Writing Samples (video games)

These samples are from a writing test created for Gearbox Software, provided to demonstrate dialogue, narrative, and world building. You may also download them as a pdf.

Character Backstory

The character backstory is based on concept art from Battleborn, a video game that mixes FPS and MOBA elements in a rich, story-driven co-op campaign. The tone ranges from comedy to action, allowing for a wide range of character options. The art is of a thick-set man with muttonchops. He’s dressed in coveralls, work boots, and an undershirt. He’s strapped in an exoskeleton (think Matt Damon in Elysium) and holding a massive tech-ified hammer (like if Mjolnir went on a steroid binge).

Name: Vinnie

Faction: The Rogues

Role: Disruptor

Backstory: You know that guy who sits on the sidelines talking trash about how he could do better? That’s Vinnie. A top Rogue mechanic, he spent as much time in the repair bay spouting armchair battle strategies as he did fixing his fellow Rogues’ tech.

Finally tiring of Vinnie’s loud mouth, Reyna challenged him with, “You really think you can do better? Prove it.” So Vinnie cobbled together an exoskeleton and power hammer (which he calls “Doris”) and stepped on the battlefield for the first time.

Actual combat was a real eye-opener — fulfilling a mission while dodging enemy fire was harder than it looked. Still, turned out Vinnie could back up his bluster. What he lacked in combat training, he made up for in bravado and overpowered tech.

His mouth as much a weapon as his DIY gear, Vinnie’s fighting style isn’t what you’d call “conventional.” While smashing his way through the battlefield, he squawks in panic one second and spits a cocky retort the next. From moment to moment, it’s unclear whether Vinnie thinks he’s about to die or that only he can save the universe.

Personality: Imagine your average blue-collar armchair quarterback, always yelling play calls and criticisms, who actually gets shoved onto the field. Just, y’know, strapped into a high-tech harness and swinging a WMD on a stick.

Sample Dialog (incidental):

“Who taught you to shoot? A gun’s got sights for a reason.”

“Great example of what NOT to do.”

“Ha! My grandma hits harder than that!”

“OHGODOHGOD I’M BLEEDING! Wait; just motor oil. Never mind.”

“You couldn’t stop a runny nose.”

Sample Dialog (gun emplacement under attack):

“What genius left our gun exposed?!”

“Hey, idiots! Defend the gun!”

“Not the gun emplacement! NOOOOO!”

Sample Dialog (killing spree):

“THAT’s how you do it.”

“Plenty to go around!”

“Welcome to the party, pal!”

Sample Dialog (activating special ability):

“Say hello to Doris!”

“Saving everyone’s butts. Again.”

“Time to drop the hammer!”

Sample Dialog (PvE scripted storyline, discover the enemy’s secret weapon):

“What’s this? Some kinda doomsday weapon? Pfff, I could build somethin’ better outta scraps from the repair bay.”

Sample Dialog (PvE scripted storyline, main antagonist threatens to kill you and everyone you love):

“Yeah, yeah. I’m more worried about heartburn from the chili I had for lunch."

Side Quest

This is an optional quest for Borderlands 2, a first person shooter-based RPG in which players must stop the vile yet charismatic CEO of Hyperion Corporation from subjugating the planet Pandora. In addition to main story missions, players may take on side-quests. The game is hard-charging action with mature subject matter and a firmly tongue-in-cheek tone.

Heckuva Situation, Ain't It?

Objectives:

•  Find Heck’s camp

•  Kill attacking rakks

•  Find rakk nest

•  Search for evidence of Scraptrap

•  Track down Scraptrap

•  Kill Scraptrap's attackers

•  Return Scraptrap to Heck to defuse the mine

A crevasse just off the path to Mount Hellsfont opens on a narrow ledge that winds up around the interior of the volcanic cone. At the far end of the ledge, a figure calls out in a panic. He wears a high-tech mining helmet and both of his arms are replaced with cybernetic limbs.

