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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Games: Resources

Following on from my recent post on writing for games here is a list of a few online resources that I use during the day - not including wikipedia obviously as that is a given!

The challenge during a working day is to keep on pumping ideas into the brain as well as to find new words, new phrases and to check your text-based work for spelling errors.

Thesaurus - because your brain just freezes up when you write a lot of similar material continously.
Urban Dictionary - because the MS Word dictionary don't do slang dawg.
Digg - because it is news, as chosen by nerds.
Slangsite - so you can know the latest crazy terms.

Lastly, I tend to watch clips like these, they deliver colourful language, quickly. In fact, the very small amount of text / dialogue in a game focuses you on delivering emotions and information in a short amount of space. Perhaps like poetry in that regard, but others are better placed to comment upon that idea.



Or if you prefer bad language you may choose to view...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mr Vista is a millionaire



Just a quick note to say that Mr Vista has now exceeded 1 million views on Dailymotion alone. YouTube is going well also.

We were on www.youtube.com/itsmrvista but they kicked off whoever was on www.youtube.com/mrvista so we could have that too!

One of my faves...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

50 best blogs for movie makers



This blog has been deemed to be one of the top 50 for filmmakers - by Moviemaker Magazine.

Check out the full list for some other great blogs too.

Ironically, more on games soon!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Games: Transferable skills for writers new to interactive



This post is for screenwriters (film, TV and other linear media) who are considering a move into games - either through interest or seeking extra sources of income. This is the blog post I wish I had to read before I started a recent gig doing just that. I could then have hit the ground running even faster.

The post is divided in two parts. The first part deals with transferable skills, things you can bring with you intact, ways of working that will continue to work. The second part looks at ways of working that you may not be so familiar with, perhaps things you may need to learn or certainly brush up on.

Transferable Skills

Story-telling: Generally saying interesting things, using your imagination to conceive of intriguing situations - that will always be the key skill. It is easy to forget that other people really struggle with this, so pack your suitcase full of cool stuff.

Wide range of influences: Writers are good at drawing in ideas from everywhere. Other people in the games industry sometimes get stuck in a certain genre or a way of working. They may repeat ideas or get stuck on a familiar set of tracks. Bringing in ideas from outside the genre is welcomed. Brush yourself up with story dust.

Rewriting and then rewriting again: Someone who doesn't mind going back through work for repeated drafts will be met with open arms. Pressure on a project can come from hardware restrictions, coding issues, graphics constraints, all sorts of directions - so you may need to keep reworking your drafts through no fault of your own. And not moan about it. We can all tick that one off.

Dialogue: We have all played games where the dialogue is awful - of a sub TV movie quality. That is because someone in the company did it who shouldn't have. Obviously, if you are hired it is because at least someone has recognised their weakness in this area. All your usual dialogue tricks and techniques will work here; people not saying exactly what they mean, using dialects, adding personal quirks etc etc. Use these as you have always done.

Curiosity: Again, an undervalued skill as we take it for granted. Why would someone do that? What kind of person says that? If I was like that, what would I do? Top stuff.

Thinking of the audience: Or in this case, the player. Will people be able to follow this? You may be surprised about how much of this you can bring and how little others may consider it. How many plots and characters can any one person follow?



Different Skills

New structures: All that guff about 3 act, 9 act or sequence structure doesn't really matter at all anymore. The structure may be set by the gameplay mechanics and you have to fit with in that. As an example, the game may be mission based. If a mission last x mins then that is how long it lasts. Fit around it. Remember, you do the same in film where you work around the length of an old film reel - it is just the technology has moved on since and the structural ideas haven't.

Living with the vague: In a film, as you know, there is all sorts of fun to be had by playing around with what the characters know, what the characters know that other characters know - and what the audience knows that the characters don't know. Jolly good fun. But if you are doing a non-linear game then that is all jettisoned. You don't know what the player knows. This may take some time to get used to. Consider for a start, you may not even know the sex of the player.

