Forspoken just kind of came and went, didn't it? After so much buildup pre-release, the magical action RPG dissipated almost immediately upon release into the wild. Part of the hype for the game was the writing talent attached, including Rogue One scribe Garry Whitta and Amy Hennig of Uncharted fame. But as these things so often go, it looks like little of either's contribution made it into the final form of the game.
In an interview with Alanah Pearce on her Video Game Writing 101 podcast (thanks, GamesRadar+), Whitta discussed his involvement with the project, noting that "I did some very very early foundational world-building lore stuff on Forspoken, I never wrote an actual line of dialogue”.
He describes the way the whole thing came together: "What happened was Square came to me five or six years ago and said 'we have an idea but it's just a germ of an idea, would you be willing to help us build out the world and the mythology and the story?'”
Whitta accepted and was asked to lead a writer's room, which he did, where much of the lore and history of the world of Athia was created. Incidentally, Whitta says the name "Athia" was one of his few contributions that actually made it into the final game.
A couple of months later, Whitta says that "they came back to me and one of the other writers and said 'we're going to start over to completely reboot the story, we want it to be this now'". This new story was about a young woman from the real world sucked into a fantasy realm, the story that Forspoken would ultimately ship with.
Whitta is credited in Forspoken under 'Original concept', with Hennig's contribution billed as 'Story Concept'. Whitta acknowledges that having the names of such high-profile writers attached to the project raised the level of prestige of the game itself.
We thought Forspoken was full of dull characters, boring sidequests, and a disjointed main story, and you can read our full thoughts on the matter in our review.
What do you think of Whitta's words, are you surprised by the writer's lack of involvement, or does it make sense considering the final product? Let us know in the comments section below.
[source youtu.be, via gamesradar.com, eurogamer.net]
I'm actually very happy to read that Amy Hennig only has "story concept" credits. The stort writing and dialogue is very VERY goofy; like someone or a team where attempting to emulate her style, but obviously lacked the chops to truly encapsulate it.
I wonder what exactly happened during the process of creating Forspoken, and the mess it ended up being. That will be a more interesting story than what I have seen in Forspoken.
This makes a ton of sense. We don't know exactly what Henning did or didn't contribute, but we now know Whitta contributed little to what was shipped and the knowledge of a reboot mid process sounds so, so, so much like the troubled Luminous we know.
That means that committee of rookie, nobody part time writers who are otherwise actors or directors wrote most of that dreck. Why would luminous throw away the famous writers they hired for that?
Seriously, square should sell Luminous to Microsoft, they should merge it with 343i, and then once every 12 years we can get a half baked mediocre game from a cacophonous development cycle that costs 300m to make
For-spoken? More like For-gotten.
Sorry, I'll see myself out.
@NEStalgia They hired them for a week to write a concept. By the time they decided to approve it, the writers had been hired by someone else to write something else.
@NEStalgia Having them in the writing room for a week a lot cheaper than having them around for a year or two.
Writing in video games in general is terrible, and I'm still not sure why with the budget that is put into games these days.
I haven't seen a great deal of Whitta's work but I'm assuming he would've been more competent than whoever ended up leading this
@roe I've only seen Rogue one, and Book of Eli that he wrote, but like them or not, they're well written films. Personally I think Rogue one is one of the best pieces of Star wars content.
Seems a shame that they got such great writers on there and decided not to use them. I mean looking at another Square franchise, the world building in the Final fantasy games is fantastic but the actual dialogue is usually pretty bad, or at the very least goofy. And I say this as a massive fan of the franchise
@NEStalgia The whole podcast is well worth a listen imho. Gary is always very open, he wears his heart on his sleeve and generally doesn't give a ****! Lots of interesting anecdotes etc.
He suggested that he wrote an original world building idea, probably in a similar way to G.R.R. Martin for Elden Ring, but when they came back to him later with a very revised idea he was then busy on other projects/not interested so it got handed off elsewhere. He didn't really know what the details of Amy Hennig's involvements was other than she was credited as "story concept".
It's probably more likely they were trying to attach some bigger names to it for exposure. Which worked on the front end, Gary Whitta and Amy Hennig crossed with SquareEnix had many excited including me, but they didn't' deliver on the final product.
I had a feeling this was the case. There's no way that game was written by some of the talent behind Uncharted and especially Spec Ops The Line. Now I am curious what the original idea was.
Amy Hennig creates legacy of kain soul reaver, there's no way she's involved in this mess of a story lol. Man I remember the dialogue on soul reaver is really good, how can we got backward in game dialogue after decades in gaming is puzzling me.
I genuinely forgot this game existed. Has there been a less memorable game in recent memory? 🤣
I can totally see how he’s trying to distance himself from the game after the story failed to impress. And specifically stating that “I never wrote an actual line of dialogue” seems a very intentional attempt to clarify and salvage his reputation, seeing as the dialogue was the most criticized aspect of the game.
Not a great look when one of the original writers says, "I didn't have anything to do with the dialogue."
@Korgon Agree, I was hoping they'd say what the original idea was.
