Train2Game news: Naughty Dog want to “raise the bar” of game design with The Last of Us

Naughty Dog want to “raise the bar” for the “poor” storytelling in video games with their new title, The Last of US.

The new game from Uncharted developer Naughty Dog was revealed at last weekend’s VGAs and will be exclusive to PlayStation 3.

“We try so hard at Naughty Dog to push things,” The Last of Us Creative director and writer Neil Druckmann told Eurogamer 

“And then games come out that are fun and exciting and get visceral things right, but to read in reviews that they have an amazing story is disheartening to us because we work so hard at it.

“As critics we need to raise the bar, otherwise no-one’s going to change. We’re going to keep pushing ourselves, and kill ourselves to make this story happen – but hope that by doing it, the rest of the industry is going to take notice and try to do the same thing.”

Druckmann says that The Last of Us is a love story between father and daughter and that they’re doing it because ‘love’ isn’t something that’s often properly explored in games writing.

“We approached this genre because we felt no-one is getting to the heart of it. It tells you something about the human condition – that’s what you want to do as a storyteller.” he said

“We’re not saying every game needs a strong, compelling and dramatic story, but if you are going to make a narrative-based game then you better learn the craft.” Druckmann added.

Naughty Dog describe The Last of Us as “a genre-defining experience that blends survival and action elements to tell a character driven tale about a modern plague decimating mankind. Nature encroaches upon civilization, forcing remaining survivors to kill for food, weapons and whatever they can find. Joel, a ruthless survivor, and Ellie, a brave young teenage girl who is wise beyond her years, must work together to survive their journey across what remains of the United States.”

Train2Game blog readers can see the first trailer for The Last of Us below.

So Train2Game, what are your first impressions of The Last of Us? Is a ‘love story’ a bold move for Naughty Dog? Do you believe game writers need to raise the bar?

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

[Source: Eurogamer]


Train2Game news: Clue to the future is in Game Dev Story – Brink writer

Brink Train2Game blog imageTrain2Game students should learn alternative game development disciplines in addition to their chosen field to increase their chances of finding work in the industry.

That’s according to Splash Damage’s Ed Stern, writer of Brink, who likened hiring employees in the industry to mobile title Game Dev Story.

“Learn to code, learn Unity, learn Flash, be able to make a game. Because even if you’re not great a graphics or great at sound you’ll understand what the issues are.” Stern told the Train2Game blog when asked advice he’d give a game designer looking to break into the industry.

“You know that game Game Dev Story? You want to have at least a couple of stats in the other disciplines. Even if you’re never going to be hired to do sound, have some idea what the issues are with sound.”

The Splash Damage Creative Director used an example of a game designer knowing what game artists are capable of as an example.

“If you’re a writer have some idea what the graphic issues are so you don’t inadvertently end up writing a cheque that no one else can cash.”

He also told the Train2Game blog what he looks for when hiring a new employee, and that’s to have completed projects.

“It’s always more important to finish something than to start something, that’s what we look for when we’re hiring,” he said.  What people finish in their portfolio, not what they start then kind of get a bit bored with and give up on”

Of course, Train2Game students have the opportunity to complete projects and the Train2Game & Epic Game Jam this weekend.

Stern’s comments echo those of ID Software’s Tim Willits, who in an interview with the Train2Game blog, said that completing a mod is a great way to get noticed.

“Lots of times we have people who send resumes’ in with 20 half completed mods; we don’t want that, we want a handful of one’s that are actually done, and that’s really important” he said.

Ed Stern was speaking to the Train2Game blog in an interview about Brink, games writing and how to get into the industry. It’ll be published on the Train2Game blog in full on Monday.

So Train2Game, what are your thoughts on the Brink Creative Director’s advice? Have you been looking into learning other disciplines? Do you already have skills in other areas?

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

Train2Game news: Uncharted 3 director on story vs. gameplay

Train2Game blog readers may see Uncharted 3 as one of the most impressive, story driven games on the PlayStation 3, but some out there criticise it for its linearity when compared with RPGs and other open titles.

Developer Naughty Dog has responded to those criticisms by stating the Uncharted series storyline is more important to them than gameplay.

“That’s not really our genre,” Uncharted 3 creative director Amy Hennig told Gametrailers. “We like those kind of games, as players and fans of other games, but for the action-adventure – especially the pulp-adventure genre – that doesn’t really make sense.”

“It’s about having a very clear, linear story arc that doesn’t allow for a lot of the dilution that is created by player choice in some cases. We always call it ‘wide linear’ – within the path that we give you you have a lot of choice within it, it’s not just hit this button, and this button, and this button.” she added.

Despite the tight nature of Uncharted 3’s story, the Train2Game blog has previously reported that Naughty Dog say they make up a lot of the game as they go along.

Train2Game students interested in how Uncharted 3’s script is written  and performed should check out this behind the scenes look on the Train2Game blog.

For more on games writing, check out the huge Train2Game blog interview with Deus Ex: Human Revolution writer James Swallow.

Away from game design, Naughty Dog believes the PlayStation 4 is needed for the next big leap in graphical improvements.

So Train2Game, what do you make of Naughty Dog’s comments on storyline being more important than gameplay for Uncharted 3?

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

[Source: Industry Gamers]

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 news: Bioshock: Infinite’s “biggest character” is its world says Levine

Bioshock Infinite will be PS Move compatibleTrain2Game Game Designers in particular that in order for a game story to be strong, it needs strong characters.

