27 марта 2017, Dublin City, Ireland

# Понедельник 50 твитов

Привет! My name is Char & I’m a writer at Larian Studios. I’ll be talking mostly about writing, but I’m happy to ch……


Apologies to you all, I can read Russian pretty well, but my writing is quite limited so I will tweet mostly in English this week.


Who am I? I write on Divinity: Original Sin 2 at Larian Studios for three days each week.


I teach narrative and RPGs at Trinity College Dublin (masters in media) & Dublin Institute of Technology (games design degree) for one day.


On the last day of the week, I write for myself. In this time, I work on my fantasy novel, articles, & assorted projects that make me smile.


If you want to know more about me - you can read here:


I wrote a piece for Хабрахабр on the writing team at Larian Studios a few weeks ago. It’s here for those interested:…


The focus for my week will be on writing for games. Writing for games is a lot like just … writing. The hardest part is getting started.


If you want to write for games, this week I’ll take you through starting writing, crafting a narrative game & building a portfolio.


Each day, along with the exercises, I will recommend three things at specific times.


2. A writing prompt to spend 5-10 minutes on at lunchtime


At any time, feel free to ask any questions! I’ll be in work during the day, but I’ll check in during tea break, lunch and evening.


So let’s get started. Today’s exercise is really easy: BUY A NOTEBOOK. You will use this for the exercises for the week ahead.

@gdunderhood I'd like to clarify, just in case, that by notebook you mean a notepad. Because a notebook in Russian tradition means a laptop

Ah, good point! Yes, I mean a paper notepad :-)…

@gdunderhood could you expand a bit more on your background in the industry, please? Was the Larian your first gaming company?

Sure! Most of my paid background is in tech - I worked for Google & Facebook most of my career. I left to write & d……


I built up a portfolio of interactive narrative (most important!) and was hired first by a company called iglumedia as writer on game E1027.


From there, one day I saw a tweet from our leader Swen looking for writers who could write "non-linear beats" & I sent him my portfolio.


I was hired as a freelancer first - to write tooltips & combat barks for Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition.


Then I was hired as a full writer for Divinity: Original Sin 2. And that's me so far :-)

@gdunderhood Or you were intentionally pursuing the path of interactive-non-linear narrative from the beginning?

In terms of game writing - I had already been pursuing non-linear narrative for ~1 year, but spotting that tweet wa……


RPGs have always been my favourite games, and getting to write them is basically the best job in the world.


To tell the full truth though, I should say when I left Facebook it was not my idea to write games. I wanted to write novels.


And still do! But writing novels is very lonely & very poor :-D
I find that creating balance of different types of writing works best for me


Morning tea!
Your talk today is Alexis Kennedy from Failbetter Games talking about crafting "real choice" in games:…


I saw this talk live-in-action and took a lot from it. Let me know what you think!

@gdunderhood from you on what place a writer's job takes in the gaming company like Larian. By place I mean a degree of involvement (2/3)

So, in my article for Хабрахабр, I went over the various responsibilities the writing team has (……


... a *lot* :-D
Together with the creative lead, the writers work on crafting core story of the game. We then create all of the characters.


Together with scripters (like wonderful @CadmusRu), we turn core story into interesting situations and moments, and then write the dialogues


Really - our greasy little fingerprints can be found everywhere in the game (and outside too, as we also write marketing content, etc).


Evening game!
The narrative game I'm recommending for your evening is a game about being a writer on a game (meta!):


This game was made using Twine, which is a super-easy tool for crafting interactive fiction. I'll talk more about Twine on Wednesday.


I am so grateful working at our studio is not like the studio shown in this game, but the meeting-horror reminds me of my corporate past :-D


Добрый вечер!
Let's get back to talking about that little notebook you bought today :-)


Make it a nice notebook, a little item that gives you joy just to look at, with creamy pages that are *just* the right thickness of paper.


Carry your notebook everywhere and write down everything that interests you as you go about life. It will all be seeds for future stories.


Little phrases & words that struck you at some point. Overheard conversations on the bus. Memories. Truths that give meaning to your life.


In this notebook, you will do your exercises for the week. You will write your exercises out longhand, not typed.


Tonight you'll place your new notebook by your bed with a pen.
You will sleep.
You will dream.


In the morning, you'll wake up and pick up your pen immediately.


First thing in the morning when your mind is fresh from the dreamscapes - this is a prime time to write...


... before your unique vision and outlook on the world is corrupted by other people.


