Complications Ensue: The Crafty Game, TV and Screenwriting Blog
Complications Ensue:
The Crafty Screenwriting, TV and Game Writing Blog


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Saturday, November 23, 2013

At MIGS, I attended a superb talk by Ian Frazier (@tibermoon) of Bioware, on how next-gen consoles are going to affect game design. The core of the talk was how their capabilities (e.g. second screen, ability to share pictures and video) will magnify the 8 Drives to Play.

8 drives, you say? What are these eight drives? Ian crystallized them as follows:

1. Feel It (Escapist Immersion) –

Losing yourself in a fantasy world where everything is more compelling than it is here in your life. Contrast is all about escaping into a fantasy world:

AC4: Black Flag lets you be a pirate. Arrrr!

Another way to phrase this might be "Put Me In a Story." Games don't just tell (or show) a story. They put the player in a story which he lives through. So Far Cry 3 puts you in the story of an innocent California boy who becomes a badass. Spec Ops: The Line puts you in the story of Captain Walker's descent into madness. (I think I know why they call him Captain Walker. But I digress.)

 2. Learn It (System Mastery) –

Learning how the game's different rules interact with each other. Discovering the synergies. Figuring out how to build your character. Understanding what's important and what's not. You feel smart when you figure it all out.

Civilization is all about system mastery. Also, Starcraft. Also, chess.

3. Beat It (Skill Mastery) –

Win the game. Beat the boss. The harder the game is, the more powerful your triumph. Shadow of the Colossus.

4. See It All (Content) –

Exploring the environment. Climbing to the top of the mountain to get the view. Discovering the secret passages and the hidden rooms. Meeting every boss.

This is another drive that Contrast plays to. Also, Far Cry.

5. Help Your Friends (Cooperative Play) –

Playing as a team. An innate human drive since we were chasing mammoths around the mountains. Army of Two exists entirely because of this drive. Also, football, soccer, lacrosse, crew, etc.

6. Crush Your Enemies (Competitive Play) –

See them run before you. Hear the lamentation of their women.

Mortal Kombat. Also, boxing, tennis, ping-pong, poker, and fairground pie competitions.

7. Impress Everyone (Peacocking) –

I'm riding a feathered rhino! And you know how hard they are to get! Some WoW players live for this.

8. Build Something (Creation) –

This is the drive at the heart of Minecraft (though peacocking is there too, online). Also, Lego, Lincoln Logs and the Erector Set.

Hunter loves when an RPG gives him a house that he can decorate. He spends a lot of time putting stuff in his house and arranging them just so. Strange, because he has no interest in picking his clothes up off the floor in his actual room.

Different games play to these drives in different amounts. COD multiplayer is all about Coop Play and Crush Your Enemies, but not so much Build Something. Contrast is about Feel It and See It, but not about System Mastery -- its mechanics are quite simple.

I'm not sure exactly where the drive to feel like a hero lives in this list, though it's obviously key to many AAA games. ("Do you feel like a hero yet?" asks Spec Ops: The Line.) There is also the completionist drive -- gotta catch'em all -- that sends people across Renaissance Florence rooftops collecting feathers for the sake of, well, getting all the feathers.

Of course, there is also the drive to keep pressing the lever that gives you a hamster pellet -- the drive that keeps you playing a game long after it stops being fun, the drive that drives old ladies to sink their piggy banks into one-armed bandits in Vegas. Since Ian is a good guy, and not evil, he doesn't include it in his canonical list, though I'm sure he's aware of it. We all are. This article from Cracked is intended to be humorous, but it is dead on.

If you're designing a game, you should make sure you know which drives you're playing to. These are the goods you're delivering.

If you find this sort of thing interesting, you may also want to check out Jon Radoff's analysis of game player motivations, which builds on Bartle's division of players into explorers, killers, socializers and achievers.


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Thursday, November 21, 2013

What can be said, however, about the story is that it is excellent in its ability to wrap so much punch into such a tiny package. The game is fairly short, so Compulsion Games didn’t leave themselves much room for error. Thankfully,Contrast does more to deliver an emotionally engaging story than most games even come close to in play-through times that are three times as long. Themes of abandonment and relationship dynamics are conveyed subtly and with a delicate touch. Control, sacrifice and power within relationships, be they personal or business, are also themes that are met head on. What’s excellent is that the messaging is reinforced not only by cut-scenes, but by gameplay as well, similar to past indie darling, Limbo. Many of the puzzles find Dawn and Didi fixing or restoring something, and in doing so, the player brings them one step closer to fixing and restoring Didi’s family. By the end, Contrast comes full circle and delivers an experience that is both touching and bittersweet. Truly outstanding work.

Thanks, GameRant!


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Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Q. I wrote a screenplay based on [famous film franchise]. I plan to send a query letter to the star of the [famous film franchise] movies. Should I also send it to the director of the [famous film franchise] movies? If so, should I do it simultaneously, or should I wait to see if I hear back from [star] first?
This is not how it works. Studios, producers, directors and stars will not even read your script based on their franchise. They might have similar ideas for a sequel to you, and they don't want you claiming they stole your ideas. If they want a sequel, they already have writers working on it. They will not, barring the Rapture, option a spec sequel.

What you can do is take all the derivative material out of your spec sequel, and make it unique and fresh and new. You can't option a Bond spec, but you can write a spy movie, and if it's good enough, and fresh enough, someone may make it in spite of its similarities to the Bond franchise. 

(In extremely rare circumstances, someone might even decide that your spy movie would make a great Bond sequel. But the idea has to come from them.)

Your best bet is to be original. Hollywood is not going to turn to someone new for the same old ideas. They already have people they can count on for the same old ideas. You have to bring something new to the party.


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Saturday, November 02, 2013

Q. I'm writing a script that features a real rock star (playing himself) as a fairly significant character. I have 3 or 4 other rock stars making appearances as themselves too. I would assume it would be hugely obvious to anybody reading it that the rock star I picked is a placeholder, and if he isn't available/interested, then we could always cast Rock Star B, C D or E. Is this troublesome or limiting in any way? Would people not be able to figure out it's a placeholder and say ahhhhh forget it your idea hinges on getting this specific guy? Or should I ditch using a known name of a real rock star and make up a fake rock star character? In my mind that would water things down too much.
You shouldn't use the name of a real rock star unless you actually have that rock star on board. And, really, even then, you shouldn't, unless you're writing a documentary. It's your job as a writer to create a character. If you write a script for Lady Gaga to play herself, people are going to bring their own ideas of who she is. Better to invent a Lady Gaga-esque character that you have made distinct and fresh and clever and above all, interestingly flawed. That brings the character to life on the page, and gives Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta something to play on the screen. (Because, of course, almost all rock stars are already consciously playing a character who is a version of themselves. Who's Lady Gaga when she's at home?) The way you've phrased your question, it sounds like you just want "a" rock star in your movie. That is the very definition of "watered down." Always create characters, even if you're writing real people.


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