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"The gameplay designers usually have more power than the writers do unless the writer is also the game director or the creative director[...]They generally have more power to say what goes than someone like me who works off-site.”
- Rhianna Pratchett shares her experiences working as a writer with different game dev teams
USGamer has published an interesting piece, the first in a series of three, about the evolving role of writers in video game development.
The full story talks to the likes of Tomb Raider writer Rhianna Pratchett, Riot Games’ Ariel Lawrence and Laurie Goulding, indie designer Arielle Grimes, and Dragon Quest creator Koichi Nakamura to look at the place narrative has in games and how the writers themselves have functioned as members of the larger team.
Early on in the story, Pratchett explores how she's always enjoyed the collaboration that comes with working as a member of a game development team, but due to the very nature of that collaborative process itself it isn't often that the writers themselves get to fully stretch their legs creatively.
Another section explores how Dragon Quest pioneered character-driven storytelling and how League of Legends then brought a similar but opposite spin on narrative to the world of online games. Nakamura explains that one thing that set Dragon Quest apart at the time was the fact that “there’s no direct narration at all and the whole story is told through the dialog of the characters.”
On the flip side, the League of Legends team opted to build the game's narrative in a way that was connected to the game without fully permeating every in-game match or multiplayer showdown.
“The idea we’re moving toward is that champions, as they are experienced in League of Legends, are abstracted versions of themselves from a specific moment in time in the lore,” explains Goulding, lead narrative editor at Riot. “As they move around Summoner’s Rift, they express the nature of their relationships to other champions and their philosophies, but we try to shy away from relating long backstories or exposition within the dialogue of the game.”