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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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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Saturday, January 23, 2010

The right tone

Last night I stayed up late (for me) and spent a little time on bits of a novel that I've been fiddling with for some time and yet has not progressed very well at all.

Much of the problem has been getting the right tone and voice for it and last night I think I managed to do just that. I was tempted to plough on with the novel regardless of this problem, but the task of re-working and editing would have been too great if I couldn't get most of the way there on the first draft. Prose is fiddly like that.

When I write dialogue for games, the important thing is to get into the heads of the characters before doing so and understand their roles in the game and how they relate to one another. Once done, writing the dialogue becomes so much easier and almost writes itself. Prose, for me, is more complex and harder to get right.

I can understand why an increasing number of novels are written in the first person - the prose becomes the main characters account and not some faceless/nameless narrator. Unfortunately, because I have more than one main character POV to handle I didn't want to go down the first person route. I don't think switching between characters works in first person - it implies that these two characters have colaborated to tell the tale in the book. Also, if the writer can't make the two characters different enough it can make the novel confusing.

My solution to the problem was to push the narrator POV hard up against the character's POV which actually gave the prose the tone and voice of the character slightly removed. I'm hoping that this will work particularly well when switching between the characters.

Perhaps I can make some headway, now.

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

See me on Adventure-Treff

The guys at Adventure-Treff posted a compilation video message for the festive season and I contributed to it with a few words. You can view the video here. Much of the compilation I didn't understand because those parts were in German, but mine and a couple of other parts are in English. I laughed most when I saw the list of credits and thanks come up at the end.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Charlie the Intelligent Custard

I've just posted another in the series, The Life and Times of Charlie the Intelligent Custard.

I'm not sure it's quite working as well as it could do, so I want everyone to help. If you have a great idea for something Charlie could be thinking (keep it short and pithy) then drop me a line and I'll put it up and give you the credit you deserve. You will keep the copyright for the text and I'll e-mail you a high-res version in case you want to print it out. Send as many or as few as you like. If I get plenty of suggestions sent to me I'll do an update every day. If I get tons of great suggestions then I may update even more regularly.

You can send my your suggestions here: steve at steve-ince.co.uk (obviously tweaking the address so it makes sense).

If you're an artist and want to draw your own version of Charlie, then please do so and I'll post that on the Charlie pages, too. You will keep the copyright for your image (though the overall copyright on the character remains mine) and use it on your own site or how you see fit. You must remember, though, that the point of Charlie is that he is just custard and having him singing and dancing won't quite fit with that. Unless, of course, your idea is so brilliant it makes perfect sense.

If you have any other cool ideas of how to have fun with Charlie (remembering that he's custard) then let me know. Let's make this a great joint venture.

If you want to keep up with what's happening with this and my other comics and cartoons, you can always follow me on Twitter.

I look forward to receiving all your great Charlie ideas.

Edit: Of course, anything that's abusive or of a very questionable nature will not be considered, but I'm sure that common sense will prevail.

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Friday, December 18, 2009


Playgy is the name of a short autobiographical piece I'm working on. Below are the first three paragraphs to give you a flavour.

I'm not even sure how I should spell the word "Playgy" as I don't think anyone ever wrote it down when we were young, back in the nineteen-sixties and early seventies when it was in regular use. Although Playgy was short for playground, the way it’s pronounced sounds like someone might have been suggesting that we kids were filled with the plague – that is, plaguey. But the idea of a sweet little play area dedicated to the delightful entertainment of children couldn’t have been further from the reality and according to my Mam’s ideas about the perils that existed for anyone actually playing there, the name plaguey may have been more fitting in her eyes.

The area of ground that the name Playgy referred to was once an old school that had been fire-bombed during the second world war and had stood as waste ground ever since the removal of the damaged buildings shortly afterwards. By the time I was allowed to play out on my own in the mid sixties the site had been standing derelict and empty for more than twenty years. Empty, that is, apart from the single large structure that stood on the north-west corner that we always called Tin Shed.

For some of the adults who’d lived through the war and then with the aftermath of the bombings, the waste ground was more often than not referred to as “bomb-buildings” (which I’m sure was a shortening of “bombed buildings”), as were many other sites around Hull – a city which was then still recovering from war damage and with plenty of scars to show for it. However, to the kids of my generation who lived in the area, this piece of ground was always called Playgy. And in spite of many changes to the area in the intervening years, it’s still a name that enables me to bring back many memories of a part of my life that was relatively care-free.


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Write or Die

The following is some nonsense I wrote after going to the Write or Die website and trying it out with a 500 word limit and 20 minute time limit. I wrote the 500 words in about 14 minutes. I haven't edited anything.

I don't know what I'm going to write here, it's just a test to see if I can do the 500 words in the alotted time. It seems like a very good idea to motivate people in this way, but is it really a good tool for creativity?

