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Session Name (301) Game Writing Tutorial
Speaker(s) Toiya Finley, Tobias Heussner, Evan Skolnick, Carl Varnado, Andrew S. Walsh
Company Name(s) Schnoodle Media, Bigpoint Berlin GmbH, LucasArts, Intuitive Visions, Freelance
Track / Format Business and Marketing

The Game Writing Tutorial is an intensive one day workshop for beginning to intermediate game writers on the theories and practices of narrative design, with a focus on innovating characters and world building. Led by game writers and narrative designers of both AAA and indie titles, tutorial attendees will simulate the design experience by working on a game in "writing teams" and participating in comprehensive exercises during each session.

All sessions will be comprised of a lecture and workshop. This will give attendees the chance to practice what they just learned and discuss their different approaches and points of view. Diversity, a key component to each discipline in game writing, will be a sub-topic of the sessions.


World Building - A Foundation
Speaker: Andrew S. Walsh
Overview:This tutorial will introduce attendees to the theories and principles of world building. From bestiary to geography, politics to cosmology, a game’s world defines its characters and story. For game makers and writers, the world they can offer players is in turn shaped by technological limitations, genre and player expectation. This session is designed to explore the reasons worlds are important to story, character design and the player’s interaction with the game and introduce writers to the constraints writers face and the freedoms writers and designers can give to the player.

World Types - How to Get Beyond Cool in Video Games
Speaker: Carl Varnado
Overview: Dystopian futures. Medieval feudal cultures. Quaint, haunted towns. Certain “types” of worlds are common in games. The “look” of the world can be influenced when fleshing out the details of a society’s dynamics. With a focus on developing the underpinnings of fictional cultures, participants will explore how to put unique twists on these archetypal settings in order to innovate the worlds gamers find familiar. How do societies operate? What’s important to them? If a world is made of ice, wouldn’t fire be a commodity?

New Points of View - Research and Inspiration
Speaker: Toiya Kristen Finley
Overview:Writers bring their own cultural points of reference into their world building. This includes the social dynamics they personally experience in their day-to-day lives and the settings they’re used to seeing in games. Attendees will look at ways to draw inspiration from cultures, settings and time periods not often present in games. By utilizing concepts expressed in the mythologies, philosophies and social dynamics of these cultures, designers and writers can establish different takes on the inhabitants of their worlds. Exercises will include analyzing ancient art and texts to help inform the creation of new creatures and character classes.

Takeaway: This session offers insight into the challenges, pitfalls, and joys one runs across when developing a story universe, while addressing genre and technological constraints and player expectations. Whether writers are working on a contemporary, medieval or ancient game setting, they can use archetypes or primary sources from all time periods to help inform the world’s cosmology, architecture, geography and inhabitants. Attendees will explore developing the values, authority/leadership and inhabitants’ daily activities/behaviors in order to add world details that will give settings uniqueness. This session will offer questions to consider when developing cultures and analyzing research. It also addresses how to remain respectful of the culture and source material from which writers and designers are taking their ideas, while at the same time successfully integrating those ideas into their world building.

Well, Nobody Is Perfect: Character Creation and Development
Speakers: Tobias Heussner, Carl Varnado, Toiya Kristen Finley
Overview: From using pre-existing sketches and information, to creating characters from “scratch,” writers are challenged with developing engaging, believable and compelling characters. This session will instruct attendees in different concepts of character creation and development.  It will illustrate how familiar character types and stereotypes can be subverted and what writers can learn from their own lives to apply that knowledge to fictional game characters. Included in this session is the question of how different characters and cultures deal with inner conflict. Participants will learn an easy workflow to use and will get ideas on how to adapt and further develop it in order to improve their own workflows. Exercises will use methods of developing characters from both established archetypes and from personality and background.

Takeaway: Attendees will work with very different methods for creating more unique characters, which will aid them in expanding their skill sets for character creation. Additionally, attendees will learn how to develop and improve workflows to enrich the characters they’ll need to create in future projects. The session will also demonstrate how merits and flaws, existing in everyone’s personalities, will help to create better characters.

It’s Not Just Talk: Best Practices in Dialogue Writing
Speaker: Evan Skolnick
Overview: This tutorial will take its audience on a journey to discover the different challenges when developing and writing dialogue for games. The session will include important topics such as writing to achieve emotional impact, finding and fulfilling the game dialogue’s main function, approaching the common problem of finding a unique voice for each character, and writing for voiceovers vs. onscreen text.

Takeaway: Attendees will consider the main functions of game dialogue and which elements are of special importance when writing lifelike lines for an interactive environment. Attention will be paid to voice, writing for specific audiences, using humor and naturalness vs. compression.

Strategies for Improving Writing Critiques and Collaborative Dynamics
Speaker: Andrew S. Walsh
Overview: You have a script – how do you make it better? This session will illustrate how to edit scripts and how to deal with edits you are given. Attendees will learn how to work with different writers and how to improve scripts during the collaborative process. Goals of the workshop are to inspire participants to develop a greater capacity to work as a team and strengthen communication.

Takeaway: The revision process is one of the most important aspects of writing. Producers, writers and narrative designers must rely upon their teams to give them solid, constructive feedback to improve the writing in any game. This session will examine strategies for analyzing, evaluating and strengthening writing within the scope of the project.

GDC Online 2011

Toiya Finley

Schnoodle Media

Tobias Heussner

Bigpoint Berlin GmbH

Evan Skolnick


Carl Varnado

Intuitive Visions

Andrew S. Walsh


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