Game Development Reference
compatible radio equipment, but is anyone dumb enough to think a German pilot
In the X-Wing series, we had the luxury of being able to draw on a stable of
great characters, and we were able to introduce as many as we needed. Some of the
major characters like Luke and Han Solo appear, but only as people the player would
occasionally cross paths with or hear reference to. A big exception was in a series
of missions I created for TIE Fighter where the player got to fly as Darth Vader's
wingman. I was thrilled with the task of writing lines for Darth Vader, but I must
have gone a little too far into the dark side because I was instructed to tone it down.
Apparently, I'd written lines that were too disturbing to listen to even if they were
coming from the ultimate personification of evil!
We always strove to create strong player characters, and for the first two games,
we worked with author Rusel DeMaria to produce novellas about these characters
as a way to introduce them to players and set the context for what would unfold
in the game. For X-Wing he created Keyan Farlander, and for TIE Fighter it was
Maarek Stele. We later used these same characters as the voice of the official strategy
guides. Rusel provided additional story interludes while I and fellowmission designer
David Maxwell wrote semi-official sounding “after action reports” to serve as detailed
Plot is generally where things get a little tricky. Writers like to follow familiar story
archetypes and structures—the old hero's journey in three acts, please. This doesn't
necessarily fit an historical situation, but even for a fantasy or science-fiction scenario,
the need to keep the gameplay varied and interesting may require a more flexible
approach. From both a story and a gameplay point of view, you want a nice mix of
mission types: all-out attack, desperate defense, harrowing escort, harassing strike,
blockade breaking, search and destroy, stealthy reconnaissance, etc. The story needs
to provide a rational fit to an ever-changing sequence of combat scenarios.
For X-Wing , we actually built most of the missions before we ever seriously
thought about the story. One day we just realized that we were going to need one,
so we started thinking about what would make sense using the missions we had.
As the story took shape, it revealed gaps in our catalog of missions and suggested
some changes to existing missions. The last missions that we built were specifically
designed to support the story we came up with.
In all subsequent games that I worked on, there was at least a rough outline
of the story before we started building missions. In every case, we tried to evolve
the story and missions together to ensure that they supported each other. I believe
the key to success in this effort was that the game design and writing were either
done by the same people, or by a closely knit team working together. If you're not a
designer/writer, then try to ensure that the writer is embedded with the designers as
part of the design team.