EDGE MAGAZINE #3

So the ideas had to be big – and of course sustainable, as well as being highly adaptable. The same can be said of any novel or series of novels. But the main consideration with a game is it has to be threaded around a linear arrangement of connected possibilities for game play. Where in a novel you could have the action belting along at a pace guaranteed to keep the reader breathless, in games the action or story progression slows or even stops so that some trademark puzzle situation or gaming involvement can be staged. This is a slight oversimplification but from a writer’s perspective it is how it felt for me.


For me as a writer game requirements are a frustrating block on the pacing and sheer dramatic sweep of the story, but as a games professional I knew that this is the whole purpose of gaming structures and I cut my cloth accordingly. Also, depending on the skill level of the design team & CG artists, these puzzles or ‘asides’ to the story’s progress could be astonishing both in beauty and the imaginative challenges they provided. Any locations I visualised would be generated in awesome detail and I just couldn’t wait to see how my ideas would come to life. It was one of the most exciting periods of my life - up to that point. I was working with some massively talented professionals with long years in the industry and the Tomb Raider universe in particular. I would see my characters and imaginative locations realised in radiant 3D.  So, understandably, my hopes were high. We could set new standards, do things never before attempted in contemporary gaming scenarios, both in story terms and game play…the range of possibilities was heart stopping. That’s how dreams are created. Unfortunately it isn’t always how they end.


As a writer another consideration was that of branching dialogue, situations where any number of characters’ mutual responses can take the narrative in a different direction. This is intended to give the game player the illusion of making real choices that control the direction of the action. Of course all those resulting variables had to be worked out in minute detail, with characterisation and motive and future outcomes born in mind from the outset! The amount of work and forward planning for that dynamic became one of the most challenging tasks I had ever tackled. Even now, years later, thinking of what I took on gives me shivers. It was a damn near-vertical learning curve but I quickly evolved ways of organising the monumental amounts of material generated. And I still use that hard won skill set today in any writing I do, specifically with the multi-layered stories and themes of my current novels The Shadow Histories.


Another factor was that I would be working with the team that had been bashing its head together for six months. Initially I wanted to see if it was possible to incorporate anything they had come up with in that time. There wasn’t much that was usable. Put another way – there was nothing. Obviously a totally fresh start was the best approach and at least two of the team, James Kenny and Pete Duncan, expressed much relief that headway had begun to be made at last. We set off kicking around some possibilities and pooling first thoughts. We were all clear on what we didn’t want to do. Clichés were to be avoided at all costs.


After this initial stage I began steering them towards what I had had in mind from the beginning. In general these were what I had outlined during my interview. We would build on an epic theme of ancient evil with roots going back into the timeless landscapes of Cappadocia in Turkey, medieval blood artefacts of unholy power (we started with discs, moved on to blades, orbs and stones and finally settled on paintings) and an undying member of an ancient brooding race intent on re-establishing an oppressive world order.