I am a writer and designer who has shipped over 80 game titles. With over 30 years of experience in the business, I was the writer for established franchises such as Jurassic World, Ghostbusters, The Fast and the Furious, and The Chronicles of Riddick. I was a lead creative at Niantic Labs, creators of Ingress and Pokemon GO. I have also written feature films, comics, television, and streaming content.

I’ll be together with Flint Dille in this AMA. Flint is one of the most produced game writers globally, with over 14 Gold and platinum games, including Uncharted, Riddick, Diablo, and Ingress. Many of his scripts received critical acclaim and have withstood the test of time, as evidenced by ongoing franchise opportunities. He is currently the Narrative Lead at Deviation Games.

Also, we’ll be presenting a [free Summit on Sept 8, 2022](https://go.classpert.com/videogame-storytelling-summit) with other strong names in the industry.

Comments: 176 • Responses: 72  • Date: 

CobraGTXNoS97 karma

Does the power of family help you with your writing?

johnzuurplatten91 karma

You can't write as a profession without the support of your family and friends. This is more than a job - it is a bit like choosing a lifestyle. You are writing in your head at all hours of the day, 7 days a week. You never stop. So having support is crucial. And having people that understand when you need your space - and they give it to you - is a big part of it.

johnzuurplatten28 karma

Does the power of family help you with your writing? FLINT: Well, basically my kids often get dragged into my work whether they want to or not. My daughter and I have been developing a project since she was about four. Now she's in Art College and might actually draw some of it. My son has been involved in almost everything since he was about 12. Did my first ARG night with me at UCLA, then later with the government and even now we're mining through buried treasure I found in my files. We also did an article about using Alexa and Siri as game platforms in an academic journal. So, yeah.

thequestionaskerer14 karma

You mentioned ARG night at UCLA, did you teach there?

johnzuurplatten14 karma

Flint - yes.

jjdubbs95 karma

How would you suggest breaking into the industry of writing for games? Second question, where did the name Niantic Labs come from? I'm from a small town called Niantic....

johnzuurplatten120 karma

Niantic comes from the name of a ship that sunk in the harbor of San Francisco. As for writing for games, I'd personally look at the indie gaming community as a good place to start. You need a strong portfolio with samples of your work. If you haven't done so yet, get a website up and start loading it with your creative content. Also, note that many of the bigger publishers and developers now have internal writing staff.

bigfatmatt0147 karma

What's different about writing a movie and a game? I know games are much bigger but I'm wondering if you approach the writing process differently for each.

johnzuurplatten64 karma

Great question. It really is about your audience - players expect to be interacting with the content, so you have to keep pace in mind. Things that slow down the gameplay experience are story elements that you try to avoid. Also, games can be a lot more dialogue intensive, since the "action" is happening during gameplay. For instance, the last Jurassic World had over 4000 lines of dialogue.

johnzuurplatten60 karma

But yeah. Writing is an everyday thing. Projects are like sharks that keep moving. Some projects organize and write themselves. Others are one long slugfest with a very adaptive and determined opponent. Sometimes you lose until there's a rematch. I'm working with a publisher on a book I started writing in 1979, so nothing is ever dead. (The weird thing is that I"d abandoned it because I didn't think I had the writing chops yet -- I found the old files, still with the olde time computer paper decollations or whatever they're called.. Re-reading it four decades letter it wasn't so bad. I guess the lesson is don't judge yourself until you have a full draft..
FLINT: And to that point, I'm almost done with Subterraliens, a game that started probably, subconsciously, because I had some unfinished business with the underworld after Inhumanoids and Black Fire. But yeah. Keep going. Mix pay projects and flights of fancy. Always be doing something new. Finish as much as you can.
FLINT: Tenacity is the biggest attribute you need to have.

ThatIowanGuy35 karma

In your opinion, which takes in the past 10 years (that you haven’t worked on), tells the best stories?

johnzuurplatten103 karma

For me, The Last of Us and Red Dead Redemption. I also found the quiet moments of Firewatch compelling.

