Here’s my terrible secret. I can’t draw.
So how does someone who can’t do art communicate ideas in a clear, brief, visual way? Enter the Pixar Pitch: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
Let’s try it with Dragon Age 2:
Once upon a time, the Hawke family escaped a plague known as the Blight, leaving their homeland to find refuge across the sea. Every day, they struggled to gain entrance into the city of Kirkwall, along with hundreds of other refugees from the Blight. One day, Hawke accepted an offer of work from a smuggler in exchange for getting her family into the city. Because of that, Hawke joins a treasure-hunting expedition to fund her family’s rise from the slums, where she finds an idol made of strange material. Because of that, Hawke, along with her companions, gains power in Kirkwall, despite increasing instability in the leader of the templar and mage forces, caused by the mysterious idol. Until finally, Hawke’s companion blows up the Chantry to force a war between the mages and templars that will require people to choose sides.
Not very elegant, but hopefully hits the major beats of the game. It’s complicated by the fact that unlike a Pixar film, Dragon Age 2 features a number of branching pathways a player can take. There are a few other major plot points the player must achieve not covered by this framework: the death/loss of Hawke’s family members, one by one; the Qunari invasion and defeat by Hawke. But all of these relate back either to Hawke’s rise in influence and power due to the sucessful expedition, or the insanity plaguing the leaders of the city, due to the idol, also from the expedition.
But it still doesn’t tell us much about the look and feel of the game, does it? Someone reading this could surmise that it’s fairly dark in terms of material, between a world ending plague and terrorists blowing up buildings full of innocent people, or that there are narrative elements that can’t be avoided no matter which path the player chooses for Hawke. But is it realistic? Semi-abstract? What’s the music like? How do people play it? The Pixar pitch is good for brainstorming, but there’s not enough information in it to fully realize a games vision.
Thoughts? How do you explain stuff to people when you don’t do art?