However, a strong setting can also be an important piece of narrative in itself and Irrational Games boss Ken Levine believes this to be the case with the Bioshock series.

“In BioShock 1, I think the biggest character in the world … was the world, the world of Rapture,” he said in a newly released Bioshock: Infinite developer diary which Train2Game blog readers can see below.

“In Infinite we’re continuing that tradition as well: that there’s a lot of narrative told in the world, probably on the same scale as with BioShock 1.”

The developer diary also features Troy Baker and Courtnee Draper,  the voices of Bioshock: Infinite Booker and Elizabeth respectively.

“Our challenge is we don’t have a very presentational medium” said Baker.

“When you think about storytelling in a lot of games you think about cutting to a cutscene and being locked into place, and that’s not something we really like to do. So we created these two characters,” he added.

The idea of an environment as a character in games was discussed at the BAFTA Games Writers Panel earlier this week, with games writer Rhianna Pratchett arguing that the “character of Rapture” was a particularly strong way of telling the story of Bioshock.

Train2Game interviews with members of the BAFTA Games Writers Panel will be published on the Train2Game blog in the near future.

Earlier this year, the Train2Game blog reported that Levine says game developers of all disciplines need to “get comfortable with throwing their stuff away” Meanwhile, Bioshock featured as a major part of Sony’s E3 presentation.

So Train2Game,  what are your thoughts on the environment as a character in games? What game environments do you think help tell the story?

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

[Source: VG247]

Story and Game Design the “final frontier” for games says Darkness II dev

Train2Game Game Designers obviously want to make careers out of creating games and writing their stories, and according to one developer it’s this section of the industry that will grow most in future.

The Darkness was one video game that featured some emotional narrative Game Design, and developers Digital Extremes want this to continue in the upcoming sequel.

And speaking to CVG, Game Director Sheldon Carter believes Game Design and storytelling will become even more prominent in the future of video game development.

“I think it’s a progression that everyone’s going to get to eventually,” he said. “I’m not trying to say we’re ahead of the curve or anything like that, that’s just the choice we made for this game.

“I think story is the final frontier for games. We’re kind of getting there tech-wise. Mechanics-wise it’s cool that we’re innovating but it’s still in the basic same themes. I think story is eventually where we’ll all end up going.”

Upcoming games that also focus on the Game Design Narrative include Uncharted 3 and Deus Ex: Human Revolution. For more on the writing and Game Design behind Uncharted 3, see the Train2Game blog.

Interested Train2Game students can also see a post that goes into great depth about the Game Design process behind Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

So Train2Game, is Game Design the final frontier? How advanced can the stories get? And which games do you believe have particularly well written narratives?

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

[Source: CVG]

Interesting interview for Train2Game students: Splash Damage on Brink, game development, and humour

Brink Train2Game blog image

Brink is released this Friday – with many Train2Game students looking forward to it – so a lot of publicity for the Splash Damage game is doing the rounds online.

Last week the Train2Game blog brought you an in depth look behind the Art & Animation of the upcoming shooter.

Another article that Train2Game students may find interesting is an interview with Brink writer Ed Stern in The New Statesman.  He begins by discussing why Splash Damage decided to make Brink in the first place.

“We started off by saying; “We want to make this sort of a game, for this sort of a budget, that will allow the player to do this sort of thing – so where is it set and what is it about?” I can only answer the last two of those.

One of the struggles of game writing in general is coming up with ideas that are the right size and shape. Quite often the bits that don’t work are perfectly good solutions to the problems, but they don’t work in the context of the game. That often means cutting all your favourite bits.”

Stern also gives an insight into how game development can be be a fluid, ever changing role for everyone involved in producing a game.

“People talk about development as if we know what we’re doing, and of course we don’t: if we did, we could stamp these things out in weeks. And remember that while the roles on a film haven’t changed for decades, with games, there are job titles which didn’t exist two, five, let alone ten years ago.” He said

“The old joke that a month after the game ships, you find out what it’s about, is one I no longer find funny. It’s a bit like bad acting. You think: “Don’t they know how stupid that looks?” And of course they don’t, because they’re stood in a room with a camera pointed at them, possibly a long way away.”

“And that’s exactly how every element of games work: you don’t know how the whole package will be. When it goes wrong, it’s often because one element seems to be in a completely different game. When it goes right, everything is mutually reinforcing.” He added.

Stern also speaks about the use of humour in games – or lack of it – and that he’s waiting to see who will make the first “Monty Python-ish game”

“In one of the films there’s a Gilliam still image of someone reading a story to a child, and he describes this incredible scene of a thousand knights in sparkling armour — and says “it’s far too expensive to be animated in a film like this”. Which is brilliant as a joke about the limitations of film-making.

“But games don’t get to do that. They don’t make jokes about their narrators, or the weird plight of their non-player characters generally — OK, a few do; Valve are fantastic at it.” He added.

Yesterday the Train2Game blog reported on why Valve made protagonist Chell a silent character and that helped the humour.

Splash Damage have high expectations of Brink, and as reported by the Train2Game blog, they’ve previously claimed it’ll ‘end the FPS genre as we know it.’ The game is released on Friday for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.

So Train2Game, what are your thoughts on Stern’s comments about game development? And what about what he has to say about humour in games? Would you attempt to develop a funny game? And are you looking forward to Brink?

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

[Source: The New Statesman]