NYFA Instructor Adam Moore
New York Film Academy instructor Adam Moore recently wrote video game DiRT 3, an auto racing game released last month for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. The game has been receiving great reviews for gameplay and presentation, including a 9.2 from GameTrailers and an Editor’s Choice award from IGN. Adam comments, “If you’re into off-road, this game will really blow your hair back.” Adam was responsible for creating the NPC’s (non-player characters), which help the story arc and create a narrative for the game. Adam discusses the transition from writing screenplays to video games and how a future gamer can get started in New York Film Academy’s programs in Game Design and Screenwriting:
Adam, how did you first get involved in production of a video game?
The developer of the game is a London-based company called Codemasters. For the third installment of their hit off-road racing franchise (DiRT), they wanted to bring an authentic American voice to the game. They called my game writing agent and asked for a writing sample. I think my writing partner (Kevin Abrams) and I were the ones selected because we had previously developed an off-road racing reality series, and so we knew the lingo and the world really well. As for my role in the game’s creation, it was up to me to create the NPCs (non-player characters), define their voices and their relationship with the player character.
How did your background in screenwriting translate to writing a video game?
I’ve actually answered this question for my students many times. ”Writing is writing.” The craft you learn in your screenwriting workshops translates to any medium you want to work in — movies, tv, comics, video games, you name it.
What is the biggest challenge in writing for video games?
The biggest challenge in writing for video games is the fact that you are usually the only writer in company full of gamers and programmers. Oftentimes, the higher-ups are very good at giving notes on code, but not so much at giving notes on story. Buggy code has a finite solution. What the higher-ups at a game developer don’t always understand is that storytelling issues don’t always have such finite, simple solutions.
When writing oDiRT 3, the challenge given to me was to create three life-like Non-Player Characters, who had emotional depth and were compelling, but would only be heard and never seen. How do you solve this problem? Well, I’ll go back to the idea that “writing is writing.” I fell back on my craft to find the solution and it ended up being extremely simple. DiRT 3 covers four seasons in the career of a rookie driver. The NPCs are the rookie’s business manager, chief mechanic, and fan consultant. The arc we selected was four strangers who come together to do something great. So, in the beginning of the game, the dialogue is a little more formal. By the time you get to the end of the game, you’ve been through four seasons of racing with these people, and therefore the dialogue is much more casual — you’ve become best friends. It was a fun challenge.
How could a gamer get their start at New York Film Academy?
What’s great about our screenwriting department is that the entire faculty is working writers. Very good screenwriters trained me, but some of them hadn’t been actively working in the industry for years. In our program, the students are learning from screenwriters who are in the business. For example, in my class, Business of Screenwriting, one of the most important things I teach is how to pitch. Would you rather learn that skill from someone who hasn’t pitched in a decade or someone who was at a studio or a TV network that morning pitching an idea? As for our game design program, our mantra is “every student is a storyteller.” Video games are the mass entertainment medium of the 21st century. They will surpass movies and television, and maybe already have. Whereas other programs focus on the nuts and bolts of game design, our focus is creating great, narrative driven games. We believe that the best games are made when design and story are working hand in hand, rather than a handful of cinematics thrown in every now and then. Like our web site says, “Anyone can teach you how to make a game. We’ll teach you how to make a great game!”