One of the things that I find when I'm writing is that because I'm so often creating design documents there is no real chance to get a flow going like this. However, it may be useful for writing my novel, which has been a real problem as I'm more likely to put off opening the file than actually put off the writing when I've got the file opened.

What we need is a way of forcing me to open the file and then making me write.

Another problem I often have is that of too many ideas. Which of them should I concentrate on in order to progress something? At times it seems that having too many is a barrier and I become indecisive about doing anything at all and can flounder under this.

The interesting thing I'm finding about this Write or Die thing is that I'm almost writing without thinking. I've always loved the physical aspect of writing on a keyboard ever since I taught myself to type on a manual typewriter. Thinking about ideas and letting my fingers transfer the words to paper was always great fun and although the paper is now virtual, the feeling of satisfaction remains. What I like about a computer keyboard is the way that it's much less effort than the old manual typewriter and this enable me to maintain a higher typing speed than I would ever have been able to manage on the old machine.

I still have the manual typewriter somewhere - probably in the attic - but I don't know if it still works as I probably haven't touched it for at least 15 years. I think I shall hang onto it, though, as it's a reminder of where I came from all those years ago, professionally speaking. It was actually a present from my parents one Christmas, which shows how supportive they were in their own way.

I just pause to look at my word count and I'm up to 385 and have done that in less than ten minutes, which is pretty good for something just of the top of my head. I've now just hit the ten minute mark.

I'm still wondering what else I should write as I set myself a target of 500 words and I've still got 60 to go. I think this could be a useful tool in a small way, but I'm not sure how best to fit it into my work schedule. I don't like the NaNoWriMo idea as it feels to constricting in some ways but I ought to set myself some kind of daily or weekly target. Perhaps what Write or die needs is some kind of daily reminder that will sync with my schedule/calendar.

That's it, the word count is now 519.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Story to Nowhere reaches 50!

I've just posted the latest Story to Nowhere episode. This is the 50th episode and it seems that I've reached this minor milestone very quickly. Although the 50th episode coincides with a very powerful moment, I didn't design it this way as I'm not thinking ahead as I create it, taking each one as it comes. This has thrown up a few small surprises for me along the way, but this is how I want Mike's story to develop. Hopefully it will be more true to life this way.

If you want to start reading from the beginning, the first episode can be found here.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

New Keyboard

Today I bought a new PC keyboard. Looking around I found that the one which looked to best suit my needs was one of the cheapest in PC World.

When I bought the new keyboard I wondered if it was a good idea getting a cheap one, but it actually feels so much better than my old one. Well, I say old, but I only got it earlier this year but never really liked it from the start. The beauty of this one is that it feels more like the older style keyboards with greater movement on the keys, which is something I like, having learned to type on a manual typewriter with big key movement. It’s also not one of these compact layouts where all the keys are squashed together or the backslash key has been moved to a new location.

Suddenly, my typing fingers are happier again. I just hope it lasts long enough.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Story to Nowhere updates

I've been updating the Story to Nowhere pages on a daily basis so far. How long I can keep this up I don't know, but I'll continue with this schedule while I'm able. The first strip can be found here and the latest one here.

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Story to Nowhere strip 3

A further update on Story to Nowhere.

I also updated Mr. Smoozles yesterday.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Story to Nowhere strip 2

I thought I'd follow on quickly with the second strip to get a little momentum going.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Story to Nowhere

Story to Nowhere is something new. I wanted to create something that was quick to update, in terms of the art and writing and something that I wouldn't write in advance. For each "episode" I will create the art and then write the words to fit. It will grow more organically than my previous "strips" and has a more serious theme for a change.

Please let me know what you think.

Although I've done ten "episodes" so far, I'm not sure how often I'll update. Maybe three times a week, but the schedule may be eratic.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Whispered World

The Whispered World is an absolutely gorgeous-looking game from Daedalic Entertainment. I've been interested in this game since I first saw screenshots over a year ago, so when they asked me to work on the script editing for the English version I just couldn't say no. I've just been informed that I'm able to talk about my involvement, hence the post.

I hope that you'll all support this game so that we can, hopefully, get more of this quality in the future. It's already getting some great reviews in Germany.

I just hope my work has done it the justice...

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Friday, February 06, 2009

Another excellent review of So Blonde

The website, Adventure Classic Gaming, has just published a new review of So Blonde, which gives it a score of four stars (out of five).

"Playing So Blonde brings back memories of why I love adventure games so much."

"Steve Ince, the writer, has penned a great and humorous story for the game. "

Sometimes, working from home can be very hard. Contact with other people in the games industry tends to mostly be through e-mail or by phone and it's easy to lose sight of why I'm bashing away at the keyboard every day. Then I read another wonderfully complimentary review and I'm reminded of why I enjoy writing and designing games.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Casual Game: Delicious - Emily's Tea Garden

I've been working with some great guys over in Eindhoven at the GameHouse studio on a few casual game titles they wanted some writing help with. The first of these titles, Delicious - Emily's Tea Garden, has just been released over at the RealArcade site. If you enjoy playing casual games I'm sure you'll love this one, too, so be sure to take a look.

