John Banks and Peter Giles interview Matt Costello in two parts at the LAMP: Story of the Future Residential held at Couran Cove, Queensland, Australia in December 2007.
Matt talks about story worlds and how the game play is very dependent on the underlying story and how more importantly they really need to be developed in parallel. He uses Bioshock and the first Halo as examples of how story is really starting to permeate games in a more integrated way. Matt also refers to two games he recently wrote, Rage and Pirates of Caribbean as how the iterative and creative process work from first hand experience, but points out that each game development and production is often different from the last.
“There is a heightened awareness that the story is important. Not that the narrative has to be linear or has to drive the gameplay, its just that the way the next generation machines look, the graphics and the new engines that are being developed, it has to be treated as a very serious thing…do I find that a lot of people create that bubble of time to sort of play with those ideas? Sometimes yes and sometimes no but often it can show in a project. But if there is one suggestion I would make to the industry in general is make that time, do the retreat, go for a week in the mountains, and come back and have in paper form the world and the story and the gameplay you want to have.”
The discussion moves to adaptations of games using existing properties like Aladdin, the aesthetics of games and in part two the cross-over form between film and game and the skills required by future creatives. Matt thinks that screenwriters are not being given the opportunities at film schools to immerse themselves in interactive media and visa-versa interactive students do not learn the deep storytelling skills. This doesn’t create the opportunity to create a new kind of person – a talented script writer who understands non-linear and interactive. Matt uses the examples of early animation when writing stories for cartoons seemed quite odd at the time of early Disney and then about games leading the film writing and Matt’s work informing the story for the next Pirates of the Caribbean film. The interview finishes with a discussion about the lack of courses looking specifically at growing story worlds and writing for games.
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This podcast presentation produced and presented by LAMP @ AFTRS.
Filmed by Fadia Abboud, Sound by Peter Giles and Fadia Abboud
Podcast description, editing, processing and publishing by Gary Hayes
MATT COSTELLO – Writer and Games Designer, Polar Productions
Matt Costello is based in New York, London and LA and has written ground-breaking and award-winning novels, games, and television. Matt has scripted dozens of best-selling games and of one Time Magazine said, “The story is delivered with unusual art.” He wrote the groundbreaking Pirates of the Caribbean 3 game across all platforms and has been commissioned to do the fourth in the series.
Since writing the critically acclaimed classic game The 7th Guest, he has scripted dozens of best-selling games such as Shellshock-Nam ‘67 (Guerrilla Games and Eidos), Bad Boys 2 (Empire) and 2005’s Doom 3 winner of an unprecedented five awards at E3 including the Game Critics Award: Best of E3. Just Cause, co-written for Eidos, debuted as the #1 game for Xbox 360 in the UK. Named ‘Best Adventure Game’ at the 2006 E3, it premiered on the US best-seller lists as the #2 Xbox 360 game.
He has written a major new game for Eidos and Rage a new game for ID Software and other notable games include:
- Hercules, for Disney Interactive
- The Dark Half, for MGM.
- Derelict, for The Sci-Fi Channel
- Fatal Illusion -The Clue Chronicles – for Hasbro
- Barbie’s Riding Adventure–for Mattel
- Clifford’s Reading– for Scholastic
- Starsky & Hutch – for Empire
- The Italian Job – Eidos
Matt also specialises in the kid’s genre and has created many award-winning games for children. Several years ago he co-created one of the first major experiments in ‘two-way TV’, called ZoogDisney. Branded as ‘TV you do’ – for two years the ZoogDisney weekend bloc re-shaped the Disney channel, bringing it squarely into the interactive and ‘tweens world. He has written a kids book series for Scholastic , The Kids of Einstein Elementary, which blends adventure and math and also scripted episodes of the award-winning PBS animated series, Cyberchase. Other awards include the landmark Aladdin’s Mathquest with math expert Marilyn Burns for Disney, as well as A Cartoon History of the Universe (Putnam).
Matt is a designer of many role-playing and board games, including Dungeons and Dragons, Call of Cthulhu, Batman, Lone Wolf & Cub, and many others. He also co-wrote episodes of the BBC/Disney series Microsoap, winner of the Prix de Jeunesse and is currently creating an MMOG using Multiverse which integrates its story world with an animated Childrens BBC TV series. Penguin published his latest novel, Nowhere, in 2007.