Of Words and Warz

Hey guys, it’s Mike here, and I want to talk to you about something near and dear to my heart: writing! Of course, as the primary writer for Verus, it makes sense that I’d talk to you about something like this, but trust me when I say: even if you are bored to tears by the idea of writing, you may still glean some kind of use out of the rest of my post! But, I don’t want to bore you all completely, so I promise to only dedicate half of the post to writing. The rest will be about our latest project, Shibe Warz.


Know Thy Audience

This phrase is absolutely paramount for any kind of writing you may do. The basic premise is this: you can write a Shakespearean masterpiece, you can write the most eloquent piece of prose the world has ever seen, but in the wrong hands, your message at best can be lost and at worst be misinterpreted. I’m sure you’ve all heard about the workforce’s lack of good communication. And if you haven’t, well, it’s true - writing is not something that comes naturally to everyone, but fortunately for all of us, it IS a skill that can be developed, even without thinking too hard about it.

So, how do you do it? Well, first, let’s start with you. There is one person you know the most and it is yourself. You know all of your secrets, past, desires, and thoughts. But, for now, let’s keep it simple -- your desires. You have goals that you want to accomplish, whether it be asking that cute girl out, or getting that promotion you so rightfully deserve, or even just getting some chicken nuggets. Either way, you have a lot of wants floating around in your head, and you probably have at least some inkling of a plan to go out and accomplish them.

Great, so you have your desires mastered. Now here is the kicker: the person or people you are writing to have their own thoughts and desires. And they have their own plans to accomplish it. So when they open your email or read your little message you wrote on the refrigerator, the whole experience is colored by one thing in their mind: “how does this affect me? What am I supposed to take away from this?” You have to imagine yourself in the shoes of the person you are writing to. If you can imagine what they want, you can imagine how to reach that person! It’s that simple, even though it can be very challenging to actually do so. But like anything in life you want to be good at, though, you have to just keep at it. Remember the best writers are made of people who write all the time. It’s something I try to remember, too.


Shibe Warz Update

Well that’s enough meta-writing for one post, now for what you really want, the update on Shibe Warz. Before you get all excited, like I know you do, let me disappoint you. There will be no tasty screenshots of our progress this post.

I’ll let that bad news sink in.

Now, if you are still reading, here is what I CAN give you. We’ve recently added two new recruits to our game squad, and things couldn’t be going better! With more people, like a microcosm of human civilization, we are beginning to see specialization appearing! It’s very exciting. We’ve added Zurek to art assets to assist Anthony, and we’ve added Chris to music development. They are both as enthusiastic as the rest of us about creating quality games to bring to you, which is exciting.

We’ve grown to the point that we need a little more organization in our ranks, with more rigid timetables. Gone are the days of “he says she says” development. Our project coordinator Nick has recently taken on the role of organizing the whole of the business of Verus, and that means more responsibility in getting deliverables in. Yet, it’s business as usual here at Verus, because everyone knows what their roles are, and we all work fluently towards the common goal of bringing you a quality product. As for me? Well I am currently deeply involved in another of our projects that I won’t reveal here (sorry, friends, you’ll have to wait on that one), but I can say that I’ll be doing additional work for Shibe Warz, to sort of fill in the cracks of what needs to be done.

It’s exciting (there’s that word again) for such a unique, good group of people to get together, all with the same vision in mind, and yet varied enough in their ideas to yield amazing results. Yes, I am making many promises and stating several provocative facts. Because they are facts. And this will be a game you cannot miss.

Shibe Warz.


Significance of Writing in Games

When Nick first asked me to come aboard Verus Games, he told me to make music and sounds for the current project, Spell Bound. Naturally, I was flattered that my musical talents were desired. As my time with the project matured, I saw the final product everyone envisioned clearly in my mind. Yet, one thing was lacking: there was no non player character interaction. So I talked to Nick, and I asked him, and I reasoned with him, "can't there be dialogue for the game too?" The best he promised was, "time permitting." Fortunately, I was able to convince him to make it a priority--mostly by going ahead and writing the whole script for him.

Writing is a very powerful tool in video games. Writing can set the tone, it can breathe life into a game's denizens. Therefore, it is important for one to consider the contents of their writing, to examine it in thorough detail. What does writing mean for the game? How does it accentuate (or not) the gameplay? What message are you trying to convey to your audience? These questions matter, and their answers can be the difference between a good game, and a great game. 

Writing as Art

Everyone can agree: the most important aspect of any game is the gameplay itself. After that, most people may agree that art, or graphics is the second most important aspect. Obviously, this makes sense, because it is our mode of interacting with the game space. I would argue, however, that writing in a game is just as important. Art elicits an immediate reaction; an entire scene can be survey and processed within only a few seconds, much faster than hearing music play (you may get a few notes in before you've thought about the view), and even more so for writing. After all, human beings are very visual creatures, so this is to be expected.

Because art is so quick to convey meaning, its design must be carefully considered as well, but in the end a picture is worth a thousand words, right? Yet, text within a game allows players to experience the game on a new level of interaction: text allows players to think about the content of a game. Text allows the game makers to connect to the player on a higher level than mere sensory input, indeed, it allows the the game maker to connect to the player in meaning. This is no attempt to belittle art, or music at all, rather, it is an attempt to explain that games can convey more than a simple mechanism for pleasurable mental experiences.

That Which We Call a Rose, By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet

The title of this section is a reference to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet , but its point applies equally to games. In this case, I'm referring to the practice of successfully sending a message. Does your game have a theme? Does it have a point you want to make to the player?

Games are often powerful engines of delivery when it comes to messages. But, one must insure that the message is bequeathed to the players in a manner that it will reach them. Another way of saying this is, "know thy audience." Your audience must be able to understand what you are trying to say, and that means it is up to you to be sure to write in a way that will reach them! Imagine a World War II first-person-shooter in which every character spoke in haiku--Not only is this inaccurate for the war, but it totally ruins any immersion for the player. Now, that was a completely ridiculous example, but the point I'm trying to make is: the writing should match the setting, and the setting partially consists of the writing. World War II was a recent, very real event that occurred in history; a game that features it should be very realistic in its writing. 

Writing is an essential tool for any game. Even if a game features largely no text or dialogue, behind the scenes  writing is still necessary, especially working with teams. You may even be sending nothing but a correspondence email, yet your writing colors you as a person. Your peers will judge you on your writing, especially if there is limited face to face interaction. Writing in a way your players can relate to can cause a powerful experience for them, and remember overwriting is just as harmful as bad writing. The key is to write just enough to allow the player's imagination take over.

I'm no expert writer by any means, but these are all aspects I consider in my writing. There are a multitude more out there, but this post has gone long enough. So for now I'm signing off, and thank you for reading!