Writing Critic

Games with combat, inventory, crafting and more beside a story and dating/life sim gameplay
hystericalmirth
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Writing Critic

Post by hystericalmirth » Sun Nov 02, 2014 2:49 am

I have the games, Loren the Amazon Princess, Planet Stronghold, and now Season of the Wolf. I love the art, the world creation, and the old style turn based fighting system, but one thing kind of bugs me.

The dialogue for the characters is too bland. All the characters seem to flow together in terms of their dialogue. If I were reading them from a script I would not be able to distinguish them by their way of speaking or their personality. I've taken a few screenwriting courses and I have constantly been told that in order to make a good character they need to have character. Which means a unique way of speaking, the words they choose, the manner they speak in, what they reveal by what they do and don't say.

Also, for the world built in the games of LtAP and SotW, their speech doesn't match it at all. In the fantasy genre I think it can be agreed that a certain way of speaking can be expected, usually based on the social caste of the characters and the culture/country in which they were raised.

So, I want to ask, is there an official writer for these games? Someone who just does the dialogue and writing content otherwise?

And please, I don't mean to sound insulting at all, that is far from my intentions. I want to offer honest, constructive criticism so that future games can continue to grow and be as good as they're meant to be.

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jack1974
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Re: Writing Critic

Post by jack1974 » Sun Nov 02, 2014 7:24 am

Planet Stronghold was written by myself, so not a "real writer" (I'm not even native English speaker). The others yes. I am unsure why you say that the writing is bland, considering I got a lot of reviews on various sites like Steam (at least for Loren, SOTW is too new) and they were enthusiast about the writing :lol:
Not saying it can't be improved of course, just that it's not too bad I think (though obviously I'm not the best person to judge this aspect of the games).

rooke30
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Re: Writing Critic

Post by rooke30 » Sun Nov 02, 2014 10:50 am

hystericalmirth wrote:Which means a unique way of speaking, the words they choose, the manner they speak in, what they reveal by what they do and don't say.
This can easily turn into a "crutch," giving people idiosyncrasies to try and imbue people with character. I'd like to issue a gentle warning about including these sorts of behavioural “giveaways” at the start of the character creation process, it can easily prejudice you or encourage laziness. People, and especially children, tend to talk in the same way as the friends/family they hang out with, so if you have a story which contains only 2 characters and they're BFF's, then you may find they speak in the same boring manner and choose very similar words.

It IS a decent point you make about characters "blending" into one another though, although that isn't the strongest criticism I have about the writing[1]. That being said as long as a story is fun, which is a quality hard to define, your story CAN succeed with such a flaw. If you take David Eddings for example, his characters all tended to sound the same but they were fun, had hilarious banter, and his books were international bestsellers. The characters also spoke in ways that weren't accurate to the setting (medieval fantasy) of the story. What I'm trying to say is this isn't literature or "hard" speculative fiction, but a light-hearted, genre fiction romp and so certain liberties can be (and are usually) taken.

Also the writers who write for these games usually aren't professional, and in fact professional writers were never hired for video games until just recently. Back in the 90s you kinda hoped someone in your dev department could write as well as code - traditionally writers were one of the more disposable members of your dev group. So Winterwolves games are kind of a throwback to that era, back to the days before gaming took itself so seriously (I have good memories of those times back when games were just fun, Winterwolves takes me back and evokes feelings in me I've long since forgotten.)

Generally I think taking up your suggestions would make the writing for WinterWolves' stronger but there are certain practicalities to keep in mind. It would be hard for Celso because the writers for these games are not professional and they're really just hobbyists (this isn't meant as an insult, btw.) Hiring writers who could offer a more professional script would also cost more, which may make the game unprofitable to develop. Also finding writers to hire for Visual Novels has been described by some as the one of the most difficult tasks in creating a VN (apparently artists can be found on Deviantart,) keeping them from disappearing on you even trickier, and finding a truly great one that can be hired at a decent price may be almost impossible.

[1] Skill descriptions are often looked down upon when taking the writing of a game into consideration, but inserting a fair amount of information into a limited space in a way which doesn't confuse people is an art and shouldn't be underestimated. A couple of the skill descriptions in SOTW are a little confusing, but you can guess what they mean. Kinda.

