We go into the Oasis to see what Steven Spielberg’s latest sci-fi action flick really has to offer… First Look: ready player one review by Jamie White.
I’m sure there’s a lot to like about READY PLAYER ONE. The adrenaline pumping action scenes, the unique and intriguing concept about virtual reality video gaming, the discourse it has about our current culture and gaming. The skepticism about how advanced technology can just take over our lives, and even give us an outlet to create a new life. I, however, did NOT enjoy this. At all.
You may hear that a producer will only read the first 10-20 pages of a script – all the busy people we would be pitching to, rely on a great first ten pages to convince them a script is worth reading. This script would not (or should not have) made the cut.
The constant, highly expository voice-overs from the main characters, lazily doing the heavy lifting (the world building). It was infuriating. And oh boy did the voice-over not end there. Dear God… I could go on and on about how the script let this film down, but I’m sure I won’t waste too much of your time, so here’s a quick list.
That exposition throughout the first ten minutes. Then when the title card finally hit I thought “Oh thank ****! The actual film can start.” What was the first thing you hear next? That’s right – another voice-over. Man, oh man, did they overuse voice-overs in this film.
The dialogue was incredibly cringey. Anyone could’ve written the dialogue for this.
Certain “twists” or reveals were uninspiring and predictable. (People’s real-life identities, for example).
There was no sense of time in this film – it really felt like everything happened within 2-3 hours.
Character relationships were rushed, and, you guessed t, incredibly conventional and stereotypical. The romantic subplot advanced to “I love you” within 5 interactions between the love interests. I mean, c’mon.
I’ll stop there before I get too frustrated, but I do just want to add on one small thing. This film was set in 2040, but there was nothing to suggest that (other than the massive virtual reality world). Every reference or cameo was to something that was made over 20 years prior. Anything from Overwatch to Sonic to Asteroids was used – but we didn’t get any notion of what 2040 pop culture was like. Maybe it’s a criticism of the huge focus on franchises, but it still felt very jarring. As was the very 80s centric soundtrack – I get why they went that route, but it felt so wrong – GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY pulled it off perfectly, READY PLAYER ONE did not. If you wanna have the 80s culture play such an integral part have the protagonist be an 80s freak – it otherwise just felt out of place.
Phew! OK, so there’s my little rant. I didn’t wholly dislike the film, but there was much in there that took me out of the experience, and that’s what killed it for me.
What did you think of READY PLAYER ONE? I hope you enjoyed more than I did!
With the recent arrival of a new Elite Mentor joining the team (one who specializes in video games), Jamie White continues his look at how you can be successful at writing for video games.
After looking at the linear narrative to the Call of Duty games last time, I thought the next step would naturally be to look at games with an over-arching narrative, but with hundreds, maybe thousands, of variations and combinations.
For me, the story is almost always more important than gameplay. Of course, there are various examples where it’s the other way around (looking at you Bloodborne) but the story and characters are the most important thing in video games, as they should be for any medium.
And so, that’s why I love TellTale games, Life is Strange and Heavy Rain. These games can be played by any kind of noob, by a child, or even your dog. These types of games mostly rely on you just pressing buttons to choose one of four dialogue options or performing “Quick Time Events”. I’d hesitate to even call them games – more like… interactive movies. And you know what? That’s fine with me.
But these types of games are much more difficult to write than the linear narrative of Call of Duty or the Injustice games. Looking primarily at TellTale, they employ an episodic format for their game releases. So, The Wolf Among Us will have 5 episodes, or their Game of Thrones game will have 6 episodes, which are released every 2-3 months. But the seemingly impossible task comes from the amount of choice you have within these games. Choosing from 4 dialogue options is no exaggeration, and there will be a LOT of conversations throughout the game – sometimes they force you to make a choice (to kill one guy or another, to burn a magical tree or not).
The secret with these type of games, though, is the choices and dialogue options don’t really matter. They give the player the “illusion of choice”. So, you can easily write the basic outline of the plot, then go back in and decide where you want to have multiple dialogue options. Go back and write in a QTE as you would an action scene – but remember, the player can mess these up, so you’ll need at least two outcomes for each action the player does (or fails to do).
