Sunday, August 8, 2010
So I decided to start my blogging career with something not as obviously related to writing, as say a book, but rather something that is a little to the side – and yet relative on this website nonetheless. That’s right, a video game.
And not just any game, but the one and only Starcraft 2, the giant of today’s PC gaming industry. The giant that sold 1,000,000 copies worldwide on its release date, and 500,000 copies the following day. The giant that marks Blizzard’s 8th super-success in a row. The giant that keeps us up at night, like mindless drones who obey the overmind.
So how the hell is this related to writing you might ask? I’ll tell you how. Starcraft’s storyline was written by a department of professional writers, who have spent little over 7 years writing it’s script. And this goes beyond the main campaign. These writers had to create an entire universe from scratch, which is an essential skill for any fantasy writer.
So lets look at the game. For those who have never heard of Starcraft, it is a science fiction game, set in a galaxy far far away, that centers around the struggle between 3 races. Good old humans (called Terrans), super science-advanced and magical Protoss, and mindless insects that plague the space, the Zerg.
The main campaign storyline is the first thing that I, as a writer, try to judge. And let me tell you, the storyline in this game is simply AWESOME! That’s right, awesome. And when I say it, I mean it. You could literally write novels… just based on that storyline. And guess what? There are novels. 300 page tomes, that just describe parts of the whole thing.
This campaign was written by pros. It has it all: an intricate plot, character development, twists, humor, you name it. It also follows a simple outline found in most books: into, inciting incident, rising action, crisis, climax, falling action, conclusion. Now are you ready? It has as many as SEVEN storylines, each with their own set of everything. No wonder it took them 7 years… haha
I have to say that my favorite part of this novel-on-screen was the characters. They are all interesting, different, mysterious, and at points surprising. You know they are hiding something, you don’t know what it is or who to believe. You must make your own choice… and then watch how it ends.
Imagine that. Imagine if you could choose your character’s actions in the end. Most films and quite a bit of novels these days have predictable endings. Now imagine if you could make it different… if you made the critical choice. And all of a sudden the guy does not get the girl and live happily ever after, but rather she is turned into a Zerg and he must kill her! All because of one wrong guess.
So anyway, characters. The main protagonist, Jim Raynor, starts out as a rebel and a mercenary, with one goal: to overthrow the corrupt government, and to take revenge on the emperor. Throughout the story, Jim sees things, and starts to change. He understands that some things are more important than personal vendettas, such as the survival of the human race. Insuring mankind’s survival is worth working with your enemy, and enduring the rebellion of your own troops, and even shooting your best friend for his own folly. That my friends, is character development, as well as a theme. So I’m hoping that by this point you will see how this is important to writing.
If not, lets look at another aspect of the game: world building. I will compare the world of Starcraft to the most famous fantasy novel, and the best know sci-fi film in the world.
The novel (or rather series of novels), is none other that the Lord of the Rings. Let’s see how they are similar. You got your humans? Check. Got the magical elves/protoss? Check. Got swarming masses of orcs/zerg who plague the land? Check. Got ancient enemies (elves/dwarves, Raynor/The Emperor) working together to save the world? Yep. No need to mention that both take place in some made up place god knows where. So yeah.
Now, lets see about that movie. I am referring of course, to the Star Wars universe. We got our humans. We got the protoss/jedi who have magic and are “ancient guardians of the world” (which is also true for Tolkien’s elves). We got swarms of bad guys (droids and clones) and of course, saving the world.
Now since Star Wars and Starcraft are both sci-fi, I wish to compare the too a little further. Actually, I want to point out what’s different in the two.
First of all, in Star Wars, there are no wheels. Absolutely everything uses float technology. Next, there are no bullets. All guns shoot laser (although I think they have rockets). Finally, the “magic” in Star Wars revolves around the “force” and the “midichlorians”, which is honestly a little too much for me. Now Starcraft is a much more believable representation of our future. Bullets and wheels are working alongside lasers and hovercars, and the magic there is not actually magic, but rather training one to use for than the 10% of our brain that we use from birth, which grants psionic powers. The theory of that has been put forth by many scientists, although a safe way to increase brain activity has not been devised.
So as you can see, Starcraft has plenty of originality and great story/universe. It can be an inspiration to any fiction writer, regardless of subgenre and personal preferences. A careful look can even reveal literary devices that are used constantly in the game. Personification, similes, metaphors, repetitions, allusions (to game-relevant stuff), paradoxes, you name it. What do you know about irony? Well let me tell you. When two super-scientists discuss the use of a magical artifact created by the gods, it’s interesting. When they finally decide to use it, a soldier steps up and say “Wait… that thing is too powerful. We could be messing with the whole space-time continuum”, and then the protagonist says “Relax man. This isn’t science fiction, you know” – you learn some new stuff about making things ironic.
There is a reason why this game was rated over 90% by all sites and magazines. Because it deserves it. The sales prove it, the fans prove it, and hopefully, I prove it. To anyone out there who plays games at all – check it out ;)
Have fun writing,