“Help a fella out? Humbert Heck’s the name, prospecting’s my game. Found an Eridium vein up here, but got myself stuck. Stepped on a mine, y’see? If’n I move my foot, I'll blow to smithereens. Don’t much enjoy losing body parts, so I need your help to defuse it. I’ll make it worth your while! But try to ditch me and I’ll move my foot now — and whatever bits of ya that don’t get blown to hell will go right in the lava.”

ACCEPTING THE QUEST:

“Don’t worry; I won’t make ya do the defusing. Just grab ol' Scraptrap from my camp, back down the volcano. It’s a Claptrap that I got workin’ again from leftover scraps. That’s why I call it SCRAPtrap, y’see? ’Cause it’s made from SCRAPS. Get it? We call that a play on words.

“Anyway, yeah, Pandora ordered ’em all destroyed, but I didn’t have the heart. That rust bucket makes a mean corned beef hash.”

Heck’s camp is on a rocky spur that juts out from the base of Mount Hellsfont. As the player approaches, he sees Scraptrap hiding under the solitary shack’s awning. Scraptrap calls out once the player enters the camp:

“No! Get out of here! They’ll come back if they see you!”

Just then, a small flock of rakks attacks. It’s clear why: Heck set up in a rakk nest. He’s even got rakk hide drying on, well, racks.

Scraptrap panics during the fight, scooting out from under the awning. A badass rakk swoops down and snatches it up. A second badass rakk engages the player as the first flies off with the robot.

After defeating the second rakk (and any others that are still flitting around), the player hears from Heck over the ECHO:

“Guess those rakks don’t much appreciate me kickin’ ’em outta their nest. Who’d’a thunk? Better get after ’em before they turn Scraptrap back into plain ol’ scrap! Know what I mean? PLAY ON WORDS!”

The player follows the quest marker over to another rocky spur. Nearing this second rakk’s nest, the player can hear the sound of screeching rakks, bandit shouts, and gunfire. Upon arriving at the nest, the player sees a number of dead rakks and a couple dead bandits. The badass rakk pops up at this point, really pissed now, and attacks. A search of the nest after this battle confirms that Scraptrap isn’t there. Instead, the player spots tracks through the carpet of volcanic ash: robot treads and human footprints.

Following the tracks, the player soon hears the telltale sound of Scraptrap being abused. Turns out a bandit gang raided the rakk’s nest and stole the robot.

After the player takes down the bandits, Heck sends congratulations via ECHO:

"Nice work! If'n I didn't know better, I'd'a thought you'd killed bandits before. Anyway, my foot's fallin' asleep up here. Get a move on, will ya?"

The player starts back toward Heck with Scraptrap in tow. While glad to be rescued, the robot isn’t thrilled about what’s next:

“Heck’s stuck on a booby trap? AGAIN?! I can’t count how many times I’ve had to defuse something he stepped on, or stuck his hand in, or slept on top of, or stuck his tongue to. No, really, I LITERALLY can’t count. I think those bandits damaged my computational software.”

Along the way, Scraptrap starts drifting off course as it follows the player. Heck pipes up over ECHO again:

"Remember how I put Scraptrap together outta scraps? (WORDPLAY!) Yeah, it's got a bad motivator. Makes steerin' a bit wonky. Careful it don't wander too far, or somethin' nasty might swallow it — and you along with!"

If the player doesn't course correct (by moving next to the robot when it starts to drift and nudging it in the proper direction), Scraptrap wanders off course and inevitably runs afoul of surly bandits, hungry fauna, or burning lava.

Returning at last to Heck with Scraptrap, the robot goes to work while Heck rambles:

“What kinda lunatic booby traps a volcano? Sure, I’ll grant ya: someone tries to jump your claim, they deserve gettin’ blown all to hell. Still, seems RUDE, don’tcha think? Maybe put up warning signs next time. Yeah, that’s an idea. Gotta remember that….”

“All done!” Scraptrap then proclaims, deactivating the mine.

The player turns in the quest to Heck, who awards a Bouncing Betty grenade mod, plus money and experience TBD.

Heck then cackles “Now that Eridium’s mine! Mine mine mine!” as he runs further along the ledge.

