No writing left behind

I’m not here to stir sh*t, but I do have a question as I’m going to apply to write here. The only thing that troubles me is this (from the website, obviously):
4. If one of your concepts works for us, we’ll invite you to submit a full pitch for a game, in the form of an outline, again, written against a guide to writing an outline we’ll provide to you.

  1. If we accept your outline—most go through several rounds of revision with our team—we’ll offer you a contract to write a full game.

I’m coming from the Film/TV world where we have a movement called “no writing left behind” (as I’m sure a lot of you know) and I’m just a bit concerned that there’s no compensation for what could be (and I acknowledge the could here) a long outline process that then leads to nothing.
This feels an awful lot like free writing that could bite the writer in the keister.
I suppose I’m just looking for a testimonial that that hasn’t really happened to anyone here? Or, in general, what, exactly was the outline process like here.
Please b4 you answer… here’s the things I’M AWARE OF:

  1. I get that I could then just head over to Hosted Games and publish anyways. (But, frankly, I’m not that interested in that.)
  2. Please, let’s not argue about the values/effectiveness of NWLB… argue that elsewhere, I’m just using it as the place where I’m coming from.
  3. From what I can tell CoG has a good reputation, I’m just trying to suss out more details on that particular process.

Thanks for your time. And apologies if this belongs somewhere else, I genuinely looked and couldn’t find a place for this kind of post.

Cheers!

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Welcome to the forum community @christophermorrison2

I moved the Thread to Game Development, just to let you know. The Meta category is for actual forum usage, things like user trust levels the items normally discussed there.

I urge you to contact support@choiceofgames.com with your concerns directly; this email will deliver your inquiry directly to the hands of the correct staff that normally handles inquiries such as this.

If you wait for an answer here, please realize that while others, such as current authors under contract, can open a discussion with you, the only ones with a 100% accurate answer to your concerns will be the relevant Staff.

Also, please be patient looking for such a direct response here … it might take a bit of time for the correct Staff person to receive notice, especially with it being the weekend.

Until I finish a few administrative things behind the scenes, I’m going to lock the thread. This should be temporary.

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With that said, if you (the rest of the community) do participate in this discussion, please focus on the facts and do not stray into speculation or guessing.

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I don’t know that anyone not part of the editorial process could speak in general, but I would imagine that a certain number of pitches and outlines are asked to move to the Hosted Games pipeline at some point in the process.

My experience is that for my first game, I went through about five or six drafts of the outline. It took me about a month, and at no time did I have any concern that the game would be dropped. It was definitely laborious, but it was work on the front end that made the work of writing the game much easier. My second and third games’ outlines went through fewer iterations.

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The outline for my first game took quite a while to get right, several months I believe and 6 lots of revisions. Nowadays there are design guidelines available - if I was doing it fresh today, I’d have more information available for making my first outline draft closer to ready. The most recent outlines I’ve done have only needed a couple of rounds of revisions and weren’t at all arduous. In my most recent experiences, I was compensated for the outline independently of the compensation for the acceptance; if it hadn’t been greenlit I would still have got a fee for the work on the outline. I don’t know if this applies to every situation.

I agree with @Eiwynn’s comment above though that your best bet is contacting the staff directly as they’ll have the most up to date information about the process!

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I applied to write for CoG when I first considered writing interactive fiction, but since I was already quite far into the process we both agreed that Fallen Hero was probably a better fit for Hosted games. I am terrible at outlines and sales pitches so it was a huge relief.

If you have any concerns about being paid less or having little support if you publish through Hosted games, I at least have had a very good experience. Sure, you don’t get the advances and milestone payouts so the pay is all on the backend, but if your game ends up selling well, there’s no difference. All you have through CoG is a lot more writing/structure/editing support and a guaranteed minimum pay.

I do get where you’re coming from though, been through that myself (telly project that fell through) and it’s never have fun to have all that work go to waste.

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Hi @christophermorrison2. I’m not sure whether the could you emphasize is your acknowledgment that you might not come up with a concept we would like to see pitched as an outline, or even that we might not think your writing sample works for us and hence not invite you to pitch concepts, or if the could refers to the fact that indeed at the end of the outline revision process the team does sometimes decide that the outline won’t work as a game.

