Bring That Thunder
Beginning development of Just Cause 4, I shuffled into the new role of Narrative Designer to fill a critical role in our fledgling storytelling team. Together with a small team of cinematic artists and storytellers, it was my job to make sense of the madness that players would inflict on the island nation of Solís.
Designing narrative for Just Cause is a tricky business, because the goal is to graft an action movie plot onto a nonlinear game where Rico's superheroic abilities give him free reign over a massive sandbox right from the get-go. The player can be almost anywhere at any time, and can move very fast.
In response to this challenge, our team iterated on a philosophy for how scripted dialogue, structured missions, open world antics, cutscenes, barks, and traditional cinematic plot structure coalesced into a cohesive story. This involved event and state-based scripting, nonlinear storytelling and writing, multiple channels of radio programming, narrative investment in branding advertisements and graffiti, and no small amount of iteration. While there is a story, players are encouraged to explore it as they wish, and not feel constrained by it.
Among my contributions to the game were mission narrative and dialogue, and "storyvangelizing" with artists and designers to keep narrative in the forefront when constructing locations and objectives. This ranged from describing the overall purpose of a major location like the Prisa Automóvil Factory to designing graffiti, brands, and signage for artists to realize.
And writing! From our story bible to cinematic dialogue, from objective text to location names, a majority of the dialogue and copy in the game crossed my desk for creation or proofing. Occasionally, new systems or designs required definition, so I also wrote technical specs for programmers and technical designers.
Another rewarding task was developing the introduction to Solís and the resolution of Rico's campaign against Oscar Espinosa. I collaborated with artists, animators, and mission designers on locations like the slum bridge of El Abismo and the towering Project Illapa facility, iterating through designs, scripting dialogue, and communicating vision for creating meaningful story beats.
As production wound down, I represented Avalanche at a special Just Cause 4 Preview Event in Los Angeles, where I gave several on- and off-camera interviews about the game's narrative and mechanics.
Los Angeles preview event photo courtesy of Bryan Rodriguez