Hi there. I'm the Guild Wars 2 Narrative Director. The Narrative Department at the studio is a top-tier discipline with its own organizational structure (similar to Game Design, Programming, Art, etc.). Our group works with creative partners in adjacent disciplines to create compelling characters and stories in our games.
Drop me a line on my discussion page if so inclined. Questions, feedback, and other ramblings are all welcome.
News, Updates, and Other Stuff
Finally updating this page after years of neglect! Changes will happen over time.
- We made a thing! End of Dragons, Guild Wars 2's third expansion, released to the world on February 28, 2022. We're thrilled to share it with you.
- Working from home while the pandemic works itself out.
- Was interviewed at the NC Blog in November 2021, a few weeks before my promotion to Narrative Director.
- Had a wonderful conversation with YouTuber and conversationalist Deeg talking about my path into game development, my thoughts on game storytelling, my philosophies on team management, mentorship, and recruiting, and my experiences at ground zero on 9/11/2001.
- GamesIndustry.biz interviewed Sr. Writer/Narrative Designer Novera King and I about our Game Narrative Mentorship program back in December 2019.
- I'll be at GDC this year co-hosting a talk about narrative mentorship and participating in a Q&A roundtable for new writers. More details at the GDC 2019 site
- I spoke with writer Justin Sloan about story development and career advice on the Creative Writing Career podcast (2018).
- Hear me drone on for 2 hours about my origin story breaking into games, tinkering on the C64, working with voice actors, and writing for a massive game with Geeked Life host Matt Goldstein (2016).
- Tap-Repeatedly posted a Q&A about writing, VO and cinematics in GW2. Read it here. Bobby Stein 06:03, 11 October 2011 (UTC)
- Tap-Repeatedly just posted an interview about all things voice-over. Some juicy bits in there. Bobby Stein 19:46, 7 May 2011 (UTC)
- Scott McGough posted his blog on writing ambient scenes for charr, complete with new audio. Enjoy! Bobby Stein 19:20, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
- Part 2 of my breaking in article has been posted at Game Theory Online. Check it out if you want game development career advice. Bobby Stein 14:41, 24 March 2011 (UTC)
- Game Theory Online just posted the first of a series of articles about landing a game development job. You can read it here. Bobby Stein 03:38, 1 October 2010 (UTC)
- Pre-launch archive of my blog post Talking Heads: VO and Dialogue in Guild Wars 2 (2010).
Who We Are
The ArenaNet Narrative Team is comprised of four groups: Narrative Design (Writing), Story Editing, Copy Editing, and VO. I am the department's Narrative Director. I work with team members and our Producer to "keep the ship sailing smoothly." My job is a mix of management, creative input, and career development responsibilities.
I directly manage the writer/narrative designers, who are responsible for story development, script writing, and owning dialogue and text in our games, and also manage the Editing and VO leads. We all have published works ranging from Web and magazine articles to strategy guides, novels, comics, films, television, video games, and pen-and-paper RPGs.
I have been with ArenaNet since late 2005.
What We Do
Some of our responsibilities include, but are not limited to:
- Breaking story for Living World seasons and Guild Wars 2 expansions
- Collaborating with content and world designers, artists, programmers, and sound designers
- Working with voice directors and actors
- Writing and revising script drafts
- Working with Design and Cinematics on how best to integrate story into our game
- Scaling the narrative to fit content and context; knowing when to add more vs. when to scale back is critically important
- Writing or reviewing non-VO text
- Working with localization to translate in-game text from American English into many other languages
Though we each claim a specialty, we all get our hands dirty writing and editing in-game text of one form or another. Without our touch, the game would read *very* differently.
How We Work
ArenaNet is a rather large company compared to most game development studios. That means we have an abundance of designers, writers, and artists (the content producers) in addition to our large contingent of programmers responsible for the underlying technology that powers the game. Even though we are a big studio, we are nimble. Employees are given the opportunity to contribute beyond their official roles. We are encouraged to submit gameplay and story ideas, give each other feedback on the development process, and work with other teams to accomplish our goals.
As writers, we don't simply write. Instead, we work together with the members of the design and programming teams to craft content including missions, quests, events, and scenes.
What I Do
Attend lots of meetings! But they're usually productive, informative, and dare I say...exciting? Working in game development involves daily cooperation and communication between all the various departments. I meet with gameplay designers, tools programmers, localization personnel, and the business team practically on a daily basis. When we're not hashing out details of our current projects, I'm usually at my desk documenting new features and processes, keeping tabs of our work schedule, helping various designers prototype new systems that involve text or voice in some form or fashion, or work with other Leads and Directors on recruiting and training initiatives. I also am a member of the DEI Committee, which seeks to improve how we hire, how we compensate, and how we collaborate across disciplines.
I graduated from Rutgers University (New Brunswick, NJ) with a degree in film. During college I held many jobs ranging from the mundane (shoe sales) to the somewhat bizarre (quality assurance testing for an edutainment game company). After graduation I worked in television for a bit, crewing on various commercials and television shows as a production assistant, lighting and grip truck monkey, cameraman, and audio guy. I made the switch to finance in 1998 and worked on Wall St. for about five years doing technical and trade support for institutional equity derivatives (options), online trading, and market data applications. I switched gears and began writing about my lifelong passion, video games, in 2002. The bulk of my work was with Microsoft Game Studios, Xbox.com, and Nintendo Power. I've been with ArenaNet since December of 2005, first as a writer/editor on the Guild Wars Factions strategy guide, and then writing in-game text. I took over as team lead in December of 2007, helping manage a growing team as we developed our flagship project Guild Wars 2. In 2017 I moved into the role of Associate Narrative Director to assist our Studio Narrative Director with recruiting, career growth, and narrative initiatives. In December of 2021--almost 16 years to the day since beginning my career at ArenaNet--I was promoted to Guild Wars 2 Narrative Director and am in charge of the entire Narrative Department.