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jack1974
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Re: Writing Critic

Post by jack1974 » Sun Nov 02, 2014 11:54 am

Yeah, I tried to ask around for some pro writers, and the quotes I got were totally out of budget. If I had to hire pro writers only for my games, I could well stop making them and focus on something else with more gameplay, since I wouldn't make even minimum salary after the costs :lol:

That said, if you check for example Steam reviews for Loren, they're totally positive and most say good things about the writing. That's more than enough for me :)

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iWeasle
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Re: Writing Critic

Post by iWeasle » Sun Nov 02, 2014 7:27 pm

I like the writing... :oops:

hystericalmirth
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Re: Writing Critic

Post by hystericalmirth » Sun Nov 02, 2014 8:04 pm

Okay, I understand better now. I get most writers would be out of the price range for a "hobby" made game like this that's meant to be more light hearted and not very serious. I can see why because, as a writer, myself, it's mostly like a commission work where you write everything at once and then give a price for the script to be sold at. I don't know if that's how it works for game writers, but I'm told that's how it works for screen writers.

I have checked reviews for Loren and I completely understand why they love the writing, but it's not really the writing I'm mentioning as "bland", just the dialogue. I think it's important since there's not a lot of visual action cues we see from the characters aside from minor changes in facial expression, so a manner of speaking in the dialogue could really bring forth a lot more personality in the characters.

For example, Rowinda is done well, in my opinion. She's very unique, she comes across just as she means to: eccentric. Riley, however, doesn't really seem to match up with how he presents himself. He uses very casual language when I think it would be more expected of him to try and sound more like a smooth talker, using more refined language. It's not much of a change, he can still mean exactly the same things he always says, but the way in which he says it will draw out his personality more, you know? Make him more of someone that a person would either like to get close to or want to push away. Either way, people are connecting with him even better. Since part of the game is character driven due to the romantic aspect, simple characterized dialogue like that would help even more of a connection and draw people in.

It's partly because I love replaying games like this to explore all the character routes allowed that I'm saying this because I sincerely want to see even better things from future games that keep me coming back and buying more.

Maybe you would benefit from looking up some tutorials on writing for dialogue or scripts? Or even taking a class, if there's one available in your area for a good price, if that works better for you.

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Miakoda
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Re: Writing Critic

Post by Miakoda » Sun Nov 02, 2014 8:12 pm

In this case, quality is very much subjective and what you personally feel is 'bland', others may well like.

Personally, I feel the writing is fine (dialogue and otherwise) and don't see much reason to change.

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jack1974
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Re: Writing Critic

Post by jack1974 » Sun Nov 02, 2014 8:17 pm

Yes, for me writing quality is fine, even the dialogues, but I'm not the best to judge the writing :oops:

Anyway, some considerations about what's involved in writing for a game:
1) usually the writers don't have much time to write the script. Both Loren and SOTW (are two different writers BTW) were done in a year, more or less. One is 240,000 words, while the other 180,000. So if you do the math you have to write 15-20,000 words a month!
2) writers often have also to code part of the "gameplay", like the menu choices, or simply explain how that scene should play, gameplay situations, etc so that takes time, beside the "pure writing" of the story
3) for games usually there's also some brainstorming because writers don't know exactly what the "engine" (in case of the RPG) can do, so they exchange emails with me frequently, and that is more time spent non-writing

That said one of the upcoming games, the steampunk RPG Roger Steel, is written by a pro writer who accepted to work at my rates (more for passion than money :oops:) so that one should be interesting for you to check (not sure if will be ready next year though).

Troyen
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Re: Writing Critic

Post by Troyen » Sun Nov 02, 2014 10:46 pm

For perspective, the Fellowship of the Ring is listed as 188k words.
rooke30 wrote:[1] Skill descriptions are often looked down upon when taking the writing of a game into consideration, but inserting a fair amount of information into a limited space in a way which doesn't confuse people is an art and shouldn't be underestimated. A couple of the skill descriptions in SOTW are a little confusing, but you can guess what they mean. Kinda.
I think Jack writes these himself, and we've been trying to help him refine them. Some of them are still too wordy and some of them use awkward phrasing (like "if not boss"), but at least they're more consistent now.

If you have any suggestions, we've been using the nitpicking thread for our comments, so you can add some and he'll probably include them in future versions.

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jack1974
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Re: Writing Critic

Post by jack1974 » Sun Nov 02, 2014 10:49 pm

Yes all aspects of the game that is subject to change during testing (like the skills indeed) is written by me since wouldn't make sense to "waste" a writer for that :) of course I'm taking suggestions on how to improve them!

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