Olga Moskvina Interview

Olga Moskvina was one of the writers on ZA/UM Studio’s narrative RPG Disco Elysium. At the moment, she’s employed as a senior writer over at Digimancy Entertainment, a studio founded by George Ziets. And while we’re yet to see any of Digimancy’s actual projects, we can now check out this in-house interview with their new writer and learn more about her creative process and contributions to Disco Elysium.

A couple of sample questions:

3. Could you please share with us what your writing process looks like? And what are some of the things that you do to keep yourself growing and evolving as a writer?

My writing process really depends on the task and expectations. Something people may not think about when they imagine a day in the life of a video game writer is how much time one spends on documentation, as opposed to dialogue and other in-game text. Creating worldbuilding documents requires a lot of ideation and research, so that’s where one starts—and hopefully doesn’t get stuck for too long. Writing dialogue is another beast entirely, and there’s also variation depending on what the goals are, how much direction one was given, whether it’s a location description, object interaction, or conversation with an NPC. For locations, I may start by visualizing the place as the PC would experience it on arrival, really imagining myself there physically—sights, sounds, smells. For NPCs, I have to figure out the voice first, hear it in my head.

These days, I play a lot of narrative-driven games and discuss them with colleagues. Having gotten into games relatively recently, I still have some catching up to do. Before games, I used to read a lot of books, and I still do on occasion. The average writing quality in games is just not very high, but it’s easy to lose sight of that and grow complacent when that’s one’s only point of reference. Then you pick up a good novel and realize—wow, games are really in their infancy in terms of the emotional and social complexities they have been used to communicate. I love looking at art and films with strong cinematography, on their own but also as nourishment for one’s visual imagination. None of this is a replacement for lived experience, though, which for some people may be tending their garden, for others—backpacking across continents. Or for human connection, without which one’s resources for compassionately portraying human situations are limited.

4. Do you need to know anything about programming or coding as a game writer? What are some of the skills outside of creative writing that you think could help aspiring game writers succeed in this career field?

You don’t need to know how to code, although it may be helpful, especially in a small indie studio where people wear multiple hats. There are plenty of tools that allow one to bypass that need, beyond some very basic scripting, and many studios have in-house dialogue editors. Really, the best thing you can do is pursue a genuine passion outside of games. I’ve heard from multiple creative leads that they really want to work with people who come from other fields, be it botany or philosophy or engineering because they bring a fresh perspective. And no knowledge is ever superfluous for a writer.

Share this article:
Val Hull
Val Hull

Resident role-playing RPG game expert. Knows where trolls and paladins come from. You must fight for your right to gather your party before venturing forth.

Articles: 9834
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments