Going from Skyrim to Fallout 4 and then subsequently Starfield proved a challenge for some of Bethesda’s writers.
Speaking to Polygon, design director Emil Pagliarulo tackles a multi-faceted question over how much involvement they had with a 200,000-line script and how you might ensure a tome that large contains depth and doesn’t leave any character sounding like someone “reading out of a book at a lecture in a college hall.”
“There are a couple of things there,” Pagliarulo says. “One is, again, experience, having been reviewing the designers’ dialogue for so long and really wanting to differentiate Starfield from Elder Scrolls and Fallout. It was a bit of a challenge going from Skyrim to Fallout 4, when the designers want to write their shopkeepers, like, ‘Hello and well met!’ It’s a tonal shift.
“Even from Fallout to Starfield, really pushing concise dialogue and realistic dialogue. How do people really talk? A lot of that would come out as I would constantly playtest this stuff from the designers. ‘There’s a lot of dialogue here. I’m clicking like four times, you can cut this down.’ So copy editing is a big part of that process! And trimming that dialogue down.”
Pagliarulo also talks about how one of the best things you can do when writing dialogue is to keep the entire development process in mind. You can scribble the story away from the word go, but you’ll do well to remember that environments will eventually come in that will aid with some of that narrative heavy lifting.
“The challenge from upfront is: Don’t tell the story through what we call ‘lore bombs,’” they say. “There will be environmental storytelling that comes in; the level designers, when they build the levels, will tell half the story. And so we have a much better process in place for every quest line, having a quest designer paired up with a level designer, and then constantly talking and being in sync with each other to help tell the story visually as well as through the dialogue.”
Starfield is due to release on September 6, though can always pay even more money if you want to get into the Starfield Early Access.