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Rhianna Pratchett on scripting Mirror’s Edge: “We’re only scratching the surface of games narrative”

Tuesday, 12th August 2008 15:31 GMT By Patrick Garratt

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As one of the hottest tickets for this year’s Christmas rush, EA DICE’s Mirror’s Edge is a potential groundbreaker. Based on the premise of “runners” – near future, free-running post-people – the game casts Faith in an action conspiracy like no other, and has had gaming’s glitterati blabbering since it was first shown at GDC earlier this year: Mirror’s Edge could be the start of a radical shake-up of first-person gaming as a whole.

The title’s looking to stretch gaming’s story-telling rut as well as it’s gameplay, looking to a mix of 2D cut-scenes and environmental narrative to keep players informed. Rhianna Pratchett was announced as the script writer recently, and also confirmed as the author of an accompanying DC comic.

She’s finished writing the game now, so took time out to answer our questions on Mirror’s Edge’s plot, the challenge of working with DC and stories in games in general.

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VG247: You previously wrote Heavenly Sword, which was a big game, but Mirror’s Edge is a different league. Have you been surprised at the leap in your profile since it was announced you were writing both the title’s script and the DC comic?

Rhianna Pratchett: I’m not really sure how you tell that kind of thing. There’s certainly been resurgence in people asking how to do my job! Games writing and story design is still very niche. There aren’t many folks doing it and even less that understand it. I don’t do this to become known; I do it because I love my job and have a somewhat masochistic desire to help make games stories better.

Have you finished working on the game yet?

Yes, all the last minute editing and tweaking is being done at DICE’s end now. I’m mainly concerned with helping communicate the story and working on the comic series with DC, which is a challenge in itself.

What facets of Faith’s personality do you want to focus on in the game? For a start, is she actually multi-dimensional? Does game writing allow for that level of complexity?

I think it allows for that level of interpretation, certainly. We still have many of the same character-fleshing tools of other entertainment mediums. So Faith’s character will be conveyed by what she says, how she says it, the decision she does or doesn’t make, how she reacts to other characters and how they react to her. Economy of language does not mean economy of storytelling.

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What about Mirror’s Edge’s backdrop? How have you managed to save the well-worn “thorn in dystopia’s side” plot from cliché?

Well, the Runners exist in somewhat of an apolitical sphere, between action and inaction, neither for the city nor against it. They are fulfilling a need, doing a job. Sure they aren’t going to win any community service prizes, but they aren’t making too much trouble, either. The city isn’t a dystopia. If anything it’s a Nanny State taken to extreme, and for many of the people that live in it, it’s a utopia. It’s a city that works well. It’s a city that cares. It wants its citizens to be well housed, well schooled, healthy and secure voters, and will do anything in its power to achieve that.

What is more disturbing about this city is not so much what the authorities have done, but they fact people have allowed them to do it; that civil liberties have been given up willingly for a comfortable life, for the greater good.

A heart of it is a very personal story for Faith. It has a similar narrative structure to Prison Break in that you’ve got a personal mission for the protagonist that has wider political ramifications. Faith doesn’t care about being a thorn; all she cares about is why her sister is being framed. She’s an accidental thorn, really.

There seems to be a bit of confusion about 2D storytelling in the game. Will all the story be plotted in this way?

The 2D story-telling is a primary vehicle for communicating some of the more complex scenes, but not all of them. However, we also use a lot of on-the-fly and environmental story telling in order to not break the momentum of the game in key moments and keep the player immersed. I think these are crucial of the future of games narrative and something we’re only really now scratching the surface of.

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23 Comments

  1. wz

    Don’t know why exactly, but somehow, this takes away from the high anticipation I had for the game.

    #1 6 years ago
  2. patlike

    I’ve got very high hopes. Everyone I know that’s played it loves it. And it nearly made me throw up at the PlayStation Day, so that must mean something.

    #2 6 years ago
  3. El_MUERkO

    it looks poop to me, idiot ai and the illusion of choice

    #3 6 years ago
  4. wz

    It’s not disappointing or anything, but usually, unconventional games don’t hit the “wow-factor” they leave when first seen. At the end of the day, it’s still a normal game, I guess.

    #4 6 years ago
  5. patlike

    I think it looks really exciting, genuinely. The motion stuff seems really well implemented.