KryanSA4 karma

Yes to all of those! And how do you feel about God of War?

johnzuurplatten6 karma


codextremist25 karma

To Flint Dille: What was it like working with Gary Gygax?

johnzuurplatten32 karma

To Flint Dille: What was it like working with Gary Gygax? Great. Gary taught me to design games. I wrote a lot about it in a memoire I wrote about that period called The Gamesmaster. It also talks about G.I. Joe and Transformers and other things. It's about the period from 1983 to 1987. Also, Ben Riggs' Slaying the Dragon, just out, is an excellent account of my life in the D&D days.

Quillobyte_25 karma

To Flint Dille,

How much of a balancing act is writing a compelling story vs. making cool set pieces? John Carmack once said story [in a video game] is ",..expected to be there, but it's not that important.", and games like Minecraft are actively praised for their lack of story; at the same time, a bad storyline is one of the most common complaints in gaming, like with Destiny or Hunt Down the Free Man.

johnzuurplatten33 karma

This comes up from time to time, but not as much as it used to. When I was at Comic-Con, Flint and I were on a panel together talking about game narrative. My answer was simple and came in the form of a question. I asked everyone in the audience with a game mechanic on their shirt to stand up. Then I asked everyone with a character on the shirt to stand up. Easy. The point is that we emotionally invest in characters and their stories. It doesn't matter the medium - it is what holds true.

johnzuurplatten22 karma

FLINT: A lot there. Obviously, to do something great, you have to both write a compelling story and have cool set-pieces. You don't have to do one before the other. If you have an idea for a cool set piece, write it and ask yourself, what had to happen to allow this set-piece to fit into the story? Who are the characters and work backward and forward from there. Meanwhile, if you love the set piece, think of more that fit in with it in tone and style. Sometimes you have a story, but don't know what the set pieces are. They tend to come out of the WORLD as much as the characters. I guess the question to ask is, 'what great set pieces can only happen in this world?' If your world doesn't lend itself to set pieces and you're making an action game, then you have some thinking to do. To be honest, I'm not sure I've ever started a story with a specific set piece, but.I have started it with a specific world or character that lends itself to set-pieces.

FaustusC20 karma

Why would you admit to any ties to the current Jurassic park or Ghost busters content?

johnzuurplatten6 karma

Why would I not? Both are billion-dollar franchises that I'm more than happy to be a part of bringing to the videogame space.

dirkdisco15 karma

How did you as a hack writer get such high paying gigs?

johnzuurplatten14 karma

If you knew my secret, then you could become one too.

johnzuurplatten12 karma

Thanks, everyone for your questions. Flint and I are going to wrap it up. If you are interested, please feel free to check out our summit. We'll be joined by Dan Arey (Niantic), Chris Metzen (Blizzard/Warchief), and John Nee (DC/Marvel/Cryptozoic). Details in first post.

LynIsTheName11 karma

What has been your favorite game to write?

Also, is there anything you do to help with your creative side?

Questions for both of you :)


johnzuurplatten18 karma

My personal favorite was Chronicles of Riddick. I love the character, and it is fun hearing Vin take it to the next level in the booth. My favorite character is Ian Malcom. I've written more Ian than anyone (including the movies and the original books by the brilliant Michael Crichton), and getting into the studio with Jeff G. is always an amazing treat.

johnzuurplatten9 karma

Also, is there anything you do to help with your creative side? FLINT: I'm not sure I have a favorite game. I love all of the ones I love for their own reasons. Sometimes it was the fun of doing it, sometimes it is the result, sometimes it is what I learned. But my favorite depends on what minute you catch me. There are a lot of them.

Unfa10 karma

Thanks for ruining Jurassic Park with the power of Chris Pratt's hand gesture.

What clichés will you bring to the Diablo universe next?

johnzuurplatten16 karma

I didn't have anything to do with how Chris Pratt chose to act with Blue and the rest of the raptors. But I did get to write dialogue that made me like what he did with the character of Owen. As for cliches, sometimes they just work.

livefast1510 karma

Have you ever refused a job and it became huge?

johnzuurplatten17 karma

Yes. Early in my career, I passed on an X-files game before the series was released. I didn't think it had a future. Seemed trite and the pilot script didn't inspire me. Obviously, I was wrong. :)

livefast153 karma

Regarding the creative process, and how it is unique for everyone... How do you go about attacking material?