Open your notebook and write longhand for 3 pages about anything even if what you are writing is “Why am I doing this? This is stupid.”


This is called "morning pages" and it is a tried and tested technique for accessing your creative self.…


You do not edit, you don't try to make it anything. Just keep your pen moving on the page. Ideally, you do it every day & spot ~patterns~


Trust me! From dreams straight to the page, this is a good start to your creative day. No phone, no people - just you and your thoughts.


Try it for just 10 minutes tomorrow morning and let me know how you get on. Sweet dreams, peeps <3

@gdunderhood Have you ever used ~45 options? :D

Never! I think the most in any of my dialogues is 9 options visible to the player at any one time :-)…

@_ARandom_ @gdunderhood probably not in dialog but if you count all situation solutions including sneaking, stealing, killing...

Good points from Slava here - the options in dialogue are not the only one. In reality, we have almost infinite opt……

@_ARandom_ @gdunderhood using journals, ghost talking and dialog itself there will be a lotta of options

# Вторник 58 твитов

@gdunderhood Since I didn't write for myself for a while, it was quite a refreshing experience. Need more time&prac……

Yes! It always feels good to get back to writing for yourself. And if you do it 3 days in a row ... then it'll be a……


So, I wanted to talk a little more about the morning pages exercise. Why do it first thing before looking at social media?


Well, (and I recognise the irony of writing this on Twitter!) - social networks are the worst thing for writing.


They throw the production/consumption balance off, because you *think* you are producing something, but you are mostly just consuming.


A big part of successful creation is simply the discipline to turn off the internet and turn on your brain.
Boring, yes.
Hard work, yes.


But true! No matter how much you read about it, there's no shortcut. There's no easy way. There is only sitting down and writing.


This is also a big part of why I like to do a lot of writing in paper notebooks rather than on my laptop.


The "morning pages" exercise comes from a book called The Artist's Way. I highly recommend this book for any creative person.


It taught me to pay attention to the world around me. Experience everything you can in the world & then retreat to create work from that.


Morning tea!
Your talk today is the great Meg Jayanth (writer of 80 Days) talking about creating unexpected stories:…


^^ And if you like these morning talks, there's SO MUCH valuable content on GDC Vault that is free. Advice from developers for developers.

@gdunderhood I'll just add this to your talk:…

Yes! More evidence for writing by hand here. Thanks, @mentaljunk!…


As promised, each day this week at lunchtime I'll give a writing prompt for you to spend 10 minutes on.


A prompt is anything that will spark your imagination, that will access your subconscious and get you into a writing flow.


You simply take 10 minutes to write - without your pen leaving the page, just like "morning pages" - on a prompt.


It can be anything. Each day I’ll give you a different one, which will give you an idea for how to go about finding your own afterwards.


Lunchtime Prompt:
Today's prompt is Baudelaire quote.
"an oasis of horror in a desert of boredom"
10 minutes, write write write, good luck!


The idea with this technique is NOT to craft perfect prose & stories at first draft, but to unlock creativity & ideas you can take further.


We'll talk about editing, honing & polishing later in the week. But to polish, there needs to be something there to polish first :-)

@gdunderhood Do you use this rule while working on DOS2 as well?

Yes! I write out my characters and ideas on paper first. Then I do my first draft of writing in our Editor without……


Then, I get up & get a drink of water or cup of tea, maybe do a little yoga. And THEN I return to the dialogue and edit, hone, polish, add.


I'm not saying everybody does this. And I'm not saying it's "the only way" to do it. But, all I can share is what works for me & this does.


Evening game!
The short game I'm recommending this evening is by one of my favourite writers, @slimedaughter:…


This one is special because it's interactive not just in the choices you click in the text, but in how you mark your own body as you play.


I won't say any more about it, save to tell you to turn up the sound (by @neotenomie) and please tell me your thoughts afterwards :-)


I've got some questions to answer & thoughts to share on story-craft, but I need to get home and eat first. Will update later this evening!


A few thoughts on STORY this evening.
What is "story"?
Usually I get my students to debate this for a few minutes.
It always ends the same.


Story = conflict.


But underneath that?


We tell stories to ourselves all the time (“I’m not good enough!”, “They’ll love me if I agree with them!”) and we believe these stories.


Our stories can uplift the heart or share in your sorrows.


So, if we see stories as a way to share ourselves with the world, how much *more* engaging can it be when we do it in an interactive way?


