One of the more frustrating aspects of my profession is the fact that I can’t generally talk about what I’m working on until the final product is released, months or even years after my work has finished. My work on Dawnbringer ended back in August of last year, and since then the development team at Kiloo has been working very hard to bring the game over the finish line. Today, I received an email telling me that they have succeeded.
I started work on Dawnbringer almost three years ago. It all started with an email from Jeppe Bisberg, their vice-president of production, who had seen my profile on LinkedIn and remembered some of my past work. The basic story and gameplay concepts for Dawnbringer were already in place, and Jeppe was looking for an English-language writer to help develop the story, characters, and setting, and ultimately to write the quest and dialogue text.
Over the next two years, I worked very closely with the development team in Aarhus, Denmark via email and Skype. Coincidentally, I had visited the city many years ago, as a student on a Viking archaeology fieldtrip: I had fond memories of the place from that trip, many of which involved Carlsberg and aquavit consumed in dark and cosy bars.
Because of my work on Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, I am mainly known as a writer of dark and gritty fantasy. Dawnbringer is at the other end of the spectrum: a mythic fantasy where the player takes the role of an angelic being fighting to save a demon-infested world and his own fallen brother.
Centuries ago, a force known only as Corruption infected the world like a supernatural pollution. It was only held at bay by the sacrifice of the Guardians, who used their own life-force to power a magical shield. Pride and ambition led to their fall, and invading demons tore their bodies apart and scattered the pieces across the land.
One of the hero’s tasks is to recover the parts and re-assemble the Guardians’ bodies on their thrones so that their tower can protect the land once again. Another is to save his brother from the clutches of Corruption, which takes over more of his body and mind as the game progresses.
Along the way, the hero explores various kinds of terrain and encounters an endless supply of demons of different tribes, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. There are treasures to recover, ingredients to gather, life-saving potions to brew, and gear to craft and upgrade before the blighted world of Mourngard can be saved – and as he works to do that, the hero must also learn a few things about compassion, duty, and the worth of lesser beings.
Dawnbringer is available now in the Google Play and iTunes stores. Like many mobile games it operates on a freemium model, which means you can try it for free and decide how much money – if any – you want to put into it. I hope you’ll give it a try.
To learn more, click on the following links:
Although I’m best known for my work on tabletop games, electronic games have been my bread and butter for the last 25 years. Like a lot of “names” from the golden age of tabletop RPGs – Mike Brunton, Jim Bambra, Zeb Cook, Lawrence Schick, Ken Rolston, Paul Murphy, and many more – I found in the early 90s that the electronic games industry offers writers and designers something that the tabletop games industry cannot: a chance to actually make a living.
So far, I have worked on more than 40 electronic games that made it to market, as well as quite a few that didn’t, and a handful that have not yet been announced. Below is a list of the first category.
If you are interested in finding out more about my services and availability as a game writer, a good place to start is my LinkedIn profile.
