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View Full Version : Jeffrey Yohalem and Walt Williams: 6 Things You Learn Writing Blockbuster Video Games



Mr.Black24
04-06-2016, 06:58 AM
So everyone always wondered, wow Brotherhood was so black and white. Wow, Syndicate is so black and white. Boring or whatever the case maybe. Perhaps even wondered why a line felt so cheap or very out of place. Or why the script feels a bit lack luster. Or more of the same like in the last Assassin's Creed games.

Whatever the case maybe, Jeffrey Yohalem, head writer of Assassin's Creed: Syndicate, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, and Far Cry 3, and Walt Williams, head writer of the critically-acclaimed Spec Ops: The Line, are interviewed by Cracked to find out why the writing in blockbuster games doesn't seem to be getting any better. There are some interesting responses of the article, such as to the question 4:

4# The Writing Is Often Slapped Together To Fit The Game They're Already Making

Every creative person has to find their spot on the sliding scale of exposure versus control. You may have total authority over your blog, but only a few people want to read your erotic Yoshi fanfiction. Video games are on the opposite end -- you get giant budgets, but you're going to get a lot dictated to you. As Yohalem explains:

"You can enter into a game with dictates from marketing. 'This game is going to be called Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood.' So how do we adapt to that? For Far Cry 3, we had a couple of maps, character sketches, and an island setting from R&D. We build from ruins of previous ideas or dictates that come out of nowhere."

Did you catch that? An Assassin's Creed game started with a title handed down from marketing, and they worked backward from there -- although Jeffrey did make it clear that it was a creative challenge he enjoyed. So, unlike previous games in the series where you play a lone wolf, Brotherhood's about building a team. And then everyone -- level designer, art director, etc. -- has a new feature they want to include, whether that's a gameplay mechanic or a setting. It's the writer's job to combine what everyone wants into a coherent story ... somehow.

And remember that they have many of the same limitations as film, in that not all scenes/settings cost the same to make. "If I say I want the final level in a volcano," says Yohalem, "the art director will say, 'Okay, but then you're going to have a level set in a parking garage. If you really want that volcano, you find a way to make that parking garage awesome.'"

Its kind of neat to see how they work with and around the problems that also frustrates them as much as it does to us. Give the rest a read here:

(http://www.cracked.com/personal-experiences-2172-no-trans-characters-6-realities-writing-video-games.html)http://www.cracked.com/personal-experiences-2172-no-trans-characters-6-realities-writing-video-games.html

Note: I have no idea why it says "no trans characters" in the URL, as I just read the article only and just noticed it after pasting the link, that too confuses me.

Farlander1991
04-06-2016, 08:38 AM
That article was difficult to read for me, as it mixes truth with ******** needlessly extrapolated from that truth by the article writer, which makes it the worst kind of article as it's very hard to differentiate the two. I talked with Patrick Plourde extensively once about the process of creating ACB, and the way this article describes it is not at all how it went down. That said, there are challenges and problems when it comes to writing in games, especially when developers don't think about it from the start, that much is true. But I still don't like the article.

crusader_prophet
04-06-2016, 06:15 PM
I once saw a video with the makers of Uncharted 2 and TLOU (Neil, Bruce and some additional developers). The entire video showed how they as a studio push the boundaries of iterative creation. I remember them saying that they had a chapter already designed and it wasn't until a later chapter they realized the narrative sequence was lackluster or not to their standards. To make it so they have to redo previous levels. And they were like why not? So to accommodate creative writing that was conceptualized at a later stage of development, they as a studio decided to redo finalized levels to meet their higher standards.

SixKeys
04-06-2016, 07:45 PM
I liked the article, interesting stuff. I do find it funny that every time they talk about something positive, they use a picture from Spec Ops and every time they talk about something negative, they use Brotherhood. :rolleyes:

There is probably some bias mixed in from the article's writer, but most stuff I have no trouble believing as I've heard many developers cite similar experiences. Darby McDevitt also once talked about having to basically write a coherent script around what the team had already decided was going to be the game.

They forgot to mention that sometimes certain bits in the game can feel tonally different because they were written by someone else. In AC games it's a little hard to divine how much stuff is down to the main writer as certain side missions or database entries are delegated to someone different.

Mr.Black24
04-06-2016, 11:14 PM
That article was difficult to read for me, as it mixes truth with ******** needlessly extrapolated from that truth by the article writer, which makes it the worst kind of article as it's very hard to differentiate the two. I talked with Patrick Plourde extensively once about the process of creating ACB, and the way this article describes it is not at all how it went down. That said, there are challenges and problems when it comes to writing in games, especially when developers don't think about it from the start, that much is true. But I still don't like the article.
Hmmmm interesting. What was so different from what he said and what Jeffery said. I'm not familiar with Patrick, so it be cool to hear from another dev about writing Brotherhood.

AdrianJacek
04-07-2016, 09:16 AM
I once saw a video with the makers of Uncharted 2 and TLOU (Neil, Bruce and some additional developers). The entire video showed how they as a studio push the boundaries of iterative creation. I remember them saying that they had a chapter already designed and it wasn't until a later chapter they realized the narrative sequence was lackluster or not to their standards. To make it so they have to redo previous levels. And they were like why not? So to accommodate creative writing that was conceptualized at a later stage of development, they as a studio decided to redo finalized levels to meet their higher standards.

Oh really? Because, at least when it comes to Uncharted 3, I've heard the complete opposite. Here:
https://youtu.be/wY5OA0QKEFQ?t=5m10s
In fact, just watch the whole video - https://youtu.be/wY5OA0QKEFQ

LoyalACFan
04-08-2016, 02:39 PM
Oh really? Because, at least when it comes to Uncharted 3, I've heard the complete opposite. Here:
https://youtu.be/wY5OA0QKEFQ?t=5m10s
In fact, just watch the whole video - https://youtu.be/wY5OA0QKEFQ

UC3's development was fairly troubled though from what I've heard, partly owing to growing pains following the expansion of the studio to accommodate TLOU. At any rate, ND seems aware that they flubbed the narrative of UC3 (seeing as how it's basically a retelling of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade with at least half the same setpieces).