Patrick E. McLean : Just what it says on the tin.

Writing for Wasteland 2

I’ve been hired to help write and develop Wasteland 2. If you’re not a gamer, or you haven’t played the original, some explanation of why this is so cool is in order.

The original

Wasteland was a seminal game and one of the best RPG’s ever made. In 2000 it was still ranked as the 24th top PC game of all time by IGN. That’s 12 years after it came out. In video game years that puts it back in the Sumerian era of gaming. Think the Nintendo Entertainment System. Think 5.25″ floppy disks, running on an IBM 8088. The entire game fit into less than a megabyte of memory.

Yet it was magnificent. This is the first game (and still one of the very few) I ever played where, the decision tree was so deep, I felt like I could do whatever I wanted to. Choices mattered on a macro and micro level throughout the game.

To be sure, there were a lot of innovations in this game, but it was the sense of depth and freedom that were (and still is) most remarkable. It was exceptionally well-written and had a darkly wicked and well-managed wit. Which starts to answer the next question.

How’d You Get Involved?

Well, it started with Kickstarter. The developer, Brian Fargo put it up for $900,000 and said, if the contributions hit that, he’d throw in a 100,000 of his own money. When it closed, the kickstarter hit 2.9 million.

Of course, I chipped in. But I also called Mike Stackpole (NY Times bestselling author and one of the original designers) and said, that I would be happy to pitch in some time as an in-kind Kickstarter. So I did some work and they really liked it.

Taking the Curse off of Video Games

I’ll be posting more about this game, this process, what I know and am learning about game design, but to wrap it all up – there are two reasons why this game is very, very, very likely1 to be mind-blowingly amazing.

1) It’s kickstarted.

Which means that Brian has a chance to make a very unique game. The gaming industry is, well, an Industry. So it’s hard to make things with flair, passion and craft. Watch the video on the kickstarter site and you see what I mean.

2) Everybody involved is serious about taking the curse off.

Games, especially RPG’s, feel stalled. Worse, some genres seem to be moving backwards. You can argue that there is less role-playing in RPG’s now. They may look better, but the core mechanic and the core beats of the story haven’t evolved. (Seriously, you another resource-gathering quest?)

In television writing there is a term called taking the curse off. There are certain scenes and set pieces that have been used so much that they are “cursed”” (clichéd beyond repair). So if you get to one of those moments, you have to do something fresh and new, otherwise it winds up being horribly boring.

Joss Whedon is a master of this. And here’s one of my favorites. It’s in the 1st or 2nd episode of Firefly. And it’s a classic, set up the recurring nemesis scene. When I first watched this show, as this scene happened, I was deciding I hated the show. I mean really? I gotta put up with this stereotypical, tattooed, ’roid freak as the nemesis for the rest of the season. And the speech is such a cliche. But then, the magic happened:

To sum it all up.

If I have anything to do with it Wasteland 2 is going to be awesome. And y’know what. I do. I can’t believe it, but I really do. Which means I need to get to work.

  1. As with any big project, you pays the man and you takes your chances. That’s why I just keep my head down and do the best I can. 

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