johnzuurplatten10 karma

I start with a series of notes and then from that, I generate an outline. Next will come research. I want to know as much as I can about the subject that I'm writing. For me, there are four steps. Research, Reflection, Keyboarding, and Revisions. All along that path, I'm constantly iterating. But by the time I'm really deep into a script, I feel more like I'm transcribing than writing, and my job is to keep up with the characters as they talk.

johnzuurplatten7 karma

Flint - Regarding the creative process, and how it is unique for everyone... How do you go about attacking material? FLINT: Great question. My process simultaneously always stays the same and is different on every project. I wake up early and write. I like to be at the keyboard at 5:30 or earlier before the sun is up, the phone is ringing or anybody is asking me to do anything. The emphasis is getting pages writing. You can get bogged with research (which happened to me recently) and I like to do that along the way. I like writing a lot an editing later. I'm trying to become a better and more fluid editor of my own work and am thankful for great editors I"ve worked with over the years. I try to keep three things going at the same time so if I get bogged down in one, I can go to another and voice vapor lock.

johnzuurplatten7 karma

FLINT (CONT'D). All of that having been said, every project tends to take on its own flow and I approach it differently depending on the team I'm working with. I try to be what the team needs, magnify strengths and cover for weaknesses.

johnzuurplatten9 karma

Flint: Actually, yes. And I was offered it multiple times in multiple media. Not sure if I should actually give the name of it. Frankly, at this exact second, I can't remember it, so that's good. The truth is that I looked at the source material and just didn't get it, which is unusual. It went on to be, not a major franchise, but definitely had a life. I think there was a show and maybe a movie. Sometimes, you just don't get the stuff everybody thinks will be right up your alley. And, conversely, sometimes you get things that aren't anything like anything you've ever done.

sanman8 karma

To Flint: Yo Joe! What was your favorite work on GI JOE? Any future GI JOE projects you might be looking at getting involved with?

johnzuurplatten12 karma

To Flint: Yo Joe! What was your favorite work on GI JOE? Any future GI JOE projects you might be looking at getting involved with? FLINT: I loved working on G.I. Joe. It was as effortless as a project could be. Steve Gerber brought me on. What a great Story Editor and general creative guy. I took to it almost instantly. My book was called The Gamesmaster, which was a Joe script I wrote (I crowdsourced titles on my Facebook page and a friend came up with it, so I went with it). Its a weird episode, but I only wrote episodes when a script had 'fallen out.' Looking back, I kind of love Eu D' Cobra (which is hated by some), but I love it. The thing that stands up shockingly well is Skeletons in the Closet. Lady J has a Cthulhu in her ancestral home. It foreshadowed Inhumanoids.

The thing that's funny about Joe is that I'd love to work on it again and think I know how to do it, but nobody has ever asked. I'm much more known for Transformers. Transformers was hard. I did more Transformers last year when we did some comical Stopmos for the '86 movie redux line. It was a whole lot of fun.

ActualMaintenance978 karma

Do all games tell a story?

johnzuurplatten17 karma

Do all games tell a story? Flint: "Funny you should ask. Just yesterday I was writing about Emergent Storytelling and realized, in theory, you could even write up a chess game as a story, either from the Player's POV or the Pieces POV. I mean, you, in theory, could talk about a game from the point of view of the Queen's Pawn or any or all of the pieces and have a closed logic War and Peace.

johnzuurplatten8 karma

Flint - Likewise, in theory, you could write an emergent novel or screenplay about the up and down lives of your competing characters in a Monopoly Game. You could actually meet Mr. Moneybags and get the rush of landing on Free Parking just when you need the money and the space.

johnzuurplatten7 karma

Yes. They are just approached in different ways. If the game is designed with a narrative, that is obviously where it will be laid out, perhaps as part of a campaign. However, the story also happens as a result of gameplay, either directly or indirectly. For example, there isn't a deeply embedded story in P-GO, but instead, the game serves as a foundation for the stories that are created as people play.

