Jon Goff, 16-year videogame and comic book veteran, is lending his talents to Microsoft’s forthcoming title Crackdown 3. Goff is known for his work on 343 Industries’ Halo games and comics, as well as Bungie’s Destiny, and now he’s back again to work on a much more chaotic and open-ended title than before. We had a chance to speak with Goff about the project, and how his experience in comics and games contributed to his work with Crackdown 3.
“Comics were my first love,” Goff says. “I wanted to be a comic book artist when I was a kid; that was my dream. Then somewhere around in high school I decided I’d rather be a writer rather than an artist because I could tell more stories with words more quickly than I could with art, which takes a lot of time to finish a piece then be proud enough of it to show it off into the world.
“With Crackdown, I wouldn’t say it’s like working on comics and games like Destiny and stuff I’ve done with Halo, because I’ve done a lot of [work] with heroes and building the world through the hero’s eyes. The fun thing we’re getting to do with Crackdown here, though we still have the hero and the agents … I’m getting to spend a lot of time with the villains. We’re building this cadre of villains that are enemies you love to hate.”
Of course, Crackdown 3 has its own set of heroes and agents to go around dominating the world with, but Goff’s role was more about the villains and making them bold and interesting. He says that when he was brought on board, the team already had a solid foundation of what they wanted the game to be, along with ideas for how they wanted the game’s villains to be utilized. Instead, Goff was there to flesh these villains out, to make them memorable and like a “Saturday morning cartoon.”
“Some people take ‘Saturday morning cartoon’ as derogatory; I don’t,” he says. “I think it’s a gold standard. Those things have character that were incredibly memorable in the middle of some fairly forgettable entertainment. We’re trying to make memorable entertainment with memorable villains.”
Goff consistently makes mention of having control in a world that’s open and chaotic. One of his biggest challenges as a writer for a game like Crackdown 3 is maintaining the control of the narrative in a game where players can go and do anything at any time. Keeping the pressure of a villainous threat on at all times, while showing the player how to progress the story without holding their hands too much, is much easier than said done in games.
While games are still a collaborative creative process, like Goff’s work in comics, progressing a narrative in a game isn’t as easy as flipping the page. Goff says that in games, he’s not only had to write the story and the characters, but to write for the player’s experience. You have to make room in the narrative to guide the player through naturally. That’s a challenge in games with their focus on the world at large—when you give players the freedom to direct the story their own way, it’s difficult to maintain control over every little aspect of the narrative.
“The scope of the world and trying to tell a narrative within a world that is ever changing based on the player’s decisions is a hell of a fun challenge,” Goff says. “And working with the team, working with the people I get to work with, and bouncing ideas off the other creatives and solving these problems, that’s the most fun part of any creative process for me personally.
“That crucible of creativity, and developing a game like Crackdown 3, there are so many systems and so much gameplay and so many things the player can do, and to be able to fit badass characters that you want to punch in the face in the middle of that, it’s a blast.”
Aiden Strawhun is the Paste Games intern and gaming freelancer who somehow won an award once. On the off chance she isn’t drowning in words, she’s either stuck on Skyrim again or plotting to rule the world. Her work has also been seen on GameSpot, Extra Life and Naples Herald. Follow her on Twitter @AStraww.