A moment later, the player hears another mine activating. “Oops. Forgot about that one,” Heck says.

Scraptrap sighs. Weaving its way down the path to defuse the next mine, it mutters, “Senility and explosives are not a good mix.”

INSTEAD OF BRINGING BACK SCRAPTRAP:

Upon accepting the mission, the player may instead simply take Heck down.

If the player moves behind Heck and targets the base of his skull, a “Strike” option becomes visible. (“Thanks for nothin’, you sonuvabitch,” Heck gurgles as he crumples on top of the mine.) Heck’s body then displays a “TURN IN” indicator, but the reward is only for one-half the money and XP.

The mine detonates after two seconds, flinging Heck’s body into the volcano. If the player hasn’t turned in the quest before then, he must navigate molten lava to the spot Heck’s body landed in order to receive the reduced reward.

DECLINING THE QUEST:

Heck’s voice follows the player’s retreat: “Where ya goin’? I’ll blow us up! See if I don’t! …Okay, I was only messin’ around. I don’t wanna blow my legs off, too. Wait! Don’t leave me stuck up here! Come back! …Hang on; what’m I doing up here, anyway? Holy hell, I done stepped on a mine!”

Story Mission 

This sample mission assumes a first-person shooter RPG structure similar to Borderlands 2, but set in a steampunk world, complete with clockwork devices and airships. The premise is relatively straightforward high adventure.

Sabotage in the Sky

This quest assumes that the setting includes a rare mineral, commonly called Liftstone. When subject to intense heat, the stone catalyzes into Telluric gas (also called simply “Lift gas”). This gas has anti-gravity properties that allow ships to soar through the skies.

Objectives:

•  Find Forward Lift Room

•  Find Chief Engineer’s key

•  Vent Forward Lift tanks

•  Find Aft Lift Room

•  Defeat First Officer Mandrake

•  Vent Aft Lift tanks

•  Find a parachute

•  Abandon ship!

•  Defend the Dauntless

The player has hidden aboard the sky frigate Mourning Sun, which pursues the pirate vessel Dauntless through the air. Nell Scarlett, captain of the Dauntless, outlines the mission via a clockwork communicator as the player advances.

“I’ve used every trick in the book and a few more besides,” Captain Scarlett says, “but Dauntless can’t compete with a quad-boiler. Our only shot is to sabotage the Mourning Sun. Venting its Telluric gas should do the trick.

“Head below. You’re looking for the engineering decks. A frigate has four boilers that feed into the Lift tanks — a pair each in the fore and aft sections. The ship will start to descend once you vent the first two, but it’ll drop like my Aunt Fannie’s knickers once you vent the rest.

“With no Lift gas to keep her up, the crew will be too busy abandoning ship to give us any trouble when we circle back to pick you up. Just make sure you find a parachute and get clear too, or you’ll go down with the Sun!”

The player encounters crew throughout the Sun’s interior. They attack with fists or tools (wrenches, levers, etc). Guards are also on patrol, armed with sabers and lightning guns or screamers (electric and sonic attacks, respectively, which won't rupture pipes or other delicate machinery).

Instead of the standard “attack everyone you meet” approach, the player can disguise himself. This requires taking down a crewperson or guard by surprise with one shot, then looting the uniform. When disguised, the player can move freely throughout the ship.

The player is hidden near the front of the ship when the quest begins. Taking the nearest hatch and heading down to the engineering deck, he soon finds a door labeled FORWARD LIFT ROOM.

Next to the Lift Room is the Emergency Exit room. Within, the player can find a parachute and an exterior hatch (closed and not interactable at this point).

Inside the Lift Room are numerous dials, levers, and wheels — plus a brace of engineers and a guard. The player can find a pair of valves at the other end, labeled PORT LIFT TANK and STARBOARD LIFT TANK.

Problem is, they’re locked behind a wire mesh gate labeled AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY. The player must get the key from the Chief Engineer, who is in the Main Engine Room. This is a mini-boss fight, as the Chief is an elite character. He wears a steam-powered mechanic’s harness that gives him powerful hand-to-hand attacks and a scalding steam blast.

