Dragon Age And The Art Of Story-Telling

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Stud gamer Evan Narcisse did this interview with Dragon Age developers Ray Muzyka and Greg Zezchuk. Here they are on doing the hard and necessary work of narrative:

You have to invest in the world, in the history of the world that a player [n]ever gets to see. It's like an iceberg; it's there and has weight, yet all the players see is this top part. But the top part feels real because of the other stuff under the water. You have to invest in a whole bunch of stuff to make that happen. You have to make sure the characters comment on the world, the exploration, the combat and interactions amongst themselves. You actually multiply the possibility space of what you have to manage and test exponentially, when you add a dimension like deeper story.

I had rather mundane, yet powerful, realization while reading this--these cats are writers, and that's why I love their games. One of the reasons why I don't spend much time fretting over newspapers--or even magazines--is that I've always been platform agnostic. From my days as a toddler digging the Last Poets and Gil Scott, through Rakim and Margaret Weiss, through Zora Hurston and Christopher Nolan, through David Levering Lewis and F. Scott Fitzgerald, through Jim Owsley to Christopher Priest, my mandate was the same--Tell me a story.

I never really worried much about the mechanisms or tools. I just wanted the writer to work for my trust, in his particular form. That notion of the iceberg which Muzyka offers is really the core of writing. It's what makes it so hard--all the extra work which no one ever sees--and also what makes your audience offer their trust.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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