The Fastest Way To Turn Your Team Into A Storytelling Machine
Who doesn't love a speedrun?
Speedrun playthroughs skip the non-critical parts of a game and get you through everything as quickly as possible.
What if you and your team could speedrun through the story-development process?
Now you can.
Game Narrative Speedruns
Proven SolutionsLed by veteran games writer Susan O'Connor (BioShock, Far Cry, Tomb Raider)
Designed For YouIndividually customized to address your team's particular challenges
Streamlined and FlexibleStructured in a series of half-day sessions, scheduled according to your team's needs
Active LearningSessions combine short lectures, small-group discussions, "try it now" exercises, and Q & A sessions
Results That CountGrow your team's skills, streamline your process and ship great games
Find out how we can support your team.
What People Are Saying
"The lady knows her stuff!"
"And she's so generous with her knowledge, it's ridiculous. If you want to get better at telling stories that connect with your audience, listen to what she has to say."
- Leah Hoyer, Project GM, Incubation, Bungie
formerly VP Creative, Telltale Games
"We loved working with her"
“We knew we needed to create a compelling story for our mobile-game audience. We brought in Susan to help us chart a path forward. She rapidly helped us define our creative goals, develop a deep understanding of what our player loved, and then laid out a roadmap for story development. She was fast, efficient, and a great collaborator. We loved working with her."
- Bill Mooney, CEO, Proteus Gamesformerly VP Creative, King
"Grace under pressure"
"Susan's thoughtful approach is rooted in structure and process - she can quickly get to the heart of what a story is really about and bring that throughline front and center. She is a great collaborator who thrives under pressure. Her great sense of humor and easy manner makes her a pleasure to work with. In tough situations, she's the picture of grace under pressure."
- John Stafford, Narrative Director, Crystal Dynamics
"It's not easy to bring story and gameplay together...
...should we even try?"
Players love games with great stories.
It drives their buying decisions.
They’re much more likely to choose your game if it promises - and delivers - a compelling narrative.
When studios ship games without a quality story, they’re leaving money on the table.
Help your team deliver a great game with a great story, and your studio will thrive.
(Credit: Entertainment Software Association's Essential Facts 2019)
I’m the founder and CEO of The Narrative Department, and an award-winning game writer who’s worked on over 25 games, including titles in the BioShock, Far Cry, and Tomb Raider series.
Over the past 15 years, I’ve worked with dozens of studios that set out to deliver great stories to their players. I’ve learned from some of the best developers in the business.
Through that experience, I’ve developed a set of best practices that can help your team ship a game with a killer narrative.
But I didn’t always have this level of expertise.
And I used to think it just was up to the writer to deliver the story…
The journey started when I was fired from my job
The game studio I worked for closed its doors
Suddenly, 140 people - including me - were out of work.
It was stressful at the time.
But that one stroke of "bad luck" led to the discovery of a hidden problem that keeps a shocking number of game studios from developing great stories for their games.
You can FIX that problem for good... no matter how bad things may be right now.
But before I explain, let me rewind and share how I got here.
I made the leap and became a freelancer
I worked with over two dozen studios, big and small.
And it was great...except when it wasn't.
At first, I thought my writing was the key to delivering a great game with a great story.
I worked hard to move through a steep learning curve.
But I had some major failures that I couldn’t control.
I thought, "Maybe games and story ARE a bad fit!"
And then the project came along that changed everything.
"They've figured it out"
This studio found a way to bring story and gameplay together…brilliantly. Fans and critics alike lost their minds over this game, specifically the narrative.
And a lightbulb went off.
I could finally see what it took to ship a game with a great narrative.
It didn't (just) take a writer, or a narrative designer.
It took EVERYONE. Every developer had a role to play.
So I became a consultant, so that I could start supporting whole studios - not just the writing team.
And that's when I discovered a whole new level of Yikes.
They were driving off a cliff
"We can't ship this"
More than once, I was called in to help a team get their story back on track. I got a close-up look at projects that were deep into production - and in a lot of trouble.
Originally, these studios had ambitious ideas about bringing story and gameplay together, but somewhere along the line, they lost their way.
Their games were bombing with internal testers. On one game, the team was warned that if they didn’t fix their story problems, their Metacritic scores would drop ten full points. These teams were running out of time - they had to ship, and they were struggling to fix their problems.
What was going on here? The teams were talented. They were committed to shipping a great game with a great story. So what went wrong?
On each project, the problem was the same: the team didn’t have a clear roadmap for how to build the story together.
These problems were making them crazy.
But the good news is that these problems had solutions.
The only way out was through
We got in a room and we worked on the fundamentals:
The results speak for themselves.
Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat
These games ended up shipping on time - and to huge acclaim.
Players couldn’t get enough. The titles earned millions in sales and Metacritic scores in the 90s.
