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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.

'Sunless Skies': A Narrative Postmortem

Chris Gardiner  (Narrative Director, Failbetter Games)

Date: Thursday, July 22

Time: 1:20pm - 2:20pm

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Core Pass

Topic: Design

Format: Session

Vault Recording: Video

Audience Level: I acknowledge GDC 2021 is an all-digital event and commit to participating virtually.

This session is about how, in less than two years of production, a small indie team made Sunless Skies: a game with a critically acclaimed, heavily reactive story and more words than the King James Bible.

Using examples from development and the game's design documents, Chris Gardiner, Failbetter's Narrative Director, will explore the challenges the team faced, the processes and techniques they employed, and what worked (as well as what didn't.)

The session will focus on the techniques Failbetter developed to address the demands of a story-driven game. How you can ensure your game maintains a clear, consistent narrative tone across development. How Failbetter's pitching process evolved over the project, and tips on best practices for handling pitches. How targeted consultations can improve your storytelling, access critical expertise, and help you avoid stories that are trite or insensitive.


Attendees will come away with practical techniques to help achieve a consistent, communicable tone for their game, and tips to improve their pitching practices (both for internal and freelance writers). Finally, they learn about the benefits of targeted consultations, and how to get the most out of them.

Intended Audience

The session will be of particular interest to writers, narrative designers, and anyone whose work incorporates elements of narrative or creative direction, but will be relevant to anyone involved in making games with an emphasis on story.