Once armed with the key, the player can return to unlock the gate and turn the valves. Venting the first tank triggers an alarm that remains active for the rest of the quest. This also brings a wave of crew, who attack the player even if he is disguised. Additional crew waves will run in periodically as long as the player stays in the Lift Room.

The player may explore and loot throughout the rest of the deck, but once the alarm goes off he continues facing regular waves of crew.

If the player is disguised, however, he can move around unnoticed once he leaves the immediate area of the Lift Room.

Captain Scarlett speaks up once the player opens the second valve: “Nice work; the Sun is slowing already. Now get aft, quick as you like.”

On the way to the Aft Lift Room, the player passes an alcove. Within, a pair of guards defends a bulkhead designated RESTRICTED. Inside, a ladder leads down one level to a room with more dials and gauges, and staffed by crew and guards. They attack even if the player is in disguise.

At the other end of the room is a locked door labeled AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY. The Chief Engineer’s key allows entry. Inside is a laboratory, where Doctor Nikolov is working on an imposing-looking clockwork automaton. He is outraged at the intrusion.

“I said NO INTERRUPTIONS! This is the most delicate stage. If the gear sequencing is off even by a fraction — NO! AARGH!” Gesticulating angrily, Nikolov hits a switch by accident: The automaton surges to life. It smashes Nikolov into a bank of machinery, a piece of which falls to block the exit. The player must destroy the automaton to escape the room — defeating the robot triggers a self-destruct, which the player can avoid by ducking behind some storage lockers. The explosion clears away the machinery blocking the exit.

In a storage locker, the player can find another experiment: The Nikolov Telluric Harness (version 12). When filled with Lift gas, it grants the player the ability to fly short distances and slow his descent (think Boba Fett rather than the Rocketeer).

In the rear of the ship, on the same level as the Forward Lift Room, is the Aft Lift Room. The layout mirrors the one in the front of the ship. Standing between the player and the venting valves is First Officer Mandrake.

“I’m wise to your plan, scum,” Mandrake declares, regardless of whether the player is disguised. “You want to scuttle this ship, you’ll have to get through me first!”

This kicks off a boss fight. Mandrake has an electric cutlass that can also fire lightning. Waves of guards flood in for support as well until the player takes down the First Officer.

“Nicely done,” Captain Scarlett chimes in. “Mandrake’s had that coming for some time. Now get to those valves, and quick!”

Once the player vents the third tank, the deck starts tilting. Captain Scarlett announces: “That’s the way! We’re still dodging her guns, but the Sun is listing badly.”

As the final tank vents, the Mourning Sun starts to shake. A different alarm begins: the signal to abandon ship. Any crew still alive in the area stop attacking and instead head for the emergency exit.

Captain Scarlett speaks: “You’ve done it! Her guns have stopped, and …yes, we can see some parachutes already. Get out of there tout suite! Helmsman, bring us around.”

If the player looted the Telluric Harness, he can fuel it up by interacting with a Telluric Gas nozzle next to the venting valves. This also ticks the quest requirement “Find a parachute,” if the player hasn’t found one yet.

When the player enters the Emergency Exit room, a crewman is opening the exterior hatch. The player can equip a parachute from one of the lockers, or even kill the crewman who opened the hatch and loot his.

If the player has the fueled up Telluric Harness, he can use it instead of a parachute. It slows descent just like a parachute, though the player may also maneuver laterally.

The final complication occurs when the Dauntless swoops in for retrieval. The player isn't the only one to land on the deck: crew and guards from the Mourning Sun try to board as well! The player must fend them off till the pirate ship clears the area. Meanwhile, far below, the frigate spirals earthward in terminal descent.

The player completes the mission by returning to Captain Scarlett on the bridge. “Well done,” she says. “That’s shown the Commodore what for. I wish we could rest easy knowing he went down with the ship, but I’d bet it’s not the last we’ll see of him. That dog wouldn’t know honor if it made formal introduction, complete with calling card."