Lead Writer Bobby Stein Talks GW2 House (of) Style

Discussion in 'Game Discussion' started by Aspira, Nov 21, 2010.

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    Aspira Admin Officer


    By Bobby Stein June 1st, 2010

    If you’ve been keeping up with Guild Wars 2 news, you know how we’re crafting personal stories for every playable race and minimizing intrusive text. But we’re also adjusting our writing style to match our new design philosophies in game and on the Web. Read on for a sneak peak at what’s to come.

    House (of) Style

    I’m guessing a large portion of our player base has never cracked open The Chicago Manual of Style. I work in a room full of word nerds. We live and breathe this stuff to the point where we agonize over seemingly mundane things like punctuation, capitalization, and phrasing. For years we’ve gnashed our teeth to the gums while capping common nouns and game terms with every release. when we edited some copy.

    Starting with this article, we’re changing Guild Wars 2 house style to conform more closely to CMS rules. Professions are now lowercased except when used in a title. The same goes for playable races, though nationalities and group affiliations will remain uppercase as is consistent with contemporary practice. It may take a few minutes to adjust to the new look, but we’re pretty confident that you’re a savvy bunch. You don’t need every other word capitalized for emphasis. Context will tell you all you need to know about our lore and game mechanics. Existing Guild Wars 2 articles should be updated to reflect this, but if you catch an error, feel free to let us know. Existing original Guild Wars articles and in-game text will retain their legacy formatting, however.

    You Deserve Better

    Video games are a primary entertainment form for many people. It’s been estimated that 68 percent of American households play computer or other video games, with similarly high numbers in the United Kingdom. Games are mainstream, just like books, television programs, and movies.

    It’s appropriate, then, that gamers should demand higher quality products than they’ve been getting. Graphics are reaching Uncanny Valley levels of realism, yet one of the biggest complaints from fans and critics is that most games treat writing as an afterthought. Sometimes story takes a backseat to gameplay, and other times internal style is used over accepted standards with inconsistent results.

    Our development processes are iterative. So let it be with the next evolution of our cherished Guild Wars universe that we make a clean break from the old. We owe it to you. We owe it to ourselves. We might even owe it to that maniac Kilroy Stonekin since he fleeced us at Polymock.


    Why Bother?

    Old habits die hard, and we seriously considered sticking with the old style for convenience reasons. The more we analyzed our existing rules, however, the more it became very clear that whoever constructed them had been hitting the writer sauce. (I wish I could take credit for the madness, but these conventions were well in place by the time I joined ArenaNet. Though I do like my writer sauce.)
    While playing the original Guild Wars you could easily encounter something like this:

    A Sylvari, a Norn, and a human walk into a bar.
    (Post a punch line at your forum of choice.)

    We capitalized races (well, actually species if we’re being technical here…which we’re not) based on sentience. So Asura, Norn, Sylvari, etc. were capped—except for humans. Why? Because in everyday writing, we don’t cap common nouns (and if you’ve ever driven in Seattle traffic, you’d think that most humans aren’t sentient beings anyway).

    Our practice of using common nouns as proper names for things like professions and items was also a frequent source of agita. “Come here, Warrior, so that I might give you this Long Sword. Of…Swiftly Cutting Things. Verily!”

    Not only did it hurt the brain, but it also removed many words from common use because of implied confusion. For instance, “We’re in need of warriors, but first I’ll need a daiquiri. Go slay me six coconuts, and I’ll give you [item name] in return.” Does that mean only players of the warrior profession are needed, or can anybody who fights help? Should I slay a few ice cubes while I’m at it?

    Bad jokes aside, it often backfired on us to abuse word capitalization. So we’re sorry for the emotional damage, and we’ll try harder in the future to avoid such behavior. I also apologize for all the fragments and parentheticals in this article (or is it an editorial?).

    Just don’t get me started on the overused ellipsis…

    In Closing

    If you’ve made it this far, I’d like to extend a sincere thanks—to both of you. With all the exciting news about Guild Wars 2 getting published recently, something as simple as a style change barely counts as anything but a footnote. Do keep your eyes open for an upcoming (and in my opinion, slightly more interesting) piece on our extensive voice work, complete with audible proof! Thanks for your continued support and patience. And never bet against a dwarf.

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