7th_Flag5 karma

What was your career path like? We’re you always a writer?

johnzuurplatten9 karma

I started below the line in traditional production (I transitioned from being a tour guide at Universal to working on the lower lot). I had no idea that I would be a writer, but I spent years internalizing scripts as I had to distribute them to the various departments (physical copies - this was before everything was done electronically). When I felt I was ready, I reached out to a producer on the show I was working on, and he gave me a shot. Storytelling was always something I could do, but it was learning the craft of screenwriting that took time.

thequestionaskerer5 karma

What game or games are you most proud of?

johnzuurplatten12 karma

Chronicles of Riddick - Butcher Bay, and Jurassic World Evolution. I also have a soft spot for Fear Effect, as it was an original that really pushed the boundaries of what was possible with the original PS. They were very fun to write.

johnzuurplatten6 karma

FLINT: In one case I got into video game book of world records for being the first person to create a villain ina. major franchise not in a comic book (or something like that).

In a couple of other cases I was hired to character and world build to make a franchise Transmedia, and it worked. Movies got made. To me, one test of the validity of your script is if it stands up to another medium.

In another case, my contributions were more diplomatic than literary, but I helped a team navigate to the end of an extremely long and complex project and tied together multiple conflicting bits of 'canon' in a way I was proud of.

johnzuurplatten3 karma

Another game I'm proud of was an ARG that had an incredible life and afterlife expressed in multiple mediums. I don't think anybody had done an ARG that went on that long and affected that many people.

Point is, you can be really proud of things for wildly different reasons. Its not just that the game went Gold or Platinum. Though that's nice.

And the brutal irony is that some of the stuff I'm proudest of was never made or never came to light until a separate project.

johnzuurplatten3 karma

Flint: What games are you most proud of? A lot, for different reasons. Did a board game called Line In The Sand where we pretty accurately predicted the first Gulf War strategy by doing a set of rules that effectively figured out our strategy. Led to a great relationship with the Air Force. Frankly, any game in which we did something new or different or invented characters or worlds that lived on. In most of these cases I was a part of a much larger team, so I can't take sole credit at all. Once again, without mentioning titles (we could make a game out of figuring them out from my IMDB) there are multiple reasons why I'd be proud.

johnzuurplatten5 karma

Good morning. I'm here with Flint. Looking forward to answering your questions.

HomeWork23454 karma

Hi, John Zuur, I have such a question. Why was it necessary to reshoot the movie "Jurassic Park" if the old movie still looks good? And how do you feel about the fact that all the old films have been reshot?

johnzuurplatten2 karma

I'm not involved in any of those decisions. I was fortunate enough to work with the legacy cast, the current cast, and the new cast that will move forward with the franchise. Jurassic Park and Jurassic World work for me because they tap into a number of great storytelling traditions based around both humanity vs. nature and humanity vs. technology.

ActualMaintenance974 karma

How about Uncharted? Can you tell what it was like working on that game?
How much of the story was already there when you put your hands on it?

johnzuurplatten8 karma

FLINT: How about Uncharted? Can you tell what it was like working on that game?

How much of the story was already there when you put your hands on it? FLINT: Dan Arey and I met when we were on a panel with Syd Meier (Civilization) and Lorne Lanning (Abe Games) and we were supposed to talk about Story in games. I was dreading the idea of disagreeing with Syd Meier who's one of my heroes. Fortunately for me (not for him), Lorne said something controvercial and it hijacked the whole panel. It was like a 'get out of jail free' card. Dan and I talked afterwards and have been friends and colleagues ever since. He brought me onto Uncharted to develop the world, characters and scripts. It was the first time we actually rigorously used GameScene templates on a game (that's not quite true, I used them on Dead To Rights and Mission: Impossible before that) with a team I didn't know. Dan wanted me to consult because I'd written Agent 13 Pulp Novels with Dave Marconi (Enemy of the State) and had just worked on Crimson Skies. Dan and I were later at Blizzard at the same time on different projects and worked together at Niantic. But yeah. Amy Hennig (who was producer), Richard Lemarchand and Neil Druckerman are all brilliant folks. Very proud of the result and, given that we were supposed to develop a characters and a world that could be a movie, well, it was a bit of a wait, but it happened.

MrFrosty8884 karma

How did you get started/break into the field? Please point to another post if you've already answered this. Cheers

johnzuurplatten15 karma

I started through visual fx. I was producing for a company called Stargate that was doing the VFX for a number of early Sega CD games that were shot live-action. The executives came to watch us do the pyro for one of the games, then afterward asked us if we wanted to create one. Everyone turned to me and said JZP, you write it (note I had written episodic TV while at Universal). I didn't know what I was doing, but I was a fan of games, so in a weekend, I wrote the high-level document for a game called Tomcat Alley (which was a blatantly inspired rip of Top Gun). A week later, we had money in the bank. Six months later, it dropped to big success, and I was in the game business as a writer.

