The Overlady

Rhianna Pratchett? Who she? Well she's only doin' it for games and narrative! All future writers take heed, and read on....

"I really dislike elves," says a grinning Rhianna Pratchett, scriptwriter, story designer and self-described "narrative paramedic" of video games. As she talked about her hatred for the "wet" fantasy race, it becomes obvious why she is at the helm of the Overlord series, which sees a tyrannical leader and his horde of scheming minions invade a parody-rich fantasy world. A former journalist and daughter of Discworld novelist Terry Pratchett, she explains how she got in to penning stories for games, and why she tackles fantasy from the evil end of the spectrum.

"I had been preparing for this career for a very long time, literally since I was six years old, when I started playing on a ZX81," she said. "I studied Journalism at university and I started a little bit of work on a woman's magazine called Minx that was aimed at 18 to 24-year-olds. It was a bit more funky than the women's magazines you get today. Less lipstick and boys," she said. "And they decided to cover games, which was really, really unusual at the time, and they knew I was a gamer so they asked me to do it."

Although Minx covered games for only five issues, it was enough to get her foot in the door. After landing a job at PC Zone magazine and climbing the editorial ranks, she decided to go freelance, and just a couple of weeks later, an opportunity arrived. "It just so happened that [the developers for a sequel to] one of the games that I supported as a journalist, called Divine Divinity, was looking for someone to story edit. They thought of me because I really liked the first game," she said.

"It was really fortuitous, so I thought 'OK, let's give that a go!' as I was at that panic stage where I was like 'Am I gonna afford to pay the bills?' because video game journalism isn't the best-paid occupation in the world!" Her pool of PR contacts helped her secure more gigs - including level design on a Pac-Man clone and a SpongeBob Squarepants game - before landing her first triple-A title, PS3 action game Heavenly Sword. "Everything's just dovetailed into making this career happen, first being a journalist, and now I do script writing and narrative design full time."

After Heavenly Sword, where she worked with Andy Serkis on motion capture, she did EA's Mirror's Edge, an innovative first-person adventure set in an oppressive, dystopian society. "My journalist sensibilities have guided me toward the types of projects I've gone for, even though the projects have been fairly diverse. It always has to have that interesting twist to attract me, I think." She says she couldn't work on a "hardcore" fantasy game that didn't do something different or provide an interesting twist. However, Overlord seemed to be the perfect fit.

"I think they were looking for a very specific kind of humour, and even then they weren't completely sure how to describe it, but knew what it would be when they saw it," says Pratchett. "It sort of had parodies on both fantasy and the real world, but not too obvious, and I just managed to hit what they were looking for. Actually, some of the lines from my test made it into the original game, which was good going. I never actually had that before!"

Unlike any other fantasy stories, Overlord focused on the antagonist, and her upbringing gave her a fondness for the bad guy. "I always liked the evil guys more, and I grew up in the eighties, which was the heyday of fantasy," she said. "My parents wouldn't show me [kids' films like] Watership Down because I would cry as soon as a bunny would come on with a scratch. But I was perfectly okay with things like Conan, Terminator, Aliens, Legend - all the great fantasy films of the eighties. [Bad guys] always are the most interesting ones; they always get the best costumes, the best lines."

The game became a hit when it was released in 2007, selling a million copies worldwide, impressing the publisher so much that a sequel and two spinoffs were greenlit. Of course she was to pen all three, all on different consoles, as well as work on other projects at the same time. "It was quite a lot of hard work! It was a bit hardcore at one point when I was working on Mirror's Edge [and the three games] as well. It was kinda fun to oversee them, because I'm the figure over all the Overlord games."

An interesting twist for the 360 and PS3 sequel was the focus on parodying environmental causes, including clubbing baby seals and fighting wild pandas, which caused some worry to begin with. "I think the environmental stuff came from Len (Lennart Sas, creator director at Triumph Studios). I did find it interesting, because when I first saw a minion clubbing a seal, I thought 'Oh God, people have had some problems!'" she says. "But we've had this really good reaction. Apparently what every gamer needed was to kill fluffy animals in games!"

She cites a reason for Overlord's success as her deep involvement in development, advising on cutscenes, and deciding on narrative that was both interactive and ambient. "I think Overlord has definitely benefited because I work with every single level designer, and working where we have space to tell the story. That's what it's all about - getting writers and storytellers involved in the team and being a back and forth process."

