Rebecca Harwick has over 13 years of experience as a writer and narrative designer in the AAA and mobile game industry. She is currently head of writing at Wooga, where she shepherds the company's writing teams in the craft of creating compelling character- and story-driven mobile games for a casual audience. Rebecca was the original lead writer for Wooga's most recent hit, June's Journey, which is the top hidden object game on the mobile market, and is in its third year of weekly chapter releases. Prior to working in mobile, Rebecca was a writer-designer on The Elder Scrolls Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic.
She is an experienced speaker and has given top talks on narrative design and creative vision at Devcom, Quo Vadis, and AdventureX. She was born in the United States and lives in Berlin, Germany with her wife and daughter.
How to Embrace Serialized Storytelling in Games and Have Fun Doing It
The games-as-service world can be a scary prospect for writers and narrative designers, but it doesn’t have to be. Like other serialized media before them, narrative has a key role to play in keeping players engaged in games for years at a time. Stories form an emotional connection between players and the games they play, and telling long-running serialized stories in games can be a fun and rewarding creative challenge. How do we embrace this challenge without burning ourselves out?
My talk draws from my years of experience writing games that do not end, from MMOs (Star Wars: The Old Republic, Elder Scrolls Online) to mobile hits (June’s Journey), to share insights into how to create hit serialized story-driven games without burning out or losing your creative spark, including:
- How to build a narrative engine. What is the engine that drives your serialized story? How to make sure you’re starting with a narrative framework that can last for over a hundred chapters and that won’t burn your team out.
- The art of the cliffhanger. A good serialized story keeps the player wanting more. What are the best cliffhangers, and why is it important to give players resolution even in a game that doesn’t end.
- What the show Friends can teach us about writing serialized games. Sometimes people just want to hang out with a group of familiar characters and see what kind of trouble they get into. How to create a cast of characters that feels like catching up with old friends.
- Why gating is good, actually. Whether writing a AAA game with regular downloadable content updates or a free-to-play game that will run for 10 years, writers have to contend with the way game mechanics and objectives gate the story. Gates keep both players and teams from burning out on the game. How writers can embrace gates as a storytelling tool.
- Toying with player expectations. Writing a live game means you can get current feedback from players on your most recently released chapters. How to use player feedback to give them the story they never knew they wanted.
- Staying creative after 100+ chapters. After releasing a chapter every week for over two years, how does the team continue to develop stories to tell and avoid jumping the shark? The importance of refreshing your narrative vision, going on vacations, and bringing new writers into established teams. Anyone with an interest in how to better tell long-running stories in games without burning out their teams is sure to find something of value in this talk, which uses a mix of data, hard-won experience, and entertaining anecdotes to illuminate a challenging and rewarding way to tell stories.