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Alien: Isolation Writer Says Developers Need Dedicated Writers

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Dan Abnett (Alien: Isolation, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor) has lamented the general state of stories in games and suggested that studios should involve writers in creative processes from the beginning of development.

Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz ahead of his panel on stories in gaming at Develop:Brighton, Abnett stated that too many games, and the blockbusters in particular, prize spectacular visuals and bombastic action at the expense of narrative. “[There’s] the notion that if the visuals are amazing and the action plentiful, you can get by on a very rudimentary story. The same criticism might be levelled at blockbuster movies – the whole notion that a big ‘wow factor’ can excuse lapses in logic, continuity or even sense. That underestimates badly the interest and involvement of many players.”

Abnett attributes this trend to a widespread belief that story can simply be “bolted on” as a way of justifying the action. Another issue, according to Abnett, is that developers tend to bring writers on to projects several years into production, which necessarily results in a Frankensteinian patchwork as the writer has to find a way to cobble together disparate, disconnected levels and ideas. However, he also says that the writer needs to be competent, although they need not be professional writers from outside the gaming industry:

“I’m saying hire professional writers from wherever, outside or inside,” advises Abnett. “Have some estimation of value and quality. Don’t expect the teaboy to do it, or the office intern, just because he or she fancies having a go – but if they do feel like having a go, try them, audition them professionally, and find out what they’re actually capable of.”

The full interview discusses the struggles that Abnett had in moving his existing skillset (with a basis in literature and comics) to the demands of writing for games, as well as how those talents are readily transferable.

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