Nick Sharps had the opportunity to chat with Ubisoft Scriptwriter Oliver Sudden about the new living-world game Far Cry 4.
Join them, won’t you?
Nick Sharps: Hello Oliver, please tell us a little bit about yourself and your position at Ubisoft Montreal.
Oliver Sudden: Well, I was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario and I first came to Montreal to do a degree in Filmmaking at Concordia University.
I moved away and then moved back and after applying two or three times to Ubisoft Montreal, I was hired on as a scriptwriting intern and hope to become a full-time scriptwriter soon.
NS: It is my understanding that you worked on the action-adventure first-person shooter video game Far Cry 4. As a long time fan of the Far Cry franchise I have to say, this must have been an exciting opportunity. Can you tell us a little about your contribution to the game and what it’s like to work with a team of writers?
OS: It was a lot of fun but I’ll be honest, although I was familiar with the franchise, I hadn’t played an FC game. Once I found out that I would be working on FC4, I rented FC3 and did some grueling and serious research.
I came on to a great team who were all very supportive, talented and made terrible puns so I felt well at home. I did a lot of barks (NPC dialogue), some side missions and a lot of the collectible notes. There were also some odds and ends here and there.
Working with a team of writers is something that I have wanted for a long time. My writing usually happens alone but when you see the other end of it: a collaborative entity, there’s a support and give and take that is integral to the growth of the creative process. Co-operation and sharing is something you can’t learn as well when you’re flying solo, if at all.
NS: Have you worked on other games or is Far Cry 4 your first?
OS: Far Cry 4 is my first, yes. First of many, fingers crossed.
NS: I enjoy the “interactive story” aspect of video games above all else they offer. What are some of the ways you can express story in a game beyond standard exposition? What are some of your favorite story moments in video games?
OS: I think the more the story’s progression is put in the player’s control, the more satisfying said story can be. I have experienced that myself in my gaming experiences. It’s a delicate balance between telling the story and showing the story.
One of my favourite story moments in video games is in Red Dead Redemption, more specifically the climax when John Marston comes out of the barn to face the posse. It put me through a progression of emotions. It was elegant, well-planned and non-manipulative and an example of how good writing and narrative design can engross you.
NS: Applying for colleges my senior year of high school I came across a fair amount of schools offering game design programs (I actually applied to one such program) but what I really wanted to study was game writing. There may be some game writing programs out there but I didn’t find them. Could you share how you came to be involved with scriptwriting and give advice to aspiring writers on how they might best pursue a career in the field?
OS: First off, I came at things a little sideways as far as the industry goes. I went to school for filmmaking and have always loved movies and story; so, writing has always been with me in some capacity. Briefly, do your due diligence. Talk to anyone in the industry you can and listen to their experiences and any advice they may have. I would guess that there’s not just one way. And most of all, never give up. If you want anything bad enough, the chance will come along and it usually seems to show up just when we think we’re finished so don’t ever quit. But most of all: write every day.
NS: Do you write outside of video game script writing? Do you have any interest in working on books or even movies?
OS: Always. Every day. Forever. I’m a writer first and foremost and if I’m not writing every day then I feel itchy and unworthy of the title. I realised a few years ago that I was not going to get an embossed invitation from The Writer’s Guild Of Life; I had to write my own. I write. That’s my expertise. Every single day. I really think it’s important to love writing for the sake of writing. Story is an ancient art that needs to be respected and explored. The technology may change but great stories, at their core, what makes them work has been unchanged since Aeschylus, Homer, etc.
I’m currently revising a manuscript for a novel that I’ve been writing for a few years. That’s my current scheme and there’s an old script idea I may revive when I’m done the novel. Besides that, I always have a good handful of short stories that bounce around the ol’ mind-grapes.
NS: On the subject of books, are you much of a reader? If so do you have any favorites you’d like to share?
OS: Reading goes hand in hand with writing. If you can’t acquaint yourself with the best that has ever been done, you sabotage yourself with an extremely low ceiling of possibility. I love Hemingway. He’s a master of economy. Maximum effect with minimum words is a necessary skill for writing in English. Philip K. Dick is another favourite of mine. There’s always a really interesting premise behind each one of his works. And he was crazy prolific. He couldn’t stop writing.
NS: I’m really looking forward to playing Far Cry 4. I’d like to thank you so much for taking time to answer my questions and I wish you the best of luck with the release of the game! Do you have any final words for readers?
OS: Thanks for that. It was a pleasure and I wish your readers the best of luck in their creative pursuits… and buy two copies of Far Cry 4!