Blizzard: Game Developers Are Not Shakespeare, Need to Stop 'Writing Books' in Games

By Nick Breckon and Chris Faylor, Mar 26, 2009 4:36pm PDT During a presentation at this year's Game Developers Conference, former World of Warcraft director Jeffrey Kaplan took a moment to address the lengthy exposition that plagues numerous games, including those developed by Blizzard.

"Basically, and I'm speaking to the Blizzard guys in the back: we need to stop writing a fucking book in our game, because nobody wants to read it," he explained.

"We need to deliver our story in a way that is uniquely video game," Kaplan, who left WoW to work on Blizzard's next MMO, explained. "We need to engage our players in sort of an inspiring experience, and the sooner we accept that we are not Shakespeare, Scorsese, Tolstoy or the Beatles, the better off we are."

However, Kaplan did offer consolation to his fellow developers. "If it makes us feel better, Shakespeare couldn't 3D model his way out of a paper bag," he noted.

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  • Its not so much the fact that story does not have a place in a game, its more the medium in which that story is told. For instance in the start of a game where the developers literally just tell you the story and show the text, almost straight from the user's manual. Would it not be easier to tell the story through the perspective of the character?

    If your making a zombie game, try avoiding laying out a huge history of some horrible military experiment going wrong in some narrated text or even cut scenes. Instead, display the back story in-game, such as a group of people hunkered down in a bunker listening to a radio or watching a television trying to find any news they can. Place newspapers around the room scattered around with large headlines and images. This greatly enhances a sense of immersion.

    Tell the story using the medium of the game, don't span into the medium of books (unless your game revolves around them intentionally like Myst). it only takes a little more creativity and more programming, and it is totally worth it. Like the in-engine cut scenes used by Gears of War.