Check out this video to the opening of TellTale’s The Wolf Among Us. This is the very first thing the player does. It’s a great intro to both the series, the game, and the game type.
Just a warning there is some violence, swearing, and a talking frog in this video. So, you’ve been warned.
I chose The Wolf Among Us for a couple of reasons. A). I love it. I love the story, the concept, the tone, the themes. It’s brilliant. Go play it, or at the very least, watch the playthroughs. It’s worth it. B). It showcases really well all the elements of a “Branching narrative” game.
Just note how many multiple-choice options there are, how many places the player can actually screw up. Then think about all the potential consequences and outcomes to each different dialogue choice or failed action. There’s a lot, right?
The best advice I can think to give if you want to write this type of video game is… How would you (as an individual) find it easiest to write this opening scene from The Wolf Among Us? There’s no right answer. You can use Celtx (format it as you would when two people talk at once, then do the same for the replies), or Excel (put each dialogue/action option into a separate cell), Word, a flowchart. Whatever you feel would be the most efficient way to map out multiple dialogue and action options FOR YOU, is the right answer.
And if you feel a little overawed by this task, take a look at the time of the video linked. It’s just under 2 hours. Almost like a film! The episodic format of these types of games allows you as writers to use episode one as a learning curve. You find out the best way you write this type of game, take a break, then get going on episode two.
Next, I’ll look at open world sandbox games, tell you to stay away from writing things like Skyrim, and why make your own adventure novels could be an inspiration for writing these types of games.
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A year in the life of an innovative Script Agency… Facts and figures to mark two years since our successful relaunch in 2016.
It’s that time of year again where we look back on the previous 12 months and say “you know, we’ve had a pretty good year…” And we have!
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VIDEO GAMES AND BOARD GAMES: Mark Brendan (DIRT 3, F1 2010, WORLD IN CONFLICT, KINGS OF THE REALM, DRAGON RISING, SOLOMON KANE)
Meet our new Elite Script Mentor, here to help YOU get the best from your ideas for video games…
“Mark Brendan is a writer and game designer. He has worked on numerous games, both analogue and digital, for companies such as Games Workshop, Target Games, i-Kore, Climax, Codemasters, and Vivendi as well as publishing games related fiction and magazine articles. He is currently working on a Solomon Kane board game for French games publisher Mythic Games, and writing screenplays for Dark Matter Films, the production company he co-founded in 2017. His video game titles include DIRT 3, Brian Lara International Cricket 2007, Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, World in Conflict, F1 2010, and Kings of the Realm.”
We’re delighted to have Mark on board and we look forward to sharing new insights into video games for you from us, Mark, Habib Zargarpour (whose games credits include 007 and NEED FOR SPEED titles).
Of course, we’re still just as intent on screenplays and other writing as we’ve always been: check out the new categories of our Spring contest below!
Teleplays (long and short form pilots)
Books, including comic books and graphic novels
Video game scripts
Check out the PRIZES, RESULTS DATES, and JUDGES INFOHERE.
Meanwhile, here’s a reminder of what our Elite Mentoring services offer, and whose mentoring you can hire through us…
WriteMovies Elite Mentoring for Writers includes:
Constructive, professional, and honest feedback on the cinematic potential of your script by industry veterans.
Either: Personal mentoring by actual Hollywood Producers, Face-to-Face (if in Los Angeles) or on the phone; or, detailed notes encompassing feedback on dialogue, story line, structure, pace, characters etc.
Full analysis on length and effectiveness of story telling.
Accurate predictions on possible audience response emotionality and possible cult factor.
Professional advice on how executives and producers analyze your material and what they look for.
Pointers to convince executives and producers of your passion and competence as well as the box office potential.
Fundamental career advice on how to get agents, how to pitch and what to write.
The option for recommended scripts to be pitched to agents and producers in Hollywood.
All of which gives you vastly more confidence proceeding if you know your script is perfect.
Take the next step to get your script produced, with one of these top Mentors:
Writers always need to remember what emotional effect they want to have on their audience – and what emotional effect their audience will be expecting a story of this type to have on them. This is at the heart of making every scene and every sequence work well. You can play with our expectations and surprise us – in fact you will probably need to – but the key to it is to still give us the emotional effect we expect, in a way that we wouldn’t have expected.
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