Jaz Rignall on Writing #2

Following on from my post about Tom Bissell’s point re: the important of writing, writers and the need to get them to come in early on projects, I had a great email from Julian ‘Jaz’ Rignall who has, in many respects, written the book on it. He’s been an arcade champ, reviewed games, edited some of the most successul magazines in the industry and is still as passionate as ever about games. At some point I’ll do a little feature on the legend of Jaz as for me he is a pivotal figure in the U.K.’s computer and videogame history. His and other journalists contribution was to give the producers and consumers of games in the UK a voice, an image and more importantly a sense of humour. He’s even got his own wikipedia page here.

Jaz wrote to give his take on things from his experience developing games at Virgin:

“Interesting what you’re saying about needing a writer. When I was working on games at Virgin, one of the “tricks” we used was to back in the story/narrative at the very end of the game. That’s not to say we never had a story specced out: we always had a narrative in mind, but it was more like a stone skipping across a river than plotting a course across it. Ie, what was most important is setting up cool and fun situations first, and then going back to justify how they flowed later.

We found when we got into the story too early, we ended up in situations where we got bogged down with the details, grew too attached to bits of the story, painted ourselves into corners, and were often worried about changing things, so that the story was driving the game, rather than the game driving the story.

My rambling point being, the story/narrative is by far the most malleable thing: just make a game good by creating the best situations that are fun for the player – ie, create the puzzles/situations/challenges first – and then figure out how it goes together as a narrative later.”

And all things considered, I think I’ll take his advice! Jaz has also kindly done a sanity check on my game design, which aside from being phenomenally generous of him, was pretty nerve wracking. It was like handing in an essay to your favourite teacher…I’m very excited to announce that he doesn’t think it stinks, actually I’d go a little further and say he likes it ;o) More on that later.

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