Oh Lucky Man… Still
It’s been twelve years since I wrote the first of the original Developing Thoughts pieces, shortly after I turned freelance following eleven years with Revolution Software. The time feels right to revisit the pieces I wrote at the time and either bring them up to date or reflect on how things have moved on in the intervening years.
Back then my freelance career hadn’t properly taken off so my thoughts and development ideas were almost completely based on my experiences from my time at Revolution. Yet I considered myself very fortunate to have spent that period working with Charles Cecil, Tony Warriner, Dave Sykes, Noirin Carmody, Steve Oades, Dave Cummins and a whole host of other talented writers, artists, animators, programmers, designers, etc.
I was definitely a lucky man.
I still feel very lucky, too, both with respect to my time at Revolution and the way my career has developed since.
However, I don’t mean that my whole career has been about luck, rather that I’ve been fortunate enough to have been given chances to prove myself through hard work and adaptability, developing my various abilities as required. So that although I started out with Revolution as an artist and animator, I was able to learn the skills necessary to become a producer and eventually a game designer and writer, where I feel I really came into my own. I still practice and develop my art and enjoy doing so, but writing is my real strength.
Yet those skills would never have been refined without the talented people I worked alongside – Dave Cummins, Neil Richards, Jonathan Howard and, of course, Charles, whose talent for refinement pushed me to be constructively critical of my own work on a constant basis. An approach that would later give me the confidence to tackle the writing of a game like So Blonde without the need to work with other writers.
That game turned out to be a bit of a personal landmark. While I’d worked on other projects in a freelance capacity prior to starting on So Blonde, this was my biggest project since leaving Revolution and I was given the chance to write the story and characters, along with creating the main design, almost from the ground up. Of course, the team at Wizarbox helped with suggestions and feedback, sometimes guiding me carefully when it seemed I was heading off track. I’m grateful to those guys for supporting my working process and for helping me become a more complete freelance writer in the process.
There are lots of things I would do differently if I was starting So Blonde now, but I’m still pleased with the work I did at the time and proud of it, too. My nomination for best game script from the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain for my work on the game is something I’ll be happy with for the rest of my life.
Twenty three years of game development has seen an incredible number of changes, which seem to race on without ever losing steam. The changes are as exciting as they’ve ever been and games development continues to be rewarding, frustrating and challenging in good measure.
Graphics have embraced a larger variety of styles than it seemed they would twelve years ago and we have a greater range of platforms and interfaces, some of which have inspired new approaches to gameplay and interactivity in general. In many respects, lines are blurring between different game genres and even the kind of things we now define as games.
For writing, many things have been liberating to the point where new approaches to interactive narrative happen on a regular basis and the past few years has seen things as different as Thomas Was Alone, Journey, The Stanley Parable and Her Story, along with the return of an old favourite – the fifth Broken Sword game, for which I did some story work early in development.
As is so often the case when looking back, the temptation to get nostalgic and regard those memories with too much affection can be hard to resist. But for me, the real strength of the past is how the experience and insights it has given me allows me to look forward to the future with continued excitement about the work I do.
In the last couple of years I’ve tried my hand at screenwriting and novel writing, not because I want to turn my back on game writing – far from it – but because the different writing disciplines and perspectives they give feed into my game writing in ways that will make it ever stronger.
In twenty three years I have met an awful lot of industry people, many of whom have become good friends or who have been a pleasure to talk to in the brief time we had available. Meeting everyone with an enthusiasm for games has been rewarding in some way, big or small.
Many of you reading this I have known since you were young enthusiastic fans and now work as equally enthusiastic developers in your own right, turning your passions into careers, which I love and respect enormously. To see the development community grow and mature around me, yet retain its hungry eagerness, is rather satisfying.
Oh lucky man, indeed.
© Steve Ince, 2016