“How I learned to tell stories on purpose” as a video game writer

LB’S NOTE: What? Video games are writen? By writers? And they even have to learn the craft? I thought AI’s did all that. Day-am!

by Jim Stormdancer

In this article, I’ll explain how I went from having basically no idea how to construct a story to making players cry with my story (in a good way this time). There are big spoilers for the Frog Fractions Hat DLC below, so maybe play it first (or keep reading until an explicit warning about spoilers comes up).

When I ran the Kickstarter for Frog Fractions 2, most people probably guessed that I had no idea what I was going to make. I had made Frog Fractions entirely improvisationally and I figured I could just do that again.

The trick is, when you get something right the first time, you haven’t learned anything. You have no idea which elements were due to your innate talent and which were accidental. The most important accident, I discovered much later, was that I built Frog Fractions in chronological order, and I designed each scene to follow naturally from the previous ones.

By contrast, I started work on the sequel before I knew where I’d be hiding it, so there was no previous scene to work from. Instead I started building gameplay vignettes that were individually entertaining. It turned out to be very difficult to fit these together into something that felt cohesive, and I feel like I only partially succeeded.

I had no idea how much of the success of the first game—even to me, a not-particularly-story-focused player—stemmed from it being at heart a buddy comedy, the story of two friends going on an adventure together.

I started work on “Hop’s Iconic Cap” with these intentions:

  • Like Frog Fractions and Glittermitten Grove, I wanted to build it improvisationally. It’s more fun that way, and leaving the design loose means you can reshape it on the fly as you learn more about the game you’re building.
  • Like Frog Fractions and unlike Glittermitten Grove, I wanted the game to flow easily, like watching a movie, which meant all the minigames should be easy and, if possible, they should be recognizable riffs on existing games that the player already knows.
  • Unlike Frog Fractions and Glittermitten Grove, I wanted to figure out how to tell a meaningful story.

With storytelling on the brain, I replayed The Secret of Monkey Island and noticed that it doesn’t have a story so much as it has “there is an antagonist” and “there is a love interest….”

Read it all at arstechnica.com

Check out Jim’s uber-successful Kickstarter page

Cartoon: Against Despair

LB’S NOTE: TVWriter™’s all-time favorite artist/philosopher, Grant Snider, handles what may well be the biggest problem of our time, whether we’re writers or other creatives or accountants or, well, you name it’s. Thank you, dear Mr. Snider, for being so – dare I say it – fucking wise?

See more of Grant Snider’s extraordinary perception of human creativity at Incidental Comics, HERE

More of less: the dilemma facing the BBC

LB’S NOTE: TV viewing habits are in flux, for all practical purposes (notice that I didn’t say “literally” although this probably would be sentence in which that word would apply) changing every moment.

This of course has a huge effect on creatives, as in, “WTF? Who’s our audience? What does it want? What should we create?” and possibly an even bigger effect on the gatekeepers of the world. This interview with Tim Davie, new director general at the BBC explains.

This is a “director general?” Where’s his uniform? And his medals…?

by Jim Waterson

When Tim Davie used his first speech as the director general of the BBC to announce he wanted to have “more impact by making less”, staff immediately began sending round a clip from the sitcom W1A in which clueless BBC management attempt to implement a “more of less” programme.

“This is about establishing what we do most of best and finding fewer ways of doing more of it less,” says a character in the BBC’s satire of its own corporate structure, to general befuddlement from those in the room.

On Tuesday Davie tried the same pitch for real, using the launch of the corporation’s annual report to set out what he wants to see less of under his leadership of the BBC. In his vision of the future there will be fewer middle-managers earning big salaries, with a drive to reduce the BBC’s overall headcount. There will be fewer middle-ranking programmes that don’t qualify as “unique, high-impact content”. And there will be fewer BBC employees ending up in the pages of the Daily Mail after using their Twitter accounts to share their personal views on politics.

Davie’s problem is that the BBC is already having to deal with some major structural issues that are forcing it to make do with less. And they are harder to solve.

There has been a small but noticeable reduction in the number of active television licences by 300,000 in just 12 months, suggesting either licence fee evasion is on the rise or more people feel able to live without the corporation’s output. With the growing expectation the government will decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee – and the public’s finances stretched due to the recession – Davie acknowledges he needs to increase the BBC’s commercial revenue fast or face making even more cuts.

There is also the continued failure of a successful plan to win over young audiences, with the latest incarnation being a return to traditional television for BBC Three….

Read it all at theguardian.com

Ricky Gervais Tells A Story About How He Learned To Write

LB’S NOTE: Speaking of most comedy writing needing to be shorter and funnier, here’s Ricky Gervais proving himself a true master of both.

More “creation stories” can be found at Fast Compajny’s YouTube Channel


How to make your writing funnier

LB’S NOTE: As a producer, story editor, teacher, contest judge, you-name-it, the most common note I’ve given writers is, hands down, this:

Could be shorter. Could be funnier.

Here’s comedy writer Cheri Steinkellner with further details on the “funnier” part. Oh, and notice that as TED TALKS go, this is pretty darn short, y’hear what I’m saying?

Lesson by Cheri Steinkellner, animation by Anton Bogaty.

Found at the TED-Ed YouTube Channel