MrFrosty8886 karma

Wow. Some journey. I see you were already in the industry - somewhat. Daunting for many totally outside. I'm an indie author, with some gaming history. Used to own a very popular gaming magazine network up until 2013. Admittedly, I never leveraged those media contacts, as was not writing fiction heavily at the time. Now very much interested in exploring other media for my stories.

johnzuurplatten6 karma

Yes. It is much easier to move once you're inside. Getting over the fence is the most difficult part. I was also fortunate enough to start when the game business was going through its wild west phase.

SneakyBoy74 karma

Do you ever get stuck while writing? If so what do you do to get unstuck?

johnzuurplatten3 karma

No. I can't afford writer's block. If you feel you're stuck, do a different writing task instead - outline, research, jam notes, build a character bio, or location bio, collect reference images - it is all part of the process. Don't get down on yourself for not hitting the keyboard until you are ready. And don't aim for perfection because you'll never achieve it. Get it as good as you can make it.

palbuddy12343 karma

What makes a timeless script in your opinion?

johnzuurplatten3 karma

Great characters. Plots come and go, but great characters will always resonate.

elhoffgrande3 karma

Did this question is for both of you. I had a similar gig working for Microsoft and then for Disney in the early 2000s, but the economic downturn in 2008 really hammered that industry, and I found that writing jobs or universally getting snatched up by folks with game design majors which also has a bit of technical documentation built into the degree. Did you guys find that to be pretty lean time for work, or were you largely over that hurdle in your careers by then? I've always been kind of curious about that cuz I never got back into the industry after my last contract gig in 2008 and neither did most of the people that I worked with historically.

johnzuurplatten2 karma

Deciding to do this as a career means I've had to embrace the gypsy lifestyle. Some years are much better than others. But I've been lucky in that I don't look for work, it finds me. That is mostly by aggressively nurturing a network of people in the business. You have to be willing to put yourself out there. If somebody wants me for a project, I go out of my way to figure out how we can make it work.

elhoffgrande2 karma

Good answer man, thank you.

Edit: I was working at Microsoft game studios when escape from butcher bay came out and it was the talk of the joint for like a month. Everyone played it there, and I thought it was a friggin masterpiece. Well done.

Do you have any association with the wizards of the coast guys like monte cook and Colin mccomb?

johnzuurplatten2 karma

I have some friends that work for them via Hasbro, but don't know those individuals.

pierebean3 karma

Do you like working with old warmed-over franchises instead of fresh ones?

johnzuurplatten1 karma

I enjoy working on all franchises, young and old. I've been fortunate enough to touch a number of huge properties - Ghostbusters, Jurassic World, Marvel, and DC - and tried to bring what I could to them all. Of course, creating original IP is a big part of what I'm always focused on doing as well.

0Lezz03 karma

As writers, do you take gameplay into consideration when you write a story or a character? Or you limit yourself to cutscenes, dialog and lore?
I'll try to come with an example, let's say your character just make a big monologue about bring righteous and how the value of life is above everything else, even their enemies, on a cutscene, when you go back into the world the character take out of their pocket an assault rifle and goes to town with every single enemy NPC in a big, super cinematic rampage.
Would you consider, since the gameplay is, go and shoot the bad guys, scraping that big righteous monologue? Or its something that you don't consider as your job as a writer, like that's beyond your responsibilities and consistency between gameplay and story is not really necessary. This of course, having the time and budget to do it properly.

johnzuurplatten4 karma

I work hand in hand with the designers of the games. So, it might be an idea for gameplay, and then we generate the narrative content to provide context. Or it might a cool story idea, and then we work together with design to create the gameplay. Part of what I do is provide emotional frames for math. Cutscenes can be used for any number of reasons - setups, payoffs, information, backstory, etc., so that really depends on what purpose they're serving at that specific moment in the game. Dialogue can function much the same way. The main thing about the game story is that players will always be looking for ways to interpret what is happening as they are looking for clues they can use in the game.

yorkba3 karma

How much can you make as a writer for video games? Is it salaried or contracted? What do you start at and what can you make on the high end?


johnzuurplatten5 karma

I work under contracts. Money varies depending on the size and scope of the projects. Usually between 25K and 50K per, and I try and do six to ten projects a year. When you are just getting started, that would be a much lower number. For indie game production, you are hopefully around 5% of the budget and sharing in the backend. And there are other ways you make money. For instance, I own shares in Niantic from when I worked there, and they are currently valued (the company) at around 9B. So that's my retirement (hopefully).