I was an active musician throughout college. My primary band, Boss Jim Gettys, released two full-length albums, an EP, a split 7" single (with the Stuntcocks), and contributed various songs to multiple indie compilations. We signed to now-defunct Childlike Records in 1998 and released our swan song, Tigrebeat, in winter of 1999. After the group disbanded, I played bass for Hoboken indie band Bobfields for about a year. The group released one full-length record: Head So Full. I also played a few sessions at the Pigeon Club with Lanky, though none of those tracks made it onto the final release.
Since people ask this question a lot, I figured I'd share a little bit about how I transitioned into the game industry. Making the jump from Wall St. to game development wasn't easy. I had no experience and wasn't really sure what, exactly, I wanted to do. On the advice of an acquaintance, I started writing reviews about every game I owned and found a couple of different independent web sites to publish them. Despite being an avid writer in high school and college, my first articles were admittedly amateurish. I kept refining my work until I had a sizable portfolio of published samples, which I then used to apply for jobs about a year later. There weren't (and still aren't) many industry jobs available in the NY/NJ/PA area, so I had to move closer to prospective employers. My wife and I decided it was time for a change, so we packed up and moved to Seattle. A friend introduced me to her boss at Microsoft Game Studios, and when a position opened up I interviewed for it and eventually landed my first gig. My first few assignments were all contract, meaning that they were temporary and lasted anywhere from three to nine months. After nearly two and a half years of contracting, I landed a permanent job at ArenaNet and haven't looked back.
Here are some samples from some projects I've worked on.
Review, Revision, and Story Consultation (GW2)
- End of Dragons script reviews (with Tom Abernathy and Kwan Perng)
- Path of Fire script reviews and rewrites (with Tom Abernathy and Scott McGough)
- Hall of Chains raid
- Siren's Reef fractal
Writing and Narrative Design (GW2)
- Forsaken Thicket raids
- Bastion of the Penitent
Writing and Editing (GW1)
- The Tengu Accords (designed by Colin Johanson)
- The Rise of the White Mantle (with Brian Campbell, designed by Linsey Murdock)
- The Flight North (with Will McDermott, designed by John Stumme)
- Kilroy Stonekin quest chain (designed by Colin Johanson)
- Prenuptial Disagreement and related quests (designed by Linsey Murdock)
- Jovial Pete collector (and other collector text)
- Oggy (designed by Linsey Murdock)
- Tihark Orchard (designed by Colin Johanson)
- The Bog Beast of Bokku (designed by Colin Johanson)
- Spiritual Possession chatter from the Canthan New Year Festival 2007 (designed by John Stumme)
Writing and Narrative Design (GW1)
- Shing Jea Sherman (with Colin Johanson and John Corpening)
- Ulfarr Leadfoot (with Colin Johanson and Joe Kimmes)
- Just My Luck (with John Stumme)
These are the games I've worked on as a developer (from most recent to oldest):
- End of Dragons - Associate Narrative Director
- Path of Fire, Living World Season 4, Living World Icebrood Saga (Season 5) - Associate Narrative Director
- Living World Seasons 1 - 3, Heart of Thorns - Narrative Lead
- Guild Wars 2 - Lead Writer
- Guild Wars Bonus Mission Pack (2007) - Writer/Editor
- Guild Wars: Eye of the North (2007) - Writer/Editor
- Guild Wars Nightfall (2006) - Writer/Editor
- Guild Wars Factions (2006) - Writer/Editor
- Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45 (2006) - PR
- Who Is Oscar Lake? (1995) - QA and other (audio assistance)
Marketing and Community Credits
Here are some games that I've written marketing, strategy, or community materials for, as contracted by the publisher. Content was published as magazine articles, strategy guides, on official marketing sites, or on community sites.
- Conker: Live & Reloaded (2005)
- Forza Motorsport (2005)
- Advance Wars: Dual Strike (2005)
- Pokémon Emerald (2005)
- Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance (2005)
- Super Mario 64 DS (2004)
- Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door (2004)
- MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf (2004)
- Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge (2003)
- MechAssault (2002)
What I'm Playing
I play a bunch of GW2 (End of Dragons at the moment), but outside of that...
- Cyberpunk 2077 (Xbox Series X)
- Rocksmith 2014 Remastered (Xbox One)
- Mass Effect: Legendary Edition (Xbox Series X)
- Elden Ring (Xbox Series X)
- Miscellaneous titles on a variety of platforms (PC, PS4, Switch)
What I'm Watching
- Homicide Hunter
- Game of Thrones
- King of the Hill
- Reservation Dogs
- The Simpsons
- Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi
- Lots of YouTube, including:
What I'm Reading
- The Servant by James Hunter
- Killer Triggers by Joe Kenda
- Procedural Storytelling in Game Design edited by Tanya X. Short and Tarn Adams