    #5 6 years ago
  6. pjmaybe

    Rubbish pic of Rhianna, she should be doing some impossible white-snatched splits like the Lara Croft model. Sell more games that way.

    #6 6 years ago
  7. Quiiick

    The question IMHO is: Will Mirror’s Edge be more entertaining/fun than last year’s city-runner, Assassin’s Creed? If the controls are as good or even better than AC, I’ll buy this game.

    #7 6 years ago
  8. mortiferus

    Deleted my very incorrect comment. There is nothing to see here folks, move along.

    #8 6 years ago
  9. morriss

    That’s not very nice. I think she looks nice.

    I gave her my “would” stamp the moment I clapped eyes on her.

    Anyway, it’s all about the games or something.

    #9 6 years ago
  10. mortiferus

    Ok morriss , i looked her up on that Goggle thingie. yeah I agree she is actually very, very pretty. My mistake indeed. But that picture is horrible, did one of the VG247 staffers stretch it in photoshop or worse Corel photopaint?

    I suggest using this one instead:
    http://www.multiplay.co.uk/content/images/interviews/rhianna_pratchett/i14rhianna.JPG

    #10 6 years ago
  11. morriss

    :)

    It’s not about what she looks like, that was the point I was trying to make. No-one comments about a male developer looking ugly etc.

    #11 6 years ago
  12. wz

    morriss: So Cliffy B. is a) either not male, or b) not a developer.

    #12 6 years ago
  13. mortiferus

    Most developers are fugly, pale skinned and fat. It comes with the territory. Believe me I know…

    #13 6 years ago
  14. mortiferus

    by the way wz it is Cliff Blesinzky. Dont get Clifford mad now… and yes he does breaks the mold. Him and his fancy teeth and cool shirts, expensive designer jeans, his ferrrari.Oh and that wild and crazy night life in South Carolina…

    #14 6 years ago
  15. wz

    I never let fags decide what I call them, honestly.

    #15 6 years ago
  16. morriss

    That’s not very nice either. :/

    #16 6 years ago
  17. Xephon1970

    As it matters neither here nor there what anyone looks like when it comes to talent, I’d much rather some one like Rhianna Pratchett is given the opportunity to write stories she obviously gives a damn about. How many times have we complained about hackneyed plots and the same old thing over and over again? I’ve lost count.

    Mirror’s Edge should be applauded for daring to attempt something different, for trying to set itself targets that aim higher than others would aim.

    Instead we get people moaning about how it’s the same old thing. Open your eyes, really it’s not. This one of the three games I have high hopes for this year and all for different reasons, this for daring to be different, POP for reinvigorating a franchise and LBP for allowing me to create zombie death carnivals if I so choose.

    I’m staggered at how much we are spoilt by the richness and variety of games, not only those just past, but the tidal wave yet to hit on all the consoles. I’ve never understood this negativity when it comes to gaming. We’ve never had it so good.

    And as for the fags comment, jaysus wept, it’s stuff like that which gives the rest of us a bad name. And that’s even before we get to the fact that it’s offensive to people who may be reading this or are a part of this community. Idiot.

    #17 6 years ago
  18. mortiferus

    @wz

    WTF is your problem? I was being sarcastic about the whole Cliff vs CliffyB thing, which clearly went over your head. Cliff is a cool dude making cool games. Nuff said.

    #18 6 years ago
  19. mortiferus

    @ Xephon1970

    Amen Brother. I agree with you 110% I feel quite bad about my initial statement about Rhianna, See what lack of sleep does to a guy!. Her work more than speaks for it self, especially overlord!

    #19 6 years ago
  20. wz

    mortiferus: Oh, sorry, I see what went wrong. Of course, you are not the fag I mentioned! I just hate pompous fools like some game designers of late.

    Daughter of Terry Pratchett! That alone makes me totally buy the game, no matter what my gut feeling tells me.

    #20 6 years ago
  21. mortiferus

    Ok then… Let’s just drop this whole thing and move on.

    #21 6 years ago
  22. Trip SkyWay

    I liked the story on Heavenly Sword, good fun.

    #22 6 years ago
  23. pjmaybe

    HS’ story was great, and Bohan was ace too.

    Just a pity the game itself was shit.

    #23 6 years ago

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