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Executive Editor: Robert Nirkind
Project Editor: Steve Atinsky
Production Manager: Katherine Happ
© 2007 by Flint Dille and John Zuur Platten
First published in 2007 by Lone Eagle Publishing Company,
An imprint of Watson-Guptill Publications, the Crown
A division of Random House, Inc., New York
Library of Congress Control Number: 2007922221
All rights reserved.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
LEVEL 0 Introduction
LEVEL 1 The Influences of Storytelling in a Digital
LEVEL 2 Video Game Story Structure and Work
LEVEL 3 Game Story Theory and Dialogue
LEVEL 4 Video Game Construction Techniques and
LEVEL 5 Building Characters
LEVEL 6 Steps to the Game Concept and Script
LEVEL 7 The High-LEVEL Design Document
LEVEL 8 Game Properties as Franchises
LEVEL 9 Inside the Creative Process
LEVEL 10 The Team and the Dynamics of Development
LEVEL 11 Changes, Revisions, and Creative Criticism
LEVEL 12 Getting Down to Business
LEVEL 13 Career Considerations
LEVEL 14 End Game: Wrapping It Up
Appendix A: Backwater Game Design Document
Appendix B: Sample Sequences
Throughout our careers, we have met and worked with so
many talented people who have helped us, influenced us,
challenged us, frustrated us, occasionally paid us, and
ultimately, given us the opportunity to work on a number of
great projects. While we can’t possibly thank them all, we’re
going to try anyway.
Thanks to: Rich and The Confederates at Union; Cos of
numerous missions; The villain from High Noon; WGAw
New Media—Suzanne, Bruce, Tim, Dean; The Strike
Team—Mike, John and Rod; Sir Francis Drake and the
Descendants; The Not-So-Secret Agents—Larry, Jared; The
Ruby Spearmen—Joe, Steve, Marty, Meg, Buzz; Warner
Bros. Interactive—Jason, David, Heidi, Gary; ZM; Christian
B.; Chris Swain, who is pushing the academic discipline.
Also, thanks to Cliffy and the other Prime Justice Society;
Dan Jevons; Dana and the Spectrobytes; The
Neo-Cybertronians—Dan and Robb; The Legion of
Superheroes—Mr. Nee and Ames; Artificial Minds: Remi,
Denis, Christophe, Nathalie; Agent 13; Eric and The Big
Easy, where we’ve smoked out ideas.
The Lions and Tigers of Tigon, especially Carthaginian
Vincent Barca and Sister Tanit; The Taxi Drivers, Dean M.
and Joey; The CT-RPS Team—Dr. K., Joe, Jerome, Dick,
David W., David A., Steven D., Danny, Paul, Chris, Eric, the
Mensa Boys of ICT, and the non-attributables from some
nominative corporation; The ‘Connections’ Alumnus—Col.
John Warden, Major Matt, Evan, Dunnigan, Perla, Bon; Ed
209; Foo; The Kryptonauts and the sharks—Gary, David,
Sergio, Marv, Sam, Chris; Drake and the Inquisitors; Ricky
G.; Gary; Harris; Hildy; Howard B; Andrew and Gatewood
from the class; and Eric and Vi from the Institute.
In the beginning, there was Sunbow—Megatom, Joescream,
Ultra Jayus, Carole and the Commandoes, and those who
know the secret of Cybertron; The Code Monkeys;
Nickelodeon—Ralph and Jenna; Jon Taplin and the
Enigmites; Joseph, Alyssa and the AIAS; Luigi.
The Quixotic Knights of Isix—Turmell, Welsh, Zito, Mary
and Jerome Gary, Jim and Jim; King Gornishe; The T.R.A.X.
Team—Peter, Matt, Renny, Chris, and Juliette, Gordon,
Craig, Bob L., Larry; The P.F. Magicians—Rob, Mike; The
Talisaurus; Rachel and the Cyber-warriors.
Huge thanks to Legal Eagle and Pioneer of the real
game—contracts—Richard Thompson; Rick, Tarrnie; The
Backwater Boys—Scott and Rick; Sagard and The
Barbarians—Sultoon Jazeer, Ergyg the Wastrel, Lucian;
TSORG; John W., Douglas G., Louis N. and the Mnemonics;
The Flying Yugarians, Leggy Peggy and various dear
departed; The Attack Ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.
Skip Press; Seven; The Fire Studio; Starbreeze; Jack Slate
and Andre; VUG (Sierra)—Pete Wanat; TSR Knights of the
Pomegranate and Puce—Lorre, Warren, Ward, Grubb,
Harold, Mary, Margaret, and the Battle Royale for the Future;
The doomed West Coast comic folks—Justin, Lisa, Hildy,
etc. and that whacky girl whose name escapes us; The Risk
Treaty Breakers Society—Dave, Scott, Bill, Rod, Mike, Jeff;
Fireblade Commander—Zach; The Soup Pee-er; The A-52
Debunk Team; Stan, Sandy and Mike F.; Stargate; Visual
Concepts; Monolith; Stefanie H.; Gigawatt; Lin O., Jill D.,
Ray D., R.J. Colleary and John W., wherever you are.
For Flint, a special thanks to:
Terrie, Gwynna and Mr. Z; The Broken Coffeemaker; Paul,
son of Jens, for excellent notes and encouragement.
For John, a special thanks to:
Gabriella, Jack and Kate; Mom, Dad, Sara and Justin; For
Anna and Cees—your name lives on; Dr. O, The Marquis,
Twenty-Cent Tony, Rico, Fred and Pocket Rockets; Big
Mike, Ron and late night runs to Vegas, baby.
This book is being written in the heat of battle. As these
words hit the computer screen, we have a multitude of other
game, television, and film projects in various stages of
development and production. There’s a meeting across town
in two hours that we have to prep for, deadlines loom on the
near horizon, and deliverables are in various stages of
completion. In an ideal world, everyone we work with would
cut us some slack and we’d have the comfort to focus entirely
on one project, but life and opportunities don’t work that way.
So, when the chance to write this book came along, we took
it, eager to see where the journey might take us. We embraced
the potential chaos because that is often where real inspiration
What you’ll find within these pages is highly informed by
what is happening right now in the heart of the video game
business. Hopefully, what we share with you is not unduly
biased by the fact that the writing has often been interrupted
mid-paragraph by calls from the publishers, developers,