Hello there fellow Citizens! Check here for Episode 3 of 10 for the Writers, including transcript!
WW = Will Weissbaum
AW = Adam Wheezer (?)
David Haddock is still in the UK helping with the Squadron 42 shoot.
WW: Kind of like a big part of when we were approaching how we were going to be handling the reputation system… as the writing team we didn’t really like some of the way other games handled alignments with having it be very binary where it is good and evil. It feels a lot of times in games like that that you’re only making one choice – you make a choice at the beginning, “Am I going to be good or evil?” – and after that you’re not really making choices, you’re just sticking with that initial one.
So, we’re really big fans of grey alignments… in every situation you’re in, you’re asking yourself, “What is my character going to do in this situation?” And not knowing a clear result of your actions. You know, if you want to slap someone because they’re acting crazy then… maybe they’ll thank you for it or maybe they’ll be really pissed and try to stab you. That kind of thing.
I think that will tie a lot into how the reputation system works – where all of these different organizations that you can work with or against will have their beliefs and their moralities and your actions will get them to feel more positively towards your character or more antagonistic… and that’s kind of how the reputation goes.
AW: It seems like we want the scale to be more dynamic than just a simple bar – towards good or towards bad. That can definitely be affected much like how we have multiple ship companies and multiple weapon companies and they all have their own goals and the same thing here when you have different guilds, when you have different things you are going to be interacting with. They’re all going to have their own scale to a certain degree that will kind of factor into this. So, the end goal is to definitely make it more dynamic than we’ve seen in a lot of games.
WW: And, at a certain point when your reputation starts getting high enough, hopefully we can – we’re still working on all this with design – but hopefully start incorporating things where the NPCs are reacting to you appropriately. Like, if you get really high reputation with the bounty hunting guild – you’re a really well known bounty hunter – then criminals will start being aware of that reputation and start acting accordingly and start being more antagonistic towards you or avoiding you altogether, depending on their own personality. So, there’s all of these interesting dynamics that can come out of the reputations and how you play with other groups that, if we can pull off, will be really kind of neat. So, we have a lot of work to do but…
AW: It’s very exciting. It’s definitely something we’re looking forward to digging in to and really getting the details figured out for that.
WW: Yeah, we’ve been really flexing our muscles on this in Squadron 42 and hopefully we’ll be talking about more of that conversation system and then really seeing these initial phases and how it’s just going to explode wildly when it gets into the persistent universe in an awesome way.
AW: Very cool.
AW: Yes. It’s something that will definitely be apparent in the game in a lot of different areas. Yeah, we’re looking forward to being able to have the players go out there and just through the daily course of running around doing things, have little things waiting for you in different parts of the ‘verse.
WW: Yeah. Discovery, I think, will be a big part of it. I think we want to obfuscate a little bit of the classic system of the guy standing there with an exclamation point over his head… so it will be more about being in that bar, having your drink, and hearing two guys talking about this huge run that they’re making to a system and what do you do with that information? Do you try to undercut them and deliver goods quicker than they will? Do you try to rob them?
We’ll have to figure out how the quest system is going to work when it pops up on your thing… but hopefully it will trigger at least that information into the system we have where things just spiral out from that one little tidbit of information.
AW: Yeah, try to make it a little more immersive. A little more engaging, so that players that do take the time to pay attention to those small details can get the drop on certain things like that and use it to their benefit.
WW: Yeah. We’ve already started kind of laying the groundwork in a lot of our dispatches and now on Around the ‘Verse we have Empire Report and those are kind of dipping our toes into this idea of these ongoing fictional pieces. So, hopefully when the Persistent Universe goes live, you’ll be having semi-regular Empire Reports that are commenting on what’s happening in the game at that moment or Kaizens giving the latest financial update on how so-and-so company is doing really well and it’s going to be a monumental task and we’re going to have to really figure out, you know, how much we’re going to be able to iterate and how quickly and really streamline that process… so, you know in an ideal world we can record stuff and get it in very fast. At least that’s the end goal. I’m very hopeful.
AW: Yeah. I know, again from just my brief time here, that there is a very conscious effort – especially from Dave – in making sure that the personalities behind these shows, the personalities that are leading the discussions, are more than just vehicles to get information across. He wants them to be real living, breathing people with viewpoints – with certain angles on things – and even with some long term perspectives. So, it’s good to know that he’s thinking about that already… that we’re trying to think of these people as people that will be affecting the ‘verse in many different ways going forward.
When that came up… it’s good to see that and to know that that’s definitely something we’ll be working on and digging in to.
