For a long time story and character development were shrugged off by the games industry. Now games are attempting to reach an ever broadening market that demands more sophistication, at least equal to that found in other media. Writers of games need the tools presented here to enable them to meet that demand. This is the first book of its kind to deal specifically with a subject many readers have been asking for: writing for games. Written in an easy-to-read style for casual readers, but with enough detail that it could serve as a textbook. The game industry desperately needs such a book; there are currently no competing titles from other game dev publishers. This book will help round out the Premier Press Game Development series.
Table of Contents
Introduction PART I: Background 1. Myths and Equations 2. The Story Remains the Same PART II: Creating Characters 3. Respecting Characters 4. Character Roles 5. Character Traits 6. Character Encounters PART III: Telling a Story 7. Once Upon a Time 8. Respecting Story 9. Bringing the Story to Life 10. Charting New Territory 11. Story Chiropractics 12. Editing 13. The Roots of New Storytelling 14. Modular Storytelling PART IV: Games People Play 15. Game Types 16. Game Genres 17. Console Games 18. Bringing Virtual Worlds to Life 19. Enabling a Story in Virtual Worlds PART V: Reflections 20. The Responsible Writer PART VI: Appendices Appendix A: Opinionated Bibliography Appendix B: Developer Primer on Building Writing Teams Index
Well I read all 460 pages, including appendices, of this book and I must say I was unimpressed.
The first thing I noticed was that Leeís writing style makes you instantly want to go to sleep. I have two science degrees, so Iíve read a fair few text books, and this was one of the worst. The second was that the book is not riddled with gems of storytelling wisdom, contrary to what the intro, which I read online, was like. Thereís maybe a fact maybe every ten or twenty pages. Thirdly, the book seems to be a composite of Leeís lectures and tutorials. Powerpoint bulleted notes are strung together and, a lot of the time, he seems to be making appeals to an unseen audience of programmers on the relevance of the writer. The forth thing I noticed was that he assumes that the reader can write (dammit!). One of the reasons I bought the book was that I was looking for pointers on that too.
Lee is a believer that those who know nothing of history are doomed to repeat it. This is admirable. The catch is he goes on the pad the book out with copious background and exposition. Itís only in about 2-3 chapters (of 20) that he gets down to it.
His analysis and examples are sometimes dubious, go against your gut instinct and are actually factually wrong at times (Neverwinter Nights *does* allow PvP persistent worlds - anything more than a cursory look at the game (like actually playing it) would have told him this). I was left wondering whether he actually plays the games he goes on about?
Donít get me wrong. The guy can write. His example story lead-ins to each section are great. The trouble is his text book writing style is a mixture of friendly and formal, and is akin to listening to your tedious, old great-uncle tell fart jokes.
If you are thinking about buying this book I would suggest two things: firstly, search around and see if thereís a 2nd edition of this book. Thereís been quite a few excellent games out since this book was written in 2004, the success of World of Warcraft not withstanding. And more importantly second, see if you can track down any chapter except the excellent intro online (you should be able to find chapter 5 out there somewhere) to have a read of to get an idea of his writing style. Just because it didnít appeal to me doesnít mean it wonít appeal to anyone else.