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Video Game / The Writer Will Do Something

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"You want a serious, sober, gray-skied story, but you don’t want to give up your gameplay. And I understand not wanting to give that up — it’s what everyone likes about ShatterGate. That doesn’t change the fact that you’re asking for something impossible. Don’t you get that? You want to have your cake and eat it too."
Mike sighs. "The cake is a lie."

The Writer Will Do Something is a work of Gamebook-style Interactive Fiction written and programmed in Twine by Tom Bissell and Matthew S. Burns that satirizes AAA video game development. You play the lead writer of ShatterGate: Future Perfect, an massive video game with just one teensy problem: according to the first round of playtests, it is completely terrible in every way. Can you, along with the creative director, lead designers, art director and lead producer, salvage the game and your reputations? Or will you fail catastrophically in the process?

It can be played here.


The Writer Will Do Something provides examples of:

  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: At one point you bring up that the higher-ups want the aliens to speak "an Arabic-sounding language."
  • Bayonet Ya: The Gunsword.
  • Beleaguered Assistant: Mallory, the audio producer.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The writer continues in their profession as an indie developer or now promoted to another job in the same franchise they hate.
  • Boldly Coming: The main character of ShatterGate, Rix, is an "interplanetary Casanova," and a central mechanic involves sleeping with various alien girlfriends for stat boosts.
  • But Thou Must!: The satire is that the writer cannot do anything; your choices accomplish almost nothing in the end.
  • Celebrity Voice Actor: invokedErika gets one of these, but he takes off to shoot a film with Wes Anderson.
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  • Continuity Porn: One of the many, many problems with ShatterGate. Mike in particular is not a fan.
  • Control Freak: Erika. She hates the entire storyline and wants to rewrite it. She also creates gorgeous scenery which is utterly confusing to players as to what they can or cannot do in it.
  • Darker and Edgier: Future Perfect is supposed to be this. If the game is any indication, it fails miserably.
  • Development Hell: invokedPretty much "Development Hell: The Game."
  • The Dilbert Principle: The PC ends up the lead writer on ShatterGate despite never playing the previous games and, it's implied, not being very good at their job.
    • Part of the issue being that all of the developers are unenthusiastic about the project and have contradictory as well as vague suggestions.
  • Executive Meddling: invokedOne of the reasons ShatterGate is such a disaster.
  • Fantasy Conflict Counterpart: Josh insists on calling the game’s "early, self-consciously studied war-is-bad desert battle — the second major combat encounter — as 'Afghanistan' so indefatigably that a panicked PR flack made him undergo emergency deprogramming right before E3 last year, lest he slip and actually say such a thing out loud to the press.
  • Fun T-Shirt: Troy's favorite outfit.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: The PC's primary problem with Future Perfect: "'Grittier, tougher, meaner': Nothing else in the game actually supported these aspirations, even though Drew and Josh talked about them all the time. A single glance at the weapons, art, story, and milieu of this game leads any rational person to an inescapable conclusion: This is a willfully, obviously ridiculous world.
    • One of the game mechanics is decapitating someone with your gunsword and then shooting the head as it flies through the air through bonus EXP.
    • An attempt to address this leads to Comically Missing the Point as the hero's Boldly Coming with alien women is said to be like James Bond (and thus not very gritty), so "we should make it like Skyfall."
  • High Turnover Rate: You were hired to clean up after the last writer, who was hired to clean up after the last writer, and so on.
  • Impossibly Cool Weapon: ShatterGate's signature weapon is the Gunsword, which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Indie Game: Satirized as brutally as the AAA variety: "Golem Girl, a retro platformer about a Jewish girl made of reanimated skin and her adventures through various levels inspired by Eastern European fairytales. After a tortuous, extended development process, Golem Girl finally went out to its [Kickstarter] backers. Josh told you once that it sold under a thousand copies."
  • In Medias Res: The first scrapped opening of ShatterGate was this.
  • Money, Dear Boy: invokedJosh "cheerfully admits he dreamed up the game to make money."
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Pretty much the point of the game, at least in terms of unhelpful coworkers with unrealistic expectations. It's clear toward the end of the game that the fellow developers hate every single thing about the game but their own work and would change it all if possible.
  • Opening Scroll: Josh suggests this for the game's opening, and then defends it by saying Star Wars "takes a giant lore SHIT on your ENTIRE FACE."
  • Player and Protagonist Integration: The PC keeps harping on whether the player should portray or inhabit Rix's character.
  • Play the Game, Skip the Story: invokedMike admits he's never watched an in-game Cutscene from start to finish.
  • Professional Slacker: Mike "seems chiefly invested in defeating his co-workers in multiplayer matches and Tweeting gnomic in-jokes about the game at his 1,400 followers."
  • This Is Reality: The plan to scrap the opening and dialogue immediately falls apart when the audio department head, which wasn't even invited to the meeting, points out that the guy who voices the main character isn't available. As a big movie star, he's doing a movie with Wes Anderson, and won't be available for re-recording. The developers try their usual snark about how a movie star isn't all that important, implying they could just get rid of dialogue entirely, only for her to shut them down with profanity and insults.
  • Scenery Porn: Josh criticizes Erika for focusing too much on this.
  • Sell-Out: Shawn "once told an interviewer that his personal idea of hell would be working for an AAA developer." In one of the endings, he becomes the new lead designer of the studio.
  • Shout-Out: Many, including Dark Souls and Portal.
  • Slow-Paced Beginning: invokedMuch of the meeting revolves around salvaging the first scene of the game, a six-minute lore-dense cinematic.
  • Space Jews: The "Arabic-sounding" aliens.
  • Take That!: To AAA development in general; according to some reviewers (and the authors' backgrounds), to Bungie Studios and Destiny.
  • Take This Job and Shove It: At several points you get the option to do this. It never works.
  • Tutorial Failure: One of the playtesters' main problems is they can't figure out the controls, mostly because designer Shawn thinks tutorials are "a betrayal of the language games are supposed to speak."
  • Unreadably Fast Text: Used at one point during a major decision.
  • War Was Beginning: One version of ShatterGate's opening.