With all the talk about story in video games these days, we thought that key Red Storm employee Richard Dansky might have an interesting point of view - especially since Tom Clancy games are one of the few leading game franchises built on books. Dansky has been with Red Storm Entertainment since 1999, and stayed on when they were aquired by Ubisoft in 2000.
He's worked on more than 15 games and published short stories and novels in the horror genre. But if you ask him, he'll tell you he's an international star of stage and screen, fighting crime from his super secret science base aboard a titanic zeppelin - and Gamasutra quizzed him about subjects including his code of ethics for in-game violence and the biggest shortcomings in game writing today.
Let's start with something easy. What's your official title, and what do you do for a living?
Richard Dansky: My official title is Central Clancy Writer, and Manager of Design for Red Storm Entertainment. What that means is that I essentially wear two hats. On one hand, I work with the design department at Red Storm, and on the other, I'm a writing resource for Ubisoft, particularly as pertains to the various Tom Clancy games. That can mean anything from working on a game from the beginning to serving as a reference to doing a little bit of script polish as needed.
What's it like working with the design department at Red Storm?
RD: This may sound corny, but I really genuinely enjoy working with the folks in the design department. We've got a great mix of people. Some of them have been with us for their entire careers, while others came here with experience on other titles, and that combination gives us a nice blend of enthusiasm, experience, and skill sets.
It's a really talented bunch, and they do a great job of working with the rest of their teams as well as each other – there's no rock stars, just a bunch of really sharp people who are interested in making great games and having fun with them.
Can you say what you're working on right now?
RD: Right now I'm just helping out on a couple of projects, the names of which I'm unfortunately not in a position to divulge.
I know you have a few games under your belt. Do you have any favorites?
RD: From a writing standpoint, Splinter Cell: Double Agent was definitely my favorite. Any writer will tell you that it's more fun to write the villain than the hero, and Double Agent had some great, fun villains to write. It got to the point where I could hear their voices commenting on the other characters' dialogue - they were that fully realized in my head – and believe me, they were not saying nice things about what they saw.
Far Cry probably comes second, largely because the guards were so much fun to write. I had people come up to me and tell me they refused to kill one of the guards in that game because they'd eavesdropped on him while he was patrolling and discovered he was from their home town. As a writer, I just find that pretty ineffably cool, and a great payoff to the player of the effort to put a little personality into guys who could be just walking gun racks.
As for the one I'm proudest of, that would probably be Ghost Recon: Island Thunder. It was a second mission pack, so we had a good handle on what the game was capable of, and that in turn let us push the envelope in some interesting ways.
It was a great team, and we got a chance to take some chances with the mission scripting that really paid off in terms of the gameplay. The fact that the story really seemed to resonate just tied the whole thing together for me - it was a really satisfying project to do.