Otaku Dome had the opportunity to interview writer of the Tomb Raider reboot, it’s sequel, and the original Mirror’s Edge; Rhianna Pratchett. We talk the differences between writing for gaming, film, comics, and more:
1. First of all, thanks for doing the interview with us we appreciate. Second, you've been involved in almost every industry that has some form of an scriptwriting process. Can you explain the differences between writing for Film & TV, video games and comics? The main difference is that games are not often predominantly script/story led, they are gameplay led. So the narrative meat will need to work around the gameplay or, ideally, be entwined with it. Sometimes fleshing out the narrative and characters can even come quite late in the development process and you can sometimes find yourself trying to structure a narrative around a game that's almost entirely been designed with no narrative in mind. It's rather like trying to write a movie whilst it's also being shot. 2. Can you explain a little bit about how video game screenwriting works, is it similar to film & TV where you pitch a story to a producer or agent? Do the video game publishers/developers approach you for the story or do you and your team approach publishers/developers? Many people it's think it's a case of rocking up to a developer and saying 'Hey I have this great idea for a game!' But the industry doesn't work like that, because developers themselves have great ideas for games. So too do publishers. Unless you're a freelance designer with a great reputation or a big 'name' (Steven Spielberg, for instance) no one is going to be interested. You're either going to have to learn how to make it yourself or join a team and work your way up. If you work at a smaller, indie studio then you might have more of a chance of pitching your ideas, but with the bigger studio these are usually developed internally and then they search for a writer (that is if there isn't already one on the team, which is still quite rare.) Some developers are owned by the publishing houses and work exclusively for them. If that publisher is also a console developer (such as Sony or Microsoft) then they are known as first-party developers. Other non-platform publishers also own their own studios, such as Square Enix, which owns Crystal Dynamics. Lastly there are self-owned developers who are often smaller and produce titles for different publishers and also self publish. 3. How did the story of Mirror's Edge come about? Were you approached to write the script for a game that was already in development, or did you come to EA, and other developer/publishers for that matter? The game was deep into development when I was brought on as writer. In fact most of the game had been designed with no narrative in mind. So my job was basically to fold a story around the levels. It was rather a backwards way of creating a story, but that situation isn't that uncommon in games development. Often story can be the last thing thought of and the first thing broken apart by the rigors of games development. 4. How does writing the comic adaption of Mirror's Edge and other titles you've worked on that have been adapted into that field compare to writing it's original video game counterpart? Working on comics gives me more creative freedom. It also helps that, when it comes to game-tie-ins, I usually know the world and characters better than anyone else on the team. So often that means I can hit the ground running because I usually have lots of story ideas that I wasn't able to include in the game or didn't have the space to expand upon. 5. Of the titles you've worked on in the past, which do you think would work well on TV or the big screen? I think Mirror's Edge has a lot of potential. But then again a TV show from the point of an 'Evil' Overlord could be quite fun. Like a fantasy version of Doctor Horrible's Sing-along Blog. 6. Initially, Mirror's Edge fell a bit under the radar upon it's original release, but then later became a cult classic years later;. Were you surprised at the sudden spark of interest post launch? I wasn't surprised because there was something very different and refreshing about it. An experience gamers hadn't had before. And that can be quite hard to come by. 7. What are your thoughts on titles like Heavenly Sword still maintaining such a cult, loyal following that Hollywood is willing to give it a chance on the big screen? It's great that gamers still have such strong feelings about it after all this time. However, I was pretty surprised to suddenly see it pop up as a movie, utilizing the game's graphics. Especially since neither myself, Andy Serkis or Ninja Theory were involved in any way. I know they've made some changes to the story, so I'll be interested to see what they've done there. 8. Are their any up and coming writers in Film, TV, Comics, and Video Games that you're a fan of or have watched closely? Tom Jubert who worked on The Swapper and Faster Than Light is definitely one to watch. I also think that Mitu Khandaker, Zoe Quin and the Gone Home team are doing some great work. 9. Do you feel video game screenwriting & comic screenwriting is on equal grounds with Film & TV screenwriting? It's certainly not perceived as such. Also there are very few agents for games script writers, or widely recognized, union supported contracts either. Games writers do not normally get back-end deals (which surprises a lot of people) such as royalties or percentages of sales which you get In other entertainment mediums. We still have a way to go. 10. Do you think niche titles such as Heavenly Sword and Mirror's Edge can succeed in the gaming world if given he right opportunity? I think they already did succeed. Both sold over a million copies. They may not be huge sellers, but they both have dedicated fans who adore the games. So I'd call that a success. 11. How did you feel about not being apart of the upcoming Mirror's Edge prequel? Was it an personal decision to walk away, did EA want things to truly start over from scratch? EA never contacted me about working on the next Mirror's Edge game, so you'd have to ask them that.
12. Beyond screenwriting, is there any other process in the video game industry that you would have liked to have been apart of or have been involved with?
I think if I hadn't have been a writer, I would've liked to be a level designer. I love the idea of telling stories through an environment and adding little flourishes to make a world to make it feel like it's really being lived in.