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


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Thursday, July 28, 2016

So, I was interviewed about the inspirations for the world of We Happy Few... check it out.


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Monday, July 25, 2016

On our Reddit AMA today, greyandbluestatic asked, "how do you approach storytelling in games versus cinema and literature?"

Here's my answer:

The short answer is, there’s no difference. A story is a story. Specifically, in my books, a story is:

a. a fictional person we care about
b. who has an opportunity, problem or goal
c. who faces obstacles and/or an antagonist and/or his or her personal flaws
d. who has something to lose (jeopardy)
e. and something to gain (stakes)

Moreover, a story is told to
f. an audience.

You can see how these apply equally to movies and books and games. If one of these elements of story is weak, the story is usually weak. When I say “weak,” I mean it doesn’t leave us with a powerful feeling.
That’s what story exists in games for. The gameplay is “How?” The story is “How do I feel?” Ultimately, it’s “Why do I care?”

The key difference, of course, is that storytelling is all about “I make choices for you,” while gameplay is “You make the choices.” So delivering a great story in a game has to take that into account.
On the top level of the game, we have a series of cinematics that tell each playable character’s story. The gameplay aspect is that you have to complete story missions to get to the next cinematic. That’s pretty familiar.

The other levels are environmental storytelling. There are things you see and things you hear as you run around trying to stay alive long enough to craft your way out of the predicament you’re in.
So, these are things that the Wellies and the Wastrels say to each other and to you. They show you the world you’re living in, and how they feel about it.
These are the things Arthur says to them and to himself. These show you how he feels about things. They show you who he is.

For example, you may feel good about killing a Wastrel, but he usually doesn’t. That’s unusual, in a game hero.

There’s dear old Uncle Jack. He’s always happy and upbeat, but you can listen between the lines. Why is he telling people how to identify cholera? Why is he talking about flour substitutes?
You’ll see posters that tell you what the rules of the world are, and what the history of this world is. You learn that Britain lost the war. You start to get a sense of what it is exactly that everyone is trying so hard not to remember.

You might find letters in the mailboxes that tell you more about the people around you, and what their stories might be.

I’m trying hard to create a sense that the NPCs are not software agents that are there to give you things if you poke at them in the right way. They’re people in a fictional world, that have their own stories – their own goals, and their own obstacles – that would be doing something even if you weren’t looking.

The key to everything in the game is that what’s not said is as important as what’s said. The game’s story is a puzzle you can put together through repeated playthroughs. (You won’t get the whole puzzle in any one playthrough.)

Tl;dr: the cinematics are straightforward, linear narrative. Everything else is a puzzle.

And, eventually, once the story comes out, you may discover that the cinematics don’t tell you everything either, and there may be a bit of a puzzle there, too.

Rest of the AMA here.



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Saturday, July 16, 2016

On the IMDB, 22.5% of voters give GHOSTBUSTERS a 10; 42.5% of them give it a 1. Among women, the movie gets a 7.8; among men, it gets a 4.1.

I'm willing to bet that the vast majority of the guys giving the movie a 1 have not seen the movie. If you had, it would be very hard to give it a 1. It has a plot that makes sense. It has state of the art special effects. It has a finale which destroys dozens of buildings.  It is a fine piece of cheese.

I mean, only 24.4% of the voters gave CATWOMAN a 1, and that won multiple Razzies (one of which Halle Berry rather memorably accepted on stage).

So it turns out there is an explicit campaign to kill the movie by the usual suspects. They're mad because the movie wasn't made for them, and how dare anybody make a big special effects movie that isn't made for frat boys. I mean, these guys liked the previous movie, so they own the franchise, right?

What's interesting to me is how much the movie wasn't made for them. It's an action movie with female stars. But it's not a female-led action movie in the Resident Evil/Tomb Raider vein, about a hot chick who does man things. It's not about the male gaze. I mean, the only really hot chick in the movie is Kate McKinnon. She's on fire, but she's not interested in the male gaze, is she?

Which one is Leeloo Dallas Multipass?

Nope, the movie stars four women who spend most of their time talking (pseudo) science. Their emotional drama is not about men, either. It's about female friendship. Every single reel of the movie passes the Bechdel test.

In other words, the movie is not only not made for internet fanboys, it's actually made for women.

I had a great time. It was fine a piece of summer fluff as I'll probably see this year. But I'm the secondary audience, the way women are the secondary audience in every other summer action movie.

Literally the secondary audience -- Lisa wanted to go, and our friend Jackie wanted to go, and I said, oh, okay, I'll come along.

The picture does a fine job subverting the genre, actually. The only parts of the movie that are about a guy are (a) the villain and (b) Chris Hemsworth, playing the dumbest imaginable receptionist. Kristen Wiig hires him because he's cute.

I'm probably preaching to the converted here, but I'm disappointed in the fanboys. You're mad that one out of ten summer blockbusters was not made for you? You're mad that someone rebooted a movie from 1984 and didn't make it exactly the same as 32 years ago? You actually are going to the trouble to ruin a movie for the people who want to see it, so that you can have All Teh Screenz?

There's a lot of entitlement going around. There's right wingers who feel their marriages have been taken away from them because gay people can also have them; or feel their bathrooms have been taken away from them because trans people might also use them. There are the Trump voters, who feel their country has been taken away from them because we're not in the 1980s any more (I think).

The best way to criticize the arts is to make your own. That's what Paul Feig has done. He's not saying comedies have to have better roles for women. He just went ahead and made a ('nother) comedy with good roles for women.

I hope we see more of them.


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Wednesday, July 13, 2016



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Saturday, July 09, 2016

Art by Whitney Clayton
This week I’ve been playing the game a lot. Hey, this is a fun game!

Playing it, of course, I’m discovering various ways in which the world does not entirely make sense. For example, who is putting rotting meat in mailboxes? When that happens, I generally consult with the designers. Either I need to come up with a sensible reason for what’s going on, or we need to change what’s going on.

It’s very important to me that everything in the game makes sense. It doesn’t have to make logical sense. Wastrels aren’t logical. Wellies aren’t logical. Human beings are rarely logical. But there is always a reason why people do things. Wastrels aren’t randomly crazy; they’re driven mad by guilt and sorrow, and whatever Joy has done to their memories. Wellies live in denial; their happiness is a veneer over the things they are trying so hard not to remember. Things they do should be revelatory of these themes.

I’ve also been rewriting journal entries. If you go into Arthur’s journal, you will now find many things he has to say about what’s going on. Some of these things may be actually useful to solving the your problems in the game. Some of them will fill you in on Arthur’s past. Take the time to read them, when you’re in a quiet, safe place!

Oh, and, letters. I’m not entirely clear who’s delivering the mail, but someone seems to be. At any rate, Wastrels and Wellies are writing to each other. Some of these letters will tell you about the people around you. Some of them will warn you about things you’re going to run into. Worth a read, I think.



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