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


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Thursday, June 30, 2016

I’ve been working on rewriting the objectives and Arthur’s journal entries into the voice of the game. The journal entries are fun because I can write whatever I want without worrying what it will cost. I don’t have to record them, no one has to animate someone saying them. The player can take the time to read them or not. So I can scatter Arthur’s personal observations and backstory throughout them.

It’s a bigger job than it looks, because as I go through them, I’m also discovering encounters that aren’t quite as they were designed, or don’t quite make sense within the world. My job is to make sure that every encounter makes narrative sense. A level designer might write a level so that you’re supposed to go here and dig that thing up. But how does Arthur know there’s something to dig up? Usually it’s a matter of retconning: I know that he’s supposed to do this, so what’s a good reason in the world of the game for him to do that. Sometimes it’s a matter of rejiggering the encounters, so the LD’s and I have a palaver. Rejiggering almost always makes the encounters more compelling; necessity is the mother of invention.

Since we last spoke, I had the chance to get [person who company COO Sam won’t let me tell you about] into the sound studio, and Arthur should have quite a bit more to say in this next build, and even more in the one after that. I also finally found the perfect person to play Percy. He’s a fantastic young actor named [hah, like Sam would let me tell you that]. I’ve been writing a lot of audio flashbacks that you will eventually hear. At some point, Percy will become real to you, the way he’s real to Arthur. Jose, Chris, Valentino (our sound partners at Signal Space) and I have also been recording multiple voices for all the NPC’s. You probably won’t hear them all in the next build – we have to make a face animation for every voice doing every line. We have software that does most of the heavy lifting, but there’s a fair amount of massaging that Remi has to do, to the point where he’s been whining about not being an animator. So that will all, I think, come out in the second EA update, not on launch.

On a side note, every voice actor I’ve talked to is kind of embarrassed about the Brexit vote. It’s sort of like talking to someone who you thought had a great marriage, and now they're getting divorced.

We’ve recorded every single passive conversation, dozens of them. At some point, players are going to start hearing some rather silly conversations around them, and also some rather illuminating conversations. Oh, and the Wastrels will have five new ways to tell you to sod off. But hopefully they’ll do it less often.

Meanwhile, the usual narrative director-y things. What is written on this cabinet? What note does this guy have in his pocket? What does the end screen say? Could we please have a dozen letters you can find in the mailboxes? What are the signs on this bridge? What are the coins called? What’s a better name for Mrs Stokes’ letters? How would you describe a banger? What’s the description text for a light bulb? Can we have bunting in this building? (No.) What can we call this park?

Each of these sends me down a rabbit hole, but I usually find something that amuses me, and hopefully will amuse you. Not everything is a narrative Easter egg. But quite a few of the names of places and people are there for some reason or another. Enjoy!



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Monday, June 13, 2016

Some of my jobs are sort of big-small. They require much more thinking than writing. Generally they involve staring at the wall for forty-five minutes, giving up in frustration, and then getting the answer on the bike ride home. If that doesn’t work, a ten minute chat with my wife, who’s also a writer, usually gives me the idea I need.

So, I had to write an ending for the Early Access version of the game (it’s temporary until we have the narrative available). My first thought was to give an emotionally satisfying ending; but G felt that we didn’t want players to feel they’ve completed the game when we haven’t even completed the game. I needed to come up with something for Arthur to say that tells the players (a) there’s more coming (b) something about Arthur’s frame of mind.

Good action movies ramp up the pace nonstop starting around halfway through. But the filmmakers need to check in with the characters. So we contrive to pin down the hero and the heroine somewhere for a little while. They’re hiding, so they have nothing to do but talk. In TERMINATOR, it’s the scene in the culvert where Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese finally get to know one another. Kyle talks about John Connor and what he means.

So this is that. A brief time where Arthur is in no danger, and can check in with himself.

This is where it’s helpful to have something to say. Fortunately, there is a bit of philosophy at the heart of the game. “Is there a true self?” as Arthur is fond of asking himself. If you take pills to be happy, is that happiness true or untrue? Someone close to me hates taking his anti-depressants because he feels they make him be not-himself. Someone else close to me takes anti-depressants because he feels that he’s not himself without them – the depression is the external thing.

Like all good philosphical questions, there isn’t really a right answer to that one. Obviously, the game takes a side. But that doesn’t mean that Arthur knows what the right answer is.

So when you play through the EA release, you’ll get a bit of philosophy. But don’t expect emotional closure. For that you’ll have to wait till some time after the snows come.

Rest of the team's update here.

Oh, and here's what we revealed at E3:



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