Game Development Reference
and others, who tend to press the “skip” button for all it's worth in order to re-
turn to gameplay. The sad truth is that the latter group tends to outnumber the
However, there are many “middle of the road” players who will take the time to
read your narrative text, as long as you don't push your luck by writing too much of
it. The less there is, the more likely players will take the time to read it. Conversely,
the more you write—especially when it's presented in a big chunk—the more likely
it will be skipped.
This is an important fact of life to keep in mind if you're angsting over having to
cut down your lovingly crafted but encyclopedic dialogue. It's never easy or enjoyable
to slice your precious writing down to the bone. But ask yourself this: would you
rather have a shorter version of your dialogue actually be read by the player, or would
you rather have the longer version be skipped entirely?
Also, keep in mind that the small screen size means that only a few words can
probably fit on the screen at a time. If you can only fit 5 or so words per line, and
only 2 or 3 lines per page, it's important to keep your writing as lean and mean as
Voiceover. If you do have the opportunity to include original VO in a cartridge-
based game, it will probably be pretty limited, only a few minutes total. So make
every word count. Keep your dialogue snappy and direct.
You probably won't be able to carry VO all the way through the game, because
there will be more that you need to say than can be covered by just a few minutes
of recorded material. So consider front-loading your VO so that all your main char-
acters get a chance to have their voices heard at least once. Assuming you'll have
to resort to text for the rest of the game, granting each major character some VO
early on allows the player to get a sense for each one's personality and what they
sound like. This way, the text that follows will be “heard” properly in the player's
Full-motion video. If you are blessed enough to have budgeted, original FMV for
your handheld game, it will be extremely limited, so make every second count.
When writing for handheld-targeted FMV, you'll likely have other limitations to
deal with besides simple length. A 30-second animation of two characters talking
with each other in a small room is a lot less expensive and time-consuming to pro-
duce than a 30-second animation featuring 500 characters storming the beaches of
Make sure you understand what the team, schedule, and budget can actually
support. How many locations can the animation(s) include? How many characters
total, and how many onscreen at once? How much (if any) lip-synching is budgeted?
These are all scope considerations you'll want to know before you start writing, not
after. Insist on being allowed to put a synopsis, detailed story outline, or a beat
script in front of the artists and animators who will be tasked with either doing or