Community-Interview mit Drew Karphyshyn

Drew Karpyshyn - Autor von Mass Effect: Revelelation - beantwortet Fragen der Community

Is the plot in the book the same as the game, or your own variation, or seen through the eyes of another person? AND Are there any direct references to the events of the book in the game? AND Are there any things about the plot of the game in the book? AND Does the book's story relate directly to anything happening in the ME storyline? AND How does the book specifically relate to the game? AND Will there be a difference between the game and the novel?

The book is a prequel novel – it takes place 18 years before the events of the Mass Effect game. The book deals with several of the characters that you will meet in Mass Effect – such as Captain Anderson and Saren – but tells its own unique, stand-alone story. However, there will be several elements that are common to both the book and the game: details of the setting and historical events of the Mass Effect universe, as well as background information on the emergence of humanity and background information on characters like Saren, Captain Anderson and the relationship between them. These elements will help flesh out or deepen the back story of the game, though both the game and the novel tell stories that stand on their own.

How much more will I be able to pull out of the game, especially if I am playing for content, If I have read the book before playing. If I had played the game, then read the book, and then played through the game again would I be feeling a sense of "Wow now I understand that." or "The plot is a lot deeper now."

I tried to write the book so that people playing the game will come across things they recognize from the novel and achieve a deeper understanding of them. Instead of just being told “X doesn’t like Y,” you’ll know what happened to breed that hatred. Instead of being told “technology Z does this,” you’ll know WHY the technology developed as it did and why it can or cannot do something. Similarly, if we mention historical incidents or figures in passing during the game, players familiar with the novel will say “Hey – I know what they’re talking about. I saw what actually happened!” However, none of these elements are critical to understanding the story of the game. The novel just adds an extra layer of depth to what we present in the game, especially when it comes to background details about characters or the Mass Effect universe.

How much of Saren`s motives, that he acted as he acted later in the game, we will learn in the book?

The book gives a much deeper glimpse into Saren’s character and motivations. It doesn’t tell you everything about him, but it does help you to understand his development into the character as he appears in the game.

Will it gives us ideas about the next me games in the trilogy?

There are some elements that are mentioned in the novel that will become more prominent as the trilogy continues, but it’s very subtle. It’s only looking back that most people will realize the groundwork was being laid. I’m hoping people will enjoy the novel on the level of presenting a good story and introducing the Mass Effect universe. However, once the entire trilogy is done, careful readers will probably be able to go back and see that a very minor element in the book is actually the seed of something much larger later on. (Now, the real question is whether I intentionally did this, or whether I’m just relying on readers to dig deep enough to find these connections for me and make it look like I knew what I was doing all along…)

How is writing a book different from writing the story for a game?

Here’s my stock answer to this question. (I’ve been asked this many, many times, so I’ve come up with a nice, long, elaborate response.)

While there are a lot of similarities, I find there are a couple major differences between the two genres. The first is in the final product: games (at least, BioWare games) tend to have a much broader and far-reaching scope than any novel. Take Kotor: we had nine major characters who could join the party, hundreds of people you could meet and roughly 500,000 words of dialog - about the equivalent of 5 full novels. However, because the player is in control of major sections of the story, a game is forced to deal with things on a more superficial level.

We don't know what order players are going to visit our worlds, or which choices they are going to make. Because of this, we sacrifice complexity to maintain control of the story. Conversely, in a novel the author has complete control. Every move by every character is known well in advance, allowing the author to spin a very complicated, intricate story that digs way, way down into the core of the major characters. In short, games are wide and far reaching but the story tends to stay more on the surface, while novels are much more limited in focus but incredibly deep.

The second difference has to do with the actual creative process. A novel is a very individual effort: the author sinks or swims on his or her own merits alone. I did get feedback and advice from a lot of other people (my editor, my coworkers, my wife, etc.), but in the end the book is quite clearly a reflection of my own personal vision. A game involves creative input from hundreds of people: artists, designers, programmers, animators, writers, etc. The end product is a reflection of a group vision, with every person contributing in their own way. In a game, you sacrifice some creative control for the sense of community that comes from sharing and building your ideas with other talented and creative people. Given the growth of the video gaming industry and its gradual but steady movement towards the mainstream, how do you feel about the evolution of interactive storytelling and its potential not only as a narrative medium, but as a part of our general culture?

Wow – this sounds like a question from someone working on their degree in Alternative Literary Forms. I feel like I’m taking an English exam. Let’s see if I can answer this without sounding pompous and full of myself: On one level I liken the current state of the video game industry to Hollywood in the early 1900’s. Film was still a new technology, and artists were just beginning to learn how to use it. Every advance in the technology changed the paradigm of how the medium functioned, and story telling evolved with the evolution of the industry. Sound changed things; new directing and acting techniques changed the way screenwriters told a story. But by the time you get into the 1950’s and 1960’s, movies had begun to standardize their protocols. Watch a movie from the 1920’s or 30’s and it feels very dated from its story telling techniques. However, watch a good film from the 1960’s and it holds up very well by today’s standards. Video games are still in those early evolutionary stages, so we’re still struggling with the evolving medium. There are very few companies that understand the medium well enough to produce good interactive narrative. (Yes – I consider BioWare to be one of those special few companies. Call me arrogant.) Over the next ten years I imagine we’ll see a leveling off of technology as we approach cinematic quality and photo- real environments and digital actors. Then you’ll see an explosion of great storytelling (making it much tougher for BioWare to stand out… though I think we’ll be okay).