RingsOfPowerAMA3 karma

Why do writers tend to fall back on clichéd and predictable plot lines when there are so many better stories to tell?

johnzuurplatten1 karma

There are many factors that go into creating stories besides sitting at the keyboard. We have to deal with the design of the game, the needs of the developer/publisher, licensor approvals, marketing depts, release dates - everything plays into what content is developed.

darthkyle222 karma

How do I become a video game writer?

johnzuurplatten2 karma

Write. A lot. If you don't have a portfolio together, start there. Write samples of your favorite games, but create original material (a unique Master Chief adventure, for example). Play and study as many games as you can. If you don't own the game, watch YouTube video walkthroughs. Become a student of the craft. Also, study basic script writing. Learn how scripts are formatted, how story structure works, character arcs, etc.

johannes-kepler2 karma

What's the best way to enter the industry as a writer?

johnzuurplatten6 karma

It is much harder now than when I started. The indie games market is a good place to look. Go to the forums of Unity and Unreal and find teams that are making projects who are either looking for narrative help or are creating the kind of games you are interested in and offer your talents. Most of the big publishers and developers now have in-house teams of writers, and on the biggest projects, you are competing with not only game writers, but tv and film folks as well. But at first, anything that will help you build some credits and get a few games shipped is the best way to go.

erolcantalas2 karma

How easy would you say it is to transition to the games industry as a UX Writer working in IT? I'm in Europe, but you could answer for Northern America as well - thanks!

johnzuurplatten1 karma

I would say that there would be very little crossover into my part of the business. From a tech point of view, all of the big companies have so many folks working in all aspects of computer engineering, including networking and support, so that might be a path.

ActualMaintenance972 karma

Whats your take on The Last of Us?

Specifically, do you think it should have been a movie instead?

johnzuurplatten5 karma

Whats your take on The Last of Us? Specifically, do you think it should have been a movie instead? FLINT: Let's start here and point out the obvious. The Last Of Us is a brilliant piece of work from a brilliant team. Personally, I'm not really a Zombie guy. I like Vampires and Mummies and other Aurora Figure type horror genres. Zombies are just gross. I think its great that it was made as a game. We have enough Zombie movies and TV shows. Never played the third last of us, so I have nothing to say about the controversies. Will get to it one of these days.

By the way, if you have never played "Last Night On Earth', you should. Its a board game. Love that one. Played it while locked down in a resort with a bunch of Intelligence Analysts and other interesting folks.

johnzuurplatten4 karma

The game was controversial because it took chances. Personally, I like challenging narratives, but I do understand why it upset players who were/are fans of the franchise. I was privileged to have worked with Laura Bailey on Ingress (alongside Flint), and I felt she was treated pretty unfairly. As for a movie, I'm interested to see what the streaming series will look like.

jakart32 karma

What do you think about piracy?

johnzuurplatten3 karma

Most people don't realize the amount of money it takes to make a game. Piracy takes the ability to recoup those costs away from developers and publishers. Video games are a hobby/interest/entertainment expense, and most developers struggle with finances, so I see the dark side of "free" games.

waltjrimmer2 karma

There's been a lot of arguments in gaming over the past, geez, a hell of a lot over the past decade, quite a bit over the past two decades, but really ever since gaming has existed about narrative quality versus player agency. What these mean, how they can be accomplished, and restrictions not only from a technical aspect (it was very difficult to have "branching narratives" from a technological aspect at some points in gaming history) but from a human one (just assuming binary choices, once you have 16 independent binary choices, a human being would have to write for 65,536 potential outcomes, and that's kind of unreasonable to expect).

