Train2Game news: Interesting Guardian feature on women in game development

Train2Game students should have a look at this article on the The Guardian website. Titled ‘Game changers: the women who make video games’ it features some of the best female game development talent out there and examines what can be done to get more women into the games industry.

Of course, there are plenty of women currently on Train2Game courses as we speak.

“I think young girls need to have their eyes opened to the different avenues open to them in games,” said games writer Rhianna Pratchett, who has worked on games including Heavenly Sword and Mirror’s Edge.

“They can be artists, animators, writers, designers, producers, programmers … We need to get them fired up about technology and find the Ada Lovelaces of the future. I think both the industry and the educational system have a role to play to achieve this. There are so many great female role-models within the games industry, but they rarely get the exposure they deserve.”  she added.

Rhianna Pratchett was part of BAFTA’s Games Writers Panel discussion, which recently became available to listen to via podcast. Find out how to listen to it, and see the rest of Train2Game’s BAFTA Games Writers Panel coverage, here on the Train2Game blog.

Other female game developers who feature in The Guardian article includes Deus Ex: Human Revolution co-writer Mary DeMarle, and Uncharted 3 Director Amy Hennig. The women in video games piece certainly does make interesting reading for Train2Game students.

So Train2Game, what are your thoughts on the article? What do you think can be done to encourage more women into game development?

Leave your comments here on the Train2Game blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

(Source: The Guardian)

Train2Game interview: Deus Ex: Human Revolution writer James Swallow – Part 2

Train2Game recently attended the Games Writers Panel at BAFTA’s headquarters in London. There, the Train2Game blog sat down with panellist Deus Ex: Human Revolution writer James Swallow. In an in-depth interview, Swallow discusses writing Deus Ex: Human Revolution, games writing in general, DLC, what makes a good games writer and much more.

Read part 2 below on the Train2Game blog, or onthe Train2Game Scribd page.  Part 1 is available here, Leave your comments here on the Train2Game blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

Going back to Deus Ex, how have you fleshed out the narrative not only for the game, but for the novel, Deus Ex: Icarus Effect,  which you wrote as well?

That was a lot of fun to do because I’ve already got experience as a novelist and when Del Rey Books approached Eidos and said they’d like to do a novel, they said ‘Why don’t you hire Jim, he already has experience?’ Basically I was the right guy at the right time in the right place because I had experience on both mediums so I could bring story that we hadn’t been able to put in the game. Say stuff that ended up on the cutting room floor, or stuff we couldn’t explain or explore in the in the game because we didn’t have enough time, I got a chance to bring it out in the novel and flesh out elements of story you don’t get.

With a novel you have the opportunity to get inside a characters head, you can show stuff from a completely different viewpoint. It was fun for me personally to revisit a world I had great time writing then write a story in a completely different way to writing a game narrative story.

You’re here at the BAFTA Games Writers Panel to talk about ‘Putting the protagonist in the hand of a player kills traditional narrative concepts,’ what’s your opinion on this as a writer?

When you’re a writer and you’re writing for a TV show or a movie or a book, you’re directing where a character goes, when stuff happens to them. You work that narrative and development for the right dramatic impetus.

In a game you can’t always do that because you can’t always know exactly where a player is going to be and you can’t railroad their experience and say ‘I want this dramatic turn to happen exactly here and you have to be standing here and do this thing exactly!’ because players might not want to do that, they might be looking at something else, they might want to be interacting with a completely different character. So you have to approach it in a very, very different way and it can be very difficult because you want to deliver story, players want to have a story delivered to them, but at the same time they don’t want to be railroaded.

So there’s a peculiar dynamic tension you get as a writer. On the one hand you’re being pulled towards the idea of giving players agency, having the ability to discover the narrative themselves. On the other hand you’re being pulled in the opposite direction which is you want to have a structured narrative that makes senses, that delivers the right dramatic impact at the right dramatic time. It isn’t an easy line to walk but it’s fun to do and I really relish the challenge of it because it isn’t often as a writer you get a chance to work in a medium that is so dynamic and so diverse.

