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ried by dramatic action, they were carried by dialogue, the antithesis of “show don't
tell” and potentially a disaster waiting to happen. What could be more boring than
hearing people talking about things that had happened some time in the past?
However, we realized we could use techniques from prose writing and combine
them with the way we cut the footage. In this way, we could create disputed testi-
monies, and present some “witnesses” as more reliable than others. We realized this
was a way to create dramatic tension, to wait and see if someone was telling us the
truth or not—and to find out, we'd have to listen to more of the right kind of people.
Who were “the right kind” of people? Only by paying attention to what they said
and how other people within the documentary responded to them could the viewer
know. Documentaries often have these moments of disputed testimony. All we did
was replicate this effect and “turn it up” higher on characters we wanted the player to
have antipathy towards. Or we “turned it down” on characters we wanted the player
to feel connected to. We would turn it up by having one or more characters strongly
disagree with a statement. We would turn it down by either not calling the statement
into question or by having one or more characters echo the same view.
In our script, the “there's no smoke without fire” adage was always true. If a
character was to say, “I'm not one of those people who only thinks of themselves,”
the implication was that they were far more likely to be exactly that kind of person
than someone to whom it would never have occurred to say those words in the first
place. Everything a character said carried with it an implication of allegiance or
selfishness, of his state of mind, or of some kind of relationship to other comments
on the same topic. In this way, we were able to construct a script that, although
carried in on-camera interviews, was built by invisible strings of tension between
witnesses as they agreed or disagreed with each other as, almost imperceptibly, we
tried to build a story and move it through the gears of each act toward a climax and
This documentary format also simultaneously helped support the decision to tell
a rags-to-riches story as well as supporting the decision to let the player create his
own character. With a documentary format, we were able to present to the player the
sense that it was himself (or at least his avatar) that the documentary was all about,
that it was his exploits that merited documenting.
The fights, the training, the media games, the trash talk, the mini stories, and
the girlfriend games had always been designed to be cast in a present tense, as the
player worked his way toward the points of the documentary that charted his own
developing career (apparently in retrospect). But in several lengthy discussions with
Mario Van Peebles, who was also enlisted on the project as a story consultant, fur-
ther developments were made as we decided to add another element to this essen-
tially retrospective timeline of the documentary. We found opportunities to dovetail
the timelines together, moments where the documentary filmmakers appear in the
present time zone that the player fights in and does everything else interactive in.
As it transpired—and as is often the way with development—not all of these
elements made it through to the final published game. But just seeing the scope
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