Writing with Bones

One thing I have noticed about my process (so far), is that I have about 3 stages of approach to my dialogue. My first dialogue draft is always functional. I include everything I need to say regarding communicating relationships (between PCs and NPCs, and between NPCs), plot points, and if applicable goal or gameplay information. The second approach (which may be multiple drafts) is to try and apply a speech and character-world-view style that I think is needed or optimal. This is about trying out something new, something that is meant to make the writing better. My final stage then is about me integrating everything that has come before with my own personal style. It is about remembering how the only way I can do interesting things, or at least get satisfaction from what I’m doing is to go back to my own voice. I then mix together what is needed (making the functional implicit), what I learned by experimenting, and then drive it all with what I know and love.

What is difficult about these stages is that prototyping occurs during the first two stages. This means potential players are first exposed to my writing when it is at (what I call) the ‘bones’ stage — the flesh hasn’t been added yet. At first this was really hard to deal with. The last thing I wanted was people to see my bones. I wanted to yell over their shoulder: “that isn’t what the world will be like! that isn’t what I’m intending! That isn’t what I’m capable of!”. Some understand that it is just a prototype, but most have no idea that writers don’t spurt out finished words first go. I remember listening to a great podcast with Amy Hennig and Ken Levine talking about being Creative Directors and writers on games. I loved hearing that they are sometimes changing things up to the last day, and that they have teams that trust them to do that. They know they will come through.

Indeed, on most of my recent projects my programmers have come up with ways they can easily update the dialogue (even up to the last build). It is so important that element isn’t locked off as I am busy project managing first, then addressing design, and then making all the internal changes needed to get the dialogue right. Dialogue is such a personal thing for me and so as my world-view changes so does my dialogue.

I think I will like the opportunity to tweak these elements until the end (if the text is automatically generated, not images). But I am looking forward to seeing if my process will change. It has already in the sense I know what my favourite *voice* is. But I still seem to take all these steps. I guess the space is needed…

“Ry Cooder’s cover of James Carr’s “At the Dark End of the Street” ~ via Darren Tofts

Madrid and Working on Magister Ludi


I had a great time in Madrid at the Transmedia Living Lab. I really enjoyed catching up with David Varela, Simon Staffans and Robert Pratten. I also enjoyed having a mini-holiday in the afternoon and evenings in Madrid: wandering the streets looking for the best Gin Mojito, shopping, sitting in the park, seafood paella dinners at 9pm. There were a lot of students, researchers, and practitioners at the event, and there was plenty of opportunity for lengthy Q&As — so that made it a more satisfying experience.


While I was in the air flying back from Madrid, a sneak peek of my forthcoming game Magister Ludi was shown at a private Experimenta event. Magister Ludi was also selected as part of the Freeplay Independent Games Festival event Parallels. I recorded a video to describe the work and Goldie (the artist) helped out with doing a bit of a walkthrough. Very excited.

Indeed, production of Magister Ludi has continued since I have returned. Along with the Art, Sound, and Programming, this week has involved finishing the installation part of the work. I bought an original 1950s school desk and had Greg Quincey do the carpentry to install an iPad. The carpentry ensures the iPad is secured along with the cords, but at the same time makes it easy for the exhibition staff to open the panel and make any adjustments. I have tested downloading the build through TestFlight with a special account I created for the iPad, so we can update the game easily while it is on the road if necessary. We have to make sure the installation can tour easily as the Experimenta Recharge event tours Australia for a year.

photo (5)

Along with the equipment is of course the game elements. Cameron has set up special Google spreadsheets so I can update the dialogue any time there, and then he just downloads and imports it to Unity (as opposed to him copy and pasting from a spreadsheet). This works much better and frees me up to keep making tweaks. The Art for most of the rooms is done, and so is the Sound. Goldie and Trevor have done a great job (and Cameron), and so I’m really looking forward to seeing the entire build together (and then tweaking). The game will be available online as well, so anyone not in Australia or not able to go to the exhibition can experience it as well. More news soon!

magister ludi screenshot

Announcing my new game coming soon: “Magister Ludi”

I am excited to officially announce I have a new game coming out soon. I have been commissioned to create a game for Experimenta‘s 6th International Biennial of Media Art: Recharge. The game, called Magister Ludi, is an escape-the-room game with a twist. It is a game about our role in needing to escape. I personally love analysing my thought processes. I observe the way I think and I watch the way other people think. Games are a format that allow me to communicate the inner workings of thought processes.

Magister Ludi is a personal game about the thought processes I have needed to do to move beyond the experience of abuse and poverty. I found that there are two steps I undertook to successfully leave these patterns behind. One is to understand how outside forces think (people and systems), and the other is to understand my role in living with them. Realising how gaslighting works for instance, and how I was complicit in the effects. Realising how I sacrificed my well-being for the sake of others, whether they be a person or a debtor. It is about the reprogramming I have undertaken to ensure I never fall into an abusive relationship again, and never move into poverty again.

My awesome collaborators on the game are artist Marigold Bartlett, who has worked with me on my physical party card game DIY SPY School; sound artist Trevor Dikes, who worked with me on the web audio adventure AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS; and new collaborator programmer Cameron Owens of Attract Mode Games (who are about to release their game Tail Drift).

The game will be launched late November in Melbourne, and there will a special sneak peek has been selected for Freeplay’s Parallels showcase next week at ACMI! There has been some press about the game with Time Out, Fluoro, and Game Could:

I am looking forward to hearing what you think of the game…OMG! 🙂

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