Game Development Reference
Again, credits are normally provided by the development team and will seldom re-
quire anything more than a quick proofreading by the writer.
This text sets the scene for the game and establishes the beginning of the story, if the
game has one. It should not normally take up more than one screen, and if possible
it should be distilled down to one or two sentences. For example:
“Defend the Earth from the attacking Zigmoid battle fleet!”
“Falthar sets out to discover who murdered his parents.”
“Unlock the Maze of Myxtan to win the Treasure of the Gods!”
It is fine (indeed, it's often necessary) to address the player directly in these opening
sentences. The writer can also supply an art brief for a graphic screen to run behind
the text—such as Falthar's village in flames as the youth sets out, sword in hand. It
is important not to forget the restrictions of screen size and resolution when writing
art specifications, though—the simpler the better. The writer should also be sure to
get the producer's approval for any art screens in advance, or risk the possibility that
they will not appear in the final game.
There are many ways to deliver story information (also called narrative content)
within a video game. For a solid overview of writing and storytelling within a game,
the reader can turn to a previous book by the IGDA Writers' Special Interest Group,
Game Writing: Narrative Skills for Videogames (Charles River Media/Thomson Learn-
ing, 2006. Chris Bateman, editor).
For the most part, the writer will not be able to rely on cutscenes in a phone
game. The occasional art screen with a couple of lines of text may or may not be
available between levels. Cutscenes using the game engine and game assets may be
possible, but as mentioned above, they risk confusing the player, who will often not
be familiar with such gaming conventions.
A common criticism leveled by gamers and reviewers is that some games stop
the gameplay too often, and for too long, to deliver chunks of narrative when all the
player wants is to get on with playing the game. The result can be that the player
“clicks through,” ignoring the story, or simply gets bored and gives up on the game.
Because phone games are smaller and cheaper than games on other platforms, they
have to work harder to catch and keep the player's attention. The lower the price
and the more casual the purchase, the less players feel impelled to finish the game in
order to get their money's worth.
So, as much as possible, the narrative content of the game must be delivered
alongside the gameplay content—within the game itself. This is actually a good
principle to apply to game writing in general, as well.