WW: Yeah, totally, it’s just from the heart of Chris’ vision of the players in Star Citizen having that impact on the universe and part of that will be seeing – hopefully – their actions influence these programs that they can watch and listen to… and then hopefully not everything will be a new show too. Hopefully we’ll do some fun in-fiction fiction shows which would be kind of neat to do… *laughing* Finally write that noir romance mystery…
AW: Yeah. There was a lore post which recently touched upon this briefly about a non-governmental agency going to provide aid for the Fora system. So yeah, it’s definitely something that’s in the back of our mind and it’s something that excites us – to be able to have that be an element of the game too. So, not everything needs to be government-driven and not everything needs to be simple – hunt bad guy, bring bad guy back. It is a bigger universe. There are bigger problems and other questions out there. So, being able to do humanitarian aid, medical relief, stuff like that to the various systems is something that we would definitely like to make sure we incorporate going forward.
WW: Yeah, that famine post was a great example and there is also the Charon III civil war we talked a little bit about like… ships trying to run the blockade there so… I think the idea of players being able to help people in a positive way is really kind of fun and refreshing and let’s them feel more noble and it isn’t, like you say, about killing the bad guy. And then, even on a smaller more personal level, we’re going to have people that get their ships blown up and are sitting there in little escape pods that need to be picked up in those search and rescue operations – going around and helping your fellow player out and bringing them back in. That, I think, could make some really strong connections between players floating in this big dark scary universe, so that will be really nice. So, it’s something we’ll hopefully explore more as we go forward and it’s a really interesting part of the ‘verse for us.
WW: At the basic point of it, yeah. The hope and talks going on right now is that we’re going to have a running tally of all of the exciting things you’ve done in-game. All of the systems you’ve visited, all of the people you’ve interacted with, how many miles you’ve flown and all that. And the personal journal aspect of it is something we’ve touched on. It gets a little complicated dynamically creating emotional entries based off of content because we really want the players to have their own sense of personality. So, if the stuff that we’re generating for them doesn’t quite line up with how they’re feeling then it might be a disconnect there so we still have to do more experimentation to figure out if something is going to be on that level. But I think probably the most exciting thing about it is that we have mobiGlas as a way to ground all of that information in lore by using the mobiGlas apps and there’ll be a bunch of different ones to track all of the different sorts of information about your character. So, maybe all of the places you visit will be tracked in a travel app on your mobiGlas and stuff like that. So, theming it that way I think will help immersion a lot. For players. In Star Citizen.
AW: Yes, that’s definitely something that we’re going to be digging into in the future. It’s something I know, when I was first talking to Dave about this project, the idea of having elections in the PU was exciting to me. The idea of having a campaign or having to see that go about and how the players would actually react to that and react to the message put out there, I think was very intriguing. So, it’s definitely one of the things I’m looking forward to digging into once we get to that stage.
WW: Yeah, the franchisement that comes from citizenship and either getting involved that way or we have this Tevarin candidate who’s running right now in the Dispatches for senate and thinking of – how will the players be able to influence that campaign or effect the political issues and on top of it, based on their feedback on who they want to see elected, when that person does come into power to kind of have it feel like it made a difference, like that person coming into office changed the universe in some way. So, that’s something we’re definitely excited about and it should be really cool.
WW: So, Chris’ marching orders from the get-go has always been: Immersion. And being able to go back and re-ask questions all over and just have these kind of looping cycles of narrative definitely break that. So, from the get-go it’s always been: if you miss a conversation, you miss it. You can’t really re-trigger them and if there is a branch and you choose one of the branches, you don’t get to see the other one. That’s your choice and you kind of have to live with that. And putting those stakes that high – knowing that these conversations are kind of delicate flowers for you to experience, I think, gives them more value and weight and hopefully will make them more engaging in that if you want to find our more about characters that you really have to actively engage with the NPCs rather than just clicking on them and going through these big cycling loops.
So, we’re still definitely fleshing out the whole conversation system and we’ve been doing some awesome stuff with the Squadron 42 shoot that’s going on right now that I’m really excited about. So, yeah it’s pretty cool. I think.
AW: The first question, the process behind it… I haven’t done as many interactive conversations yet as he [points at Will] has obviously, doing a lot of the squadron 42 work… but I do think the process of actually writing branching conversations is really interesting, at least from a writing perspective… and it can be difficult but if you know the character, if you know who’s saying it, then it’s just about modulating their responses based on the way it goes. So, it’s actually something that I find a lot of fun to do and it’s kind of interesting to do… to be able to really understand a character by getting not only one view of their relationship to a subject or an answer but a stream of them. So, it’s something that, when I get a chance to do it, I definitely like doing it.
WW: Yeah, it’s… the process, or at least how I approach it, is when you come to that question of when it feels like the player has two possible things… like, it makes sense for you to be able to go in two different directions. Like, it’s not a clear answer… and that’s when we say, “Alright, this is the perfect place for a branch.” We try to come up with two big differences. If both answers feel very similar, then why are we doing the branch? We might as well just have the answer be what it is. So, kind of the first step is thinking, “Alright, what are the two things you can say in this situation,” and then thinking about the NPCs reaction to those and where it goes off from there and then further branching… and then it can get a mess really fast.