What are the key skills a good games writer should have?

Play lots of games, I can’t underline that enough. A lot of the games writers I know are people who have experience from other areas of gaming. The people on panel with me, for example, Andy Walsh has experience working in soap operas and theatre, there’s me with experience of working in radio. Rhianna Pratchett has experience of working as games journalist before she was a writer whereas my buddy Ed Stern has come up through the ranks purely involved in game design and games writing.

So there’s no one course into it you can take. I would say be a good writer first, obviously, you can’t be a writer without being a writer.  But play lots of games, understand games, and try not to come at it just from a writer’s standpoint, but understand a bit about design and the way games are constructed. Listen to what level design guys and art design guys talk about, producers and directors, understand how they do their job because ultimately if you want to be a games writer you are going to have to interface and mesh with these people. So if you have an idea of what it’s like to walk a mile in their shoes, you can do your job a little better.

How did you get started in the games industry?

Purely by accident. I’ve been a games fan all my life and I love playing video games, I stay up way to late playing them all the time. I was actually doing some work for a magazine where I just happened to be covering a preview of a game release and one of the guys working on this game was actually using some material I’d written. He’d no idea that I’d actually written it. He said ‘We’re using this source material’ and I said ‘Really? I wrote that!’ ‘Really? We should probably hire you then!’ and that was it, I kind of stumbled into it.  And once the opportunity came to get involved behind the curtain with games writing I thought this is something I really want to do.

Since then, for about the last 10 or 12 years now I’ve been working on one or two game projects a year as well as doing prose and script writing. It’s great fun, such a fantastic medium to be working with. It’s really rich for a storyteller because it’s so new and dynamic and I’m fond of saying this: there are no maps for these territories.  What we’re doing is breaking new ground and a new way of telling story. I mean, who would not want to be involved in a new way of expressing your medium.

So people who want to get involved in the games industry, with games writing, what advice would you give to them in order to get that critical first step in?

Definitely get yourself a good grounding in writing and don’t be afraid to work in a games project perhaps in a facility that might not involve being a games writer, like working in QA Testing. That’s always the sharp end of anybody, working in QA which is unforgiving grunt work but there’s no way you’re not going to learn about games other than that job. If you’re going to take that job, that’ll be what teaches you the most about the way that games work and the way games don’t work.  I think it’s very important to play a lot of games to understand games and to understand narrative. If you can get those two things, you’re o n the road to becoming somebody who can write good game story.

Anything else you’d like to add about anything you’ve spoken about?

I’m really pleased with the way people have taken to Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Four years of my life went into working on that. I’m fiercely proud of it; it is without doubt the best games project I’ve worked on in my entire career because the story was really respected on that game and I’ve just really enjoyed being part of it. I want to thank everyone who bought a copy of it and I hoped they all enjoyed it!

Thanks for your time James.

Thank you.

Part 1 of the Train2Game interview with games writer James Swallow is available here.

For more information, go to www.train2game.com

BAFTA’s public events and online resources bring you closer to the creative talent behind your favourite games, films, and TV shows. Find out more at www.bafta.org/newsletter, www.facebook.com/bafta or twitter.com/baftagames

Train2Game interview: Deus Ex: Human Revolution writer James Swallow – Part 1

Deus Ex Human Revolution Train2Game blog imageTrain2Game recently attended the Games Writers Panel at BAFTA’s headquarters in London. There, the Train2Game blog sat down with panellist Deus Ex: Human Revolution writer James Swallow. In an in-depth interview, Swallow discusses writing Deus Ex: Human Revolution, games writing in general, DLC, how to get into the games industry and much more.

Read part 1 below on the Train2Game blog, or on the Train2Game Scribd page, while Part 2 of our huge interview is here. Leave your comments here on the Train2Game blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

First of all, can you tell us what your role as a games writer on Deus Ex: Human Revolution involved?

