Olivia Wood is a video game writer, narrative designer, and editor, specializing in interactive narrative. She works for Failbetter Games in London, UK. Her credits include Sunless Skies (writer, narrative designer and editor), Sunless Sea: Zubmariner (writer, narrative designer and editor), Sunless Sea (writer and editor), Fallen London (writer, narrative designer and editor), Where the Water Tastes Like Wine (contributing writer), The Mystery of Kalkomey Isle (design consultant and editor), Cheaper than Therapy (writer, designer and developer), and Lethophobia (writer and designer). She first worked in the video game industry at the age of 18 as a quality assurance technician for games including Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver and Timesplitters 2. Her work in writing and editing (narrative) in the video game industry was recognised by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in 2017. She strives to share her knowledge of video game writing, narrative design and interactive narrative through giving talks and interviews and also via narrative consultancy and writing services.
This interview features conversation about her favorite adventure games, narrative, and writing.
Jeffery Klaehn: What about adventure games most interests you, as a writer and also as a player?
Olivia Wood: There's been a history of puzzles in adventure games feeling at odds with the narrative. I actually don't love calling them 'puzzles' in this context. Puzzles to me are more about something with its own set of internal constraints and rules that gets progressively complicated and iterated upon. I prefer to think of what are traditionally called 'puzzles' in adventure games as 'problems.' Read the rest
I love the Ars Technica "War Stories" series where they interview designers of some of the most iconic and popular computer/video games on the challenges they faced.
This episode features Rand Miller, one half (with brother Robyn) of Cyan, Inc. creators of the early 90s puzzle adventure game, Myst. The game was developed on hacked, maxed-out consumer-grade Macs using the HyperCard program. Myst would go on to become one of the most successful and inspirational games of all time.
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The clip above is from Stay Tooned!, a 1996 computer game developed by Funnybone Interactive. From Wikipedia:
The player takes the place of an ordinary patron living in an apartment. The player starts off simply channel-surfing with a TV remote and watching short cartoons and commercials that parody real-life shows (such as Seinfeld, which is parodied as Whinefeld). One channel even has the game's chief programmer providing hints on how to play the upcoming game. Several cartoon characters either forbid or encourage the player to push the red button on their remote as the player surfs the channels. When the player pushes the button, the cartoons break out of the television set, steal the remote, and cause the entire apartment complex to go into animated form. The player must recover the television remote, which is the only thing that can zap the escaped toons and send them back to TV Land, the fictional toon world found within the depths of the television.
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San Francisco's Computer Museum boasts a state-of-the-art virtual reality pool program that feels so real that the tester, snooker champ Ronnie O'Sullivan, falls over after trying to lean on the VR table. Read the rest