Now for the counter argument. Interactive narrative is NOT the same thing as books, movies or TV. Much of the appeal comes from the different way in which the audience experiences the story, and we have to be careful we don’t fall into the trap of simply mimicking Hollywood conventions and practices in the belief it will somehow elevate our product. Take sports: watching an NFL football game on TV is VERY different from playing football with your friends. The addition of technology (more cameras, slow motion replay, close ups) enhances the viewing experience, but it doesn’t have the same direct correlation on the experience of playing the game. However, you do have some elements that affect both sides of the equation – like video replay review. This technology emerged from the spectator aspect and crossed-over to the players. Was this a good thing? Depends on who you ask. (Though if you ask me, I say no.) So games have to be careful we don’t try to become something we’re not in case we lose sight of what truly sets us apart. (I’m curious to see how much of this rambling diatribe Chris hacks out.)

As a writer working in several different mediums, do you find that you tend to be pigeonholed as a certain type of writer, i.e. "A video game writer who also publishes the occasional screenplay," or "A novelist who also works on video games," and does that make it any more difficult to work within those other media?

Right now I think I’m still seen as “the video game guy who writes novels” by many people. That’s understandable, because far more people have experienced the games I’ve worked on than the books I’ve written. A top selling game cracks several million copies; a top selling book is lucky to crack 100,000. (There are exceptions of course, but I haven’t hit the astronomical sales of a Dan Brown or Stephen King yet.)

And honestly, I’m okay with that. Because my work in video games has given me the opportunity to do other projects. I got my start at BioWare because of my Forgotten Realms novel Temple Hill, but I got the chance to write Darth Bane: Path of Destruction partly because of my work on KOTOR. I’m not above exploiting synergy to further my own goals, and I’m totally okay with abusing my power as Lead Writer on Mass Effect to become the author of the first ME novel.

But in the end I simply consider myself a story teller, and I believe that the elements of a good story – strong characters, compelling plot – cross all genres. So eventually I hope to be known as “that guy who wrote those games and all those books and a bunch of movies and ended up on the PGA tour and now lives in a mansion made of money.”

Drew, although this is a fantasy sci-fi book, will it lean toward action, adventure, or thriller/mystery? (examples... action: Ice Station, M.Reilly. adventure: Dragon, C.Cussler. thriller/mystery: Eye of Ra, M.Asher) These are my three favorite 'styles' (and books for that matter), and can be in any setting. While if this comes to Australia I will definitely buy it, I am still interested in the style.

I hate to peg myself as one particular type of writer, but I’d say I come closer to an action or adventure style of writing. I consider my stories to be fast paced, with a focus on characters and their actions – to me these are the elements of plot and story. I love to take interesting characters and put them into challenging or unexpected situations that demand a response… then seeing how they respond. I also like characters who are proactive and agents of change, so their actions tend to drive the plot forward. What a character does, why they do it and how it changes them are the hooks that draw me into a story. (I hate characters who wallow in their own misery and self-pity and never actually DO anything. I see enough of that in real life. If a character doesn’t develop and grow over the course of a story, I don’t really see the point.) I also like to present the viewpoints of multiple characters acting in opposition to each other: as someone much wiser than me once said, story is conflict.

Where do you get your ideas? Could other sci-fi novels have influenced some ideas or do you try and shut out others ideas?

It’s always strange when people ask where I get my ideas, because the truth is I don’t know. They’re just sitting there all around me. I have hundreds of ideas – most of which will never be fleshed out into a story, novel, game or screenplay. It feels like I’m under constant assault from ideas all the time, so for me the interesting question is “How do other people keep all these ideas from burrowing into their skull and taking root in their brains?” Having said that, I’m also influenced by other creative works I encounter. I think that’s inevitable, and any artist that claims they aren’t influenced by outside sources is flat out lying. In my case, good books, movies, games, etc. inspire me with things I want to do and new ways to express myself, while bad art shows me what NOT to do and how NOT to do it.

How hard is it, to become a successful writer, where people will enjoy and buy your books?

Short answer, it’s hard. I won’t lie. I busted my… uh… my “hump” to get where I am today. You have to write A LOT of words before people will start paying you to do what you want. I recently figured out that I’ve written somewhere in the area of 10 million words of fiction in my life (including rewrites and revisions, but not including school papers, etc.). And I’ve now got somewhere in the area of half a million to one million words published (including books, games and stories). So I’m only hitting at 5-10% of my stuff getting published, and I’m a very successful writer. (Not trying to brag, but most writers never enjoy the kind of good fortune I’ve experienced. That’s just the truth.) Realistically, you’re probably going to write MILLIONS of words before you become good enough to get anything published. You’re going to get HUNDREDS of rejection letters from magazines, publishers, etc. It’s a cliché, but it’s the truth. But if you want it bad, and you can put up with YEARS of rejection, and you’re willing to work at your craft and write and write and rewrite… you might make it. (Or you could just be that lucky one in a million author who writes a book at 16, publishes it and hits the bestseller list. And then every other author in the world wants to punch you in the mouth.)