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

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Lost Game - a scene

I decided to pull out one of the scenes from the "never to be published", Call of Cthulhu: Destiny's End. This takes place near the beginning of the intended game. Emily has taken car keys belonging to her father, Michael, and her new friend, Jacob, is waiting for her.

Emily leaves the house with the keys in her hand and her backpack slung over one shoulder. She holds the keys aloft to show Jacob, who’s been pacing impatiently up and down the drive.

Jacob: You don’t have to do this. What the Professor said about Innsmouth scared you, I can tell.
Emily: Then it’s time I faced my fears, don’t you think?

One of the house windows opens and Emily’s father pokes his head and shoulders through, shouting after her.

Michael: Emily! Don’t you dare take my pickup!
Emily: Shit! Get in the truck, Jake.
Jacob: You stole the keys? Cool!
Emily: He treats me like a kid. I’m twenty two for Christ’s sake!

Emily fires up the engine, slips the truck into gear and bullets out of the drive, narrowly missing another car travelling in the opposite direction. The other driver is forced to swerve to avoid a collision and Jacob looks back to check that the car hasn’t come to any harm.

Jacob: Your dad looks really pissed.

Emily looks in the rear-view mirror and spots her father running into the road, having escaped from his temporary prison.

Emily: I’ll worry about him when I get back.
Jacob: He had it coming.

Emily gives Jacob a look.

Jacob (smiling): It was kinda obvious.

At the end of the driveway, her father has stopped running and stares after his truck, fuming.

Michael (shouts): You stupid, little...!
Michael (to himself): Why is it you never listen to me?


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Top Ten Games I Worked On

I was sorely tempted to add Beneath a Steel Sky to my list of Top Ten games in the previous post, but I think that would be bad form because I worked on it. Although I didn’t do any of the writing and design, I still think it’s not something I should put on a list like that. So here is my top ten list from the games I've worked on.

  • Beneath a Steel Sky
  • So Blonde
  • Broken Sword – The Sleeping Dragon
  • Broken Sword – The Shadow of the Templars
  • In Cold Blood
  • Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso
  • Gold and Glory: The Road to El Dorado
  • Rhianna Ford and the Da Vinci Letter
  • Wanted: A Wild Western Adventure
  • Call of Cthulhu: Destiny’s End

Again, the order is not a concrete one.
I put the last one on the list because it was turning into one of the best games I ever worked on and was eighty percent complete when it was cancelled. Perhaps one day I’ll post some of my favourite scenes.

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Monday, February 01, 2010

Writing Industries Conference

I've been invited to appear on a panel at the Writing Industries Conference and the Programme has just been annouced. As you'll see, the day's event is packed with great discussion panels that are sure to interest a wide range of writers. The programme schedule will appear shortly.

The panel I'm appearing on includes Graham Joyce, the writer on Doom 4, and Richard Birkin of Pixel Lab. As I've not had the pleasure of meeting either of these guys before it will be as enjoyable for me as I hope it is for the audience.

If you attend the conference, please do say hello.

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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Games Forum Germany - some thoughts

The trip to Germany was pretty uneventful, although Hannover was really cold when I got there - about -7 degrees centigrade. Thankfully I was met by someone who drove me to the hotel. He was also taking Darius Kazemi to the hotel and it was nice to meet a fellow speaker so soon, especially when I later found he was a fellow Game Maker enthusiast.

We had a great meal in the evening where all the speakers were in attendance. It was such a pleasure and an honour to be in the company of varied speakers of high quality and reputation. I can't thank the organisers enough for inviting me and giving me a truly fabulous opportunity.

The food was excellent that evening but the company and the chat was even better and talking with others who are passionate about the work they do in games is incredibly inspiring. Needless to say, because we were enjoying ourselves so much it was pretty late when we headed back to the hotel, by which time it had been snowing and was still doing so. Just as well we weren't too far away.

