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Annie Mitsoda Interview At GameStar
Game News - posted by Jaesun on Thu 8 December 2011, 18:31:26Tags: Annie VanderMeer; DoubleBear Productions
GameStar has an interview with Annie Mitsoda on her work at Obsidian, Arena Net and on the Dead State game, her views on certain game mechanics and some personal info as well:
Annie VanderMeer Mitsoda – is a rebuttal of an idea that girls shouldn’t develop games. She wholeheartedly loves games. And she has already been developing them for a long time. She's also married to a screenwriter Brian Mitsoda (one of the main creators of Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodline). Annie met him during the development of the DLC for Neverwinter Nights 2 in Obsidian Entertainment.
GS: So, why do not you start to tell us a little about yourself and how you got into the game industry?
Me - short, loud, and strange. I enjoy cooking, videogames, I am a huge beer nerd, and I keep kicking myself because I don't write as much as I used to (although I think I'll probably always do that). I once ran a webcomic for six years, despite the fact that I'm a crappy artist. I like the idea of having a lot of little hobbies I'm mediocre at rather than a single one I'm awesome at.
GS: How long do you think games should be now days?
... Games should sell a concept well, should avoid filler, and shouldn't bilk the player out of a satisfying conclusion (even if you're ending it in a cliffhanger, you can still give an enjoyable sense of closure to some major plot points!) Beyond that... I really can't say. It depends on the project, really.
GS: Tell about years of your work for Obsidian. And tell, please, about 'Project New Jersey' and Aliens RPG.
Ha! Going right for the shadowy stuff, eh? I wish I could go into more details, but the Non-Disclosure Agreements that protect those old titles hang around for a long time, and are not things to be trifled with, even when you don't work for the company anymore.
THAT BEING SAID - Project New Jersey was the game I was brought onto Obsidian to work on initially, and where I really got my first shot in more well-developed game systems such as ambient creatures and level design. It wasn't long for this world, sadly, and part of the reason I suppose much didn't get out there was that there wasn't all that much game as yet. I myself was only on it for a couple of months, but I did grow very fond of it, as I think everyone else on the project did as well.
One interesting thing that the Aliens RPG had in common with Dead State (and something that intrigued me as a writing challenge then even as it does now) - with each character, there is a possible moment where they're fully aware they're going to die. Not in this "oh no chief, are we gonna make it" kind of vague way, but in a very clear and definite one: they've been facehugged - or they've been bit. They're dead in a matter of time, and there's nothing anyone can do about it. What a fantastic litmus test for a character! You rarely get that kind of moment of terrifying clarity in writing. It's almost like you're cheating the system, getting a thought experiment like that. It's heavy and exhausting and chilling to write, but kind of thrilling in its own way, because the player, too, knows exactly what that moment means - everyone's approaching it with the same understanding. Heavy stuff.
GS: For our readers who might not be aware of Dead State, care to give us a brief rundown of what the game is about?
It's a turn-based survival RPG set at the beginning of the zombie apocalypse - cities have been quarantined and evacuated, the military has been deployed, and the future of the human race in the face of this global pandemic is entirely uncertain. The player takes on the role of a stranger who has been thrust into unfamiliar territory, and who has to help guide a group of fellow survivors to attempt to fortify their shelter, search for refugees, fight for food and supplies, and survive the dangers of both humans and the undead.
GS: What is the hardest part about creating story for a game?
Avoiding making it seem trite, I suppose. I'm usually best at taking the germ of an idea and developing it from there, but coming up with entirely original thoughts is one of those things that people mention as being terribly difficult so much because IT REALLY IS. I look back at old works of mine and roll my eyes, it seems so bland or so archetypical - that terror of not wanting to make boring characters or settings can lead to things that are overly confusing, or simply keep dead-ending in rewrite after rewrite. Learning when to let something go and come back to it later - and when to stay away from it for good - is something that never comes easy and has to be constantly re-taught.
GS: How do you imagine the main character of the game with a great storyline? What features of character should prevail in him, influencing on a big number of game situations and storyline turns? By the way, please name most favorite characters of the video games of yours.
Tricky question - and I hate to sound negative, but it's always been easier for me to come up with rules for stuff I very likely WON'T like instead of stuff that I WILL like. I've enjoyed all kinds of protagonists, but as a rule I really can't stand ones who are overly smug, succeed without trying, who are generally jerks to people for no reason, or who are overly whiny or morose. With that in mind: game characters are difficult to write because players can be so unpredictable. You can write a story with a generally likeable character who - despite their better judgment - keeps making dumb mistakes that land them in a lot of trouble, but if you try to do that for a player character, chances are that people will get really pissed about it. They don't like to believe that this person they've been controlling could go and do something stupid - THEY wouldn't, after all - and now their job as the player is to get them out of the mess that they created. It drives a wedge between the player and whom they're supposed to be, and that's difficult. But what fun is a character without flaws? Writing named main characters - characters with a set name and storyline - is absolutely taxing and difficult to do well.
You can read the entire article here.
Spotted at: GameBanshee