Welcome

Hello, and welcome to Mostly Harmless: writing for games.

We are writers providing a specialised writing service for all forms of computer and video games*.

What is ‘writing for games’ ?

Settings, mission briefings, cutscenes, NPC dialog… pretty much all the things that aren’t art, music or code. Take a look here for a more detailed discussion.

Why do you need to specialise ?

Because game writing isn’t like other forms of writing. It’s more about building consistent worlds than telling a single story. You have to be aware of possibilities, of different approaches, of what the player has and hasn’t done and seen (ie avoiding dissonance). You also have to make sure you can deliver this without needing massive development resources.

We’re ideally suited to this because we’re not only professional writers of professional words, but we have wider development experience in the games industry – Andy, for example was originally a games and AI programmer who got involved with the writing because nobody else wanted to do it.  We won’t suggest something technically nightmarish to implement** but will suggest narrative solutions to gameplay or engine problems (aka Narrative Engineering) which can actually save development effort.

We also recognise that just producing a Word*** document full of text is only half the job. We can supply work in any ready-to-go format you want – even as source code if you like, straight to your source repository – to spare you having to spend hours slavishly re-formatting everything. And then doing it all again when we implement the next draft. For spoken words we can give you placeholder files, or even arrange voice-actors, direct recording sessions and deliver the finished product.

Also we realise that it isn’t just a case of handing over the finished writing and forgetting about it; We can respond to relevant feedback, QA and bug reports and if a section has to be dropped before release, re-write to make sure any narrative doesn’t suffer.

Why don’t you call it scripting ?

Because scripting means something different in games – using a specialised programming language to control a game’s events. Games writing can contain an element of scripting, for example in dialog trees, but scripting is usually what a level designer will be doing.

Go on, admit it, you really want to write films don’t you ?

Um, no, not really. We love games, we grew up with them, we understand them. Who wouldn’t want to help create worlds you dive into, stories you become part of and become part of you?  Films are great, but they’re just not games. Besides, Jamie already wrote a film – which actually got made, in 1996 – but let’s just say he learned the painful way why so many British films are barely fit for landfill by the time they hit the screen.

Done it before then ?

Certainly have! We’ve worked on several***** published titles, by Nintendo and Barnstorm games, covering written words and speech (including recording and processing), film adaptation, childrens’ games, educational titles, and getting Brian Blessed to shout ‘Super Jackpot’.  Tangentially we’ve also written for games magazines Edge, Retro Gamer and Develop. Forgetting games altogether we’ve written screenplays for film, directed theatre productions and produced many words for short deadlines in print journalism.

Got any qualifications, then?

There aren’t exactly many qualifications specifically for games writing, but Andy and Jamie have degrees in Computer Science and Drama, respectively. Oddly, both were accepted into university to study English Literature, but found something more fitting.

Our main qualification however is that people have been happy to pay us money in exchange for words.

Why are you called ‘Mostly Harmless’ ?

Ah, you’ll need the Tortuous Explanation page.


* Although we’re also happy to write for wargames, board games and RPGs. We grew up in Games Workshop, and Andy can often be found reading RPG scenarios and supplements for fun.

** Hey, you know what the next version of Angry Birds needs? A dynamic story engine with real-time voice-recognition, full mental-state simulation and natural-language conversation parsing!

*** Or more commonly an Excel spreadsheet.

**** Nine, in fact: two each for Nintendo and Barnstorm, one each for Konami and Atlus, and three for Immersive Education, plus numerous pitches and prototypes. Also another one for Square/Enix that hasn’t yet been released.