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Feature: 'The Designer's Notebook - How to Write Sports Commentary'

As in real-world sports, commentary is essential to the realism of sports titles, and in today's Gamasutra feature, designer Ernest Adams shares some tips he glean
Sports titles are not generally a genre that attracts a lot of discussion about game writing, but as in real-world sports, the commentary is essential to the realism. In today's Gamasutra feature, designer Ernest Adams shares some tips he gleaned from working on the Madden franchise. The style of a game affects preliminary decisions about commentary, Adams says: Cartoony arcade sports games usually have simple, repetitive, rather loud voiceover audio that simply announces the results: "Strike three!" "Home run!" and so on. These are easy to write for; they're just sound effects that accompany key in-game events. You're not really trying to create the illusion of broadcast commentary at all. Assuming that you are planning to simulate real commentary, the next question is, are you only going to do the play-by-play, or will you do color commentary as well? They're very different. Play-by-play is a description of the game as it happens. On the whole, it's fairly easy to hook the audio into the game engine to generate the appropriate playback for each event: When a team scores a goal, you play an appropriate clip. Color commentary requires considerably more artificial intelligence, because the game has to make insightful remarks about the game, teams, and players. I'll handle each of these separately in later sections. Adams recommends recording and transcribing a real live broadcast for reference, and then using analyzing them through a specific color-coded technique. The team should also take a look at sports rule books: Sit down with the game's designers and programmers and consult with them about how much of the rule book will be implemented in the game. Rule books are full of truly arcane rules for circumstances that simply can't happen in a video game. For example, if a base coach deliberately interferes with a thrown ball in baseball, the runner is out. Many baseball games don't include base coaches at all; in those that do, the players have no way of controlling them, so there's no way to intentionally interfere. The base coaches are just cosmetic and could even be transparent to baseballs so as not to interfere with them. Finally, don't count on the rule book for everything. You'll need to write commentary for events that the rules don't cover, such as naming the players as they come out on the field at the beginning of the game. This is why you need both a transcript of a real game and the rule book to tell you what you'll need to write. You can now read the full feature at Gamasutra (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).

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