Wow, that’s kind of a ‘how long is a piece of string’ question really! The job of games writer isn’t like saying ‘I’m a journalist’ or ‘I’m a novelist,’ games writer is a very broad church because there are so many different things you can do in it. You can be writing cutscene dialogue, you can be writing dialogue for the third tier characters you bump into in the street, you could be writing text for text boxes that’ll pop up on screen. There are a million little jobs that fall underneath the term of games writer and I think I did a little bit of all of that stuff on Deus Ex.

It’s kind of fun to be able to do that because it gives you a broad understanding of the entire game and a feeling like you’ve really invested narrative in every single element, from basically what’s written on the back of a gum wrapper you find in the street to the main cutscene where you’re confronting the villain of the piece.

How do you even begin to create the narrative for the in-depth world of Deus Ex: Human Revolution?

In a lot of ways it’s similar to the process of working on a television series because the game is made up of episodic sections in the different levels, hubs or mission sections you get. You break the story. We sit down in the beginning and we say ‘OK, what’s the story we want to tell? What is the motivation and the concept of it? Where’s the very highest level of what we want the story to bring to the player?’ And then it’s a question of back engineering it, constructing the skeleton of the storyline, the narrative beats of it, and then trying to find a structure that works with level design, with character design and hopefully the whole thing meshes together nicely and you get an interactive, dynamic , story experience.

 Deus Ex: Human Revolution Train2Game blog image

 

How difficult was it to link the Narrative of Human Revolution to the original Deus Ex game, released over 10 years ago

Well the original Deus Ex has such a strong narrative to it and so much back-story that it was an embarrassment of riches, we had tonnes and tonnes of back-story we could use. One of my earliest projects on the job was actually writing a timeline that went from 2027, when Human Revolution is set, to 2052 when the original Deus Ex was set.

As we did that we started back engineering elements of the story and saying here are plot threads we can bring back and we can connect them together and hopefully people who are fans of the original Deus Ex games will appreciate the little kisses of history we put in there. I love doing that kind of stuff, I think it’s great fun to bury these Easter Eggs in there and make the story mesh together.

Such as the one after the end credits that links the two games together?

I can neither confirm nor deny that!

With all the choice available to the player in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, how do you go about writing the narrative so it doesn’t become too overly muddled during the course of the game?

You do a lot of writing, lots and lots of stuff.  It is a difficult thing to do because when you start a game you have no idea how your player is going to play it. The thing with Deus Ex is we had the four main pillars of gameplay; you could play aggressively, you could play it stealthily, you could play it in an adaptive way, you could play it with a social approach. There are a lot of different ways you can go through the sections of the game, you could try and mix and match. When I played it personally I found that I’d bounce backwards and forwards between the pillars of gameplay depending on how my mood took me. You can play it as a nice guy if you want by helping people, getting cats out of trees, or you can be a scumbag kicking the dog and mugging the old lady, and all those options are open to you.

How do you construct a game where all of those possibilities are open to a player where they’ll feel real?  It’s hard to do because you have to write dialogue that reacts to the events and the style of gameplay. Do you write hundreds and hundreds of different versions of dialogue? That’s not possible with the technology that exists right now.  You have to try and write dialogue that’ll be generic enough but at the same time not too generic that it’s bland, to try and make it so it’ll fit multiple levels of encounter and multiple levels of narrative.

It’s not easy to do, it’s a big challenge because you think of where you are in a game, of the information you have to put across, you want to give pitch and moment and drama to a character… But you also want to be able to say ‘The princess is in another castle’ and you want to be able to deliver feeling and emotion and you have to do that in one line of dialogue. It’s not easy, but it’s an interesting challenge though.

What are the different challenges of writing for the Missing Link DLC instead of the full game?

Away from Deus Ex I’ve worked on some other DLC as well; I worked on Pigsy’s Perfect 10 which was an add-on for Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. Working on that what we realised was that generally with a game you have a discreet beginning, middle, end experience and to build on story DLC you have to find a place where you can connect it. With the Enslaved stuff, what we did is we took a character who was playing a supporting role in the original game and we spun out an entire storyline out for him. So it’s kind of a side story, almost a prequel because the DLC ends with the characters introduction into the storyline of the main game, so it connects that way.

