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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

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David Gaider Continues Discussion Of Dragon Age: Origins
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story has posted the second part of a new interview with Bioware's David Gaider. The lead writer for Dragon Age: Origins discussed the value of pen & paper role playing game experience, the importance of story in creating a successful game, and the least enjoyable aspect of creating games.

I can imagine that writing for a video game is closer to writing adventures for traditional roleplaying games rather than novels. Could you tell us a little about the process one would take to write the story for a video-game such as Dragon Age and perhaps tell us about any experience you have with traditional (tabletop) roleplaying games, such as Dungeons & Dragons?
Story is important, but it really isn’t the sole factor in determining what a project should or should not doIt’s been my experience that the best recommendation for a video game writer is that they have a background in running tabletop roleplaying games. I have some theories as to why that is – essentially I think it’s because someone who’s only experienced in writing prose has a very linear thought process. They write for a passive audience, creating scenes with characters that are always their own. A tabletop GM “writes” for characters that belong to their players, and are accustomed to dealing with the fact that these characters do unexpected things. They’re accustomed to accommodating their players’ creative needs rather than just their own, and tend to have an easier time wrapping their heads around the way that game dialogue branches – as opposed to your typical prose writer who has a very specific “voice” in mind for their player and whose dialogue branches fall apart when the player deviates from the path they had in mind.

That may be my personal bias coming into play, however. I did (and do – though less today than back in those halcyon, carefree days where I did this stuff just for fun) a lot of tabletop GM’ing, from my early days in D&D to Shadowrun (which is still my favorite) and Earthdawn, and even a brief flirtation with White Wolf games. That didn’t necessarily make me a better writer so much as a better designer – but in the case of a game writer you need to be both in order to succeed.

The process of making a story for a game like Dragon Age? That’s a big question. I think the part where it differs most markedly from how people outside the industry imagine it to be and how it actually is comes with the need to consult the other disciplines – art and marketing in particular. It’s not a situation where a writer sits down and imagines what kind of story they want to write and everyone else scurries about to adapt that story into a game. It just doesn’t work that way. We have to take into account the needs of gameplay, the resources we have at hand, the requirements of marketing (read: the “business side” of things), and work with everyone to tell the story that we as a project want to tell. And even once that’s decided, there are still going to be a lot of midstream changes, cuts that force things to be rewritten, alterations in project direction and resources, technical limitations that you didn’t know existed when you first put the story together…it’s not like writing a book at all. Story is important, but it really isn’t the sole factor in determining what a project should or should not do (although wouldn’t that be nice if it was?).
Check out the rest at the page below. David Gaider Interview 2
Dragon Age: Origins

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