Tools for Video Game Writers

By Jason Boog 

Do you want to explore the world of video game writing?

Developer Kent Hudson will soon publish his independent video game, The Novelist (trailer embedded above). We caught up with Hudson, getting some advice for aspiring video game writers:

If someone was looking to experiment with games, there is a free tool called Twine. It basically is a story tree. It is presented as a web page, so you can create little HTML stories. You can give the player as many choices as you want: Do you open the letter? Do you walk out the door? You can create however many branches you want. They pick one, and go to a new branch. When you are using the tool, it is actually visually mapped out. It’s really easy, simple and cheap to use.

Hudson spent over ten years working on major video game releases like Deus Ex: Invisible War and BioShock 2, and added this advice:

 If you are writing a book, you can set it anywhere. You don’t have to get permits to go film there. In a game, it’s more like a movie. You can’t just say “I’m going to do a scene set on a tropical beach.” They’ll say, “Well, this game is set in a city, that would take a team of 50 people three months and $100,000 of time. Can we figure out how to do this scene somewhere else? There’s a lot of practical stuff where you really have to deal with the economy of the game.

Once you move on to larger projects, he suggested aspiring video game writers try Scrivener:

Scrivener is great. I’ve got the entire project in one Scrivener file and use the organizational panel on the left. Each chapter has its own folder. I also use Evernote for the stuff that is less specifically about writing.

Finally, he talked about what writers can learn from his game:

Writing the book is a metaphor in the game. It could stand in for anybody who is trying to be a musician or game developer. It’s more about the life struggle. Mostly, it is a game about answering those questions, figuring out how you want to dedicate to your dreams and how you can balance that with your life … I’ve had people from all different industries play it and they all identified with the basic struggle of family versus career. They read into more about their current situation, rather than specifically about being a writer.