With the Missing Link we created a very discreet, compact narrative for our hero Adam Jensen and when we were approached and asked to do DLC we had to work quite hard to find somewhere we could fit it.  And we realised that we had this point in the game where the character is off the grid and this is the perfect opportunity for us to put in almost a missing episode of the story.

It’s interesting with DLC because you want to produce a dynamic, interactive, interesting and ultimately rewarding experience for the player. But you have to do it in such a way that it doesn’t break the story that you’ve already created for the source material. I guess that’s the unique challenge of it, to find a way to make a story that parallels what you’ve got without overwriting it.

Part 2 of the Train2Game interview with games writer James Swallow is here.

For more information, go to www.train2game.com

BAFTA’s public events and online resources bring you closer to the creative talent behind your favourite games, films, and TV shows. Find out more at www.bafta.org/newsletter, www.facebook.com/bafta or twitter.com/baftagames

Train2Game news: Deus Ex writer on what makes a good game designer

Train2Game recently had a chat with Deus Ex: Human Revolution writer James Swallow at the BAFTA Games Writers Panel where he discussed various aspects of game writing and game design.

But does the he think is the key skills a good video game writer should have?

“Play lots of games, I can’t underline that enough.” he told the Train2Game blog in an interview to be published on Monday.

“I would say be a good writer first, obviously, you can’t be a writer without being a writer.  But play lots of games, understand games, and try not to come at it just from a writer’s standpoint, but understand a bit about design and the way games are constructed”

Swallow argued that a good game designer needs also needs to understand the roles of the rest of the game development team in order to do the best work.

“Listen to what level design guys and art design guys talk about, producers and directors, understand how they do their job because ultimately if you want to be a games writer you are going to have to interface and mesh with these people.” said the Deus Ex: Human Revolution writer.

“So if you have an idea of what it’s like to walk a mile in their shoes, you can do your job a little better.” he added

Train2Game’s in-depth interview with Swallow covering Deus Ex: Human Revolution, writing for games and how to get into the industry will appear here on the Train2Game blog next Monday.

So Train2Game, what do you make of the advice from the Deus Ex: Human Revolution writer? Do you think about game design while playing video games?

Leave your comments here on the Train2Game blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

Train2Game news: BAFTA Games Writers Panel tomorrow

Brink Train2Game blog imageTrain2Game blog readers may have seen a post earlier this month about a special Games Writers Panel event at BAFTA in central London

The event is tomorrow, so if Train2Game students in the London area want to see top games writers discuss game design, there isn’t long to book tickets for just £5 for what’s sure to be an interesting talk.

Speaking on The BAFTA Game Writers Panel are:

Jim Swallow (Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Killzone 2, Star Trek: Invasion)
Ed Stern (Brink)
Rhianna Pratchett (Mirror’s Edge, the Overlord series, Heavenly Sword)

The event will be chaired by Andrew S Walsh who has experience as a writer and director on over 50 games including Prince of Persia, Harry Potter, and Medieval II: Total War.

The Train2Game blog will be speaking the high profile game designers taking part in the panel. What would you like us to ask?

Leave your suggestions here on the Train2Game blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

For more information, see the original Train2Game blog post, or the official BAFTA website.

Last week, three Train2Game students had lunch at BAFTA with director and writer Trix Worell to celebrate winning Train2Game & BAFTA’s Avenging Angels competition.

BAFTA’s public events and online resources bring you closer to the creative talent behind your favourite games, films, and TV shows. Find out more at www.bafta.org/newsletter, www.facebook.com/bafta or twitter.com/baftagames

Train2Game news: Driver can’t overtake Deus Ex: Human Revolution for No.1

Deus Ex: Human Revolution stays top of the UK charts despite sales almost halving those of its impressive debut week. As reported by the Train2Game blog, the Square Enix title took No.1 last week, knocking off long time chart topper Zumba Fitness in the process.

