Q&As// Rhianna Pratchett, Overlord II Screen Writer

Whilst I think the story was pretty bog-standard...

Posted 15 May 2009 17:00 by
SPOnG: Jeffrey Kaplan, director of World of Warcraft, recently said, "We need to deliver our story in a way that is uniquely video game". Do you think anyone has found that way yet?

Rhianna Pratchett: We certainly need to stop thinking Hollywood can solve all our problems. It canít. We have to get our hands dirty and do it ourselves. But then there is no one method that is Ďuniquely videogameí because the needs of an FPS differ wildly from the needs of an RPG, which in turn differ from an RTS or an MMO. Ultimately story and gameplay need to coexist and complement one another.

Gameplay needs to be story, and story needs to be gameplay. As for the games that are doing that, itís the usual suspects: Pretty much everything Valve produce and Bioshock. Whilst I think the story was pretty bog-standard, the narrative structuring and pacing on COD4 was fantastic. Iím also a big fan of Psychonauts because I think it took gameplay and level design *as* story to a whole new level.

In relation to WoW and story-telling, I think they really kicked things up a notch with Wrath of the Lich King. There were far more points where I felt I was playing the story, rather than just being told it.

SPOnG: As well as working on the Mirror's Edge game, you worked on the comic. What's the most significant way in which writing them differed?

Rhianna Pratchett: Thereís much more of an established structure to comics. It means thereís a lot to learn, but once you get the hang of it, itís fairly straight forward (although still challenging.) The Mirrorís Edge comics allowed me much more space to explore the narrative world, background and characters in a way I couldnít do in the game. I totally fell in love with comic writing and Iíve just found out that DC is collecting them as a trade paperback at the end of the year which is all kinds of ace.

SPOnG: Are you working with Ninja Theory on a follow-up to Heavenly Sword?

Rhianna Pratchett: Itís been wildly reported that Ninja Theory arenít working on a sequel to Heavenly Sword and Iím not even sure that a sequel even exists anywhere anymore, which is a real shame. Who knows, maybe one day Sonyíll bring it back. Iím not involved with the Ninjas on their next project, but Iím sure itís going to be fantastic. Theyíre a very strong and talented team.

SPOnG: Should cutscenes crawl away and die?

Rhianna Pratchett: Ha! The success of games like the Final Fantasy series and MGS4 prove that a lot of players enjoy them. Personally, I have no problem with cut-scenes, as long as they are well written, well paced and well timed. But even those qualities are still fairly rare and need to be addressed. Creating a coherent story without cutscenes is usually much harder than creating a coherent story with them. Mainly because it means that the narrative structure needs to be addressed really early on in the development cycle, because the levels need to be designed with this in mind. You can't just drop full interactivity into a game (in the way cut-scenes are often dropped in), it has to be designed in from the ground up.

Cut-scenes are one tool in the games narrative tool box. They can be powerful. But I donít think itís time to ditch the hammer simply because we keep hitting our thumbs. We just have to learn how to use it right.

SPOnG: Thanks for your time, Rhianna!
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