Demystifying the Outsourced Game Writing Process
The creative process is often seen as holy ground for anyone working in an artistic or creative medium. It’s thought of as something that needs an auteur’s careful eye and something that needs to be nurtured. That feeling is no different in the games industry. And why should it be? Your game is your baby, and you want the best for it. But creative support is there when you need it!
Even today, many game developers believe that working with an “outsider” like an outsourced collaborative partner to create a game’s narrative, plot, or dialogue slows down the creative process or makes the end product less “authentic.” While this can be the case with inexperienced teams, bringing in the right outside gaming writing talent can do the opposite. It can do incredible things for your project, including:
- Lend an objective and experienced fresh eye to breathe new air into stories
- Bolster team size to speed up the writing process and help meet tight deadlines
- Navigate issues in scale and budget to keep your bottom line tight
To clear up misconceptions about working with a third-party team, let’s explore how the writing process works with an outsourced writing partner.
Pre-production and Collaboration
A huge barrier for collaborative projects is the question, “But if I don’t write it, how is it really my story?” It’s this first phase that ensures the story developed is truly your own.
Like in any other creative process, the collaborative process in outsourced game writing projects starts with an intensive pre-production cycle. The incoming team will go to great lengths to get to know you and your vision for your new masterpiece.
Discussions between a developer and their new team will typically revolve around a few core things:
- What the story should be
- Who the characters are
- The game’s vision
- Style and tone
- Overarching or individual character arcs
- Style guide
If some of these don’t yet exist, the team will work closely with you to flesh out anything necessary.
If this feels invasive, it should. It’s how a team gets to know your project intimately. The beginning phase of the project is designed to be about openness and free collaboration. Connecting on the core points about the creative vision for a game is how a team integrates to the point that they don’t feel like an external team; they gel with you and your creative ideas to move forward as if they were your own in-house writers.
After the intensive creative fact-finding process, the team will work with you to draw up plans, deadlines, and milestones to set a roadmap for how and when the project will be completed, along with giving you a transparent overview of exactly how the team will work for you.
Building Strong Foundations: Storyboarding and Character Creation
Building a storyboard and creating characters is crucial for setting a project’s creative tone and direction when the team is creating a story and cast pretty much from scratch. Working hand-in-hand with you and your production team, the writers map out the game’s plot, themes, recurring motifs, and tone. Then they create comprehensive style guides as ongoing reference points.
Next comes character creation. Here’s where you develop the personalities that will bring your story to life onscreen and in the players’ imaginations. Each key character and supporting character(s), depending on the scale of the project, will have their own unique reference materials to help the writers keep track of their arc and act as a guideline when introducing them into a scene, outlining how they are likely to react or conduct themselves in any scenario.
Once the basics are in place, the team creates the storyboards and scene plans that will eventually make up the core of your game. As the developer and main project owner, you will be invited to be as hands-on in this phase as you want. Collaborating closely with you in this phase, allowing you every opportunity to inject your thoughts and ideas, is how your team ensures the world they are building is exactly the one you had in mind and that your story really is your own.
Putting Pen to Paper
The best game writing teams always shatter the assumption that outside writers can’t possibly know what they’re doing. Outsourcing teams are often built around industry-veteran talent who have learned their trade and cut their teeth on countless creative projects, sometimes over decades. In addition, a partner will pair you with a team of writers who have proven success in games similar to your project’s genre, themes, or goals.
Many people think that the actual gaming writing phase of the process is romantic. It conjures up images of dark rooms filled with writers typing furiously, surrounded by balled-up pieces of paper crumpled in frustration. But for the most part, it is the most conventional or “boring” part of the whole process. What happens here is exactly what you would expect: the writers write!
We try to demystify this process, shattering the image of writing as a sacred rite that “takes as long as it takes.” In reality, that’s not how things work. Though the process can indeed vary from weeks to months, the turnaround time is far more influenced by a game’s genre or length than waiting for a lone, reclusive writer to come up with some divine inspiration.
With set milestones, a staggered scene delivery schedule, and the game’s framework already mapped out during the storyboarding process, the team’s mission at this stage is to make sure scenes make it to you on time and at manageable intervals. Batch deliveries often allow teams to run initial drafting and redrafting/feedback rounds in tandem, cutting down on time and costs in the long run.
Depending on the game, additional reference materials can be created in this phase. For example, a game might need in-game lore or mythos texts to flesh out your world or build on an arc or backstory.
Feedback and Redrafting
While the initial writing process is romanticized, experienced storytellers know that this final phase is where almost 90% of the real work happens in any game writing project.
Any team could easily sit down and write you a story start to finish and deliver it uninterrupted. But that is how you get a story that isn’t your own. The perfect-fit team regularly delivers gaming content and consults closely with you to ensure your story’s tone, focus, and unfurling are going in the right direction. They also ensure the story is 100% consistent across the board and corresponds to your vision on every level, from telling the overall story of the game right down to how individual lines flow and should be delivered.
Intense feedback and redrafting sessions are the meat and potatoes of the outsourced writing process. One-to-one feedback and creative input from you are built into how a good team should work, allowing you to guide and mold their workflows to shape your content to your vision. Just think of yourself as the creative director!
Are you interested in hearing more about the creative process involved in game writing? Do you want to learn more about how a dedicated, outsourced game writing team can help you save time and money on your next gaming project? Talk to our game writing experts today, and let’s start telling great stories together!