Complications Ensue: The Crafty Game, TV and Screenwriting Blog
Complications Ensue:
The Crafty Game, TV, and Screenwriting Blog



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Sunday, October 25, 2015

On a muddy field in France, 600 years ago this day, St. Crispin's Day, 6000 English tradesmen and farmers armed with bow, war hammer and knife, and a few men-at-arms, faced 30,000 Frenchmen, among them the finest armored knights in Europe. King Henry sent his horse away so his men knew he would not abandon them.

The knights charged down a freshly plowed field. It had rained before. The field was mud. English arrows fell like rain. Horses fell; knights fell. More knights charged down the field, now churned to a wallow. Arrows fell; horses fell; knights fell. The French charged again, men-at-arms wading on foot through knee-deep mud. Some of them reached the English lines, strengthened by sharpened stakes hammered into the grass. They were cut down by the archers and the men-at-arms.

It was one of the greatest English victories of all time; perhaps one of the most unexpected victories in the history of war.

The night before the battle, King Henry, fifth of that name, gave a speech, which Shakespeare imagined to go like this:

King Henry:

... And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

And that's the story. Whether or not it is entirely 100% accurate, still it is true.

Happy St. Crispin's Day

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Saturday, October 10, 2015

If I didn't have my job, I would envy me. Videogame writers get to help create worlds. Unlike film, where breaking physics requires a massive CGI budget, videogames define their own worlds. Sure, a physics engine like Unreal 4 makes working within a naturalistic world much easier. With just a little coding, objects have weight and will fall; light bounces off surfaces. But it's just as easy to make an island floating over an abyss as a city park. Or a game like Monument, which uses Escher's rules for gravity, and you may be waving hello to the princess walking on your ceiling.

It would be truer to say, though, that as a  video game writer, what I do is explain worlds. When I came aboard Contrast, the game world already existed. My job was to tell the story of why you're in this carnival world of shadows, and figure out who Didi was, and what her relationship with Dawn was.

Likewise, when I started working on We Happy Few, there was already a quaint English town out of Hot Fuzz, and we already had our weedy hero. When I came on board Stories: The Path of Destinies (I think that's what we're calling it now), we already had a fox for a hero, and a mad-looking rabbit. I had to figure out what his name was, and come up with stories for him to inhabit.

So from my experience, game worlds start as art. We Happy Few began as a collaboration between Guillaume Provost, our studio head, and Whitney Clayton, our art director. "What do you want to draw?" asked Guillaume, and Whitney wanted to draw Mod England. Everything flowed from there, and from a few axioms that Guillaume had for gameplay.

Game worlds first come to life in game art. Until then, they're ideas about gameplay (or possibly actual greyboxed gameplay mechanics) in a place that probably isn't special yet.


Matt Sainsbury's Game Art is full of worlds, from the original paintings that defined the pop-up world of Tengami, to Whitney's hallucinatory paintings for Contrast, to Demon Hunter, Lollipop Chainsaw, Final Fantasy XIV, and so on -- forty games, forty visions.

Obviously, it is a beautiful book. It is also a series of interviews with game creators, like Guillaume, and Mike Laidlaw, creative director of the Dragon Age franchise. (Dragon Age has some pretty nifty art, eh.) It would probably be worth reading even without the pictures.

So hey, check it out. Oh and -- readers of this blog can get a 30% discount! Go the No Starch Press site and use "COMPLICATIONSENSUE" at checkout... 

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Friday, October 09, 2015

This week I continued to work on barks, brief lines of dialog that NPC’s and player characters say in different situations. Last week Jose and I recorded Wayne Anthony-Cole and the irrepressible Sammy Lee as a bunch of different characters. My job this week was to cut out the best lines out of several hours of takes using Pro Tools, an audio editing program. Sometimes I put together a “best” take from a couple of different takes. If I did it right, you’ll never notice.

Also, this week we recorded more “grunts.” As you might expect, grunts are noises characters make when they are hitting or getting hit, or being strangled. We record them here in Montreal because I’ve found that Canadians and Brits sound the same when they’re being strangled. Early this week, my wife (and favorite story editor) Lisa Hunter and I went into the sound booth while Jose coached our performances. I suggested she imagine she was hitting her ex-husband. You should soon have a richer combat experience.

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Friday, October 02, 2015

Today I’m going to record about 75 new lines for five NPC’s. So, Wellies, Wellettes, Wastrels, Wastrellettes and our dear Crier (old lady) will have more things to say in more situations. This time we’ll be recording them in studio, which means I’ll get to direct them, which is more fun for me, and enables me to help them craft a much more specific performance.

I spent much of this week and last weekend writing these new barks (single lines): combat barks, barks about bedtime, barks about the fog, barks about gifts. We’re trying an experiment. Generally NPC barks are sort of non-descript: “Go go go!” “Incoming!” I’m writing much more distinct barks. That’s risky because they can get old if the player hears them too much. But they’re more fun, and communicate more attitude and lore.

I’ve also been writing a whole bunch more lines for the He Who Must Not Be Named But Has Sideburns. Expect a new recording session within a month, and new barks from him shortly thereafter.

The rest of the team's update is here.


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