just refuses to come. You might spend 10 or 30 minutes racking your brain just to find a single line or paragraph that works. This is inefficient and very frustrating especially when you have missions and main path dialogue to write.
So, instead of trying to thump out the lines directly on my PC, I first write down a draft on paper. Sounds old hat and time consuming but in fact, in the long run, it turns out to be the quickest way of writing quality AI lines.
Here’s a quick breakdown on how to do it:
- Place 4 or 5 A4 sheets on your desk. Number them.
- Write the indications for each set of lines to be written. For each line I simply put a dot on the left and provide enough space for my text.
N.B. Some situations will call for just a few words such as attack commands. Others may require a whole paragraph like chitchat in a tavern or around a fire. So remember to leave enough space! 😉
- Once you have written down your indications, write in the lines one after the other. If you get stuck, go onto the next. If an idea pops into your mind that would fit further down, write it.
- Copy the lines into the database. Take full advantage of this extra time by thinking of the characters in relation to each other and by fine-tuning your lines as you go.
I find it preferable to write AI lines by character rather than by line type. This is because it is far easier to write while staying in one character at a time. That said, sometimes you are not given the choice, you have to adapt.
To recap, this method not only allows you to easily skip lines or whole sections when you get stuck, but gives you the freedom to dance about with your pen pinning down lines as they pop into your head. The idea is to keep the ink flowing fast and furious without lifting your pen off the page for more than a few seconds for thought.
This simple way of writing AI lines also enables the writer to more easily enhance the text with idiosyncratic speech or recurring images and expressions.
Making the Storyworld Come Alive
In an open world the player will come across non player characters that may respond when questioned or when caught in a situation. To state the obvious, these responses can be mutterings, shouted orders, general news and gossip, directions, reactions to a theft or a killing, and much more. The idea of course is to enhance the feeling of realism.
Writing AI lines is one task that many video game writers dread. This is because you may have to think up five ways of saying exactly the same thing for any given character. When there are 20 or 30 characters then you are looking at over 100 variations of the same thing. That takes some impressive mind gymnastics, and the task can quickly feel like facing the washing-up mountain after a New Year’s Eve do.
But there are ways of making the job easier, even enjoyable. To write well it is important to write with gusto, right? Well the same goes for AI. In fact, writing AI lines can be fun (no seriously) and is narratively very useful. It is where the astute writer will find extra space to add context and colour to the overall narrative world.
Sources of Inspiration
Although AI lines are mostly written for non-player characters, it is important to remember that each character can and must have his/her own background. By giving NPCs traits you are making AI lines easier to write. Every facet of the character will give you, the writer, a source of inspiration. Then, once you have the raw material, you just need to get creative!
Just a few lines of bio will do to differentiate NPC types from each other, nothing as elaborate as a main character bio. The voice attributed to the lines may pop up in various situations and may even be attached to a variety of characters. This means the bio must be short and non-restrictive. It can feature personality traits, background info, backstory and location in the storyworld.
Personality is the most obvious source of inspiration. A brash character will use different words to tell you where to get off than a bashful one.
Where your characters come from will determine how they speak. It is important to write for their social and geographic background. An upper class person will not address a tavern keeper in the same way as someone from the lower classes. Likewise, a New Yorker will use different slang to a Londoner. Writing in class and background will allow you to sustain variety among the characters while adding authenticity.
You can generally invent a basic backstory for each NPC voice. For example, he or she may have left their family in the country to find a better life in the city. From this simple non-restrictive element you can tap into a whole seam of ideas. For example the character may refer to say their brother when it is convenient to do so. Not only will this give you a unique source of inspiration, it will people the NPC’s world and make him or her all the more plausible.
Example: “Should have listened to our Robbie, now look at me, up shit creek without a bleedin’ paddle!”
If you know your NPC will be met at a specific place-type, say, down at the docks, then you can delve into the vocabulary and sayings in keeping with that place.
If you know the given line will take place after a specific mainpath event, then you can have the NPC make a comment on what has passed. This of course means you need to check where and when the lines may be triggered in the game.
That said, it might be that the lines are generic throughout the game, in which case it’s better to take your inspirations from the points above.
Coming next: A Practical Tip for Writing AI Lines.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate Trailer
I’ve been working in Quebec City as senior scriptwriter for a while now and am proud to be able to announce why. Along with a crew of gifted people in Quebec and other studios around the world I am thrilled to announce the first trailer of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. Enjoy!
Author Spotlight posted on the Literary Classics website!