Ahhhhh, its time for Force Awakens guys. Ok, yeah, maybe not all of you are as much of Star Wars nerds as me, but I suspect that there are a good many of you that are just as excited about this as I am. I know that it has been buzzing among the staff how excited we all are to see it.
So since my mind is on Star Wars anyway: Let’s talk about Star Wars. So what is it, that we as Game Devs, can learn from Star Wars.
#1: Always make sure your first game stands on its own.
Look, we understand. Everyone wants to make a franchise these days. Everyone is always thinking about their sequel even before they get done with the first game.
BUT, but but: You have to make sure your first game stands on its own as complete.
Yeah, leave some room for those sequel hooks. Have Vader flying off still alive at the end. Have the Empire still around. But you need to not spend the entire game as setup.
You need a climax, not a cliffhanger. You need to have accomplished something. Your heroes need their Death Star.
Because you don’t know if you will ever make a game two. Your job is to make game ONE good. And if no one is interested in game one because it doesn’t have a satisfying ending, because its all there to set up game two…. you probably will lose a lot of motivation and never finish game two.
#2: You can always use a different perspective.
So now, let’s talk about the prequels. Now… yeah, I know. I know. They suck. Well, sort of. Honestly, they aren’t THAT bad, but they certainly aren’t very good either. The worldbuilding in them is still interesting. And the overall story still makes sense… but the execution is just…. lacking.
Lucas had gotten to the point where he was writer, directer, producer: He had so much money, he didn’t HAVE to see anyone else’s perspective. And what we learned was… well maybe he should have. His writing is a bit stilted, and his directing somehow manages to get bad performances from great actors like Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman. I’m still not sure whether Hayden Christensen was actually a bad actor, or if it was just good old George direction.
And while maybe you aren’t as singularly bad as Lucas is at writing and directing, you can still always use someone else who can tell you when your game is doing something stupid.
Bring in friends who will be brutally honest. Don’t get a bunch of yes men for playtesters. You need people to tell you when you have written something like “I don’t like sand.”
#3: Sometimes, the Setting isn’t the Genre.
So what is the genre of Star Wars? I know what you are about to say: Sci-Fi. Or maybe if you are a bit more discerning, Science Fantasy, or soft Sci-fi.
But this reminds me of a talk I got to go to that was being held by Terry Brooks. Terry Brooks is the author of the Shannara series, the Magic Kingdom For Sale series… and most importantly for this discussion, the novelization of Phantom Menace. Which by the way, is better than the movie. But that is irrelevant to this conversation.
Anyway, part of the Q&A section of the talk, someone asked him about what it was like writing the novelization of Phantom Menace. And in it, he discussed a conversation with George Lucas. And it went something like this “paraphrased, I can’t remember the exact words”:
“George, I’m glad you thought of me to do this, but I’m not sure that I can. I mean, I don’t write sci-fi books.”
“Thats OK, I don’t write Sci-fi movies.”
Which of course led to “bwuh?” And really, they both write the same genre. They write ADVENTURE stories. Fantasy, sci-fi, that is all just trappings. The important part is the adventure, not the trappings surrounding it. there are other stories where it DOES matter. Star Trek for instance, is much more sci-fi, because the science part matters to the plot.
And generally, with our games we can see the same. Maybe we should be mindful what genre we are actually writing in when we start, because the setting, is not the genre. And adventure and scifi definitely have different tropes that define them.
#4: You Don’t Have to Explain Everything
Do you have sections of your game that are just there to dump info on your players?
Is it too long? Does it make your audience roll their eyes at the length… or maybe it just makes them roll their eyes because its stupid?
You really only have to tell your players as much as necessary to get the story and make informed decisions. Sometimes you shouldn’t even give them that much, if you are planning on tricking them into a course of action and reveal it was dumb later.
You can include extra information that players can read. Like the books in Skyrim or the Encyclopedias in Bioware games. But the player should be able to learn what he NEEDs from the game portion, and all that is just for if they are interested.
And some things, don’t need to EVER, EVER have real explanations. You should leave a bit of mystery in your world. You don’t have to explain fully all the origins of the gods, or how they give powers, or how a mystical energy field is able to be interacted with by a STUPID SINGLE CELL ORGANISM THAT INFECTS YOUR BODY GOD MIDICHLORIANS ARE SO STUPID.
So what do you think we can learn from Star Wars? Or just want to talk about the series, or the new movie? Join us in the comments section below. But remember, NO SPOILERS. For every spoiler I see for the new movie, I will ban you.