sassmasterstark said: Hi, David! At DragonCon this year there was a panel on Game Writing with Ann Lemay and Ian Frazier, and Ian mentioned that a game writer and a narrative designer weren't the same. Could you elaborate?
There is no real standard when it comes to game development terminology—particularly not when it applies to the names given to specific roles. It will vary from one company to the next, though there are certain trends.
One such trend is the growing reference to the “narrative designer”, as opposed to the “game writer”. Even so, what’s considered the latter and what’s considered the former will vary depending on who you ask. Sometimes they’re identical, sometimes they’re not. My impression is that it largely depends on how much writing the dev team in question actually does.
In general, however? My impression is that a narrative designer actually constructs (or helps construct) the game’s story. They decide what happens, help design the quest/mission arcs, or simply have a much greater level of input overall in the narrative flow for the game. A game writer’s responsibility more lies in the actual implementation of that design—they write the dialogue and text, but may not have much input in what they’re writing… in some cases, they may even be called in to do the writing after all the design work is done.
A narrative designer might not actually do any writing. One could conceivably design the narrative and hand it off to a game writer. See the difference?
At BioWare, what we call “writers” do both—to varying degrees, according to their individual talents and/or experience. A Lead Writer or a Senior Writer is going to have a much bigger role in narrative design, particularly for the game as a whole, as opposed to someone with less experience who may be designing the narrative for a single quest arc or do no narrative design at all (though that’s rare—generally the idea is for them to at least take part in the design even if they don’t spearhead it, in the interest of teaching them how it’s done).
That is, however, specific to BioWare, and is a workflow which was necessary to develop simply because we have a large writing team. Other teams might have fewer writers, writers who also fill other roles at the same time, or who are even outsourced. So it’s not a question that can be answered definitively, and is always an issue when writers from many dev teams get together at conventions like GDC. Someone can hold a panel on writing, and you may attend only to discover it has little or no relevance to how you personally operate. Sometimes there’s an effort to standardize the terminology, to make communication easier, but in my experience that’s always had limited effect.
Traditionally, narrative designers will be advocates for narrative within a team. This means they handle the integration of narrative to the game & level design, world build and create lore, but will stop at the point where dialog occurs - which is when a writer will step in. But as David stated in his post, the two roles have evolved in various ways depending on the company, expectations, understanding of the role and the habits/knowledge base of the person holding the title. So there is a LOT of cross-over with the roles.
My take on it? Understanding game design and game play and being able to integrate that understanding in how you drive your story, in my opinion, allows for a better integration of your narrative to the game and the player experience as a whole. Being a narrative designer is what stands to make you a better game writer. (Notice the “game” before writer - that’s an important nuance.) It also really makes everyone’s job easier all around on any given project, and that is probably the understatement of the year. Decade, even? Yeah.
In the past I’ve had both titles (writer at one company, narrative designer at another) while doing essentially the same job, which included both the purely traditional aspect of game writing (i.e., dialog) and narrative design (understanding of game systems and how to integrate the narrative to them). This was my choice. This is how I defined my job, regardless of the actual job title. I’ve also had some projects where I was only expected to handle dialog, but by natural inclination I always ended up working closely with game design and level design anyway. Seriously, I’ve never yet met a game designer who wasn’t thrilled to have a writer who was understood the process and wanted to blend the writing with the game play in good ways, or a level designer who wasn’t absolutely enthused about having a two-way dialog with the writer about how to best fit the story in the level - and vice-versa. (I’m told it happens. Hasn’t to me, so far.)
I could go on about how the two jobs are viewed and how they vary from company to company, but at this point I’d just be repeating what David already said, in a longer and likely long-winded fashion. =)
Via @being_feminist on twitter
a discussion on sexual orientation
- me: *explaining various sexual orientations to a classmate*
- classmate: wait, what's polyamory?
- me: well, it's when someone has more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved.
- professor: *overhears from front of class*
- professor: that is d i s g u s t i n g
- me: *defensively* um, actually, no it's--
- professor: how DARE they put a greek prefix on a latin root like that?! What right do they have to decimate my beautiful antiquated languages?!?! GREEK AND LATIN DO NOT FRATERNIZE THIS IS LIKE THAT STUPID ROMANTIC SUBPLOT BETWEEN THAT DWARF AND THAT ELF IN THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG NO NO NO NO NO NO!!!
- me: ....
- me: ....
- me: ....
- professor: it should be polyerosy
when you reread a book or rewatch a show/movie and you notice things
So excited to announce my new book featuring T-Rex, She-Rex and Wee-Rex will be in stores October 7th!!!
Thanks for all of your support!!!
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