Our outline process is compensated with a small dollar amount, which we instituted to try to get writers not to wander off. I would estimate almost 50% of people invited to write an outline for a game will ghost, never submit a first draft, get busy with another project, or decide they’re in over their heads, or who knows(?).

The process is about teaching you how to design a game. You would work one on one with an editor (I am one of four) who will review your outline, give you notes, review the revisions, give you notes, etc, until you understand how to shape your idea for a game into an actual game. It’s frankly not an easy process, and there’s a lot of “not getting it” in terms of game design that we see regularly. Eventually it either clicks or does not, or it clicks enough in the sense that the writer I’m working with just addresses my notes, whether or not they understand why they’re doing it.

There are many COG authors on the forum, @HannahPS being one of them. I edited her first game for us. I’m sure they can confirm that when it works, it works.

Rarely do we get to the end of six outline revisions and have the editor or the team decide “no, we aren’t going to greenlight this/offer the writer a contract.” But yes, it has happened. It is much more common for an author to give up than for an editor to.

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I’m now into my 4th game, with Hosted Games. From everything I know and have discussed with other authors and staff members, CoG are basically very supportive of authors. But, they have a “style” or"game philosophy", which they have developed as a combination of their own beliefs (in terms of being inclusive, etc) and experience (what works and what doesn’t). So, the outlines are to help authors write a better game (at least that is what I think). Essentially, they want the game to do well, and to coach you on how to achieve this.

I’ve only done hosted games as I wanted to write my games my way (and I don’t like outlines, normally when I write I only have a vague idea about the story, though I’m getting better at planning ahead). My own trial and error processes are gradually shifting my games towards the guidance that CoG gives. So, if you are willing to learn from that and the guidelines, then this can increase your chances of writing a successful game (rather than learning the hard way, as I do!)

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Absolutely! With Blood Money’s outline in particular, a lot of the longer outline process was about me learning how to design long form interactive writing. It was useful in the long run because it made the game stronger, and doing the work up front meant that I could concentrate on making the thing when it was time to.

Honestly I’ve worked with CoG for 3 years now and haven’t got a bad word to say about it, it’s been a great experience!

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Hello everyone and many thanks to Eiwynn for putting this in the correct place on the forum.
And a huge thank you to everyone who has responded so far and so quickly. What a wonderful, active community.
And, also, thanks for the direct experiences… as I’m sure everyone knows we writers need to communicate and it’s a great sign that CoG “allows” the authors this forum to discuss things that truly matter to writer’s lives.

Won’t bury the lead here… @Mary_Duffy the fact that the outline process is compensated (even with a small dollar amount) is fantastic, really. And that answers my question. If I might be so bold as an outsider to suggest that that be put on the “We’re looking for Writers” page I think it would go far. Not to mention help other game companies perhaps do the same. (Don’t know about everyone’s experiences but the endless, “just write us a test” is kind of draining and never compensated.)

I was mostly concerned about the last part: basically getting two or three uncompensated revisions into an outline and it being dropped. I completely understand that in that process CoG might decide against doing a game. My issue was that work not being compensated at all. So, again, great to know that it is.

I’m also a producer, so I work with other writers as well and understand well the editing process… and can imagine working with new/er game designers (that would be me, for sure) editing the outlines is an invaluable process in getting the story stronger and/or as you point out, actually teaching game design.

Interesting that it’s the authors that end up bailing. But I think it sounds like a fair and reasonable process since they have been compensated for that work.

Malinryden: Yeah, been through it on my end as well, really painful experiences… but well learned.

Adrao: Thanks for sharing your experiences… and from one “learn the hard way” to another… I hear you!

@HannahPS Awesome to hear! And congrats on your successes!

Thanks everyone. For future posters I’m all good.
Not sure if someone can “close” this post… but I’ve certainly got what I was looking for.
Everyone stay safe and healthy and I hope to eventually join the crew. :wink:

(Sorry I couldn’t “@” everyone they only let me do two mentions in a post.)

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