Game Development Reference
small flotilla of Imperial corvettes near Hoth.” That way, if the designers decide
they want it to be three X-wings versus two corvettes or two X-wings versus four
corvettes, you won't have to change the line. In some cases, you can go even further
and take out specific craft references. The previous example would then become,
“Red Squadron will intercept a small force of Imperial starships near Hoth.”
It's okay for the mission briefing to be wrong. This provides a nice element of
realism-the proverbial “bad intel” can afford a nice dramatic surprise and/or darkly
comic moment. Use this technique very sparingly, however.
One of the most memorable missions in TIE Fighter is one in which Maarek Stele (the player
character) is ordered to clear a minefield using an unshielded TIE Interceptor. The briefing
suggests that this will be an opportunity for the player to demonstrate his remarkable skills. The
truth is the commanding officer is corrupt and has determined that the player is likely to blow
the whistle on him, so this is his way of getting the player out of the way. For the player, this isn't
really a suicide mission at all (very difficult, but not impossible). During the mission, the twist is
that as the villain finishes revealing his knowledge that Stele is no longer loyal to him, he orders
the player's wingmen to attack him!
Always be cognizant of the fact that the mission designers are the ultimate author-
ity on what the briefing needs to convey (at least they should be, in my opinion.) In
all likelihood, they will be the ones who write the first drafts of the mission briefings,
and it will be your job to improve upon and tighten their writing.
Mid-Mission Communications and Messages
The messages the player receives during gameplay are perhaps the most important
part of the writing for a simulator game. The player can easily become overwhelmed
by events during a mission, and the right information conveyed at the right moment
can make all the difference. Even more so than the mission briefings, it is essential
that you work closely with the mission designers to get this right. Messages received
during the mission are also your primary opportunity to increase the drama and
emotional impact of the events occurring during the mission.
However, there is a huge caveat: the player's attention is going to be elsewhere.
All messages must be as concise as possible. When we made X-Wing ,therewasno
recorded voice during missions, and the screen resolution was a mere 320
messages were limited to about 80 characters. The last thing the player wants to
do in the middle of a dogfight is read a message, let alone a string of them. Of
course, nowadays voice is expected, but it can still be distracting to listen to when
you're trying to avoid getting killed. Since a vital message can easily be missed, most
modern games maintain a message log that can be reviewed while the game is paused.