How do you approach, as writers and part of the team making these games, approach player choice in your writing? What's your opinion on the quality-to-quantity ratio of narrative branches in video game stories? Are empty choices (ones that the player has to make but don't actually change anything) a form of being dishonest or just another tool in a writer's bag like so many others we've taken for granted for centuries?

I'm sorry if this question is too long. If you just want to take one part of it to answer, I'll completely understand.

johnzuurplatten2 karma

This is really great question because it deals not only with the creative but the business side of creating games. The truth is that most developers have moved away from "multiple branch" narratives because it means working on a lot of assets that may never be seen by the player (they don't take this particular branch). That's spending money with zero engagement. Not good. When I did Fear Effect, I had a narrative that branched multiple times and led to five different endings. I couldn't do that today.

Branching dialogue today (for instance, in The Walking Dead games from Tell Tale) may give you choices, but will chokepoint back onto the main conversation after two of three options. Otherwise, as you say, the math becomes impossible to manage.

And as for choices, what you have to remember is that all interactivity is an illusion - the trick is making that as hidden as possible.

aaaaaabaaaaaabaaaaaa1 karma

Planning to write anything original in the future? God damn have we had enough Jurassic park and f&f at this point.

johnzuurplatten1 karma

I have a number of original properties that I'm working on. Flint as well. Check out my comics from Top Cow and Image. Thanks.

sneve1 karma

How do we get the amazing F&F writers like yourself to work on a Star Wars podracing spinoff movie / series?

johnzuurplatten2 karma

Haha... thanks. For that, you'd have to talk to Disney.

livefast151 karma

Do you see a tendency for coders to be promoted up into design and narrative director positions?

johnzuurplatten2 karma

Narrative design and writing are fundamentally different than coding, so I haven't seen that very often in my experience. A lot of producers come from QA, working their way up. Usually, narrative content is generated by the design team.

SunstormGT1 karma

Zuur Platten sounds Dutch. Any Dutch lineage?

johnzuurplatten2 karma

I'm Belgian and French Canadian. My wife is Dutch, however. Zuur (sour) is her maiden name. I took it when I joined the WGAw, as they wouldn't let me register under my regular name because it was too close to another writer.

bishopazrael1 karma

When is the new Riddick coming out?

johnzuurplatten1 karma

Sooner rather than later, if I had my way. I wish I could say more.

Sniffy41 karma

If your current studio's project fails commercially, how soon do you start looking for other opportunities?

johnzuurplatten3 karma

I'm always looking for new work. I never want all my eggs in a single basket, because the video game business, like all entertainment businesses, is very unpredictable.

StellarReality1 karma

If one has a favorite series of books they'd like to see adapted into a game. How would one go about starting that process? I'm guessing receive permission from the author and then write out a storyline based on the book series?

johnzuurplatten1 karma

Yes. You'd need to approach the author (or more likely, the publisher) and find out if the rights are available.

CraterLabs1 karma

Should someone looking for this kind of thing set up a portfolio of unpublished video game-ish stuff? Like, a list of barks NPCs might shout, potential dialogue lines, that kind of thing?

johnzuurplatten3 karma

Yes. All of this. Write cut scenes, incidental dialogue, supporting mythologies, high-level design documents, etc. Flint and I wrote a book on this: https://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Guide-Video-Writing-Design/dp/158065066X/

CraterLabs3 karma

Ahh, good, thanks. I've started trying to build that, but it feels weird to just sort of write into a void about properties that don't exist

johnzuurplatten2 karma

My first true script was a spec Seinfeld episode that I wrote. It would never be produced, but was written to show that I could handle characters and storylines that people knew. That spec led to my first paid assignment on Harry and the Hendersons, and I was off and running.

h3rpad3rp1 karma

Why do so many video games based on movies suck?
Why do so many movies based on video games suck?

And I don't mean like passably bad, I mean pathetically bad.

Not all of them of course, but man adaptations have a bad track record.

johnzuurplatten2 karma

Most video game adaptations either ignore or "reimagine" the source material. There have been a few recent examples where the showrunners not only said they didn't play the games they were adapting but seemed proud of it. Of course, the results turn out the same. This is changing, slowly, but is still a conflict with the legacy media.

darrylthedudeWayne1 karma

What has been your favorite project too work on?

johnzuurplatten2 karma

It's a lot like asking who is your favorite child, but if I could choose only one, it would be Riddick. I also have a very soft spot for what I refer to as a "glorious failure", and that is Johnny Mnemonic.

