2, Issue 9
January 24, 2000
pleasant female voice speaks in your ear: Good morning,
and welcome to the Black Mesa transit system. This automated train
is provided for the security and convenience of the Black Mesa
Research Facility personnel..
takes you through a twisted maze of tunnels, deep underground.
As a First Person Gamer, you see things youve never seen
before. A mysterious melody is felt more than heard as you descend
deeper into the labyrinth that is Black Mesas Headquarters.
Large multi-legged spiders move materials from one location to
another. Security guards walk along skinny platforms and knock
against nondescript doors. Scientists move about performing complex
experiments that the average layman couldnt possibly comprehend.
This is a place youve never been before.
the game that is Half-Life. Awarded Game of the Year
by over 40 publications, its revolutionary single-player game
brought the FPS world to a new level of awareness. Half-Life
proved to gamers everywhere that you dont have to sacrifice
story for action. Indeed, the story of Gordon Freeman and the
experiment gone wrong at the Black Mesa Research Facility is as
immersive as it gets.
article well take a look at story development in several
top-notch games, and talk to the industry giants behind them:
Marc Laidlaw of Valve Software (Half-Life), Justin Chin
of Infinite Machine (Jedi Knight while with LucasArts),
and Tim Schafer, formerly of LucasArts (Grim Fandango).
question centered around the initial stages of game concept, where
the inspiration and ideas come from that start the creation process.
Key to my thinking were two things: First, whos involved
with the creation, and second; whether they constantly have to
remind themselves theyre making a game and therefore have
Well, most of the design work at Valve starts off as a team
effort -- thats the most significant initial difference
in the way I approach the story for a game. I dont continually
remind myself that Im working on a game and not a book
or a movie, though-the constraints come into play soon enough.
First, its nice to try to think of all the things youd
really like to do, and work out a story that will allow you
to do them. Its inhibiting to imagine a great dramatic
moment and then start worrying about if the framerate will allow
it. We go from whiteboard scrawls to outlines to fully detailed
specs with dialog and scene descriptions.
Tim Schafer: Honestly,
I sit down with an empty notebook and just free-associate. It's
a writing technique I learned in this seventh grade English
class I took. You pick up your pen and you just write, and the
only rule is you can't stop writing, even if you're writing
gibberish. So most of what I write sounds like this: "The
game, the game, the game, must think about the game, and not
about my transmission leak. Must figure out the bad guy's name
today. Man, this coffee tastes bad. Maybe the bad guy's name
is CoffeeHead. Java man. Bean grinder. Toaster head. Krupps.
Braun. I'm getting a headache. There's a chip in my mug. The
bad guy's name is Chip. Chip Mocha. No, that doesn't sound evil
enough..." And I don't think I try to worry about forcing
the story into a game, but maybe I do that subconsciously because
I know what works in a game by experience.