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Last week, The New Yorker featured an interview with FromSoftware’s game director Miyazaki Hidetaka, conducted by Simon Parkin.

Mostly, it’s about difficulty, but also about writing. For Elden Ring, as you might know, Miyazaki collaborated with George R. R. Martin. But it’s not at all your regular “let’s hire a writer/screenwriter for the story” approach:

Miyazaki placed some key restraints on Martin’s contributions. Namely, Martin was to write the game’s backstory, not its actual script. Elden Ring takes place in a world known as the Lands Between. Martin provided snatches of text about its setting, its characters, and its mythology, which includes the destruction of the titular ring and the dispersal of its shards, known as the Great Runes. Miyazaki could then explore the repercussions of that history in the story that the player experiences directly. “In our games, the story must always serve the player experience,” he said. “If [Martin] had written the game’s story, I would have worried that we might have to drift from that. I wanted him to be able to write freely and not to feel restrained by some obscure mechanic that might have to change in development.”

In Ludotronics, my game design book, I wrote about how a game’s setting, location/environment, backstory, and lore can be crafted with audiovisual, kinesthetic, and mythological means to create the game’s world narrative. How Miyazaki approached this for Elden Ring would make a terrific example for an updated edition.

Also:

There’s an irony in Martin—an author known for his intricate, clockwork plots—working with Miyazaki, whose games are defined by their narrative obfuscation. In Dark Souls, a crucial plot detail is more likely to be found in the description of an item in your inventory than in dialogue. It’s a technique Miyazaki employs to spark players’ imaginations[.]

For many reasons, I think it’s an excellent approach. (I also think that Miyazaki is very polite.)

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