Thursday, July 31, 2014

Write Hard with a Vengeance

I mentioned earlier that editing Hellenica’s dialogue would be worthy of a post on its own. And since I’ve done a fair amount of it recently, I thought I’d make a post about the various steps.

Phase 1 Assembly: I hammer the above freewriting notes into a scene. Usually I do this by picking out the lines I think are particularly good and seeing if I can arrange the rest of the dialogue to set them up. Oftentimes, I'll be ambivalent about the proper approach to a scene, so I'll leave both approaches in to see how my proofreaders react.

Phase 2 Proofreading: At this point, I share the scenes’ gdocs with various proofreaders and they read through them, commenting and suggesting edits for everything from grammar to characterization. I might ask some friends for additional help here depending on availability or area of expertise (such as making sure Nephele's engineering babble makes sense).

Phase 3 Fine Tuning: After the changes suggested above have been made. I make yet another pass at dialogue, either with Bergy or our relatively recently contracted writer, Siobhan Gallagher. These passes focus on tightening up the dialogue, and involve a lot of cutting extraneous lines and making sure each character is speaking in a way that is consistent with his or her voice.

Phase 4 In-Game Testing: The ultimate test of dialogue is seeing how well it works and flows in game. This is an exceptionally important test because while the preceding documents have a bunch of "if you previously did X, go here to doc A, otherwise go to doc B", all of these seams are invisible in the game, which makes any hitches in flow much more obvious.

Phase 5 User Feedback: This is another level of in-game testing, with the distinction that we usually try to get people not as intimately familiar with Hellenica's story. Since as developers we’re very familiar with the story and with information that's revealed in ANY of the various paths someone could take, it's easy not to realize that the party never got a specific piece of information on that playthrough. However, players less familiar with the story might be confused as to what's going on.

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