As a result Driver: San Francisco, which like Deus Ex is the return of a popular franchise has to settle for No.2 in its first week. As reported by the Train2Game blog earlier this year, Reflections promised a ‘more accessible’ Driver title.  The success of Deus Ex and Driver sees Zumba Fitness drop to No.3

Rugby World Cup drops one to No.4 in its second week on sale, while LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean also drops one to No.5.

Madden NFL 12, the American football title from EA Sports enters the chart at No.6, one place ahead of Call of Duty: Black Ops which drops to No.7 in its 43rd week on sale. Cars 2 and FIFA 11 drop two spots each to No.8 and No.9 respectively while The Sims 3 moves up from No.12 to complete the top ten.

Bodycount, the new shooter from Codemasters barely makes the top 40 and debuts at a lowly No. 36.

The UKIE Gfk Chart-Track All Formats Top 10 for the week ending 3rd September 2011 is therefore as follows:

1. Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Square Enix)
2. Driver: San Francisco (Ubisoft)
3. Zumba Fitness (505 Games)
4. Rugby World Cup 2011 (505 Games)
5. LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean (Disney)
6. Madden NFL 12 (EA)
7. Call of Duty: Black Ops (Activision)
8. Cars 2 (Disney)
9. FIFA 11 (EA)
10. The Sims 3 (EA)

Releases this week include Resistance 3 and the much hyped Dead Island.

So Train2Game, what are your thoughts on the charts? Is it a well deserved No.2 for Driver? Why has Bodycount failed to make an impact in its first week?

Leave your comments here on the Train2Game blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

[Source: UKIE Games Charts©, compiled by GfK Chart-Track]

UK Charts: Deus Ex Human Revolution topples Zumba Fitness

Train2Game students will probably be relieved that for the first time in a very long time, Zumba Fitness isn’t top of the charts. The slow summer released schedule is at an end and Deus Ex: Human Revolution is the new UK No.1.

The Xbox 360 is the most popular format for Dues Ex: Human Revolution, with 57% of sales on the system.  Interestingly, Human Revolution debuts at No.1 while selling just 26,000 fewer copies than Deus Ex: Invisible War did in its entire selling life.

Long time chart topper – as often reported by the Train2Game blog – Zumba Fitness drops to No.2 with a 10% drop in sales, while Rugby World Cup 2011 debuts at No.3. LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean drops to No.4, with a resurgent Call of Duty: Black Ops re-entering the top ten to take No.5.

Familiar names make up the following positions with, Cars 2, FIFA 11, Dirt 3 and LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4, occupying No. 6 to No.9. Discounts see Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood complete the top ten.

The UKIE Gfk Chart-Track All Formats Top 10 for the week ending 27th August 2011 is therefore as follows:

1. Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Square Enix)
2. Zumba Fitness (505 Games)
3. Rugby World Cup 2011 (505 Games)
4. LEGO: Pirates of the Caribbean (Disney Interactive)
5. Call of Duty: Black Ops (Activision)
6. Cars 2 (Disney Interactive)
7. FIFA 11 (EA)
8. Dirt 3 (Codemasters)
9. LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 (Warner)
10. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (Ubisoft)

Releases this week included Driver San Francisco, Bodycount and Madden NFL 12.

So Train2Game, what are your thoughts on Deus Ex: Human Revolution debuting at No.1? Will it stay there for awhile? Or will No.1 change often as various titles are released over the coming months?

Leave your comments here on the Train2Game blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

[Source: UKIE Games Charts©, compiled by GfK Chart-Track]

Deus Ex: Human Revolution writer talks Game Design

Deus Ex Human Revolution Train2Game blog image

Here’s something that’ll be of particular interest to the Train2Game Game Design students; Eurogamer have published an interview with Deus Ex: Human Revolution lead writer Mary de Marle.

Here’s an extract from the wide ranging interview:

Player choice is important in Deus Ex, but from your point of view it must be difficult to accommodate that. How do you achieve it with writing?

From a broad picture of just story, and all the different branchings on that, overall our story from a very high level is linear. You go from A to B to C. But we identify early on moments of choice and consequence where you can make a decision that will change and affect the lives of the people around you and the world around you.