@Ryall @Octane @themightyant Good point. It almost sounds like it was a sleazy calculated strategy just to get to bill the names on the marketing without having to actually pay professional writers for the product. it gave them marketing power, and all they had to do is give top writing credits to two writers that basically didn't even work on it.
I couldn't figure out why they had so many writers on this, this is why, 2 of them didn't really even write it, it was the other 4 that did, and none of them are even full time writers. The whole thing is amateur hour and it shows. That's an amazingly cheap trick from Square, while being fed money from Sony.
Square manages to make me feel dirty every time I interact with them. I think I feel more positive about EA these days.
@extragood LOL it's true. "Oh we'd like to talk about a recent work you — "
"I DIDN'T DO IT!!"
@NEStalgia To be fair sometimes this is just about finances. E.g. games sometimes do hire bigger time writers to create a world or some world building elements early on, because that's all they can afford, but couldn't afford to pay them to work alongside for years and years.
Similar with composers, you sometimes have a theme tune for a game by a bigger composer e.g. Danny Elfman did Fable and others.
@themightyant It's the FFXV team funded by Sony exclusivity money. Tight budgets are not something these guys have any familiarity with. Burning through large budgets with little to show for it is more their specialty.
@NEStalgia Top Hollywood writers will charge millions for that long haul. Sadly video games generally, especially in Japan, just don't value writing that much. They'd rather spend their budget almost anywhere else.
This is changing with some western studios that are narrative led, Santa Monica, Naughty Dog etc. but it's still rare.
In the whole podcast he discusses writers that come in to fix broken movie scripts who get paid around $350,000 a week. Obviously the cost of filming is often millions per day, and the cost of a bad movie is even more money down the drain, so as crazy as these values are they make financial sense when things are going wrong.
@themightyant True, though there's an easier solution to skip Whitta and keep Henning. Or skip both of them and hire someone other than a European indie film actor that also writes. Believe it or not most Japanese games fans are fans for the stories. It's a Squaresoft RPG. I really don't think they needed to spend millions on Whatta, OR spend 5¥ and a pack of Pocky Sticks on western wannabe edgelords like they actually bought.
@NEStalgia It's been an eternity since I played a JRPG with a really good story. I think it might be the most derivative genre, filled with stereotypes and cliché. Believe it or not back in the NES and SNES days it was favourite genre.
It's like the boy gets magic sword, meets father figure/wizard, falls in love with princess and saves the day fantasy literature trope. Played out. JRPGS are sorely in need of the equivalent of GRIMDARK, subvert all those expectations and play off them.
@themightyant Haha, at least the stereotypes and cliche remain upbeat and fun unlike whatever tryhard thing this wanted to be alongside Saint's Row.
If anything is played out it's grimdark. I swear I'm to the point I won't buy another grimdark game. It's either grimdark, Marvel, or Starwars, or on occasion some hybrid of all of them. XVI looks like it wants to go that way and I'm not even convinced I'll buy it. We've been doing that since the PS360 brown shooter, and those of us that were doing PC the decade before that, far longer. It's been grimdark since 1995 on the PC-turned-console side of things. That's the fun of the upbeat Japanese tropes for contrast. Star Ocean: Divine may be a giant trope but TBH it was just FUN. Of course is there really that much trope in JRPGs at this point? FF has just been WEIRD for ages. DQ exists FOR the trope, Falcom has tropes but also subverts them, Atlus is its own trope, RGG....I mean it makes a open mockery of copying DQ's trope on purpose now.... I think it's really the low budget and anime licensed stuff that goes for the old tropes at this point.
Then there's this game that has the edgelord budget writing.....yet the underlying story is just the worlds biggest trope.
I didn't get a chance to give them any notes on the story and characters - the gameplay sucked in the demo and that was it for that game and my time. Too many games available to play, too little time.
This explains alot sadly. I'm glad I held off on pre-ordering.
Hopefully the game should be $25 New by Summer 2024.
@NEStalgia I didn't explain myself clearly enough. I 100% agree Western games need to embrace fun and crazy again, channel some of that Japanese magic, rather than hyper realism and heavy themes all the time, because that is the area they have ignored.
But equally JRPGS need to do the opposite. FFXVI seemingly being darker is a massive plus for me, the genre just seems so derivative and tired right now. Occasionally something like DQ XI comes through that despite it pandering to every trope still has the magic, but I find this less and less. Most feel like a minor twist on the same adventure we have been playing for 30 years, needs new blood.
@themightyant Which games did you have in mind dong it wrong? May well be I just cherry pick enough that I'm missing the worst of the tropes. I mean I loved Star Ocean. It's just a trope. But it's so darned fun.
I admit, I'm tempted by One Piece when it goes on sale. The demo was fun. I don't even like One Piece and have never found the games good before, but it feels kinda DQ-like.
@__jamiie yeah Scorn, Crackdown, Crossfire, High on Life and Babylons fall are a few I can think of.
@UltimateOtaku91 High on Life is very memorable, just for bad reasons.
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