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In general, what do you guys think of the state of video games writing? Are we going in the right direction? Are we as far as you guys would expect?
EW: I don't know how far I'd expect us to be, but I think it's moving. I've definitely played a lot of games now where it's not just at the base level. It seems to be rising. I'm not embarrassed to be playing lots of stuff. There's just a ton of good and interesting stuff. And stuff that's to my taste, too.
I thought that both The House of the Dead: Overkill and MadWorld explored these weird areas in a legitimately interesting and funny way. Overkill was hilarious, but deliberately. It wasn't Resident Evil 1. It was deliberate, and it worked. And there's a ton of stuff. Maybe I'm just picking and playing less games than when I reviewed games, but most of the ones that I've played, the story or the writing or the acting has impressed me.
ML: The level of translation is also... I've been playing Monster Hunter lately. Even there, they obviously put effort into the little training tips. They're always entertaining to read. That right there is a huge difference.
EW: I played Plants vs. Zombies recently, and one of the biggest things that kept me playing was seeing the new descriptions of the zombies. Whoever wrote those did an incredible job. They're hilarious and short.
ML: I read every piece of litter on the pier in the first Penny Arcade game. The interesting thing is that games have attracted better writers from outside, but also the writing of the people who grew up in games, who would otherwise be writing in other media, now writing for games, and that's all that they do, and they're really good at it.
EW: They're good writers who have an intuitive sense of what works in games. I think that's a factor in having grown up comfortable in games. It's only getting better.
ML: That's definitely a really good trend. And the games that are really interesting are the ones where they're making things that are only just now possible. I think Half-Life happened at the earliest that it could have happened, in terms of the story we were trying to do then. Every few years, it seems like there's a new level of stuff that's possible, and we'll start seeing games take advantage of that.
It lags a little behind technology in some ways, but incremental improvements in animation and character...I think the things you see in Left 4 Dead, with people speaking on the fly... the way the characters are created in Left 4 Dead, it's impressive to me. We're creating these characters in a casual way. We're not making a big deal out of it, like, "Oh look! We've got a speaking companion character who is going to follow you around!" You just take it for granted now.
It's more like, "Who are these people? Who are these characters?" It's more about that than, "Here's a character talking to me in a game." They also leapfrogged the uncanny valley. Some things are still stuck there, where they're trying to be real and so it's creepy. But you can be comfortable with more stylized characters, and they feel more real than a real character. I'm really excited to see that stuff happen, where it's taken for granted, in a way.