The game is actually the third in a series and I wrote the story and dialogue for this one.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Award nomination

Although it was announced on Saturday, I've only just discovered the news that I've been nominated for an award. At the Writers Guild of Great Britain Awards, no less. The nomination is in the following category:

Best Videogame Script

Rhianna Pratchett - Overlord
Tom Jubert - Penumbra Black Plague
Rhianna Pratchett, Tameem Antoniades and Andy Serkis - Heavenly Sword
Steve Ince - So Blonde

I wonder if I should dig out my penguin suit...

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

York Writers - new URL

I am a member of York Writers and we recently changed the URL of the group's website, which can now be found at this link.


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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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I'm Featured on Nextcat

Nextcat is a new social networking site geared towards creative industries like film, animation and games. I've been chosen as one of the "featured talent" profiles on their main gaming page, so the least I could do is put up a link. :)

If anyone else is on Nextcat why not add me?

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Plotting Talk

I gave a talk on plotting last night at a meeting of York Writers. I was pretty nervous, as many of the writers have been published, and wondered how they would take what I had to say. Thankfully, they all seemed to enjoy it and it fired up some interesting discussion afterwards, which resulted in us running over the normal meeting time.

Because of my years of game development experience, the first part of the talk was about how stories work in games and how we approach the creation of the stories to ensure that they are sound, logically. The second was how I'm bringing some of those techniques to bear for the novel that I'm writing in my spare time.

If I get the time, I may turn my notes into a Developing Thoughts article, though it may be better as a couple of articles. I shall let you know.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Stuff is happening all the time...!!

And no one told me!

Again, I'm sorry for not posting very much just lately, but my life feels full. But I'm going to take a little time to chill, listen to some music (Wishbone Ash at the moment) and write a few words.

I'm currently working on a project that I can't mention just at the moment, but it's one I'm sure at least some of you will find interesting. I'm sure something will be announced soon.

The English voices have been recorded for So Blonde: Forgotten Island and I'm so pleased with the quality. Thanks to wonderful voice direction from Martin T Sherman, the actors really delivered some wonderful performances. Our villain's voice is one of the best I've heard in a game.

I've mentioned before that I've been asked to give a talk about plotting to the York Writers group (which people are welcome to come to if they wish - it's in September; final date to follow later). Well, the more I think and research the idea, the more I think that there's quite a lot of scope for a long essay or a short book
It feels like there is a lot or grey-ness surrounding the subject as people have very different ideas about the role of story and plot, how they link together, the connection between outlining and plot and how plotting can be used as a means to an end in itself, particularly in games.
Games, it seems to me, often have very strong plots and weak stories. I think that because we're used to developing strong game logic, this helps game creators develop strong plots, too. Or, at least, very sound plots. I think that there are plotting lessons we can take from games and use them to apply to stories in other media.
While I'm still in the early stages of this - and the talk will be a useful test of some of them - I'm quite hopeful that it could be a useful exercise.

GC in Leipzig draws ever closer. I'm sure that it will be pretty tiring and very crammed with lots of meetings, interviews and such, but I'm looking forward to meeting up with some people I haven't seen in ages and some I will be meeting for the first time. If you're going, be sure to stop by the DTP booth (wherever that is) and say hello if I'm available.

Jason is moving to Wales at the weekend and Shaun has got promotion in his job.

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Comic Strip Hiatus again

It looks like the comic strips are going to be on an extended hiatus for the forseeable future. So far, I've had no luck in finding artists to help me out that would maintain the kind of style I would want for the strip.

Although it isn't something I want to do, I'm entering a pretty busy period and any spare time I have I want to concentrate on writing and design projects. I know it's not what the readers of the strips want to hear, but I must prioritise in order not to burn myself out. Sorry to everyone who's been following the strips, but I'm hoping they'll return in the autumn.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007


I was at the York Writers meeting last Wednesday (I'm currently updating the website so I'll post a link when it's done) where we had a guest reading his poetry - Oz Hardwick. The evening was most enjoyable and Oz's reading really gave a lot of life to his poems.

Afterwards I was approached by one of the committee members, a chap called Glyn, who asked if I'd be interested in giving a talk on plotting, which caught me a little by surprise. But as we talked about it briefly I guess that much of what I do is based around plotting. Without good plotting the kind of games I develop would have lots of holes in them and would probably have lots of dead ends and gameplay flaws.

So at the moment I'm thinking about how to approach the talk and I'm not sure when it will fit into the group's schedule, but I'll post more about it as plans firm up and give more details in case there are some who may wish to attend, if they're in the area.