The next day was the first day of the conference and I spent the morning listening to the talks of RJ Mical and Raphael Lacoste, both of which were highly informative. I spent the first part of the afternoon taking part in a discussion panel in front of a large group of students. It was a pleasure to contribute and I'm sure it was something the students got a lot from because I certainly did from the other members of the panel.

The next couple of hours were spent hanging around and chatting to people as I waited to give my talk. The programme was running a little late by this point and I didn't get on stage until after 6pm. However, there was a good crowd and the talk (on aspects of character) seemed to go pretty well - they even laughed at a couple of my jokes. But strangely enough, no one asked any questions afterwards.

My first thought was that perhaps the talk hadn't gone as well as I'd thought, but as people were leaving a few came up to me and told me they'd enjoyed it. So perhaps they didn't ask questions because the party was about to start in another venue.

When I got to the party I was chatting to a young Australian guy called Oscar who was incredibly enthusiastic and kind about my talk. He said he was more into film than games, but that my talk had made him think again about a short film script he was working on and he was planning to look more closely at the characters in the script. If I've only helped this one guy with my talk it will have been worth it.

The time flew by at the party and I remember talking to a lot of people through the night, some of whom were again very kind in what they said. I met some of the people I knew from DTP and it was good to catch up with them as they've always been good to me. In fact, every time I visit Germany I'm made to feel very welcome and I've enjoyed myself on each trip I've made there.

Because I flew out on the Friday morning I didn't attend the second day of the conference and so didn't get the opportunity to say goodbye to all the other speakers, so I hope I get the chance to meet up with them all again soon.

It turned out that my incredible bout of nerves before the trip was totally unjustified. Well, maybe not totally - it's still pretty nerve-wracking standing on stage and baring my creative soul, so to speak.

Perhaps I'll get invited back again one day...

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Friday, January 29, 2010

New Conference Appearance

The trip to Germany was great and I'll blog about it properly over the weekend.

When I got back I'd discovered that I've been confirmed for the Writing Industries Conference. This will be very different to the one I've just attended and will be pretty exciting to see such a broad range of writing disciplines brought together at one event.

If any of you are attending, be sure to come over and say hello at the very least.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Great review of Rhianna Ford

I just happened to come across this great review at Jayisgames.com.

"The first thing that makes it so unique is the engrossing and thrilling storyline, which starts slowly and builds momentum to a frantic pace"

"Rhianna Ford & The Da Vinci Letter is a fun wild ride through a captivating story that grabs hold and doesn't let go until you reach the resolution."

Pretty good, eh? :)

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rhianna Ford and the Da Vinci Letter

With no hype or fanfare whatsoever, a new game has just been released - Rhianna Ford and the Da Vinci Letter. I mention this because it's the first of the casual games I wrote and designed in the last year. :)

Although it's primarily a hidden object game, it contains a number of adventure elements. I've also been allowed to take the characters and dialogue a lot further than is normally expected in such a game, so I hope the balance is right.

Feedback on the game will be much appreciated.

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Games Forum Germany

Next week I'm talking at the Games Forum Germany. I was rather surprised when I was invited and, of course, very honoured. I hope I give a talk they'll be pleased with.

I decided to talk about aspects of character, but I didn't want to go down the route of it being an instructional talk, so I'm hoping that I can just give the audience plenty to think about.

As I was preparing my talk there was one point where I thought I wouldn't have enough to say. Now I'm worried that I have too much, so today will be spent on a little polishing and trying to make sure the timing is right.

I know there's been a mention of the talk being recorded, but I don't know, yet, if that will be made available to the public in general. I shall endeavour to find out.

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Saturday, November 07, 2009

Not a Good Start

I like to read a lot and it's not unusual for me to have two or three books on the go at the same time as well as magazines. It's important to read a broad range of books, particularly outside of the game development arena, but it's also imprtant to keep abreast of what other writers and developers are doing within the industry.