ChessBorg1 karma

When you going to make another Riddick movie?!

johnzuurplatten1 karma

I would love it. Vin is so busy with F&F that it may be a while. But here's hoping.

AxelTheTired1 karma

What led you to begin working in the video game creative writing industry? Moreover, what's one project you worked on that absolutely stuck with you, be it for the masterpiece it was or for the ineptitude of the team you worked with? Thank you for the AMA!!

johnzuurplatten1 karma

I started this journey through my work in VFX. The project that has stuck with me the most would be my time at Niantic doing Ingress. We had so many insane adventures traveling the world and meeting agents. We were doing things nobody had tried before. We would write scripts in the morning that would be performed in the afternoon. It was a high-wire act at times, and insanely difficult, but ultimately incredibly rewarding.

MabFey151 karma

Will you finally make the world a happier, brighter place and make more Riddick movies!?!???

johnzuurplatten2 karma

If we had our way, yes.

neroselene1 karma

Got any interesting stories or fond memories from working on the Riddick franchise?

johnzuurplatten1 karma

One of our first tasks was to rewrite the script that had previously been rejected. Step one was what we called "de-fuckification" - we simply went through and removed every curse word in the script. It instantly read 50% better. Then we dug in and did a page-one rewrite to bring the rest of the script to a place that would make both Universal and Vin happy.

ElleRisalo1 karma

New Ghoatbusters or the old good shit?

johnzuurplatten1 karma

I've had the privilege of getting to work with Dan Aykroyd and Bill Atherton on the Ghostbusters DLC for Planet Coaster. Flint and I also wrote the Ghostbusters Video Game with the original cast. We weren't involved in the reboot.

sc3002jz1 karma

Will a sequel to Chrono Trigger ever make sense to make?

johnzuurplatten2 karma

It would be awesome, but Japanese game development tends to be pretty secretive. I've never heard anything that would give one hope.

wowlolcat1 karma

Dude you wrote Fear Effect (2000), Escape from Butcher Bay (2004) & Assault on Dark Athena (2009) which are some of my most cherished games.

I don't think people here realize the impact you've had on video games, they think you wrote the movies lol.

The Ghostbusters game you worked on was also really good, considered the true Ghostbusters 3.

Side-note, I played the hell out of Jurassic World Evolution, so kudos to you for that one.

My question, relates to Fear Effect. Did you work with the dev team at all back then, or were you strictly just working on turning in the story and script?

With Butcher Bay, what were your contributions to the writing, was it dialogue or larger story aspects? Anything you can share about its production?

Thanks for your time with the AMA!

johnzuurplatten3 karma

Thanks, I really appreciate it. For FE, I was internal at Kronos, and so not only wrote it but also was a designer and producer/director. It was an intense development. The core idea was from Stan Lui, who owned the company. He was from Hong Kong and was obsessed with an area of the city known as the Kowloon Walled City. He wanted a cyberpunk adventure set in that environment. My job was to create the characters and the story that would work with the game.

For Butcher Bay, Flint and I wrote (rewrote) the core story, and then handled all of the dialogue for the game. What was amazing is the first time we met Vin for the recording session. We had heard stories, but it turned out that Vin is a huge D&D player, and he ended up fanboying on Flint. He turned out to be a great guy, and was hugely respectful of our work. One my favorite celebs, hands down.

briancady4131 karma

If funded by education departments, could/would you build learning real science and math skills into popular games?

johnzuurplatten2 karma

I've done some educational titles before (mostly in the app space). It would be great to do more.

zefmopide0 karma


johnzuurplatten1 karma

I write the video game content. I'm not ashamed of anything. Jurassic Park and Jurassic World are great franchises, and I'm grateful that I'm a part of them.

Sleepiboisleep0 karma

Did you give up your integrity writing for fast and furious? Or are you just not that creative? Tbf Flint I haven’t played most of those games and don’t plan to, but they can’t be as bad as homeboys movies

johnzuurplatten1 karma

I wrote the Forza DLC for F&F. Had a blast doing it.