14 November 2011

Writing for (Roleplaying)Games: Disillusionment

Perhaps it has always been a dream of yours to write your very own Final Fantasy plot. Perhaps like me, you get too attached to games and their characters that you want to continue their lives and make your own ending. Either way, you dream of writing a story that gamers like you will enjoy.

The Dream is not as far-fetched as you might think.

The pay won't be amazing but this isn't about the pay. At least not yet. I really think if you work hard enough and become amazing at what you do, you will get paid for it.

I write for a small game company with big dreams. We are currently working on a roleplaying game for Facebook.

In this series, I want to share my experience in writing for this game. I doubt if my experience will help anyone already in the industry, but I guess this will be more of a reminder for myself than anything else. I'm no expert by the way, I'm still learning and stumbling and picking myself up.


First Lesson: Disillusionment

Consider your environment, your medium, what you're writing for. Different media require different treatments. No matter how good you are as a writer, you can't publish the most beautiful wall of text in a Facebook game and expect people to actually read it. You have to first make your words accessible and easy to read.


  • Writing is a discipline too.

Writing is both talent and skill, it is a discipline. I was so used to flowery, descriptive scenes that I had trouble adapting my writing style to straightforward game copy. I got the lore down, the history, the intrigue... it's all there written in such a way that I could be proud of.

But that won't do. In the game, the how didn't matter so much, it's the what that truly matters. I had to streamline my writing to let go of all the frilly details and completely focus on the action. Setting up the stage was kept to a minimum.

Needless to say, I had trouble killing my little darlings.

The truth is, you can't just "do what you want". Most of the time you have to work in very limiting conditions. When I was told that I had to trim story quests into 100 - 150 words I almost fell off my chair. Heck, at that time I didn't even think I could get The Player from Point A to Point B with that kind of restriction.


  • Old habits die hard.

I'm one for really dark endings. I like stories that end with a questionable note and a tinge of despair. So yeah, imagine when I proposed that kind of ending to the team. Of course I had to revise it.

It's not enough for Good to win in the end. There must be A Moment of Insurmountable Glory. That moment wherein the Player can sit back and say, hot dayum I'm awesome!

It doesn't matter if I thought the story would have ended better with the hero realizing the last minute that everything he did was a lie and would then proceed to slay everyone in cold, dark fury; The Player must have his moment of glory.

Because it's his story you're writing, not yours.


  • The Box breeds creativity.

There, I said it. I honestly think that because there were so many restrictions, I learned how to write more efficiently and come up with pretty good stuff. Research, immersion and practice will train you to think within your limitations.

Learn the art of writing inside The Box. You will be surprised at the amazing things you can come up with when you have no choice but to "make it work".




Okay, that's it for the first installment. In case you're from the industry and want to give me more tips or show me how it's done, feel free to do so, I would love to learn! :D But remember that I'm writing for a text-based roleplaying game. So all my experience would come from that.

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