Game Development Reference
To achieve this, the player should ideally work closely with the development
team, weaving the story through the gameplay and level design so that the game is a
single, harmonious whole. However, in many cases, the writer may come on board
after the game has been substantially finished and find that there is no time, budget,
or inclination to make changes in the interest of a story idea.
In these circumstances, the writer has to work within the existing limits and create
the best story possible by taking advantage of what the existing levels and gameplay
have to offer. As with every aspect of writing for phone games, the right frame of
mind is key. Many writers actually find it easier to look at an existing game and
weave a story through it, rather than starting with a blank screen and a blank mind.
And like the mechanical task of writing within tight line and character counts, this is
actually a good exercise for the writer, which promotes creativity and resourcefulness.
The writer should also remember the adage that a picture is worth a thousand
words. Given the screen size on most mobile phones, a thousand words may be an
overestimate, but it is always better to show than to tell—and best of all is to show
story information within the game itself, without stopping the gameplay or requiring
the creation of additional art or other assets. If a large chunk of text simply cannot be
avoided—and this is the case far less often than most writers would care to admit—it
should be limited to an absolute maximum of two screens of continuous text at any
time, requiring one button-press to get from one to the other and a second button-
press to get back to the game. Like it or not, it is the game that the player has
purchased, not the writer's deathless prose.
In-Game Messages and Dialogue
Depending on the style of the game, it may be possible to include a certain amount
of character speech to further the story. For example, a detective game may see
the player locating and interviewing witnesses and informants to solve a mystery.
These characters can be presented by means of simple head-shots, with a text space
at the bottom of the screen for their dialogue. Once again, concise writing is key,
as text space will be severely limited unless the conversation is one of two or three
key turning points in the story. And, as with all dialogue, the text has to convey
personality as well as information.
18.4 Other Issues
Like coin-ops and early console games, mobile phone games very rarely have the
capacity for the player to save the game before quitting. Some can offer a pseudo-
save function, where the player is given a code upon completing a level or chapter,
which can be entered when restarting the game to go directly to the start of the next
level or chapter.
This means that complex interactive narratives are out of the question. The
player's game state is never recorded by the game, except perhaps as the number of