Before we started writing the story we knew what the story, basically, was, but then we worked to say, ‘How do we manifest that story in the game through the level design, and where are those key moments where their lives would be changed? And then, if so, how can they be changed, and where do we see the repercussions of those changes?’

So from that standpoint, it wasn’t just me alone. It was working with a bunch of people to spur those ideas and to get it all down on paper before so we had something we could always refer to that we wouldn’t forget three years later.

But what about the dialogue? How do you write dialogue for all these permutations?

First of all, when you’re writing a dialogue, it’s often moments in the writing process where you’re debating, should the character say this or should he say that? When you’re trying to write a dialogue in a film or a book, you make that choice right away and then you follow that dialogue to its natural conclusion. But in a game like this you actually get to go, well, I don’t know. Let’s try them both. The challenge becomes, how do you link them back in together?

So in one way it gives you a lot of freedom to explore things you normally wouldn’t, which is fun. But the challenge becomes not so much about what the character says, because you take it from the character himself and his personality, but identifying all the possibilities of things the players could do.

For instance, I might have a very solid opinion of who Adam Jensen is, and I will play him non-lethal and nice. And I have a hard time thinking, well, he could be an asshole at this moment. So the challenge comes from breaking that convention to think of those possibilities, rather than actually dealing with the possibilities when they come through.

But luckily I’ve got a lot of different personalities on the team who don’t want to play Jensen as the nice and non-lethal person, and they point them out for me. Sometimes.”

You can see the whole interview on Eurogamer.

It’s certainly interesting stuff and will give the Train2Game Game Designers something to think about. You can also see more information about Dues Ex: Human Revolution both here on the Train2Game blog and on the Thoughts of Train2Game blog.

What are your thoughts on what Mary de Marle has to say? Would you like to write a game with many different dialogue options? And are you looking forward to Deus Ex: Human Revolution?

As usual, you can leave your thoughts here on the Train2Game blog or on the Train2Game forum. Alternatively, you can let us know what you think on Twitter.

[Source: Eurogamer]

Train2Game, in association with DR Studios and the University of Bedfordshire, will be holding a Game Jam at the end of March. For more information, see this Train2Game blog post or the Train2Game Game Jam Facebook page. Alternatively, keep an eye on the Train2Game Game Jam Twitter account.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution delayed

Deus Ex: Human Revolution Train2Game blog image

Square Enix has announced that Deus Ex: Human Revolution will be delayed in news that will come as a disappointed to fans of the series on the Train2Game forum.

The game was scheduled for release in the first quarter of 2011, but has now been pushed back to the second part of the financial year which begins in April.

If any Train2Game students reading are confused by the language just used, it’s because the Deux Ex: Human Revolution delay came in a Square Enix announcement to investors! Interestingly, the language used in the note to investors seems to suggest the poor performance of Final Fantasy XIV is implied as one of the reasons for the delay:

“With weak sales performance of console game titles that have been newly released during the current fiscal year as well as harsh market feedback regarding a key title, the Group recognizes the reinforcement of development capability in our Digital Entertainment segment as our most critical managerial issue,”

“We therefore have decided to spend additional time to further polish our upcoming game, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, resulting in a shift in release timing from our prior plan of the current fiscal year to next fiscal year.”

So at least there’s one positive for disappointed Train2Game students, Deus Ex: Human Revolution will get to spend more time with the Game Designers, Game Developers and Game Artists behind it and hopefully it’ll be better game because of it.

For now, Train2Game students can console themselves by watching the first, or second Deus Ex: Human Revolution trailer on the Thoughts of Train2Game blog. You can look at the Thoughts of Train2Game blog to see what bonuses the special ‘Augmented Edition’ of Deus Ex: Human Revolution will provide.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is being developed by Eidos Montreal and will be available on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC…well, some time from April 2011 onwards.

So Train2Game,  are you disappointed by the delay? Or are you happy to see Deus Ex: Human Revolution spend more time in development? Do you find it strange how the failure of another game is causing this to be delayed?

As usual, you can leave your thoughts here on the Train2Game blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

[Source: Eurogamer]