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Patrick McLean, Liz Danforth and Colin McComb on Wasteland 2's writing

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Patrick McLean, Liz Danforth and Colin McComb on Wasteland 2's writing

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Sat 26 January 2013, 16:44:48

Tags: Colin McComb; inXile Entertainment; Liz Danforth; Patrick McClean; Wasteland 2

As you may know, Wasteland 2's pre-production phase concluded in November, and most of the writing team went on their merry ways. One of the writers, Patrick McLean, wrote about the experience of writing for Wasteland 2 on his blog:

Two weeks ago, I flew to Newport Beach and locked myself in a room with the rest of the Wasteland 2 design team. In this room was a three foot high copy of the complete game script, parts of which each person in the room had been writing for the last three months. To give you an idea of how much material this really is, a movie script is an inch, maybe two at the most. To say that Wasteland 2 is going to be deep and interactive is an understatement.​

We sat there for four days as all of the designers read through their levels. I have to tell you, these long days in the conference room at the Newport Beach Radisson – a room that looks and feels like the official corporate headquarters of the year 1984 – were absolutely magnificent. It was the creative process at it’s best. Good ideas got better. Bad ideas got reworked. And through it all the excitement in the room never flagged.​

So here are my thoughts on a few of the elements that made it such a good experience.​

1 – Everybody Listened

This is incredibly important. You can’t help make an idea better if you don’t understand it. And any feedback you might give without understanding is worthless.​

2 – Everyone was Generous

Coming up with ideas is hard work. So when someone else takes their brain and helps you with your problem (not merely trying to make it there own) it’s very generous. And very magical. And you know when you are in this environment when the work gets better, but you can’t remember who’s idea it was.​

3 – Everybody was Good

Sadly, this is not always the case. One of the primary reasons there’s not more great books or movies is that there is a shortage of talent in the world. People who are both talented, hardworking and play well with others aren’t as readily available as you might think. How wonderful it was then, that everybody involved had real talent, regardless of what they had or hadn’t done.​

4 – Everybody took it seriously

I’m not going to say that we didn’t have fun. We did. In fact, we laughed our asses off. But throughout all of it, everybody had the sense that we engaged in the making of something that is going to be both good and (in the sense that this word can be applied to an entertainment product) important. The nature of the game and the kickstarter funding gives a tremendous freedom from corporate bullshit and a tremendous responsibility to the fans themselves. The people who funded this effort are the smartest, best, most demanding audience for this kind of game there is. To his credit, Brian Fargo takes this responsibility very seriously. And so did everybody else.​

I don’t believe in magic. I believe in process. If you’ve got a good process, you are going to have a good product. And I can report with full faith, that this process has been awesome. My only regret is that I’m not going to get to discover this game by playing it for the first time in perfect, child-like wonder and ignorance. But you will. Lucky you.​

Liz Danforth, who worked on the original Wasteland, also had a few things to say about her work on Wasteland 2. While she was only assigned a "tiny corner" of the game, it turns out she completely outdid herself:

My deadline for the Wasteland work is next Monday, October 15th. After that, everything is in the hands of the InXile folks. What I’ve been writing is far deeper than they asked for (or even wanted, I have to say). I put 4-5 maps worth of work into one single zone — by analogy, writing half a novel instead of 4-5 short stories. That’s been both a good and a bad thing for me, but in the end it is my hope that players enjoy the hell out of it when it eventually reaches their hands.​

More recently, Colin McComb, in response to a question on his Formspring account, passed on this description of Wasteland 2's writing from inXile president Matt Findley:

We are really going for a literary feel for Wasteland, but it goes a lot further than the dialogs. Our keyword system means that every NPC that you converse with has significantly more text than they might in a normal dialog tree system. Our people need to know a lot of information about a lot of things to make their dialogs work and be meaningful. In addition to that we are really trying to paint a picture with words with all of the description text and the examine object text. The sum of all of this writing is an old school literary feel to the game that is our primary point of difference from other products. We also have the other things you mentioned, but the style and depth of the writing is our primary unique selling point.​

It is also safe to say that those of us writing Wasteland have been heavily influenced by the original Torment as much as the original Wasteland. The depth of our Wasteland writing is really a nod to both products.​


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