She added that the divide between writers and development staff is a problem in the industry, and is one that needed to be resolved: "Building a story in a game is much more then writing words. So many writers are almost external to the team, [and developers put] writers in boxes. Orders go into the box, and writing comes out of the box, and rarely understand the game they are writing for."

"That seems essential to me but not always done. I have worked on games where I haven't seen the game, not until the end, taking it on faith on what I was asked to do was going to work," she said." Basically, I'd like to see writers and narrative professionals involved nearer the start of the game. The writer is a member of the team, and a narrative professional like Ken Levine (creative director at 2K Boston, BioShock) is obviously a master at what he does, and when it works, it's often because there is that proper integration. I think that needs to be rolled out a little bit more industry wide, I think.

"They do in things like Overlord, and other games out there where narrative and story work well together, and often that's because the writer has been involved… No-one puts Ken Levine in a box!"

Rhianna Pratchett worked on Overlord II (360, PS3), Overlord Dark Legend (Wii) and Overlord Minions (DS), which are out now.


The Long Way Home - Kelly's Version Pt I

Gambit was asleep. Gambit is always asleep in the daytime, Jean thought. She bundled a bag into the back of the Mercedes S600 and slammed the door.
"I was awake" came Gambit's voice from the passenger seat, stifling a yawn as he spoke.
Jean gracefully slipped into the driving seat of the car and gently turning the key began to gently rev the engine as a precursor to the long drive ahead of them.
"You really wanted to find them didn't you?" Gambit asked.
"I did". Reserved, Jean looked through the missile proof glass at the heavy clouds and the heavy atmosphere of Austin.
"Looks like rain Miss." Gambit offered.
"Yes. We don't have much time."
As the car seemed to drive itself through the strets awash with messages of redemption, church after church Jean never took her eyes off the sidewalks, search and hoping that something or someone might appear.
"Down there, Miss," urged Gambit "allez Mademoiselle! Allez!"
"Yes, Gambit, I feel it too." Jean's voice had an edge of excitement. "Where are you?" She offered mostly to the GPRS map currently pinpointing the exact location of whatever was lost, in her head.
"Arret!" Announced Gambit and Jean responded with a determined pump of the brakes.
She licked her lips as though they were sugared, making the obligatory mmmm sounds as she finished chewing. She looked happy, as happy as someone who had been living alone on the streets for a couple of years could look.
Jasmin Carofolo, look at you now! The prom queen and most popular of class of '03 was looking less like a supermodel. Her once stockinged legs were scratched and scarred with the bitterness of being thrown out of Austin's finest eateries. Her hors d'oevres that were once creme de riz a la Polonaise were now discarded tins of cream corn hanging on for dear shelf life.
She caught a glimpse of herself through the tainted and part rusting reflection of a sheet metal offcut. She didn't like what she saw. Her once long auburn locks were nothing more than rats tails. Much like the rats tail that she held in her hand. Jasmin Carofolo had just dined on a rat as the Mercedes S600 pulled into the alley hideout gently and without threat.
The engine went dead first, then a pause, then a door opened. Jean emerged from the car much like she'd entered it: with grace and the slightest hint of cat-like zen. "Jasmin." She spoke quietly so as not to upset the stranger.
"Don't move one step closer Dr. Grey." Said Jasmin.
The passenger door opened and Gambit climbed out. "Need some secour, bonne Doctor?"
"Don't move Gambit."
"Uh?" He froze with anticipation more than fear.
Jean whispered, "she's been waiting for us. She knows who we are."
"Your cerebral cortex might be just to my taste Dr Grey." Jasmin chuckled only slightly that you could hear the bitterness of her voice.
"Qu'est-ce que c'est?" Asked Gambit, still unsure of what was going on.
"She assimilates."
"Ass-what-now?" Gambit wasn't the sharpest tool in the tin when it came to English words of made up of more than five letters. Gambit would never win Scrabble.
"Assimilates, she becomes whatever you are. So let's imagine that Scott was here-"
"She would shoot them stupid ass lasers outta her?"
"Optic lasers, yes, Gambit, that's it. Though as it is just you and I, it's-"
"Moving stuff and groundbreaking?"
Jean nodded as the girl rose to her feet. "Dilettante. Is that your-"
"Mutant name?" She turned to Jean, almost agressively. "Yes, though I haven't used it in a while."
"Wow chere, you ain't done a deal in a while; lookin' at yo' visage right there."
"He said-"
"It's okay, I assimilate language and mutation" she began in Cajun, "Madam, mah mind ain't as rat-infested as this here rue, connaitre?" She paused, taking in the intense situation that could end in a murder or even a spree.
"Jasmin, are you okay?"
Pointing to each mutant in turn, in an eenie-meenie-minee-mo style, she assessed and asserted her position and authority in the standoff.
"Will you win chere?" Asked Gambit.
"Gambit, no, please!" Urged Jean as she did before. Her hands leveled at her temples, concentrating hard, staring at Jasmin before orderin Gambit "GET IN THE CAR!"
The girl, a mere child really looked at Gambit with a new purpose as he raced to the car.
"Whoa!" As Jasmin looked at him, he began to levitate, just atouch, only enough for him to know and feel and for Jean to lose control of him. "I'm coming with you, Dr Grey."
"Jasmin, please, not like this."
"Until you say yes, Dr Grey, The Cajun stays."
"Waaaaey! Quite a feisty one Jean, huh? 'Reminds me of my Anna-Marie."
The impasse held, for as long as it could.
"There are no mutants here are there Jasmin."
"No." She shook her head, her hair followed the shake dreadlock by blonde dreadlock.
Floating at six feet above the ground, Gambit fell, with a thud!
"Do you want to talk about it Jasmin? It might help"
"Haven't I said enough?"