With this in mind, I've just started reading "The Ultimate Guide to Video Game Writing and Design" by Flint Dille and John Zuur Platten. It's a book I've been meaning to read for a little while. I was a little surprised that I was still in the Introduction when I found something I disagreed with strongly.

Under a section entitled, "Our Eleven Video Game Survival Commandments", the first of these is "We're In the Entertainment Business, Not the Game Business."

How can you write and design games and not be in the Game Business? Why does being in the Entertainment Business preclude you from being in the Game Business? Games are, after all, a form of entertainment. What's wrong with saying, "We're in the Entertainment Business AND the Game Business"?

If you don't approach writing for games with the game uppermost in your mind you run the risk of writing at odds with it and not having the story, characters and gameplay fit into a cohesive whole. It's very easy to run away with the story and characters and have the developer tell you that you have to pull back because the engine won't deliver what's been asked for. Most importantly, every game is different and what gives it that difference will affect the way the story can be told.

Although it's not the best of starts to a book, I'm hoping that the rest of it will prove to be better.

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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Blimey! I have a fan.

I was looking at the links that brought people to my site when I saw that a few had come from this one today. Imagine how flattered I feel at such kind words. Thanks, Terramax, I'm touched.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Voice recording

I just got back from the voice recording we did for the Wii version of So Blonde. I was working with DTP (the publisher) and the talented guys at Outsource Media, who organised a great cast again and ran a great series of recording sessions that couldn't have gone any smoother if we'd wanted. If you want to see a really good voice recording system in operation you should get in contact with OM and tell Mark I sent you.

Everyone concerned was very complimentary about the script, which is always very flattering to hear, but the script would have been nothing without the talented cast who really brought the words to life. Bernie from DTP took some pictures and said it was okay to post a few of them here.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Panel - Writing for Games

I've been invited to sit on a panel on the subject of Writing for Games. I'm really excited by this and am sure that it will be a fabulous evening. If you're anywhere near London why not come along?

The event even has it's own Facebook page, so it's sure to be a roaring success. :)

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Writing Awards

The Writers Guild of America announced last year that it would be creating a new award aimed at game writers. More recently it announced the shortlist, amongst which was the game The Witcher. But because I am not a member of the WGA or its New Media Caucus I was not included in the list of writers nominated.

Now, I have nothing against the other talented writers who were nominated, but it seems like the WGA are taking my share of the credit and alocating it to the writers who are their members. I realise that the awards are for their members, but in a world where we all thrive, professionally, on our credits, this seems a little wrong.

If my work had been less significant I wouldn't even give it a a second thought, but as I edited and re-wrote over 90,000 words of dialogue I think that my contribution is not something that should be glossed over.

I don't expect this post to change anything, but I felt like letting off a little steam (in a polite way).

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Competition - Writing for Video Games book

Writers News is running an online competition with my book, Writing for Video Games as the prize. If you haven't yet bought it and would like the chance of winning a free copy, hurry over to the site and take part. The draw for the competition winner takes place on 15th April. Good luck!


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Writers' Forum

I just received two copies of the March edition of Writers' Forum in the post. I wrote a full-page article for them, which was designed to help promote my book, Writing for Video Games. When I set out to write the article I actually found it a little hard to approach - how do you put over the subject matter of a whole book in 800 words? The article had to act as both taster and overview, which was a pretty tall order, but I think I managed to pull it off.

Also in the magazine was an advertisement for the book with a special offer on it which gives the readers the opportunity to buy it at the reduced price of ten pounds - nearly a three pound saving! Unfortunately, they printed the advert slightly wrongly and left off the publisher's website, so to make amends they're printing the advert again in the next issue. Swings and roundabouts...

It's been pouring down with rain here and the post person clearly hadn't been keeping the letters covered. The envelope the magazines game it was soaking and the edges of the magazines are wet. If they don't dry out properly I may have to buy another copy to keep for my records. :(