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Monday, May 3, 2010

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Valve's Mark Laidlaw Discusses Game Writing
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

The Mac Gamer recently posted the results of in interview with Valve Software's Mark Laidlaw. In the interview the game writer discusses working on Half Life 2, the challenges of developing an engaging storyline, and integrating story with gameplay and art.

TMG: How often does the writing dictate level design, particularly with thematic tone? I assume that a dialog is created between the writing and the other aspects of a game. They, perhaps, feed into and off each other. Can you elaborate on this?
Marc: Yes, usually the exigencies of game design dictate the writing rather than the other way around. But because Valve has writers involved in every stage of a gameís design, we do get to have input all the way through the creation process. So often a story idea will drive initial decisions about levels, art, etc.; and all of these shape the gameplay. Thereís a good feedback process when things are going well. When things are not going well, then the story or the gameplay or the level can be so fixed that everything has to work around them, and things feel brittle; story is just as blameworthy as anything else in this regard. Itís possible to get so attached to a story idea that you become inflexible, and this can become a liability if it hobbles the best possible gameplay.

TMG: Game narrative is usually so trite that itís almost an accepted characteristic of video gameís persona. When not able to write setting and intent into scenes, when limited to dialog and when limiting the narrative voice to a first-person present tense (which removes the option for an interpretive narrator who is chocked full of opinion), how likely is it that game narratives redeem themselves while being so hog-tied?
Marc: Every game offers unique narrative challenges, which can be addressed in an infinite variety of ways. Redemption of narrative will always depend on the creativity you bring to solving those problems. Trite narrative is partly just a failure of imagination and commitment to doing better. Every game can solve its story problems by doing the first and most obvious thing that comes to mind. I see very small indy games taking wildly creative approaches to story, even when they really donít have to, for the sheer joy of making something unexpected. I hope this sort of fearless inventiveness trickles up into more mainstream titles
Visit the page below to read the full Q&A.

The Mac Gamer: Valve's Mark Laidlaw Q&A
Valve Software

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Archives  News  Valve's Mark Laidlaw Discusses Game Writing