Clearing the Haze: Rob Yescombe On Writing For An FPS
October 22, 2007 Page 1 of 5
Ubisoft and Free Radical have teamed up to create Haze -- one of a multitude of next-generation shooters following close in the wake of Halo 3, and one of several that has overt political content as part of its narrative.
Here, Gamasutra speaks to Rob Yescombe, Free Radical's full-time, in-house writer about the formation of the scenario for the game, which is currently planned exclusively for the PlayStation 3, how the writing and development affected one another, and more.
Haze's story centers around a private military corporation known as Mantel Industries, engaged in a battle with rebels. Set in 2048, the game's story and gameplay revolve around that conflict and Nectar, a nutritional supplement-cum-drug that lets Mantel's soldiers fight with superhuman power.
Tell us a little about your role on the game.
Rob Yescombe: Let me get this out there first... my job is the screenwriter, so it's kind of difficult for me to talk about how good the script is, because that would be supremely pompous of me. So what I'll tell you is this: the lead actors in Haze are from the Royal Shakespeare Company, and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. Those kind of actors don't do video games. However, actors are interested in two things: lots of money, or a good script. And we didn't have any money. So hopefully that's testament to the script being a pretty decent piece of work.
I think it's an interesting tactic
to go for theater actors instead of movie actors, because movie actors
have generally proved themselves over and over to be somewhat not suited
to video game work, because they seem to view it as a lesser art.
RY: The reason why that happens is
all down to direction. There is no actor in the world that will turn
in a bad performance if you have a good enough director.
I agree completely.
RY: A lot of movie guys -- not to name names -- but movie actors will come in for the paycheck, and publishers will dish out massive amounts of money and get a bad performance. People are starting to realize that, and I think less and less movie guys are appearing with some publishers.
And obviously it's not that big of a draw to players. They're not like, "Oh, I better go play that game because it's got so-and-so in it." They just want to play the game, really.
RY: The truth of it is as well is that when people do use big actors, they're an appetizer. You never saw Michael Ironside's name on the front of Splinter Cell, and his performance is pretty good -- very good in fact. But I always find it weird that they don't name them on the front of the box.
Yeah, it's very strange. This game
seems to have some similarities to a couple of its contemporaries. Feigning
death is also happening in Army of Two. You're the scriptwriter,
so how involved are you actually with all the intricacies of its development?
RY: Absolutely. I'm full-time now.
I'm not a freelancer who has come in to write the script; I was there
right from pitch documents right down to writing the manual.
Okay, good then. So there's that
mechanic, which is also in Army of Two, and it seems that you've
got a little bit of the political content that we're seeing
in that game, as well as in BlackSite: Area 51. As far as the
message of the game, what are you trying to get across?
RY: Well, to be honest, I've talked about that a lot in the past, and it's an extremely controversial subject, and we're very wary about talking about it now, because people got very worried about it. The truth is -- make no bones about it -- it's the entertainment business, and without the business, there's no entertainment, so you have to have a product that will sell.
Pushing something that's overtly political or making it your selling point will alienate people who aren't interested in being lectured. What we have is, yes, absolutely, there's a subtext to Haze that I want people to be able to discover for themselves. People are smart. If they want that, they'll find it, but I don't want to push it too hard, because I don't want people to feel like that's all that Haze has to offer.
Page 1 of 5