Is writing your passion? Do you ever wonder what it would be like to write for the gaming industry? As future game developer I am always interested in the creation process on all levels. Story telling is a very big part of that process. When I had the opportunity to talk with John Karnay, senior producer and lead writer for Sonic Boom Games, recently I was thrilled to get his thoughts and advice on the industry, game writing and current tools of the trade.
John is very intelligent and passionate about game writing and development. He shared a wealth of information with me that I would like to pass on to you. The following is part one of a two part interview with Mr. Karnay. Part two will be released next week right here.
Chellemo (ROG): Tell us a little about Sonic Boom Games and what your role is for them.
John Karnay: Sonic Boom Games was founded in 2003, and is located in the heart of New York City. Sonic is a leading publisher of mobile game applications, social networking, and personalization applications.
Sonic’s primary focus is creating exciting mobile entertainment experiences that place personal expression and creativity directly in our customers’ hands by merging the worlds of games, music, personalization, interaction, social networking, and user-generated content. We continue to expand our unique vision by constantly enhancing our award-winning product portfolio and pushing the creative capabilities of mobile communities to the Web.
My official role at Sonic is as Senior Producer and Lead Game Writer. I am in charge of managing all of our internal productions. In a nutshell, I manage and maintain most aspects of our internal projects including game design, art and overall scheduling. I create and review high level game concepts, create game design documents, estimate/balance the budget and man hours for the projects as well as ensure the overall vision of our product throughout the development cycle.
My focus right now is to expand and improve on our brand, Crazy Night Out and create other story driven interactive fiction style games in different genres using the Crazy Night Out engine we have developed. As Lead Game Writer, I am responsible for creating the story for our games, the unique characters the player will encounter as well as planning and scripting the continuity and dialogue for the entire game. To give you an idea of how much work goes into this, the original Crazy Night Out had over 15,000 lines of dialogue and over 50 characters. As a writer, it’s very similar to writing a TV series or sitcom. Each episode is a single episode of the series and it represents about an hour and a half of game play.
Chellemo (ROG): What are some games you have written for?
John Karnay: I was the lead writer for iZombie, Love and Death: Bitten as well as Crazy Night Out and its sequel Crazy Night Out: Vegas. I’ve also done freelance writing work for Kabam games on their award winning Kingdoms of Camelot, Dragons of Atlantis and their upcoming The Godfather Facebook titles.
Chellemo (ROG): What is your favorite game genre to write for? Which is the most difficult?
John Karnay: I love the horror, mystery, superhero and fantasy genres. I’m a sucker for film noire and westerns. I’ve always had a passion for writing and film so I would say that I love all genres equally. Games have come a long way in their ability to convey a meaningful story. I’ve had the opportunity to dabble in several game genres but would love to revisit all of them in greater length. Comedy was always that one genre I never considered viable for me but I’m surprised at how much I’ve been able to grow as a game writer because of it.
Contrary to popular belief comedy is extremely difficult to write for in gaming. Unlike the action and horror genres where you can reuse art assets pretty simply, humor doesn’t recycle very well. Visual gags tend to get old quickly and dialogue can only convey so much humor to a user. Unlike a movie where you can have a few characters in a convenience store, telling waxing philosophic about superheroes for two hours and make it hysterical, gaming requires interaction and engagement.
Asset management, creative use of dialogue and storytelling becomes paramount in order to create a funny but cost effective game. Trying to create a funny, interactive, branching gaming experience is a lot harder to quantify than you might think.
Chellemo (ROG): Is this something that you’ve always wanted to do? Tell us how you, personally got involved in game writing.
John Karnay: I’ve been into writing and gaming for as long as I can remember. My first formal attempts were writing short fiction, comics and RPG game supplements for personal use with my friends. Eventually, I was able to get work as a published author for table top RPG’s and comics. At that point, I don’t think the role of “Game Writer” existed in the video game industry.
I got my break working in video games when I answered an ad for a QA tester position at Acclaim Entertainment in Glen Cove, NY. At the time they were the top third party game developer in the industry. After several years of working at Acclaim as a QA tester, moving up the ranks and freelancing odd jobs for their comic imprint Valiant/Acclaim comics, I moved on to production, game design and writing roles with other companies. Crazy Night Out and Crazy Night Out: Vegas were the first titles that I was allowed a great deal of creative freedom on.
Chellemo (ROG): Is there anything else you can share with us?
John Karnay: I’d love to take a minute to talk about two of the games I’ve written for. One is Sonic Boom’s upcoming title, Crazy Night Out: Vegas a sequel the original Crazy Night Out. Crazy Night Out: Vegas is a hysterical interactive fiction game that is free to play for iOS. The game has a male and female story arc with over 75 cast members, most of which are parodies of real world stars and actors.
If you like movies and TV shows like Grandma’s Boy, Clerks, Family Guy, Robot Chicken, The Hangover, Rounders, Casino, Pawn Stars, and CSI Miami, you should get a real kick out of this game. Crazy Night Out: Vegas features an intricate, branching story with hundreds of different possible story arcs. The player’s decisions will affect their stats, game progress and overall story outcome over the six episodes of the game. It has 14 minigames including Beer Pong, Street Racing, Kung Fu, Slot Machines, Video Poker, Texas Hold’em and many others. The minigames have exclusive items that can change and improve your game experience, available through in game purchase. Overall, the story features more than 18 hours of game play with countless replay value.
You play as Dean or Dee Dee, two native New Yorkers coming to Vegas to compete in the Grand Slam of Poker tournament. After an arduous time saving up all of your money to enter, it is either win the Grand Slam or go home penniless. From the moment your plane lands, you are bombarded by a slew of shady, sexy, characters and all the wild and outrageous experiences Vegas has to offer. Everything you do will affect your story and stats. Of course things don’t always go as planned, so it’s up to the players to make their dreams a reality by surviving the wild nightlife, locals and dangers of Sin City to win the Grand Slam of Poker.
Crazy Night Out: Vegas is due for release mid November and we’ll have a booth at the upcoming NYComicCon Oct 13th and 14th demoing the game and giving away free stuff, including a chance for one lucky person to make a cameo in the game.
You may also want to check out the original Crazy Night Out as well. We have a new update coinciding with the release of the sequel, which will include a new low price point. Download the demo for free and meet the hysterical, original Hollywood cast of Crazy Night Out. Starting in November you can get the entire season, featuring 8 episodes and over 20 hours of game play for super low, sale price. You can download it here: Crazy Night Out on Itunes.
Chellemo (ROG): How can we find you on the internet?
John Karnay: If anyone would like to follow me or Sonic Boom games on Twitter, my username is @Johnny_Utah and Sonic Boom’s official Twitter is @sonicboomgames . You can also follow one of the stars of the Crazy Night Out series, action star, ex-MMA Champ and Bad Boy of Hollywood and Vegas @Jeremy Eckhart.
Be sure to visit us again next week for the conclusion of this fascinating interview with Sonic Boom Games, John Karnay.