The interview starts about 20 minutes or so in.
The interview starts about 20 minutes or so in.
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
David Bowie is dead.
Both my heart and mind are struggling with this fact. How can he be dead when I have a new album to listen to? How can he be dead when all I see online this week are posts that link to his many powerful performances? How can he be dead when he’s been an important part of my life for nearly forty three years?
I never met him and only saw him perform live once, but, like many other people throughout the world, as this week has proved, David Bowie is a dear friend who had no knowledge of my personal existence. A friend who spoke to me intimately with every song he wrote.
In 1973, my parents bought a record player for the first time ever. I was fifteen and had hardly given music any thought. I was aware of the stuff they played on the radio, but just as background, and knew that friends talked about music without connecting to anything they said. Until this point I’d been more interested in the Apollo Moon landings and reading science fiction.
With a record player in the house, here was a new toy to play with. But what should I buy?
Initially, I think I only chose Life on Mars? because of the title’s science fiction implications, only realising later it was about something very different, yet the music and lyrics drew me in and my love of Bowie began.
At first it was a slow burning relationship. The next two singles I bought were Stuck in the Middle by Stealers Wheel and Frankenstein by The Edgar Winter Group, which was the start of my eclectic taste in music.
Then a few weeks later, while on a family holiday, I spotted the Space Oddity album and bought it immediately, even though I couldn’t play it until we all returned home. Again, the implication of science fiction teased me, along with an interest in hearing more by this man. This was a time, of course, before the internet and the only way to hear music you wanted was by luck on the radio, by owning the records or by having friends who owned them.
However, being shy back then, I didn’t have many friends and none of them had any Bowie records. But curiously, I found myself making more friends in the coming months through a mutual interest in Bowie’s music. I think it’s fair to say that in this respect alone, he had a life-changing impact on my life.
More albums were added to my collection – The Man Who Sold the World, Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane; all brilliant, all so different from each other. His almost eclectic approach to music seemed completely fitting.
My love of his music was both fulfilling and left me yearning for more (even now, this is true) to the point where, when Diamond Dogs was released, I got to the record shop just as they were opening the delivery and my copy was the first out of the box. I was the first of my friends to buy it. I think I played it virtually non-stop for months and it still remains one of my favourite albums.
Plenty of people claimed to hate Bowie at that time and I was laughed at for wearing T-shirts with his image on or for having my hair cut in the Ziggy/Aladdin style (though sadly not dyed orange), yet I enjoyed the fact that these people didn’t like the same music as me. And in spite of my shyness I had a way to be a tiny bit extrovert – I could be a little bit Ziggy.
My musical tastes developed and broadened – Pink Floyd, Queen, Alex Harvey, for example – but Bowie kept delivering the goods with more variety. Young Americans, Station to Station, Low, Heroes, Lodger and Scary Monsters were all excellent in their own ways. New lyrical styles and a number of instrumental pieces saw him develop as a songwriter and a musician.
In spite of this, and although he wrote a number of great songs, Bowie didn’t put together an album that felt like an album (as opposed to a collection of songs) until Outside came along in 1995 and suddenly the old magic was revived again. An album to compare with the likes of Ziggy Stardust and Diamond Dogs in its conceptual themes.
It felt like my friend had come home to me and the cooling of my love for his music and lyrics had never really left at all. It still burned like a beacon.
It’s now over twenty years since Outside was released and we’ve had a number of other excellent albums since then. I’ve been dabbling with musical compositions during this time and I’ve become a professional writer, neither of which would likely have been possible without the ongoing influence of a man who came from humble beginnings yet had such powerful visions that he shone like the star that he is and always will be.
I’ve only listened to the new album a few times since it was released, but already I find that the title track, Blackstar, is lodged in my mind. And I love that a Bowie track still has the power to do this. It is a very fine last album.
David Bowie is dead.
I am sad but still so in love with his music. When I see the wonderful outpourings of love on the internet this week, I realise I have millions of friends who I will likely never get to know or even meet, but our mutual interest in the music of Bowie will always bind a little part of us.
In some ways I’m still the shy teenager who bought Life on Mars? but I’m also much more than that. And today I’m also feeling a little bit Ziggy.
Thank you, David.
I created a short promotional video highlighting the services I offer.
If you’re in game development and you don’t know what a writer does beyond the words, then you probably really NEED a writer.
I though people who visit here may be interested in a few events taking place in the UK in the coming weeks.
First, I’m speaking on a games writing panel at this year’s London Screenwriters Festival on 25th October. If you’re thinking of attending, check out the programme schedule. Visit the website here.
Second, that same weekend, 25th October, is the premiere of the second episode of Trylife. This is more of an interactive drama than a game, but the quality is first rate and has a huge connection to the work we all do. There are only 29 tickets remaining for this event if you’re interested in going, but it’s free and you can get tickets here.
For those interested, the first episode can be seen here.
Third, I’m co-organising a small games writing event in Leeds with the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain and the Royal Television Society, which will take place on 18th November. There will be four speakers and a panel discussion followed by networking after. Tickets here.
I hope to see some of you at these events.
Following my new position as Chair of the Videogames Committee within the Writers’ Guild, I sent out a press release earlier:
July 14th 2014
Re: Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, Videogames committee chair.
Following the Guild’s AGM on Friday 4th July 2014, games writer Steve Ince has now taken up the position of chair of the Videogames Committee within the organisation, a position he is proud to take up and hopes it encourages more game writers to join the Guild.
“I joined the Guild two years ago because I believe it’s important to be part of a strong organisation that works in the interests of professional writers and, by extension, those writers who wish to become so.
“As a professional game writer I not only want to help shape the direction of writing within games with the work I do, but also be a part of how game writers are perceived by the wider writing community and within the game development industry.
“With this in mind I put myself forward for the Videogames position within the Writers’ Guild which was confirmed at the recent AGM, for which I’m very honoured.
“As a first step in this new position I’d like to invite all eligible game writers to consider joining the Guild, details of which are on the Guild website.
“Game writers, like most other scribes, can feel a little isolated at times, so being part of an organisation with such a rich history will give you a place in a strong community of creative individuals from every part of the writing spectrum.
“Previous holders of this position have done a fantastic job to date and I hope I can match that, particularly as there’s still a lot to do in respect to what the Guild means for game writers. By joining or becoming part of the discussion, game writers can help give direction in a field that is evolving faster than all others.
“I welcome comments, questions and suggestions on anything related to the game writing side of the Guild, including membership enquiries, and look forward to hearing from you.
“I hope to achieve something positive for both the Guild and game writing while in this position.”
About the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain:
The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain supports writers across media including books, film, online, radio, theatre, TV and videogames.
We campaign for writers and negotiate agreements to secure the best possible pay and conditions. Membership is open to writers of all levels of experience.
Further details about the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain can be found on the Guild’s website: http://www.writersguild.org.uk/
About Steve Ince:
With over 20 years in the games industry, Steve has enjoyed much success and acclaim, both during his time with Revolution Software and as a freelancer since. Having a diverse range of projects under his belt and award nominations to his name, Steve’s extensive experience is in high demand, as a writer, designer, consultant and speaker. He is currently working on a number of exciting projects.