Video games are a huge industry, worth billions of dollars every year. But the people who make them don’t work in a vacuum. They need to know how to write a video game script. Luckily for aspiring writers, there are some simple rules you can follow to create your own video game story and get it made into one of the next blockbuster games that everyone will be playing!
Let’s take you through a video writing game example
These 7 points are a guide to help you write better story arcs for game scripts. They are meant as general advice, we will go into more specific detail later on.
1. Understand the structure of a video game
Writing a video game script starts with understanding the structure of a video game. Unlike movies, which have a more “thematic” or story-driven approach, video games depend on players to take an active role in the storytelling process. For that reason, it’s best to start thinking about what you want your player character to do. Not just what you want them to say, but how that will map out within the game itself. The more active the characters are in their environment, the better your game script will come to life.
2. Introduce your characters and setting
The next step in game writing is to introduce your characters and setting. This will help you as video game writers to know the kind of environment that the player character is in, and what they want or need in order to progress through it. The more appealing these elements are the greater chance you have of getting a publisher’s interest in the idea!
3. Set up the stakes for your game story
The final step in writing video game scripts is to set up the stakes and goals for your characters. The best games out there all revolve around one simple goal: Your player character must do X to achieve their goal of Y. For example, you might say, “the protagonist wants to save the world from an evil robot dictator.” You need to know what exactly needs to be done in order to achieve that goal and create a roadmap for your character’s development.
A good video game writer will always have a game design plan to bring out the most in his own story. A great video game script is one that follows these game development process tips.
4. Write your first major story scene
Once you have your roadmap set out, it’s time to write your first major story scene. This is the most important part of writing a video game script, because this is where you will get feedback from your publisher on what works and what doesn’t work in terms of gameplay. There are some things that need to happen for your game story to be satisfying, and it’s your job to write video games and make sure all of those critical pieces are in place.
5. Develop your plot points in
The next step as a video game scriptwriter is to develop your plot points. Don’t worry about the minor story beats just yet, think more about where you want the major turning points to take place and make sure they are believable within the context of your world (e.g., if you want to be serious with a dramatic sci-fi game, don’t have your characters break into song and dance!)
6. Fill in the gaps of your story
The final step of writing a video game script is to fill in the gaps of your story. This means having sub-plots that are interesting enough to keep players engaged through the major plot points of your game story. It’s important to remember that sub-plots only work if they are relevant to the main plot, so keep it simple and limit your sub-plots to two or three at most unless you’re an experienced narrative designer.
7. Polish your script until it’s ready to go
Once you’re done writing your video game script, it’s time to polish and put the finishing touches on it. This can include adding dialogue that characterizes each major player in the story and making sure that all of the plot points are tied up nicely.
You might need to make some big changes in order to accommodate for the strengths and weaknesses of your game development team, but in the end you should have a story that’s satisfying when it’s finished.
Character descriptions, development and world-building
Game script writing is a video game production process that takes years of refining and constant reworking. It’s your job as a game writer to create characters that players can care about, and build worlds that encourage them to immerse themselves in the experience you want to convey.
For example, let’s say we wanted to write a video game with the story “a young mage must save the world from an evil demon.” There’s nothing wrong with this setup, but it doesn’t really allow players to get invested. So let’s change it up a bit!
“A young girl whose family was killed by a mysterious dragon vows revenge on all demons and their kind after she discovers her magical powers .”
Just by adding a few layers to the setup, players are allowed to relate more to the protagonist and invest in her journey for revenge. It’s important to remember while you write your game script that your characters are real people dealing with real problems. Your job is to create emotional situations that will bring out empathy from anyone playing.
A player character dynamic is vital to write video game scripts that don’t suck. If you want to make it in the game industry. Game developers are always looking for interacting to increase engagement from users. Interactive storytelling with compelling voice actors will go a long way to making games stand out.
Some nuances on character development for writing game stories
It’s also important to remember that not all characters need to be likeable. You can still create compelling dynamics between characters by having some who are loved by the player and others who are loved by NPCs (non-playing characters). Just make sure your overall mood is consistent with the main story tone you’re trying to convey.
For example, if you want to create a dark and serious tone, don’t have NPCs constantly making jokes about random things throughout the game (I got hit by an arrow in the knee!). If you plan on using humor in your game script, make sure it’s used sparingly or not at all so your game doesn’t become too jarring for players.
