Who am I?I am Mikael Hedberg and I’m the writer. I write all sorts of text that shows up in the game. I give actors lines to say and then ask them to scream a few times, because their character will most likely die at some point.
BackgroundI’ve been a gamer for as long as I can remember. I played everything I could get my hands on, board games, RPGs, and of course computer games. I can’t remember a brand or anything, but the very first computer I owned was a green keyboard with rubber keys. It didn’t have any memory to actually save things, so you had to program every game you wanted to play. I had a few sheets of paper filled with code which you painstakingly had to type before you could play. And what riveting games I got to play. Oh, the thrills of guessing that number between 1 and 100 or dodging those falling letters. Those were the days.
I did eventually upgrade to an Amiga which was the first time I encountered real story in games. LucasArts and Sierra titles quickly became my addiction. I liked all of them, but more than any other I would say Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers really made me go, “Oh, these can get pretty dark and tell real stories.”
I was kind of late to the computer RPG party, because playing a lot of tabletop RPGs made me think they were pretty bad in comparison. I did start liking them around the release of Fallout 2 and played a bunch of the RPGs released around that time. I still consider Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura to be one of the best computer games I’ve ever played. You see, the thing about being a tabletop RPG player is that I’ve played and hosted easily over a hundred different stories in this very free and responsive type of play. Going to computer games, it’s really difficult to get excited by the storytelling because it’s rarely that interesting. Not because it doesn’t tell the right stories, but because I never feel like I’m really doing anything. I feel like I’m slowly moving a movie forward. It’s like all I do is power the projector by pushing keys. People often get dumbstruck when I don’t go nuts over games like the Last of Us. They are great at story, they tell me. Yes, they really are, but we have always had good writing and conventional storytelling. Look at the Sierra games from the 90s. They are absolutely fantastic in that respect.
I do get more excited with games that either try to give me that sense of responsibility like the Fallout games or games that try to merge gameplay and story like Heavy Rain. If you mess up, you don’t just fail, you actually fail someone in the game, you change the story. That’s when story matters, that’s when it gets interesting to me.
I’ve always wanted to tell a really good story in a game where it makes you feel like I do when I play tabletop RPGs. A game where you are concerned about what you are doing, not because you might fail some gameplay, but because it may take the story somewhere you don’t want it to go. Where your actions affect the lives of the characters you meet in a meaningful way and their well-being is reflected back on you. Basically to be human, but in another world.
|My "corner office"|
I started out my career at a pretty big company in Stockholm. It was a very educational experience concerning how the business works. However, it was very frustrating trying to get anything done. In the end I felt like I put maybe 5% of my time into the writing and 95% into company politics, talking to people and trying to get everyone on board. The one thing I learned about being a game writer is: You are responsible for the story, but you don’t have mandate to actually control the story. Impossible situation, you say? I thought so, so I kind of ran away to Japan for a while.
One day as I sat there in my house on a snowy peak in Japan there came a knocking on my door. It was Jens, an old friend of mine from school.
“Gotham needs you,” he said.
“Sorry, wrong house. Oh, hi Mike. You want to do some writing for Frictional Games?”
“No, man. I’m done with game writing. My life is all about crochet now. Wanna see?”
“Wow, that’s like really bad…”
“Well, I just started.”
“No, I mean, like really really bad…”
“All right, you made your point. I’ll take the writing gig.”
“What is this even supposed to be?!”
“I said I’d do it already!”
That’s how I ended up at Frictional Games. And there’s at least five words of truth to that story.
|SIDE – Voice recording studio|
Home away from home.
What do I do?
“This is my third attempt to produce artificial Vitae. The former compounds lacked the potency I need, but I sense I'm close. Calamine and Orpiment are a given and the Cuprite binds them well. This time I will attempt Aqua Regia instead of Aqua Fortis in hope it will produce a more even solution.The experiment was unsuccessful. The solution is highly acidic and proves impractical to put to any use except as a detergent. Organic tissue reacts especially violently to the solution and should be handled with the greatest care. I might be able to use the recipe, but I'm losing hope that I will find an alchemic solution to my predicament.”
"Oh, boy! Don’t they look great together?
|"You bastards! Look what you did to my words!"|
|"I suppose Change is kind of like Transform, so if I just shuffle them around a little. There, they totally fit."|
"— Mike, we cut another level."
As always I just need to roll with the punches.