Dawnbringer (Action-RPG, iOS/Android), Kiloo 2016 – Story Designer/Writer Official Web Page
Metal Skies (Arcade, iOS/Android), Kabam 2014 – Localization Editor
Blades of Excalibur (Arcade, Web), Kabam 2014 – Localization Editor
Ravenmarch (Strategy, Web), Kabam 2014 – Localization Editor Ravenmarch.com
Wartune (Strategy, Web), Kabam 2014 – Localization Editor Kabam.com
The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age (Strategy, Web), Kabam/Warner Bros. 2012 – Writer
Arcane Empires (Strategy, iOS/Android), Kabam 2012 – Story Designer/Writer
Mobile Command: Crisis in Europe (Strategy, iOS), Kabam 2012 – Story Designer/Writer
Imperion (Strategy, Web), Travian Games 2011 – Writer/Editor Imperion.com
Viking Tales: Mystery of Black Rock (Casual, iOS), AiLove 2011 – Writer/Editor iTunes Store
Ruse (Strategy, PC/Console), Ubisoft 2010 – Story Consultant
Empire: Total War (Strategy, PC), SEGA 2010 – Writer/Designer
Dragonica (MMORPG, PC online), THQ/ICE 2009 – Localization Editor Dragonica Online
America’s Next Top Model (Casual, Mobile), PressOK Ent. 2009 – Writer/Editor
Houdini’s Infinite Escapes (Casual, Mobile), PressOK Ent. 2008 – Writer/Editor
Parking Frenzy (Casual, Mobile), Reaxion Corp. 2008 – Writer/Editor
Parisian Puzzle Adventures (Casual, Mobile), Reaxion Corp. 2008 – Writer/Editor
Detective Puzzles (Casual, Mobile), Reaxion Corp. 2007 – Writer/Editor
Men in Black: Alien Assault (Casual, Mobile), Ojom 2006 – Writer/Editor
Online Chess Kingdoms (Casual, PSP), Konami 2006 – Design Consultant
Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth (RPG, Xbox/PC), Bethesda Softworks 2005 – Pickup Writer
Spartan: Total Warrior (Action, Console), SEGA 2005 – Writer
Rise of the Nile (Casual, PC/Mac), Evil Genius 2005 – Design Director
Rhiannon’s Realm: Celtic Mahjongg Solitaire (Casual, PC/Mac), Evil Genius 2005 – Design Director
Medieval: Total War – Viking Invasion (Strategy, PC), Activision 2003 – Writer/Researcher
Nightcaster (Action, Xbox), Microsoft 2002 – Voice Talent
Em@il NASCAR Racing (Casual, Email), Hasbro 2000 – Designer
Nomads of Klanth (MMO Sim, PC online), AOL 1999 – Lead Designer
The SARAC Project (MMO Sim, PC online), So-Net Japan 1999 – Writer/Designer
Microsoft Fighter Ace (MMO Sim, PC online), Microsoft 1997 – Writer/Researcher
Air Attack (MMO Sim, PC online), VR-1 1996 – Researcher
G-Police (Sim, PSX/PC), Psygnosis 1997 – Writer/Designer
Beyond the Limit: Ultimate Climb (Adventure, PC), Microsoft 1996 – Designer
Touché: The Adventures of the Fifth Musketeer (Adventure, PC), US Gold 1996 – Writer
One Small Square: Backyard (Edutainment, PC/Mac), Virgin 1995 – Writer/Designer
The Legacy (RPG, PC), MicroProse 1993 – Pickup Writer
Fields of Glory (Strategy, PC), MicroProse 1993 – Writer/Voice Talent
Harrier Jump Jet (Sim, PC), MicroProse 1992 – Writer/Designer
B-17 Flying Fortress (Sim, PC), MicroProse 1992 – Writer/Researcher
Castles: The Northern Campaign (Strategy, PC), Interplay 1991 – Writer
Other Bibliography Posts
My Complete and Utter Warhammer Bibliography (Warhammer, WFRP, HeroQuest, AHQ)
My Complete and Utter Warhammer 40,000 Bibliography (WH40K, Adeptus Titanicus/Epic Scale)
Ubisoft’s AAA shooter Tom Clancy’s The Division is making a big splash in the industry, and this article from Gamasutra caught my eye.
It’s a question that becomes more significant as games become more photo-realistic: how to justify the gore and high body counts that are part and parcel of a high-end shooter. Another question, asked less often, is how to develop additional and alternative ways to create tension and challenge the player so that body count is not the only leg on the stool.
It reminds me of a crossroads that tabletop games faced in the mid-80s.
D&D was all about kicking in doors, slaying monsters, and collecting treasure, and then Call of Cthulhu came out, in which combat was almost never a good idea and the focus was on investigation, uncovering a backstory, and figuring out the best way to resolve a situation.
For a while, the tabletop RPG hobby was split into “irvings” (a British term of the time, equivalent to today’s “munchkin”) who loved to boast about their best kills and the obscenely high level of their character, and “rolegamers” who loved to boast about how they gamed for an entire weekend and never touched the dice once.