Technical nous: If you are the kind of writer who struggles with final draft and sending an email this may not be right for you. You will need to get into a bit of techie stuff just to make sure your work comes out okay. Being able to find your way around servers is taken as a given.

Grammar: Some of your work will be text based as well as dialogue based so brush up on your grammar and your spelling. As regular blog readers will no this isnt my strong, point. <-- joke.

Style of interaction: You will be collobarating closely with others rather than being an isolated writer. Even if you are a collabortaing kind of writer then the style of working together may be different. Table readings are out. Playtests are in - followed by discussion on a wiki. In my office there isn't a phone. But everyone uses instant messenger. Even people who are 10 foot away!

Industry Awareness: A small shift in behaviour this. But few want to talk about 'An Education', but they can pull apart why 'Uncharted 2' works. TV is out. iPlayer in.


Bonus Part - What is not required

You don't have to know any programming or coding skills. This is not expected.





In related news, the game I am working on (APB) was one of Wired magazine 20 Most anticipated games of 2010.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

New music for Everyday Man



The good (and laborious) thing about having made films is that they then last forever. On one hand, a nice short cut to eternity. On the other hand, a never ending task, like being a parent.

One of my films, ironically, deals with eternity. Everyday Man was shot on Super 8 film (meaning it doesn't date in terms of aesthetics) back in 1999. But it resonates with many viewers and remains popular despite never winning any awards, prizes nor gaining big reviews or going 'viral'. It is one of those films that just constantly trickles in viewers over the years and some people really love it.

Here is a new music composition for it from music student Georgina Taylor.

What I liked about this new treatment is how different it made the film feel. I would say it makes the audience consider the nature of the narrator more, who is he and is he for real? It is interesting how a change in music can cause this.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Friend Request Titles Mock-Up



I had created this mock up title sequence for Friend Request but had forgotten all about it until I wrote my previous post. Exploring visual ideas (and in particular moving image ideas) is a good way to keep exploring the themes of the project / script but yet take a break from the actual writing.

Anyway, enjoy. And no, I wasn't crazy enough to hunt down all those letters myself. A guy called Thomas de Bruin did it. You can see all the letters here and download a package for Google Earth here.

Nerd bit: I created a flight path in Google Earth and set the speed of the journey to be very slow. I captured this full screen using a movie capture app. It would only run at about 10fps - but because the movement was so slow I could speed it up again. It was then brought into Final Cut Pro. A collection of cropped freeze frames isolate the letters. These had to be exported to Photoshop in order to highlight the actual letter shape. These imported final highlighted freezeframes then dissolve back in over the non-adapted freezeframes with a 2 second fade. As you can see, this means the fully defined letters gradually appear and form so slowly you almost don't notice. The clouds were composited in at the end just using a simple scaling function to make it appear as if you fly through them. Done.

(available to watch in HD on YouTube here)


Thursday, January 07, 2010

"Up in the Air" and back down here on the ground.



Up In the Air is a new film, adapted from a book by Sheldon Turner and Jason Reitman (the latter also directing) and featuring George Clooney.

I liked it. But then I should do as it is like a merging of my own scripts Circumference and Friend Request.

It features the empty life of a business man (as in Circumference) with the visual metaphor of looking down on the world but not living within it (as in Friend Request).

There are differences of course. They used airline flights and I used Google Earth (being the nerdy type) and they used redundancy and I used sales techniques. These changes actually alter the plot and characters as you would expect. But they have a much greater influence upon the style.

The big surprise is that these changes have little effect on the underlying themes and topics. All 3 projects have that same 'vibe'.

I learn two things from this.

One: The theme is stronger than any of the elements that fit within it. The different 'skins' we apply don't change the underlying feelings. For instance, the themes of being disconnected in the modern world are explored differently by Reitman and by my scripts - but it is the same themes being discussed. Audiences that like Up in the Air would like Circumference.
Two: I take strength from the fact I am on the right path. I enjoyed the Up in the Air, it works for me.

And maybe there is actually... Three: Nothing really matters unless you can get George Clooney to be in it.