Writing Excuses Episode 31: Talking RPG and Game Writing with Steve Jackson

One of the biggest areas of professional creative writing these days is game writing, and who better to talk to about it than Steve Jackson–yes, THE Steve Jackson. We start off trying to talk about game adaptations, and the challenges they present for writers, but then we devolve into a more straightforward discussion of writing for games.

This week’s Writing Excuses is brought to you by The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.


24 thoughts on “Writing Excuses Episode 31: Talking RPG and Game Writing with Steve Jackson”

  1. I must say that while this particular episode did not pertain to me, I was thoroughly entertained. Especially at the very end, in what I could only call the “?out-takes?”. It gives an insight into the personalities of those in the podcast that was refreshing.

    Being a long time and loyal listener I would like to meet any of you who happen to come to Dragon*con again.

    Thank you for the inspiration to begin writing again.

  2. I agree with Ben. This episode was not very informative to me as a new writer, but I’m sure it was to others. Regardless, the podcast is something I look forward to each week and am very appreciative of the efforts taken to produce this.

  3. The questions about the role of setting vs story in RPG writing reminds me of an idea that the Forge people call, in an obscure tribute to Douglas Adams, “the Impossible Thing Before Breakfast”. The claim is that it’s impossible for one person (the GM) to be the author in any traditional sense of a story where other people (the players) get to decide what the protagonists do. To the extent that the player characters are the stories’ protagonists, and to the extent that the players are really free to choose their actions, it seems that a GM (or a game designer) can provide a setting, a scenario, or ideas for stories, but that the form isn’t one that allows you to write too much story in advance.

    What do you think?

  4. I once read a fantastic essay by the creator of the Oddworld video games describing the key steps to level design, and I found them to be a fantastic guide that helps you create story opportunities without actually writing the story; I still use them whenever I run an RPG, and I’m sure they’d be valuable to game writing of any stripe. I’ll see if I can find the notebook with the full list, rather than saddle you with my half-remembered plagiarism version.

  5. Still having trouble getting these. Tried it through iTunes today, and it buffers and reconnects (YAY! I wanted that capability!) but it’s slow and crotchety. Since I’m not the only one with the problem, it’s not my machines… did something change on the host’s part a few weeks ago? Otherwise it must be something between those of us having a problem, and the host. Unless there’s something else going on.

    At this point, I’ve tried it with IE7 and FF2 on XP, and FF3 and iTunes on a Mac. I’m running on Time Warner’s Roadrunner service- the 10 megabit service. Located in the center of North Carolina, if that helps at all.

  6. Just for the record, I always just do the “Save Link As” option to download the MP3 directly from the Writing Excuses site, and have only had one issue (corrupted file) across all episodes. I then sync the MP3 onto my non-iPod player (hence not iTunes). Other than that, I’ve never seem to have issues.

    Though not as convenient as podcast feeds from iTunes, iPodders can do the same thing I do. Download the MP3 and then import it into your iTunes library. Then sync it up. Just tossing that out there in case this is an iTunes only type of issue.

    I haven’t been able to listen to the cast yet. Looking forward to it. Need to write some tonight first.

  7. That was an interesting podcast.

    The more Steve Jackson talked the more I thought that writing for rpgs and other games is kind a mesh between being a fiction writer and being a techinical writer. It seems to use both writing skill sets.

    Some game writers I really appreciate how clearly they explain rules or how to run the game. Others I really like reading the backstories and introductory text, but find the rules to be rather muddled. There are also plenty that really should just stick with the rules writing and really not trying to impress readers with their fiction prose. (I’m talking about all those writers out there that are so deluded to think I actually want to read their two pages box text. Just stop it. Once you’ve gone over four sentences of box text you’ve written too much!)

  8. Guerry – I’m not a pod person, myself ;)

    I just tried it because we dragged in my girlfriend’s mac and I figured it would be a good test.

    Downloading the file has similar problems- the file transfer dies along the way, often pretty early, but sometimes it even claims to be finished, though it’s not complete. If I try *enough* times, I eventually get lucky with the download. So I’m still getting the ‘cast, but there’s some kind of problem from here to there.

    It’s frustrating, because up to 3 weeks ago, there weren’t any problems. But starting with 29, something just has fits en route.

    Thank you for the advice, though.

  9. Skippy? I can email the file to you, if that would help. Send me a reminder mbarker at computer dot org

  10. The file download issues could be due to server load or due to peoples networks, I’ll be in contact with the sever host this week checking on my end but if it is sever load there won’t be much that can be done about it, WE doesn’t make enough money to cover a dedicated sever and probably won’t for quite some time.

  11. Just wanted to pitch in that I’m still suffering the same problems as Skippy. Also the older episodes which downloaded fine earlier, now show the same problems.

    I tried using another computer, but with the same result.

    Thanks for looking into it though, I really miss the podcasts

  12. This podcast took me back. Some of my earliest writing efforts were for AD&D modules that I cooked up years ago. One of them still bounces around in my head from time to time. I always intended to prep them for submission, but didn’t follow through.

    Honestly, upon returning to writing a while back, I’d not considered taking this angle. Some of my friends on livejournal do writing for games. Heck, Rhianna Pratchett, Terry’s daughter, writes for games.

    Perhaps I should look up submission guidelines…and stop thinking so narrowly.

  13. Since we’re all waxing nostolic for Car Wars (yep, me too!), I’d also like to remind folks of the “Uncle Albert” effect: if you didn’t have the latest game suppliment there was no way to remain competitive. This was much more of a problem with strategic games like Car Wars and Star Fleet Battles.

    However, most RPGs also suffer from this. Characters generated from the “core” rule books were not necessarily as cool as characters made from world-specific or class-specific expansions.

    If the player characters are the “actors” in the game’s “play” then the GM needs to be a careful scenic director and prop master!

  14. I have also been unable to download episodes 29, 30, and 31. I have tried both “save as” on the mp3, and using Itunes podcasts. Both of them die a few minutes through, no matter what time of day it is. I hope this gets fixed soon- thank you for looking into it!

  15. Sorry haven’t had a chance to call yet, I’ll do that in the next day or two.

    But, since it’s in my nature, I want to test one more thing. Try this link monkeysloth.net/write/wp-content/uploads/Writing_Excuses_Episode31.mp3

    That’s the actual, non-directed url for writing excuses content

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