I’ve told you this story so you can see that, as an industry, we’ve had to learn from ground zero.
I’ve worked alongside some of the best developers in the industry, and together, we’ve tackled these problems head-on.
Thanks to that work with those developers - and my own trial and error - I’ve figured out an approach that WORKS.
It’s an approach I’ve shared in workshops with some of the best studios in the industry.
And now I want to share what I’ve learned with you.
It’s an incredible feeling to ship a game that players and critics love.
To see those sales numbers and award nominations roll in… and, more importantly, to know that you are bringing happiness to hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of players.
And that’s exactly what your team wants to do.
They’re creative, passionate people who are in this industry because they love games. Odds are they grew up loving games, and this career is a dream come true for them.
With the right support, they’re capable of amazing things.
But game development is a contact sport - especially when it comes to bringing story and gameplay together.
If you want your team to ship a great game with a great story, you don’t just need a writer or a narrative designer. You need your team to understand how story and gameplay come together - because they all have a role to play in making that happen.
Imagine if your studio had a clear roadmap for your playable story so that everyone can move through production with focus and confidence.
Imagine having your whole team aligned behind a shared vision, working like a well-oiled machine.
You can help everybody to bring their best work to the table - artists, writers, designers, and programmers alike.
It’s happened for other studios - and it can happen for yours as well.
Past Clients & Career Stats
A Workshop Custom-Built For You
Narrative Speedruns are workshops designed to give your teamthe tools and insights they need to build a playable story.
Who these workshops are for
They're for anyone on the team that helps to create the player experience.
That's a lot of people!
This includes creative directors, game writers, narrative designers, systems designers, character artists, casting directors, producers, musicians, and even marketing teams!
What we cover in these workshops
We cover what you need us to cover!
We custom-design these workshops for each studio, and each team’s needs are different.
For example, we can go in-depth on how teams can work together to create characters. Or we can help teams develop better lines of communication across departments. We can walk through the story creation process, from concept to final lock.
After working on over 25 projects, we’ve seen most story-dev problems and can offer proven solutions.
How we design these workshops
It starts with you. We'll meet over Zoom to discuss your project’s needs, and to find out what you need our workshops to do for you.
We'll develop a proposal and agenda that spells out exactly what we'll cover and how that will solve your current challenges.
You'll have final sign-off on this proposal. We'll work with you to make sure this workshop is perfect - for YOU and your team.
How we structure these workshops
We schedule these workshops around your team’s workload.
We meet with your team - usually over Zoom - for half-day sessions (so that your team can still get work done after the workshop).
Typically, workshop series are anywhere between 3-6 sessions. These can happen in a series of days, or spread out across multiple weeks.
How we teach these workshops
These sessions are a combination of short lectures, small-group discussions, “try it now” exercises, and scenario challenges as well as Q & A sessions.
Our emphasis in this workshop is active learning.
Like gamers mastering a skill, our workshop participants learn best by doing.
It's more effective - and a lot more fun.
Ship A Game - And A Story - You'll Be Proud Of
Hear what other people had to say about our workshops
Bring your studio together
“It's really fun to work with my team. I thought it was going to be mostly lecture, but this format is really fun!”
“I loved the group mini assignments. I liked being engaged.”
"Thank you for the introduction of the wide variety of tools at our disposal with which to use to assess WIP character work. Different tools for different folks for different approaches, all helpful."
Grow your team's skills
“It was really cool to be challenged about how to think about characters and what made them important or interesting”
Susan and Jack are great and the atmosphere was very kind and fun, allowing us to make mistakes and "get dirty."
"I'd love to continue the series with a deeper look at conveying meaning through gameplay. Help me learn more about it! :)"
Reduce churn, hit your milestones
“I now have much sharper lenses and tools and rubrics through which to assess that work and discuss work with team members.”
“Susan is a really great speaker. Everything was very authentic, concise, and had such a strong foundation. Doing the 'room' exercises was really helpful.”
Streamline your process, stay under budget
“Loved learning about tools/philosophies that we can actively apply. Sometimes it's the simple things that help us go very far.”
"The rapid-fire breakout rooms were good. The tight timeline kept those conversations focused and to the point. Very effective."
“I think it was a very important class for game pre-production.”
Ship great games
"Easily accessible concepts geared toward achieving results are presented in an inviting and fun way. Great mini-breakouts to test drive lessons as we cover them.”
"I've incorporated the [workshop tool] approach as well as started thinking differently about characters and their personal history. I've heard directors talk about this, which gives me hope that we'll approach gamedev with meaning in mind."
"I hope we do more workshops!"
What the hell is going on?
Want to find out how a Narrative Speedruncan help your team?
Share how your studio is approaching story development,your challenges, and the goals you'd like to achieve,and I'll share some insights on how to get there.