Right now we’re using traditional screenwriting software to do the branching dialogue stuff which has its own sort of problems. It’s not really built for a non-linear conversation, so we have to use all of these headers and stuff to know that this is option 1, and then it goes here… and little arrows to point where it’s branching back to and all of this stuff… but we have a crack team of programmers and stuff who are working on exploring options to help us write these more in kind of a tree node flow mode which is coming online… so hopefully that will help us do more and more complicated stuff, it’ll be great.
AW: It actually explains part of the reason why so many of the questions are asked of us that we need to kind of soft pedal around to a certain degree. The details are being figured out, but from our perspective sometimes details are good and sometimes it makes you more creative to figure out a way to explain the emotion or the character without getting into that, you know, necessary specific specifics.
That said, there are some aspects of the game which are… internally we have a bit more advanced but maybe isn’t confirmed or isn’t quite done… we need to make sure that when we do put any kind of information out there we just make sure that it’s something that should be getting out there, that is confirmed, and that is something that we can actually deliver for you guys. So, it’s something that we’re always conscious of. We have many layers of people looking at it just to make sure that make sure that… “Wait, wait, wait… we can’t… we need to be careful about that quite yet.”
WW: There’s definitely times when you wish that everything was locked in so you could just have answers but that kind of open-endedness can be fun to explore sometimes and not getting bogged down in specific mechanics when we’re doing our stories and really focusing in more on feelings and emotions of the story and flying. It’s not about the landing, it’s about the exhilaration of the experience and that’s where we can add in from a lore perspective and also…
It’s this really interesting triangle of development as far as kind of this in-progress works which kind of makes it a really fun project to be on where design, art, and narrative are all working… and it can start at any one of those points. Art can come up with a cool piece of concept art that then design takes and tries to make functional and then we have to explain or we come up with this idea of… the Cargolympics was something really silly that we thought of but design really liked and was like… looking at possibly making a thing. So, it kind of all feeds into each other and it can start anywhere and it’s really that kind of organic creative process.
AW: Yeah, it’s nice to have people from other departments walk into our office and be like, “Hey, we had a great idea!” and kind of be able to hear that and… “That will be perfect to incorporate in or play around with.” So, it’s good to have ideas coming from all different directions.
WW: I am consistently amazed by how on top of everything Chris Roberts is. He reads almost every piece of lore that we write. Like, you’ll think, “Oh, this was just a small thing that I scribbled down,” and then he’ll mention it a few weeks later and he knows it all by heart. I mean, this game seems to be his lifeblood and it’s kind of awe-inspiring to work with him in that manner.
So, he sees everything. In the day-to-day sometimes he’s not giving direct approval. A lot of times it’s the larger kind of tonal pieces he has given us marching orders on and then Dave is kind of the stop gap for the approvals of all of the narrative stuff. Then, it’s up to his call. If he thinks something is more controversial, or maybe steering away from something that has already been established, he’ll run it past Chris and see. But those guides that were all agreed on… you know, we keep going back there to those as our source of fiction.
And you’ve probably had this experience even more-so than mine from starting off more recently with so much more content in place… but about having, before you write anything, going and doing research on our already-written material.
AW: Yeah… yeah. It’s been a huge learning curve and I read all of the lore before I started day 1 too and already felt like I was up to date like you guys are… and then I came in and saw the internal website with all of the stuff going on and I was… *mind exploding*.
But, it’s been fun. You know, luckily Cherie, our Archivist, started at the same too so we’ve been going through the same process and I’ve been able to talk to her about stuff like that.
But yeah, Dave has been in the ground floor with Chris on a lot of these kind of creative decisions, the lore decisions, from day 1 so he is very good about being the database… making sure that anything we write… if there’s an issue, if he needs it to be more specific or less specific – he’s on top of that and he knows that. Obviously Chris is looped into all of these conversations too and very hands-on with every aspect but Dave is very capable of keeping the lore portion in check, that’s for sure.
WW: [Impersonating jaded military veteran] Man… you wouldn’t have wanted to be there at the Tevarin war. That stuff was messed up.
AW: It’s definitely an interesting idea and it’s something that, I think, is kind of built into the way the game is so far. We do have sim pods, we do have ways that – even in the context of this world – you could get in a sim pod and maybe there’s a company in the ‘verse that creates a game like that which we may then be able to have you step out and go back to. So, it’s definitely an interesting idea and I think there’s a lot of fertile ground for us to be able to explore stuff that has already happened, that’s for sure.
WW: Yeah, I mean Dave has established so much great history of these 900 years and there’s all of these awesome, big, epic battles between all of these species and it would be really pretty neat to be able to go and have full out wars and experience those historical moments. So, I am hoping that it will be something to do and it’s definitely something we’ve talked about that could be really fun. Maybe one of them is a simulation of you being Messer and having to give a speech, like ‘Having to give a Speech Simulator’… rile up everyone….
AW: It’s like Guitar Hero but for Imperators.
WW: Yeah… and then it’s just you taking a batch as him for awhile. The ultimate Messer simulation.