Homework Due!

If you're in GS8-2, you need to get your Gambit story (completed) and blogged by Monday; and if your're in GS8-1 then it must be completed and blogged by Tuesday. If you don't blog anymore, then, you'd better get on it! If you can't get into your blog, then, FIND A WAY!

Concern Notes or Praise Points? Which one are you?

As we approach the end of the year it's going to get harder and harder for you to resubmit work, or upgrade your marks. Homework tasks are a good way to get points and they can encourage you to have a go at resubmissions, especially in the summer :)



Go to the cafe on Tuesday for a FULL DAY of live streaming from E3. Yes people, yours truly is hooking up the TV so that we can all watch STeve Wiebe DEFEND his Donkey Kong Jr high score from Mr Nasty Billy Mitchell.

Neat eh?

You're welcome!


Top 50 Games of All Time

In case you were asleep/gaming/drunk/whatever this weekend, here's the Top 50 Games of all time as voted by the British public over the last weekend. Some surprises, no?

Apologies for the poor screen grab :( Read more here! http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/biggamesweekend/vote/index.shtml

SO GLAD FFVII IS AT NUMBER THREE!!! (Cue evil laugh) Hahahahahaha!


Remy LeBeau, I am....

This week we've been working hard on Remy LeBeau AKA Gambit. Ah! Gambit, he's a pretty cool dude n'est pas? I did a little, microscopic overview of the great man and with it a petit taskez vous!

And here's the task...

Jack of Diamonds, King of Hearts

As they taunted "call" at him, a Jack of Diamonds leaped from the sleeve of his beaten tan leather overcoat and into his hand. The men stared in anticipation as he threw his hand up in the air, landing perfectly in formation card after card in the centre of the table.
“Din’t y’all think I could win you?” He pushed the chair back from the comfort of his rear and stood, hands cupped to receive his winnings. “And with that, Sirs, I bid you a bonne nuit. The night is a lady, and she’s a-callin’ my name.”

Staff in hand he walked languidly down the hall through a throng of gambling people to his left and right. “Not so fast” a voice uttered from behind him. “Remy”, she looked at him; eyes lost in his purplesque irises for a moment. “Remy” she spoke again, he didn’t turn.
“Mademoiselle, I have no business with you no more.”

“Daddy.” She spoke again in hushed tones.

Gambit turned to look at her, his eyes glowed, and then he was gone.


Working To A Brief - Catchup!

Posted by Vero on 17:47 in , , , , , , ,
Hey Guys - Here's what we did last week in terms of working to a brief and importantly, understanding briefs...

Just holla if there are things that you DO NOT UNDERSTAND about this section of the course or this unit.

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