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Use the GDC 2021 Session Viewer to browse and sort the ever-growing list of sessions by day, time, pass type, topic, and format. All registered attendees will be able to build their personal schedule directly within the event platform, once live early July 2021. All times are listed in Pacific Time.

Game Narrative Summit: Turn Your Writers Into Programmers: Greyboxing Narrative with Story Languages

Jon Manning  (50% of Secret Lab, Secret Lab)

Ryan North  (Writer, Dinosaur Comics)

Date: Tuesday, July 20

Time: 2:00pm - 2:30pm

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Summits Pass

Topic: Game Narrative

Format: Session

Vault Recording: Video

Audience Level: N/A: I would like to deliver a virtual presentation only

Writers and narrative designers are often used to working in one of two modes: abstract, high-level design of narrative systems, or lower-level line management. Wouldn't it be nice to have somewhere in between?

In this talk, learn how narrative scripting systems designed to bridge the gap between programming and writing allow writers to block out the logic of a game's story, allowing them to contribute to a runnable narrative implementation at a far earlier stage of the game than would usually be possible.

Join Ryan North (Destiny 2, Marvel Comics) and Jon Manning (Night in the Woods), as we explore how to build systems for faster, reactive, and more sustainable narrative development.


Attendees will learn techniques and development workflows that allow writers to contribute to the narrative logic of a title earlier in production than would otherwise be possible, and in a capacity that lets them contribute code without necessarily requiring the same programming skillset as others in the team.

Intended Audience

This talk will be of use to narrative designers looking for solutions to the problem of branching stories that don't rely on spreadsheets, node-based solutions, or other tools that require more oversight and contact, as well as to writers curious about what can be done in this new medium. This talk is also relevant to tools programmers more generally.