The interactivity of games changed stories forever … through offering readers/players CHOICE. And even the illusion of choice is powerful.


I'll talk more about creating meaningful choices on Thursday, but for now it's enough to remember the following as you do writing exercises:


1. Story = conflict

  1. Story + choice = interactive narrative

Finding/highlighting conflicts & choices in your work will make it stronger.

@gdunderhood Genre of interactive stories has begun to revive lately. How you consider, it is a temporary trend or interest won't decrease?

Well, maybe I'm biased here but I think we're only getting started with how popular interactive fiction will get.…


We're seeing an explosion of tools over the past few years: from Twine, to Inklewriter, to Fungus, etc etc.


As these tools become easier and easier to use, the whole process of "who can make" interactive fiction becomes democratised.


You don't need a fancy laptop, or years of skills and practice to make a game by yourself now. You just need willpower and enthusiasm.


And as the set of people who CAN MAKE interactive fiction grows, so too I believe does the set of people who CONSUME it.


At least, this is what I've seen over past ~4 years since Porpentine's "howling dogs" rocked GDC 2013 and my world:…


Question from DMs:
"Do you ever feel frustrated & stuck? No ideas for quests or you feel like your ideas suck? How do you deal with it?"


The answer, of course, is YES. I absolutely love my work, but I’d have to be a robot to never have moments of doubt and fear.


I’ve been sick past few weeks, & that has been very hard. I was too sick to work & it felt awful, like I was letting people down every day.


But those stuck moments happen when I’m healthy too. Some days, your mind is racing with ideas … and some days, it’s like an empty field.


I have a few remedies on those days:


1. My inspiration wall:
A wall of things that inspire me at my desk & I will look at that for a while to kickstart……


2. My inspiration books:
A stack of books at my desk that I can flick through for a few moments when I’m running on empty.


Books like “An Encyclopedia of Symbols”, Jeff Vandermeer’s “Wonderbook”, and whatever fiction and comics I’m currently obsessed with.


3. My yoga mat:
I have a mat in the office. On long days I’ll do a few sun salutations or headstand for a while: see the world upside down!


4. My colleagues:
I work with the most clever & creative people in the world. If I’m not sure of myself, I’ll bounce my ideas off them.


Their wise words always help. One of my favourite sayings ever is something @CadmusRu said to me once & I stuck it……


5. Time:
Try something else for a little while. I know that feeling you are talking about well & so I know that it doesn’t last forever.


It *will* pass. Have some ice cream. Hug a dog. When you get back to the work, it will be different, I promise! :-)

@gdunderhood what's a starting point for you: making a great story or embracing the medium of games though it?

Good question! When I'm writing my personal work, my highest aspiration is story. But for games, the focus must be……


Story is like the lungs of the game, but gameplay is the breath giving the lungs life. As game writers, we don't forget gameplay is king.


Especially in our game - you can kill anybody & still complete every quest! We embrace that fully as foundation block of our storytelling.

I feel like we should always embrace the ability to interact. All narrative driven games would've been better as books/movies @gdunderhood

# Среда 25 твитов

Morning talk!
Today it's a brief one, a microtalk from Emily Short on creating great protagonists:


Emily Short's website is probably the best resource for aspiring interactive fiction writers:


& you can follow her on Twitter too at @emshort!


Lunch writing prompt!
Take one of Jack Kerouac's 30 rules for writing and write freehand for ten minutes, keeping y……


These crazy little fragments of prose-poetry are great jumping-off points to writing some weird fiction.


This afternoon I wanted to point you towards some tools and resources for crafting your own interactive fiction.


Making something in one of these tools looks great on a portfolio if you are looking to get hired as a games writer.


First up is Twine. Twine is free, easy and extremely versatile. You can get it here:


If you can remember this format:


... you can start, finish and publish a Twine game today :-)


Next is Fungus. If you know Unity already, Fungus is your best option & it's made by my awesome friend @gofungus!


Last but not least for today is Inklewriter, a very intuitive tool that's been open source for the last year:


^^ All of these tools are completely free and easy to learn for anybody who has the tech skills to use Twitter (ie. very very easy to use!).

@gdunderhood can you share more of your thoughts about writing patterns? I was always curious about that in general, in human psychology etc

Sure! In the morning pages, the patterns I refer to are patterns of your psyche. You might feel generally uneasy in……


Through scribbling furiously every morning for 3 pages, you will find out. The same themes and topics will arise over and over.


As you write about them, you write *through* them... you learn more about yourself and what is important to you.


