Chris Avellone Interview

Gamasutra is offering a four-page-long chat with Obsidian's creative director Chris Avellone, on subjects such as crowdfunding, Project Eternity, Planescape: Torment, Fallout: New Vegas and writing in videogames in general. In other words, the usual subjects.

Here's a snip:
I've heard you talk a lot about the narrative design work that Obsidian does, which is a topic that I find isn't discussed all that widely in the industry.

CA: We've had to make a lot of mistakes in that process over the last few years. A lot of [what I've said] is just stuff that shook out as a result of that.

What kinds of mistakes have you made?

CA: There's been quite a few. Characters have delivered too much exposition, rather than just showing it in the environment. That seems like a really obvious thing, but I still catch myself doing it. Or designing companions that -- while they may be interesting -- don't lend themselves to any other game mechanic and therefore become useless and are never used.

What about in terms of the differences between narrative in film or books, versus narrative in games? It seems like there's some key differences that a lot of games don't really seem to pick up on.

CA: I think that people [in the industry] are appreciating scriptwriting talents more, especially as games become more voice-acted and cinematic. I [think that for] anyone pursuing narrative design, scriptwriting is the best way to hone your craft, because it's a lot of what you're going to be doing. It teaches you all the brevity; using the environment to communicate a situation, as opposed to just the flat-line vomit of text, like Torment had. Which we had to do at the time, but that's more of a novelistic approach to writing, which isn't necessarily the best fit for games.

Also I think comic book writing lends itself to training you to write dialogue for games, just because you have to think so visually about what's happening in the environment. I really enjoy writing comics. For Star Wars [Knights of the Old Republic II], for example, I found myself thinking about the process a lot differently. About how the shot was framed, what was being shown, and how that reinforced what the characters were saying and [their interactions].