Lab Zero Games’ Indivisible is an action RPG that nods at Valkyrie Profile, a long-lost PlayStation cult favorite from Square Enix. It follows a young girl named Ajna as she travels the world to seal away a newly awakened evil. Like all good adventures, the tale Indivisible tells isn’t just about Ajna’s quest to save all of creation from oblivion. It’s really about the friends she makes along the way—and oh boy, does she ever have a colorful passel of pals following her around.
Colorful characters is what Indivisible writer Ian Flynn knows best: He’s been the main writer for the Sonic the Hedgehog comic for much of its record-breaking run. He was also the writer for Archie’s critically acclaimed Mega Man comic. After years of writing about boy robots and Sonic the Hedgehog’s candy-colored friends, bringing life to Indivisible’s unique cast was a breeze.
Well, not exactly. Writing is not an easy act of creation, and it turns out penning a game’s story and characters is quite different from scripting comic pages. I talked to Flynn about his role on Indivisible (disclosure: We’re friends), what he enjoyed most about the process, and how writing for games is different from writing for comics.
USgamer: Can you tell me how deep your involvement was with Indivisible? Were you “assigned’ to write certain characters, or did you help out with many of them to some extent?
Ian Flynn: I was one of three writers brought on somewhere in 2016 to write the story content for the game. That was story beats and dialogue. At the time the game was divided into twelve distinct portions, so we each got four. I was assigned the Prologue, Iron Kingdom, Inner Realm and Warped Inner Realm.
Hilariously, in the finished product, two of those were scaled back considerably, but so it goes. In early 2017—I think, it’s been a while—our work was given to a single writer to bring it all into one, unified voice. And going by what I’ve seen of the final product, considerable revisions to characters and pacing happened along the way.
One of the coolest things about Indivisible is how each character and setting is inspired by a real world locale—e.g. Thailand, London, etc. What kind of challenges did you face writing for so many diverse locales and characters?
Thankfully all I had to focus on was Iron Kingdom, which was familiar territory – a little bit of Victorian England, a little bit of steampunk. Everything else was self-contained or completely character focused.
Speaking of challenges: You’re a comic writer by trade. What’s different about writing for comics versus video games?
All of my comic writing is driven from the ground up; I pitch the story ideas and they’re adjusted by the editors and licensors. For Indivisible it was driven from the top down: the game developers had the story, characters and such already prepared. Instead of laying the foundation I was tasked with connecting the dots.
What’s the same, if anything?
The basics of writing are universal: finding the voices of the characters, keeping to the themes of the property, finding the story arc and so on. And being that I’m writing for a videogame licensor, it’s a matter of making sure what I’m writing fits with what the license holder wants for their IP.
Who was your favorite character to write? And/or what was your favorite event to bring to life through your dialogue?
Ajna and Dhar as a unit. That’s kind of a cheat answer, but I’m sticking to it. Figuring out how they tolerate each other, never mind function, was a lot of fun.
What was your favorite part of the whole video game writing process?
Writing for a videogame! How cool is that? I can’t code and I can’t draw, so my avenues into the industry is rather limited. I’m proud to have this feather in my cap, and I’m hoping it’ll open more doors down the line.