Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
arcade-style shooters rather than true simulators. Notable exceptions include Steel
Battalion and Ace Combat 6 . Both games could be purchased with custom hardware
that supported a more “realistic” control scheme, though only Ace Combat 6 has sold
in sizable numbers (but not in the hardware bundle version, which costs $150—
apparently today's gamers are unwilling to spend that much on a peripheral unless
it's to pretend to be a rock star!).
What this means to you as a writer is that story and character are typically sec-
ondary to the information you convey about the craft and the missions. This isn't
to say that mission briefings, in-game communications, and cutscenes don't call for
compelling and dramatic writing, just that some players will be annoyed if they feel
storytelling is getting in the way. Your writing must be focused and tight, and it must
be packaged in a way that maintains the player's willing suspension of disbelief. A
lot of the writing will be of a more technical nature—a pilot's manual, for example,
detailing the technical specifications and procedures for operating the craft. Since
there is usually a tutorial section to teach players the game's controls, be prepared
to write extremely detailed step-by-step instructions to assist players over the initial
complexity of the game. In fact, the good news for writers is that simulator games
typically include quite extensive manuals printed on actual dead trees, though this is
becoming rarer.
You will be held to a higher standard of factual accuracy in any game based
on real-world vehicles, especially drawn from historical settings. Even when working
with an entirely fictional setting such as Star Wars , many fans demand a high standard
of perceived accuracy. Regardless of the setting, if you're not already knowledgeable
about the topic, do your homework!
When I started working on X-Wing , it was just to set up and lead an internal
test team. Since knowledge of World War II air combat was one of the ways I'd
demonstrated my value on the test team for Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe ,Ide-
cided to learn everything I could about space combat as portrayed in the Star Wars
films. Mastery of the relevant subject matter provided an essential foundation for the
writing I was to do later when I joined the creative team as a mission designer.
Since George Lucas had taken inspiration directly from films about World War
II air combat, it was natural that the flight combat engine that Larry Holland had
developed for his WWII air combat classics would serve as the foundation for the
X-Wing series. It also made sense to use WWII for inspiration in mission design as
well, particularly the carrier battles of the Pacific theater. This was reflected in the
details of missions, the military organization of the fleets and their fighter wings, the
tactics employed, as well as the rationales given for them in the briefings, and even
echoed in the communications content and style during a mission.
For example, there was a U.S. Navy ace named John S. Thach who developed
an aerial combat tactic that became known as the “Thach Weave.” I wrote it into
the game as the “Wotan Weave” and instructed would-be starfighter pilots in its ex-
ecution. Another example is the pervasive corruption, paranoia, and self-destructive
in-fighting within the Imperial military. This was directly inspired by the historical
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