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Interview #016: Miguel Vidaure - Freelance Game Writer

Have you ever wondered who the talent is behind those amazing stories, dialogues, text and more in your favorite video games? Then please welcome Miguel Vidaure, game writer extraordinaire!

Thank you Miguel for taking the time to speak with me today. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My pleasure! Well, my name is Miguel and I've been a freelance game writer for almost a decade now. I've been a gamer all my life and even at a young age showed a desire to help create adventures for a living. I'm happily married, love soccer, and am a proud Nintendo fanboy.

What was the first console/game you remember playing?

I can't say I remember playing it, but the first console I got my tiny hands on was an NES. I had a few cousins that owned one so I was that annoying toddler begging to play. Whether the controller was actually connected or not, I'm sure I had fun!

What is your fondest childhood video game memory?

Getting my first console — an SNES — for Christmas was very special. I was mesmerized by Super Mario World and couldn't get enough of it. Replaying that game is always a nostalgic punch to the gut for me.

You had completed your education with an individual major consisting of game design and writing/storytelling. Was this always a passion for you growing up?

Definitely! Growing up I knew I wanted to make games, one way or another. I went to UCSC because they had a new Game Design degree, but the math and programming kicked my butt. At the same time I was doing great in my creative writing and film classes, so I went that direction instead.

Since leaving college, you've worked in the video game industry in various roles. Formally as a Story Layout Artist for Pocket Gems and currently as a Freelance Game Writer for FDG Entertainment and Narrative Designer at Castle Pixel. Let's start with Pocket Gems. Could you explain what your role was with this studio and the project(s) you worked on?

Pocket Gems is great! I started with them by writing/scripting my own original story called School Spirit. They were impressed by my handle of their proprietary language and asked me to help out with their feature stories based on big IPs like Demi Lovato and Pitch Perfect. My role — they call us 'directors' — involved taking scripts and using their tools to create dynamic scenes while using their library of art, animation, and set-ups.

Moving forward to FDG Entertainment, your current title is one that many gamers are eagerly waiting for: Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom. For those that may be unaware, you wrote the in-game text. Can you describe the process that goes into your work?

It was a blast working with FDG and the folks at Game Atelier! I usually worked closely with Fabien Demeulenaere (director) but also sometimes with Thomas (FDG co-founder) and Camille Cliquennois (game/level designer). A regular day would involve getting notes and ideas for how a scene would play out, including things like directions/hints for the player or important story info. I'd whip up some dialogue and then we'd go back and forth until it was in a place they were happy with.

What's the most challenging aspect of writing game dialogue and are you given creative control to decide what ultimately is put into the game?

Keeping things short and sweet can be tough. Sometimes there's a lot of info that needs to be shared, but you also don't want to bombard the player with walls of text. With Monster Boy I never felt constrained creatively even while working closely with Fabien/Thomas.

Is it true that you also pitched the final version of the title? Was this something that came out over casual conversation or a title always on your mind?

That's right! They realized that people weren't digging the subtitle at the time and so I believe it was Fabien who asked me to give them a list of ideas. Actually, I just took a peek at the doc and it looks like we ended up with around 80 possible subtitles to choose from!

Fun fact! Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom will actually be the second Nintendo Switch game you've worked on. The first one is Blossom Tales by Castle Pixel Studios. A game that just oozed nostalgia for me. So first, thank you! Secondly, what was your involvement with Blossom Tales?

Wooo, Blossom Tales! At Castle Pixel we're pretty much a 3-man team so we all got to pitch story and gameplay ideas throughout development. Ultimately, though, our main roles were Tyler Bud as programmer/designer, Rob Maher as artist/designer, and me as writer/narrative designer. I handled the story plus things like all the dialogue, in-game text, etc.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Stefan Kohl, founder of Dyadic Games. Their debut title, Sikanda, is one you are also working on! Can you tell us what your role is and how it's been working with them?

It's been awesome working with Stefan. Right now I'm serving mostly as story consultant, which means I'm reading through all of the current narrative content (main storyline, lore, etc) and sharing feedback while discussing possible ideas. I'll soon also start getting involved with the dialogue, side-quest ideas, and more. There are a ton of amazing ideas planned for Sikanda so I'm excited to be involved with this project. It's going to be a fantastic adventure!

Are there any other projects/companies you are currently working with at this time?

I'm currently writing a few episodic stories for FableLabs' upcoming story platform, Tales - Choose Your Own Story. They're great because writers get to pitch their own original stories. Artists then work on cool visuals while we write and code the choice-driven adventures. There are also prose stories in the works by other writers as well.

Given the choice, what game (past or present) would you have loved to work on?

Man, it's hard to say because what if I would have ruined such a great game! But if I had to choose, maybe something like BioShock or one of the recent Middle-Earth games by Monolith Productions. I'm a huge LOTR geek!

What game, in your opinion and one you didn't work on, have the best dialogue?

I'm just going to say Chrono Trigger because I love that game and would hate not to mention it at least once in this interview ;p

Besides your own, what game(s) are you currently playing and looking forward to?

Right now I'm in the final dungeon of The Minish Cap, which has been a lot of fun. I admit to playing Fortnite a few times a week, plus i started Rise of the Tomb Raider recently and am enjoying that. My most anticipated games are: RDR2, Smash U, and probably Gears of War 5!

Finally, is there anything else you'd like to share today?

That was some Nintendo Direct, huh? Luigi's Mansion 3, new Animal Crossing… wow! All it was missing was some Pikmin 4 news.

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