One of the things we tried to do with Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, and the Enemy Within campaign in particular, was to take the best of both worlds. The deadliness of the combat system was a major tool in achieving this goal, since it forced players to think of more creative solutions to problems. The other vital components were a game system (range of skills, character types, spells, and equipment) and a design mindset (communicated through scenario design and, in our case, advice to GMs) that gave players a wide range of potential actions to choose from in any given situation.
Now I know that there are some fundamental differences between tabletop games and electronic games, but it is very interesting to see AAA shooters facing a choice, as a genre, that tabletop games encountered 30-odd years ago. Maybe there are some useful ideas from that time that can be used now, and maybe there will be some new solutions that leave everyone stunned. I can’t wait to see.
Four years after CEO Satoru Iwata urged develpers to ignore smartphones, Nicholas Lovell’s blog on Gamasutra covers Nintendo’s change of attitude toward smart devices and explores some of the challenges they will face. The article is a good read, and although it’s not possible yet to determine exactly how Nintendo will affect the app market over the next few years, it’s certain that their effect will be significant.
I’m especially gratified to see this move taking place, since I raised the possibility myself four years ago in one of this blog’s first posts. I wonder if Iwata-san read it? I know, it’s far more likely that he studied the developing app market and tracked the increasing pressure it’s been placing on the market for dedicated gaming devices, and came to the same conclusion that I did. But still: Iwata-san, if you’re reading this, thanks for all the games, and good luck!
From time to time I get an email out of the blue from someone who wants to break into the games industry, usually as a writer or designer. I had another one this morning, and I thought it might be worth sharing my reply in case it can be useful to anyone else out there.
I haven’t worked as a game designer for some years, through choice. The discipline is becoming increasingly technical, requiring facility with scripting languages and 3D art packages that I don’t have. I’ve had more success as a writer, and I’d recommend these titles, written by members of the IGDA Writing Special Interest Group, as a starting point. They are a few years old, but most of the information they present is still useful:
The Writing SIG (http://www.igda.org/writing) is a good thing to join. You’ll be able to ask questions of other game writers and listen in on their discussions, which can be enlightening. They also have a presence on LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=89330&trk=myg_ugrp_ovr). Most of the members also have blogs, which are worth checking out for more information and insights. Find your local IGDA chapter, go to meetings, and get to know people: contacts are everything in this business.
I got into the industry a long time ago. I started in the 80s writing for tabletop roleplaying games, and along with a number of other writers from that industry I made the move into video games in the 90s. Back then there were very few writers and designers in the video games industry, so it was easy. Today, things are different.
These days, I would recommend focusing on one or two game genres that appeal to you strongly. Find the websites for their developers and get to know the companies. Take any beta testing opportunity you can, and try to train yourself to see a game with the skin off. Look through the graphics and the UI to see the underlying mechanics in action. If there are opportunities to create fan content – levels or whatever – make the most of them.
Keep track of advertised vacancies in design and writing: many can be found on the respective companies’ web sites, and the Gamasutra jobs page (http://gamasutra.com/jobs/) is also a valuable resource. Pay particular attention to the requirements for the kinds of vacancy that interest you: figure out how to acquire the required skills and experience, and also how to build a portfolio that shows them off. For design, create great maps, levels, etc, using the most popular tools. For writing, create storylines and dialogue samples. Start your own blog and use it as a showcase for your talents and experience. Create a LinkedIn profile, if you haven’t already, and link to your resume and samples.
Go to conferences if you can afford to (especially GDC) and follow the design and/or writing tracks. Learn as much as you can, present your skills and experience in the best possible light, and get to know as many people in the industry as you can. Contacts with other designers and writers are always useful, but also pay attention to producers: they tend to be the ones who hand out contracts and interview job applicants, and they have good information on the kind of skills and experience they are looking for.
That’s what I’ve got so far. If anyone has any follow-up questions, just ask and I’ll answer them as best I can whenever I get the chance. And if anyone from the industry wants to weigh in with a comment or more/better advice, feel free!