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红楼&游戏

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我们身处在一个悲哀的国家, 我们同胞的血脉中流动着短视的劣根性, 我所从事的行业正处于黑暗的时代, 我没有热血,但一息尚存。

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We juse NEED "real" Game Writers  

2007-03-28 16:32:58|  分类: 游戏设计 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Most games have stories. There are very good reasons for this, involving how we as a species like to learn and remember things, and how we generally rationalize and understand the world around us. But the bottom line is that games do have stories.

Despite this, alarmingly few games have proper writers.

I think this trend is changing. I see more and more game writers getting work, and the better (or better-known) of them are finding themselves in great demand. This is a Good Thing. But progress is slow, and we should change that. I've been both part of the problem and part of the solution in this regard over the past few months, so I have some perspective on this issue.

The Hypocrisy of the Game Designer
Most game stories that are not written by proper writers are written by game designers. This makes sense of course...the designer is the one who probably devised the game's setting and action in the first place, and good designers (especially lead designers) tend to have very strong verbal skills. It only makes sense that the designer should write the story.

This is of course total crap. And the irony is, designers of all people ought to know better.

It wasn't that long ago that a person carrying the sole title of "designer" was a relative rarity in the game world. If you were going to do design you were expected to bring something else to the table, like the ability to write code or do art. In fact most designers were converted artists or programmers until quite recently. If you didn't have these skills, well then you'd better be good at production, organizing schedules, localization and such. In short, pure 'designers' have had to struggle for acceptance within teams.

What's more, every designer has had the experience, usually a multitude of times, when "everybody's a designer". Or "how hard can it be?" Often, trying to explain the reason for a design idea is frustratingly difficult and time-consuming.

And yet here we are, designers trying to write stories. Tsk tsk tsk.

A Story is More Than Words
The first step that we seem to have taken in the right direction is to stop writing actual dialogue. Those of us that have written dialogue, then heard it read by perfectly good actors and sound like total ass, have been humbled by this experience. So I think it's relatively easy for us to decide early on that a "real writer" will be brought in to write the actual dialogue.

But the thing is, a story is much more than just the dialogue. It's like looking at a game as just its moment-to-moment level design rather than its overall structure. Creating a story that actually resonates, that gives the viewer what they want emotionally and logically, requires great and long effort, and more importantly requires a very specific skillset that isn't obtainable just by reading a couple of books. It takes understanding, study and most importantly, practice.

We were struggling with what parts of the story to keep, what to discard, how to pace and structure it. I could just see myself saying "Man, I wish we'd brought in the writer a few months ago." The 'real' writer was brought into the project right away, and the project suddenly took great leaps forward. Hunh, go figure.

Writing is a Skill
What I've learned is, while I and many other designers/artists/etc in the games creating business may very well have the talent to create a great story, we don't have the skill. I think most people have at least some understanding of the difference between ability and skill, but for purposes of this discussion, I'll make a very simple definition:

Skill is ability gained through understanding and practice.

When looked at in this light, I think the typical designer fails in both areas. While I have a bit of an advantage in the first area, having supposedly studied literature (some 20 years ago now, I might add), I don't think that my understanding ever got past the typical academic areas of theme, image and metaphor. I didn't learn much about structure, character, technique... those practical things that make a writer a good, skilled writer. And, just like with game design or art or programming, good writing absolutely requires practice, a dedication specifically to the art of story, words and dialogue.

I'm sure there are a few designers out there, with not only broad skillsets but also tremendous time and dedication, who can study and practice writing enough to perform the writer's role... but why? Most of the time, in my observation, developers who try to wear too many hats end up frustrated, compromised, and holding up the overall progress of a game's development. Though good game writers might be a little hard to locate right now, I know there are a fair number of very good ones available, and that's only going to improve as time goes by.

Because, think about it... we need game writers.
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