Writing for video games is an esoteric art. It’s very different from writing novels, comics, film scripts or event blog posts like this. Games have a number of layers of narrative – the overall game story, the stories of the characters within the game, the narrative the player creates as they move though the game world. As an interactive space, the writer might not be in control of what order the player experiences the chunks of narrative and even if the player encounters them at all. The writer is also subject to the resource constraints of the development process itself; new characters, locations, and events impose limits on where the story might ideally go. In the video below, recorded at the Nine Worlds Geekfest 2013 in the UK, two of leading games writers – Rhianna Pratchett (who credits include work on Tomb Raider, Mirror’s Edge and Bioshock Infinite) talks with James Swallow (who writes for games such as Deus Ex:Human Revolution, as well as being a noted sci-fi writer in his own right) about the intricacies, the ups and the downs of writing for video games.
Antony Douglas is responsible for Square Enix Europe’s mobile development and publishing business across smartphone and tablet. He has profit and loss responsibility for the creation, production and commercial sales of internal and external IPs, working internationally across the Square Enix Europe studio group and 3rd party development. Douglas has spent over ten years in mobile content; prior to Square Enix, he was Telefonica O2 UK’s Head of Content and European Director for Korean mobile game pioneers Com2uS.
Antony Douglas was inspired to enter the video game industry because of his desire for creativity. He likes the people who want to evolve with a way of creating something of value for people, but feels that the video game industry is the hardest business in the world because you don’t know what people will enjoy. The challenge is to create something people will take to their hearts; something that people value and that has meaning to their lives. And, although it is tough, the challenge can also be fun.
The challenge is to create something people will take to their hearts; something that people value and that has meaning to their lives. And, although it is tough, the challenge can also be fun.
Bringing Mobile Gaming to Square Enix
Douglas is responsible for finding ways to weave mobile into the world of the big game titles that Square Enix has traditionally produced. He believes that more and more core gamers will be playing on their tablets and smartphones because technology is developing to meet their expectations. Along with the growing demand for mobile technology, gamers desire more from the games themselves. To meet this expectation, he has learned to be respectful of the game and its meaning. “You have to understand what the game is about and what it means to people, says Douglas, “And then you have a blueprint to start creating a smartphone version of that world.”
Douglas tells us that although the company’s headquarters are in Japan, at Square Enix Europe, they run their own contact program and brands. They set up an operating business that ran itself and gave a guide to western tastes. Although they share ideas with their counterparts in Japan and have an excellent relationship, they are culturally very different, and it is essential to be aware of those differences. It is necessary to study the different brands and determine how they will appeal to the different customers.
Building the Team
According to Douglas, the key to succeeding in his area of responsibility is the ability to build and manage a good team. He emphasizes the need to find strong talent and put the right people in the right role. He says, “I don’t attempt to tell them what they should be doing; they should be coming to me with ideas. I learn from them on a daily basis because mobile is changing hourly.”
The team Douglas has developed is diverse, with people coming from countries such as Poland and Lithuania. They all have different skills and interests, but share a common interest in games and communicate with the language of games. As Douglas says, “Games is the prism with which we see our world.” So, despite differing skills and backgrounds, the team works well together.
The Maturing of Casual and Social Gaming
“Games is the prism with which we see our world.”
Douglas emphasizes the importance of understanding the free-to-play business model for gaming. Game design elements that suit this concept and effective ways of creating economies in the game are essential. Not only do you have to create a great game, you also have to be sure to avoid letting monetization ruin the game; these should be side-by-side aspects. And, as Douglas says, “It’s not a launch and forget mentality.” It is critical to continue updating and servicing the game.
Square Enix is examining its established properties for mobile development. Look forward to a few familiar faces to appear on smartphone tablets soon.