October 30, 2008

Writing for Games: Week 13 – Coda

Filed under: ECU MInT,GDT3102 Writing for Games — steve @ 6:42 pm

Reflection on a “game-dialogue-violently-script-edited”

Prior to the submission of the cut-scene dialogue for Psycho-Ego I asked a good friend with 20+ years in film script writing to take a glance at the cut scene that I had written: it was violently script edited! Well, that was the first impression but further analysis determined the method to what, personally, appeared to be ‘madness’ made sense. Why reduce such ‘great’ explanatory dialogue from the script? Perhaps for two reasons: one, to make the dialogue a little more mysterious by making it less descriptive; and, two, by allowing actions to speak the words. This is what ObjectMan, the editor had to say:

“Okay. Well – as a script editor – my job here is to pare back as much of your dialogue as possible while still leaving the story in tact. Editors don’t normally write lines, they let the writer do that and it’s usually considered rude to do so…”

Also: “So – in as few lines as possible, I’ve greyed out stuff which I think can go; to be replaced with body language / a new line … where appropriate”.

Despite what initially appeared to be a violently edited script the result was really a reduction of around 12% or so – easily around 60 seconds or more of animated video which certainly would not hurt a game Player’s response to a cut scene. The dialogue is now more direct and less descriptive [visual actions describe the scenes instead], with less doubling up of dialogue with action. Perhaps the ideal from the novice script writer point of view is to describe everything that happens in the scene, and therefore reflect that through each of the characters’ dialogue; whereas the ideal is that ‘less is more’ – allow the character actions and mise-en-scene to tell the story thus leaving the spectator to interpret their own response to the scene. In this way the narrative becomes more engaging for the spectator and allows him/her to take possession of the outcome…

So, taking ObjectMan’s advice to heart, one felt it was under good advisement to reduce the dialogue in the Psycho-Ego level 10 cut-scene: many changes were made to reduce the dialogue while still trying to keep the emotive intent through action. Some dialogue was left in as it was felt it was of benefit to the establishment of the overall game narrative, whereas much was also removed to maintain the suspense that one hoped to create in the game without giving too much away.

This all gets back, perhaps, to the ideal that film/video/cut-scenes are not a play: we do not need to describe absolutely everything that has taken place or is about to take place as we can let the mise-en-scene describe that for us. Perhaps, even more particular to this inexperienced writer, the script is not a novel where one needs to describe and perhaps reinforce everything in the narrative.

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