Exclusive* John Sawyer, Lead Designer on Fallout New Vegas, Interview**

Yup, those are three asterisks alright. You see, it’s not actually an exclusive because anyone can see it over at Formspring. And, for that same reason, it’s not actually an “interview” either. THESE ARE BUT SEMANTICS. I asked John Sawyer a question on behalf of Nightmare Mode, and he answered! That’s an interview if I ever saw one!

Me: You said writers in the industry require a level of vocational knowledge. I know that I want to become either a video game writer or game designer someday. Can you tell me a little more about what you mean, and how you’d recommend acquiring these skills?*

Johh Sawyer: Computer/video games allow user input and user interaction. This can change many aspects of the narrative, including plot sequence and pacing. In most Black Isle/Obsidian games, it also means that the player can take the story in different directions. They can kill characters, change the outcome of a quest, skip steps in the storyline, etc. It’s important for writers to understand the mechanics players use in games and how they experience the story. It’s different from the typical movie’s two hour captive audience experience.

Playing games, especially RPGs, is a good first start to understanding how games work. Additionally, I would recommend that anyone who is interested in doing game writing should try making a very small mod. In addition to doing the basics of level layout and game play, script interactive conversations or cutscenes. Not many, just a few.

Because of the scope involved and the learning curve, I would recommend using Oblivion’s/TES4’s editor. The conversation tool can be daunting if you try to make the conversations too complex, but it will give you a good idea of how interactivity / choice / different outcomes can create difficulties for how you write and script things.

So, there you have it, folks. Want to write for the industry? Get cracking on those mods, yo!

*That wasn’t the original question, because like Twitter, Formspring only allows X characters in your question. The original question asked “….require a level of vocational knowledge that most people are not willing to learn,” which refers to a statement which he had made in an earlier Formspring answer.