Game Development Reference
treatment in place. It would be like trying to organize D-Day by saying, “Everyone
turn up on the south coast of England, and we'll ship you to France soon as we can
find some ships. Oh, and bring some weapons, and—while I remember—a map,”
then hoping it all works out.
Developing the structure in tandem with the treatment and character profiles
before beginning the script strikes me as no different from the approach to take
when in working in other genres. What is critical in conventional driving games,
however, is just this: every scene must directly help explain why the player is in a car
(or on a bike, etc.) and why completing the gameplay will move the story forward.
10.4 The Other Cars on the Road
A writer might be tempted to see the “non-story” contributions he makes to a game as
being secondary to the “sports cars.” “Non-story” contributions can often be summa-
rized as the stuff that's in-game. If you look at the bulleted list above, it's everything
that's not the main story scenes—with the character profiles work straddling both
the story and in-game requirements.
But in terms of workload, these “other cars on the road” generally consist of more
than 50%. And in terms of the way players experiences the game—understanding
what they're supposed to do, or hearing people shout as they dive out of the way,
making the world feel populated—this is the stuff players generally care about the
most. (And if they don't, there's something seriously wrong with the game.)
Players generally spend around 95% of their time in the game outside of the
story's key scenes, which means that 50% of the writer's workload—the non-flashy,
unglamorous part of what he does—is actually the most important.
However, the key skills of a writer are still essential even in the “non-story” parts
game and the experience of playing it can often result from the characters and tone
of voice you help develop.
Creating characters and shaping tone of voice are core writing skills, and even
more than the script, it's in these areas that you really leave your fingerprints on the
game. The character outlines you develop (which can then be translated into a 3D
form by artists and animators) and the tone of voice you help shape through your
outlines, treatments, and script are the most enduring ways your presence is felt.
A series like Mario Kart may not have story, but it has characters and a tone of
voice. Whilst most games in the series display no credits (at least in Europe), for
sure there was at least one person (probably several) working on every title who was
employing the fundamental skills of a writer as the characters were conceptualized
and the feeling of the game world began to take shape.
Not all driving games have characters, and those that don't will often not turn
to a writer to help with the tone of the game; however, even in these instances, it's
not unheard of for writers to become involved and to become part of a development