The same principle goes for world-building! Your job as a game writer is to create an interactive world for players to explore and get involved with. It’s important to include backstory for your game’s lore (e.g., that dragons are evil creatures that kill families) so that it doesn’t feel like you’re forcing the story on the player’s playthrough of your game.
When you’re writing game stories for your next masterpiece, remember that story is integral to any great game. Good storytelling can bring up emotions you wouldn’t expect from video games and make players more invested in the gameplay. The player must care about what they’re doing, or it won’t matter how fun a time they’re having.
World building must support your game story lines
Building an immersive world for players to explore is very important. An interactive game with a blandly written story just adds up to another failed video game that no one will remember in the future
It’s also important that your fictional worlds are consistent throughout the entire playthrough of your video game! If you say that fire mages can only light things on fire with their magic, then you should never have other mages lighting things on fire in a way that contradicts this.
The same can be said for character dialogue! If your best friend is talking to you the whole time about the hardships of being a mage and how much he hates it when villagers treat him like a monster, don’t make him say “I love being a mage!” in the next cutscene. Keep your world consistent, and always check over your game story lines to make sure they make sense with what you want to convey.
It’s important when writing video game scripts for games like these that you don’t add too many twists and turns in the story. If your friends betray you at the end, that’s fine! Just don’t have them betray you again 3 hours later for seemingly no reason.
If players see something coming 10 miles away, they’re going to be mad because it’ll feel like an unneeded twist just to surprise them and make them invested in the story when they weren’t supposed to be.
Another important writing tip for game writers is not to keep the player on the same path all the time. Don’t make them go where you want them to go; instead, give players some freedom by allowing them to choose what they want their character’s next action to be.
When it comes to dialogue, don’t leave the player hanging with one line of dialogue for 30 seconds while their character talks to themselves in their head about what they should say next. If you’re writing game scripts for games that typically have an abundance of dialogue choices (e.g., RPGs), then this is something you definitely need to keep in mind.
As with any form of writing, consistency is very important when writing for video games. Short stories for side quests can be used to spice things up a bit, to give your main character some more time to talk with non playable characters. It’s not computer science, the more stuff you start writing, the more precious time a player will have to spend time exploring your world.
Writing for games includes lots of dialogue and storyboarding
It’s important when writing game scripts to keep your dialogue balanced, so it doesn’t get too convoluted for the audience playing the game. If you have a choice between giving someone one line or 8 lines of dialogue about something, stick to around 3-4 lines since too much wordy dialogue will make players want to skip through cutscenes.
For games like RPGs, it’s important to not give away all the dialogue choices in the cutscene before it. Players like to feel like they’re in control and make their own decisions when playing video games and not be forced into a decision or lose control of what dialogue options they want to choose from.
When writing game scripts for your story, always try to give the player choices that feel important. If they’re stuck between choosing dialogue that is either nice or mean, don’t make it too obvious which one the player should choose. Add in some variety, and let them choose what kind of character their character will be.
It’s also very important when writing game scripts to keep track of how much time passes between dialogue choices. If you wait too long before allowing the player to make their next choice, they might be impatient and not want to hear what you have to say anymore.
When it comes to video game story boarding (i.e., drawing out your ideas on paper), keep them as concise as possible since space is limited and you don’t want to overdo what you’re trying to convey. Stick with the most important parts and leave room for dialogue and character movement (if applicable).
A good tip is to draw out what your video game storyboard will look like before drawing it out on paper, as this can save time when actually drawing it out.
Examples of bad dialogue in a video game script
Don’t say: “Nice weather today, isn’t it?” It doesn’t add anything to the dialogue. Talking about the weather is not fun in real life, nor is it in video games.
Don’t say: “I love being a mage!” Do you go around stating the things you are & how much you love being that thing all the time? It feels a bit forced.
Do say: “C’mon, let’s go!” This is the most generic line in the game, but at least it doesn’t sound forced.
Don’t say: “Oh my gosh! Did you see that?!” Try to stay away from cliches when writing game scripts because players will instantly get turned off if they feel like they’ve heard this before. Something better would be a simple: “What the… f…”.
Another thing to avoid is having NPC’s state whatever is happening in front of you already. They say a picture is worth a thousand words… so clearly a video is worth a billion words. There’s nothing worse to find in game or movie scripts than a character talking just to further the plot.
How and why should I use a storyboard?
You can use a storyboard if you’re looking to create your own video game. For example, if you wanted to make an old school top-down Zelda-style RPG or even a puzzle platformer like The Adventures of Lolo, then having some sort of visual representation of the levels and characters is very helpful since it saves time and money .