And those patterns, truths, "important things" you find: those will fuel your best writing. Or at least, that's how it has worked for me :-)


Evening game:
This evening's recommended game is by @WarrenIsDead and is an excellent Twine example. Use headphones!…


Bonus evening exercise!
Copy out a beloved passage from poetry or a book. Feel how it feels to have those good words flow from your fingers.


And to publish Twine games, it is super easy (and again, free!) to use Philomela. All you need is a Twitter account:


I also had a question in DM about good books for writers!
For me, these are my favourites:


2. Stephen King - "On Writing"


Today I was teaching!
Here's a bunch of my game design degree students working on their writing exercise for the da……


The best thing about seeing a group of people doing a writing exercise = every single one produces something SO different to the others.


A beautiful reminder of just how unique each person is :-)


# Четверг 11 твитов

Morning talk!
Alexander Bruce (creator of Antichamber) talking about the hard work it takes to build a success:…


I always assign this as homework for my students in first week of class. The idea of "what makes me different?" is important to remember.


Today we also have an afternoon talk!
Live at EGX at 2pm GMT (4pm MSK), our leader talks about writing characters:


Lunchtime prompt!
Pick up the closest book. Turn to page 37. Read third sentence. That's your writing prompt. 10 minutes, pen on page :-)


Evening game!
This evening's game is the maddening and brilliant parser game "Spider & Web":…

Been using @NotionHQ for awhile – one tool for all your docs, wikis, tasks. Can't ask for more. Check it out! 🌟…

Agreed! It's a great tool for collaborative work.…


Question from the DMs about what my favourite games are! I will give two lists, one for digital games and one for tabletop games.


Commander Keen 4
Secret of Monkey Island
Baldur’s Gate
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Dark Souls 3


... & the non-digital ones:

Pandemic Legacy
D&D (5th Edition)
Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective
Turtle Wushu


In terms of games that I feel tell really good *stories* - those would be Dark Souls 3 again, Dishonoured, Gone Home, Journey, Papers Please


Stanley Parable, Talos Principle, Thomas Was Alone, Ico, Uncharted 2, Broken Sword, Loom ... I could keep going, but I'll leave it there :-D


# Пятница 40 твитов

Morning talk!
Today's is from Mark Rosewater (designer of Magic: The Gathering) on 20 years of lessons in design.…


I think it's a great one. It's an hour long, but you can see the 20 lessons along the side and skip to the ones you are most interested in.


I'll have some thoughts to share later on meaningful choice and character creation, but I'd like to know if YOU have any questions?


Tomorrow is lovely weekend day off, so I'll have plenty of time to answer questions anybody has about work, writing, teaching, anything :-)


Question from DMs about why I didn't mention Bloodborne with Dark Souls 3.
Embarrassing confession... because I'm not very good at it :-D


I got a PS4 just to play it but I haven't yet got past the Cleric Beast (!!!) because it's so damn hard. Played DS3 as a Sorcerer with a bow


... and only in the worst cases did I need to whip out my uchigatana for close combat. Bloodborne's in-your-face fighting is *challenging*.


So, one of the interesting things I've noticed with my interactive narrative students over the past two years is this:


They begin writing their first game in Twine & the first "choice" moment they write is ... not good.


Not only is it not good, it is often not even really a choice, but an option.


As an example, from my 40 students last semester, 12 (TWELVE!) had as their first option, the character waking up & choosing between:


This is not a good choice, as if you "hit the snooze button" the next obvious choice is...the same one! Making choices meaningful is better.


Example - create a physical response for the player to choose their actions:


Example - allow them to make a choice that reflects their emotions/ethics:


An exercise we do in class is spend 5 minutes trying to craft a binary choice that 50% of class will pick first option and 50% the second.


This forces you to really *think* about choices you're offering & making them compelling yet distinct. Try with your friends in the pub!


^^ Bonus: It always leads to interesting philosophical discussions (and sometime shouting matches) too!


Another common thing I see with first works of branching narrative is offering too much choice, what I call "cheese wedge" effect.


