Writing and Design

Steve Ince, freelance writer and game designer, posts thoughts and comments on these two meaningful aspects of his life.

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Name: Steve Ince

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Developing Thoughts 9

The ninth installment of my original Developing Thoughts column.

Fun, fun, fun!

Danny: Don't worry yourself. I'll find the proof we need.
Estelle: You?! You couldn’t find the floor unless it was covered in beer.

The above comes from a document of ideas I’m developing for a game project. For me it illustrates what games should be about – the player having fun while they are working their way through the gameplay.

This week’s column was actually going to be about something else entirely, but I felt that I was in danger of taking myself too seriously (particularly after the sombre nature of the last column) and decided it was time to lighten up and have some fun. After all, that’s what games are meant to be about. Aren’t they?

Sometimes it seems, when reading the gaming news sites, that games are increasingly serious in nature, so it was a breath of fresh air when I was given the chance of script-editing the English version of an excellent comedy game. Not only was it good to work on this title, it also re-kindled my interest in designing comedy games, so this week I’ve been putting some time into two different comedy game projects of my own and it’s been great fun to do so.

Comedy is something that’s subjective at the best of times, so what works for one person may very well fall flat for another. But as long as it falls flat on its face in a muddy puddle, all may not be lost. What I mean by this is that for a broad appeal, the comedy may need to work on more than one level.

I’m a firm believer that there’s a long way to go with comedy in games and it’s certainly an area I want to explore over the next few years. This ranges from cartoon-style to sitcom-style to more subtle, film style comedy. It also ranges from comedy aimed at children to comedy aimed at adults, with a centre ground that appeals to both.

Where, for instance, is the game equivalent of Toy Story or Finding Nemo? I’m not talking about the games that use the license in a superficial way, but ones that use the characters as they were used in the film, to create moments of genuine humour through the way the characters interact with one another. And if it is the player who triggers the humour through the gameplay interaction, then they are part of the unfolding comedy and it becomes a much more rewarding experience.

When I was developing part of the game, In Cold Blood, I decided to put in a couple of characters sitting near to each other. When the player character talks with them he discovers that they are having a tiff and not on speaking terms – she’s jealous because he lent his scarf to a female officer. They start talking to one another through the player character, and the humour of the situation unfolds by the player talking to each one in turn, “Can you tell him that I’m not speaking to him until he apologises...”

This situation had nothing to do with the main plot of the game, but was an excellent way of adding richness by giving the feeling that there was more going on than just the story related scenes and by having some fun in the process.

Just imagine, though, if the main plot of a game unfolded through a regular series of such humorous scenes, how much more fun that could be.

© Steve Ince, 2004



Anonymous Anonymous said...

The level of comedy would have to approach something like the classic British cartoon, that had/has a finely-tuned balance of appealing to both children and adults alike. I think characters would have to just come out with seemingly improvised lines or actions to garner anything from a chuckle to a stomach-grabbing laugh.

10:20 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

It's important that the writing is pretty slick and feels natural, but a lot of that comes from a writer knowing the characters. I'm currently playing Psychonauts and the characters are wonderful - there are lots of genuinely laugh out loud moments. The quality is down to excellent writing, great voice acting and really good facial animation.

7:41 AM  
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