On Writing and World Building

Well, you’ve heard from the other guys for quite a few posts now, so now it’s time for Team Member # 3 (Austin) to show his face. So, here I am! Writing! About things!

Are you excited yet?

Okay, well, regardless of whether you’re jumping up and down or asleep at your keyboard, let’s keep moving.

The reality of a small team such as ours is that everyone has to specialize in something. Rich is our main developer because he’s got the skillset that fits that role best, and well, good ol’ Mike is our business man and marketing guy because he actually likes people. I’m the one writing the story for our game because that’s where my own talents naturally gravitate. We can help each other out here and there, but the reality of the situation is that each of us working on AOTW has to carry a crucial part of the overall game largely on our own.

For me, as the lead writer, this presents a unique opportunity. Largely free of limiting considerations, I am able to construct a narrative and environment that is entirely my own, and build a very personal tale. On the other hand, I alone am responsible for coming up with the entirety of the game’s universe, its characters, and its plot arcs.  Ultimately, I am the one who bears responsibility for any flaws in the story or any controversies it may provoke, intentionally or unintentionally.

I have worked on games previously where the narrative took a backseat, existing only to justify the action onscreen. One example of this style of storytelling was my cheesy, 50’s inspired Anomalous Operations project. I made the purposeful decision to avoid this storytelling technique for AOTW.

Indeed, the world of Armour on the Wastes is very rich, and it is not merely a backdrop to all of the shooting and the hectic, tank-filled action of the game – it is in fact a crucial part of the overall experience. So today what I would like to tell you about is a tiny bit of my thought process behind the writing and the story for this project.

 

I’m a firm believer at this point in my life that some things work better when you plan them, and others work better if left to chance.Writing actually requires that you use both strategies.

Our game takes place in a distant galaxy with its own unique history – effectively, it is a “blank slate” upon which to write the story of an entirely different group of people, free from real world historical considerations. To truly make the world come alive to the player and keep it internally consistent, I have put a great deal of effort into planning out the backstories and the motivations of all characters involved. I have worked for months plotting a consistent timeline and detailing the history of over thirty planets, dozens of nations and terrible, cataclysmic wars, much of which the player will never see in-game.

But the idea isn’t for the player to actually see all of the content – that would be overwhelming.  Instead, this backstory work provides a solid foundation upon which the real plot of the game can be built – and it enlivens the game by allowing me to reference side characters and events not relevant to the main storyline, without having to make things up or introduce plotholes.

Meanwhile, when it comes time to actually script character interactions, I will let these flow from an improvisonal source.The characters themselves have detailed backstories and motivations, but part of the fun of being a writer is letting your characters do what they want – not railroading them down a preset, author-guided path.This also helps the player feel like the characters are real, relatable people rather than stock archetypes.

That’s not to say I don’t have any idea where our actual plot is headed.There is a clear narrative arc – just one I choose not to share with you yet!

In the end, the final goal of all this writing and all this story work is to immerse the player in our world – to make them feel like their choices matter – to make them think about the themes presented in a real and meaningful way – and to have people talking about the plot long after the game’s no longer being played.

So stay tuned, dear readers.You’re in for a hell of a tale…

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