You can imagine that if a writer offers a separate binary choice at every fork in the narrative, it can get out of……


A great concept to help this is "delayed branching", which is explained very well here by @dfabu of @choiceofgames:…

@gdunderhood > hit "snooze" button
> forcibly woken up
> the whole apartment is on fire and full of monsters
@gdunderhood if you wake up, you first notice kettle on the stove, which steam would trigger an inter-universe brea……
@gdunderhood will find it only at evening.
"Who the hell put the kettle on a stove" would be a theme of a first bra……
@Viruzzzkun @gdunderhood > hit "snooze" button
> die in fire
> ending 1 of 30 opened


@gdunderhood How do you create your characters? Do you have any pipeline for this? Any inspiration sources? The sam……

For larger characters, we create PAGES of story about their personalities. We'll ask ourselves lots of questions to……


What makes them tick? What hurt them so badly that it’s shaped their approach to the world and other people? How will they act in enmity?


How will they act in love? In friendship? How will the arc of their story thread through the tapestry of the overall story?


Then, to see if they work as real people, we’ll sit around a table and roleplay their responses to various situations (fun!).


For smaller characters, even if it’s just a trader with a one-line dialogue at the side of a road, we’ll still give them something special.


I'll often mix and match traits for characters from tarot archetypes, astrology profiles or psychological tests suc……


Most important thing to keep in mind = "Why are they like this? What happened to make them this way?" If you know that, the rest is easier.


A good example to think about for this is Batman. It's easy to understand Batman as a character when you know about his childhood.


Another useful (though in my opinion, over-used) tool for writing character stories is The Hero's Journey, the stru……


And being aware of the general "shape" of stories can help too. Here's Kurt Vonnegut's story shapes:


(As anybody who knows me could tell you, my favourite shape is "From Bad To Worse" :-D)


Evening game!
Today's was made for TEDxCERN 2015 & it does some really nifty things with the choices it presents:…


# Суббота 15 твитов

Morning teatime talk!
Today's is on engineering better dialogue for your games, from GDC 2014:…


Speaking of dialogue, use it! You can make your writing feel more "human" simply through using dialogue instead of regular prose.




2. 'Mom, can I go to the baseball game?’ ‘No.’ He didn’t go to the baseball game.


Even in a simple case like this, dialogue works better. These examples are from @108's essay on writing his novels:


.@108 & if you want a good example of what to avoid when writing dialogue in games, read part 6 of his article on S……


Afternoon exercise!
Why not try cut-up technique, where you cut existing text up and re-arrange it to create new te……


If you don’t want to destroy books (like me!), you can photocopy, or use magazines & newspapers, or even junk mail that comes in the door.


In terms of games I'm looking forward to playing, I've really got my eyes set in particular on two RPGs by smaller studios:


1. "No Truce With The Furies" by Estonian-based @studioZAUM. They are doing SO MANY interesting things. Check it:


.@studioZAUM 2. "Copper Dreams": cyberpunk RPG by 2-person (!!!) team @whalenought who made my beloved "Serpent in……


Evening game!
Today's is the multi-award-winning "Curtain" by my friend @dreamfeelx. You can get it here:


.@dreamfeelx What I love about this game is the personal story, written beautifully & given a disorienting feel by……

@gdunderhood btw, have you played Salt and Sanctuary? Nice DS-tribute mixed with platformer, was also made by 2 peo……

I hadn't heard of Salt & Sanctuary before, but I've added it to my list - looks very much like "my kind of thing",……

Who wins in a fight

Remember what I was saying the other day about perfect choices going 50/50 in a room?


# Воскресенье 12 твитов

Morning teatime talk!
Today's my last gdunderhood day & last talk I'll recommend is Neil Gaiman - "Make good art":…


Very solid advice to any creator! It's just 20 minutes long, and there's a transcript there if you want to run it through Google Translate.


An addition to "Make good art" has to be "...and then share it!"
Open up your little notebook, browse through, pick something you wrote...


Even if it's just one phrase, or 2 words that look particularly nice together. Share it!


Hardest part of writing/creating is sitting down and doing it.
Second hardest part is sharing it with someone else.……


I'm told tradition for last day of the account is to post a picture of your working desk. My desk is as chaotic as……


^^ You can see I need at least 3 paper notebooks at all times for my scribblings. Also, heaps of post-it reminders & lucky charms & junk.


I've also got a mini library building up at the side of my desk, I keep the books and games in it on a kind of rota……


My most important desk mascot is this owl my Mom got me for Christmas a few years ago - in front of him I place a b……


Last but not least, my inspiration wall which features Netrunner, tarot, vintage book covers, embroidered dragons,……


Well, that's it for me!
It's been an honour to be in charge of the account this week.
If you want to stay in touch, catch me at @AlphaChar!


Best of luck with all your future game dev & до скорого!