Yesterday at GDC, Meg Jayanth, writer of 80 Days, had good practical advice for other creators making narrative-heavy games on a budget. Do research, be a team player, and care about the details.
"As indies, we have passion — we give a shit," she exclaimed to a receptive audience. 80 Days is specifically a game that benefitted from strong attention to detail. A story based on Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days, with steampunk accents, it takes place in real-life cities from, well, around the world. The team did a great deal of research in order to do justice to that diversity.
Jayanth emphasized the need to be thoughtful in writing about a different cultures and difficult historical topics. "Think about the ethics and politics in your games," said Jayanth, before speaking frankly about how 80 Days treated a slavery-related storyline in the game. It was a team effort — and the story as it appears in the final game is a compromise between her vision and that of the lead designer's. Jayanth offered that this kind of collaboration makes for the best games.
"Writing a game is a team sport," say Jayanth. "Work with people who you think are talented. Work with people who care: thats basically the only way you'll make something really good!"