Via Domus - Lost

The question everyone’s asking John Meadows these days is: “Do you know what’s going to happen?” Which is followed immediately by “No, no, don’t tell me!” That’s what happens when you’re writing the Lost video game.

John, an instructor in both the Writing and Game Design programs, was thrilled to be invited to join the Lost team at Ubisoft by his friend and fellow Vancouver filmmaker Kevin Shortt. We asked John about his experience.

How did it go?
It was so great to be working every day on this story that had so much mythology to it. We were working with 3 whole seasons of mythology to draw from. Our modus operandi was “We have to create an experience synonymous with the world of Lost.” I think we’ve achieved that.

So the game fits in with the Lost canon.
Definitely. Everything we did had to be approved by the Lost creative team down at ABC. Also, being able to have meetings with executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse – even J.J. Abrams – was a huge boost to quality of the game story. Basically, we’re all thrilled with how the story turned out. If we love it, hopefully the fans of the show will respond in kind.

What can you share about the game?
Well, it happens parallel to seasons 1, 2, and 3 of the show. You follow a new character. A male avatar, someone we’ve never met before, who wakes up after the crash with amnesia. You get to interact with many of the key cast members and explore all of the various locations – the beach, the hatch, the Black Rock. You even spend some “quality” time with The Others. There are lots of flashbacks, with the difference being that because your character has amnesia, you’re learning about these memories at the same time as your character, which helps build a strong connection to your avatar.

In terms of the game play, it’s somewhat action/adventure puzzle-oriented, not unlike a Myst-style game, or BioShock. It’s about talking to everybody, interacting with the world, and investigating.

Another plus was that we were able to get some of the supporting cast from the show to lend their voices, which brings huge verisimilitude to the game. MC Gainey, who plays Tom Friendly, said he hadn’t played a video game since Pong. I think he’ll be impressed with the improvements.

What did you take away from the experience?
We’d get (the TV series) scripts weeks ahead of time so that we’d be in the loop as to the various plot twists. Frankly, the writing on that show is world class. I learned so much about TV writing from reading the scripts in advance and then watching the show to see how it was visualized by the director and brought to life by the actors.

The other big thing we learned was that lots of ideas work great in storytelling, but not in a game. Lost the show is all about the big twists… often negative twists. But in a game, if you play through a twist and get a negative outcome, a player thinks they’ve done something wrong. That was something we had to figure out.

I also found out that, just like in independent filmmaking, the choices you make creatively are very often driven by production. The writing team’s motto was “Anything is possible”. If there was a problem with something on the production, we knew we could solve it. Like in film, your creativity is inspired by your limitations.

Source: Inside Vancouver Film School

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