A storyboard is also helpful for having your game judged by a publisher. This way the people reviewing it can see what you’re thinking of actually drawing out, so they don’t think that you just drew out random boxes on paper and thought that looked good enough to be in the game.
This is how you create a storyboard
Step 1) Draw out the basic layout of each room or level. This means you should have the floor plan of the room drawn out, not what’s IN it. That saves time since you can’t draw an infinite number of graphics for random stuff players might find in your levels.
Step 2) Once your storyboard is done, draw out the main characters and bosses for each level. Write down their dialogue so you have a guideline for how they should speak. You can also use your storyboard to help excuse any plot holes since it will help you remember what happens in every room and stretch of land throughout the game.
Step 3) Once the characters are drawn, create a story board image which overlaps them all together in order to give you an idea of how your dialogue plays out within the overall story. This shows you where the player will be during every scene and who they’ll be having a conversation with.
Step 4) Add in sound effects for each room, object, and character. It’s easy to go over board with this though, so make sure that if your video game is going to have sound effects, that you’re not adding too many. It can be overwhelming for players to hear multiple sounds at the same time since they’ll just want to shut their game off if it feels like an overload of noise.
Step 5) Create images of events/cutscenes in each level. For example, if there is a cutscene where the player is attacked by an enemy, then create the scene where the player fights back and defeats the enemy. Then you can use these to show how many events will take place during each level.
Step 6) Add in graphics for items used within levels. For example, if there is an item which allows players to teleport across rooms, draw out what the item (and the teleportation graphic for it) looks like.
Step 7) Add in images of the menus used throughout the game. This will show you what screen players are on at all times, since some games have different screens depending on whether or not they’re fighting an enemy, upgrading their stats, purchasing items, etc… (ex: Metroid Prime).
Step 8) Now it’s time to make your game! Add in all the dialogue, sound effects, graphics, events, and menus you planned out. Testing it as obviously an important aspect of this step.
How to pitch your game idea to publishers and developers
Now that you have your storyboard in order, it’s time to pitch it to a publisher or game developer! Keep in mind that when you’re pitching them your game idea, there are some things which they’re looking for.
Your game concept should be something new
First of all, publishers and developers are always looking for games which are new and different. If you try to tell them about a game which is already out, what they’re going to ask is “How will your game be better than the one that’s already out?”
For example: You want to make a clone of Pokemon where all the monsters are food items like cupcakes and ice cream cones. The player has to try and collect as many of them as he can by asking people if they would like to “MAKE FRIENDS WITH THEIR FOOD!” If your game is basically a baby version of an already existing game, then they’re not going to want it.
Your game should be something fun and entertaining
Secondly, you need to make sure that your game is going to be enjoyable and fun. Think about what would appeal to you as a player? Is it a first person shooter, or side scroller, or MMORPG? What features will make the game unique and stand out from other games like it already out there?
For example: You want to make a RPG like Final Fantasy, but with a unique twist which really makes it stand out from other titles in the series. You could add in a character who can time travel back and forth through different timelines to help fix the space-time continuum. This way, you have something new to pitch publishers when they ask “How will your game be different from [X]?” Your game should be something that can make money
Of course, you want to make sure that your game is something which will actually make money for the company who decides to invest in it. Think about what features would appeal to people who enjoy casual games (like Angry Birds) vs people who like to play console games (like Halo). Understanding your target audience helps you write better game scripts.
Finally – these are our tips specifically for aspiring game writers
You want to make sure that your game script is something which will appeal to the company you’re pitching it to. This means checking over your work and making sure there aren’t any spelling or grammatical errors, as well as making sure that the dialogue in your storyboard flows smoothly and makes sense. The last thing you want is for a publisher to turn down your game script because you didn’t pay attention to detail!
Learn about different writing techniques such as the hero’s journey
Studying different types of stories by reading books, watching movies/television shows, or playing video games can help you figure out what makes a story compelling to an audience.
Understanding how to make your game script better will help you in getting it read by the right people in the industry who are looking for good product ideas. By following our tips and tricks, you’re already making strides in the right direction!
Step 1: Create a storyboard of your game
Step 2: Smooth out all the details before sending it on to publishers
Step 3: Pitch your idea to friends and fellow writers for feedback
Step 4: Rewrite parts that don’t make sense – based on feedback
Step 5: It’s time to try and get your game out there, either by going to a game publisher or by creating it yourself.
If you follow these steps & guidelines, you will be well on your way to writing your own games!