Friday, September 14, 2012

Writing Item Descriptions

On the surface, writing a short description of an item can seem like a mundane task. There's the direct approach, where you literally describe the graphic. This method is certainly acceptable, but it's likely the player already has some understanding of the object in question. If you ask me, displaying "This is a pencil." underneath a picture of a Ticonderoga #2 seems a little too.. basic. I'd suggest it's more fun to take an indirect approach, possibly in the last sentence of the description.

Here's an example. Let's say the player encounters a key at some point in a cartridge. The first two sentences are descriptive, but the third offers a little something extra. Consider matching the description below with one of the following options.

Description: "This is a tarnished key, crafted from solid brass. It's engraved with the following text: Sterling 18K."

  • Hint approach: "This item might be important later on."
  • Red herring approach: "It's possible this key unlocks the door to the throne room." (The "throne room" is never mentioned again.)
  • Sarcastic approach: "You consider adding it to your already heavy burden."
  • Mystery approach: "It's unclear if you'll ever use it, but keys do have a tendency to unlock things."
  • Logic/present-value approach: "You never know, the locksmith might trade you a crowbar for it." (A reference to a character already encountered.)
  • Comic approach: "If nothing else, it'll come in handy if you ever need to poke someone in the eye."
Put together clever sentence combinations, and players will enjoy your cartridge even more.

Parting thought: All text is important, even the seemingly mundane item descriptions.

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