Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Weddings, Maltara, and Late Nights

With the exciting events going on in Cause of Death, we knew we had to spend this week talking to the COD team to get the inside story. M Doty managed to pry Winchester away from his computer long enough to answer a few questions about weddings, Maltara, and what it's like running the COD episode track.
Writer Fact: The ladies of the writing team give Natara's jewelry their stamp of approval, but agree that the crown feels just a little excessive.

**Warning: This post may contain Spoilers**

MD: Thanks for taking a break from writing your latest episode to talk! First off, I know COD fans must be going crazy over the latest developments. Can you talk about what inspired you for writing about the wedding? You don't exactly seem like the kind of guy who thinks a lot about wedding planning.

W: You are correct. I don't know the first thing about planning a wedding (You should probably ask Lilly about that stuff), so it's a good thing I only had to plan an action scene at a wedding. Wedding-themed violence comes slightly easier to me. I just brainstormed a list of things like "horse-drawn carriage" and "chocolate fountain" and thought of ways to plan a fight scene around them... I was not hired for my grace.*

MD: We heard that Mal and Natara shared a kiss. How was it writing that moment, knowing that fans have been demanding it for months?

W: It was really exciting. Originally, it was a smaller, more subdued moment, just very warm, and honest, and intimate... And then our teammate Rasputin did a pass on it and said "No. People have been waiting for this for ten volumes. This moment needs to be much, much bigger." And so he added way more description, way more emotion, and yes, a gentle rain. And I'm not sure, but I'm starting to get the feeling that some fans may have enjoyed it... 

MD: I know it usually takes a little over a week to write a COD episode, and with the game's grueling pace of releases, that takes a huge effort to keep up. What's the latest you've ever stayed at the office to work?

W: I've worked all the way through the night before. I don't recommend it. But fans get restless when an episode is late, even by a matter of hours... I can't imagine what would happen if I was an entire day late. My theory is that they would explode... And I'd rather they didn't. They're good people.

MD: We mentioned last week that the writers all love to hear the fan comments--and that goes for COD and SHS. What's your favorite thing to see when you check the COD facebook page, tumblr, or blog?

W: Tumblr reviews are really fun to read. And I use "read" lightly, because Tumblr is 90% gifs. But really, anytime a fan is excited about our stories or appreciative of our work, it makes a big impact in the office. It's not uncommon for me to shout "Hey, somebody said a nice thing!" and then show the team a very kind comment from our Facebook wall. Is it childish? Maybe. But hearing that we reached somebody definitely helps make the nights at the office seem worth it.

*Writer Fact: Winchester was, in fact, hired at least in part because of his grace.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Sacrifices Were Made

Today, we're going to talk about the Surviving High School update and novel release! It might take you a couple of hours to play through the update, but the writers work for months to brainstorm, write, and edit that content. M Doty sat down with Lilly to talk about how she and the writing team got through the frantic two months of writing the huge new Season 1 for Surviving High School and promoting the book's launch.

Emily makes the jump to the real world.

MD: I wasn't involved in the actual writing for the update, but I saw how hard everyone was working in the office. Can you talk a little about what it was like so fans can understand what really went into getting this huge drop of free content out?

L: It was a really intense time for the team. We knew we wanted to time it with the release of the novel so people could read the book and the come back to this new, rebooted world. But we were really locked into the publication date, so we knew we were going to be working night and day to hit that deadline. I would spend the day writing content and then doing passes on other writers' work at night so the next day the feedback would be there for them to put in. It was really common to see everyone up at midnight still hard at work. I love being a part of such a passionate team--it's what makes it so fun to work on this product, but it also means that we all really care about making the final product as good as we can make it.

MD: You mentioned that everyone was working hard on the update. Does it ever get hard to have multiple writers working on the same product?

L: Definitely. When we write something huge like a new mega pack, we usually have multiple writers working on it at the same time, and that requires an incredible amount of coordination and planning. Everyone really has to be on the same page or else you end up with things that are horribly broken. For instance, there was some debate about how Zoe and Nate should act around each other, and since different writers were tackling Episodes 1, 2, and 3, we ended up with three very different views of Nate. In Episode 1, he was Zoe's boyfriend. In Episode 2, he was very insecure. In Episode 3, he was super aggressive. We finally got it all to work right, but it made for a really funny time playing through the game where Nate just looked like a crazy person.

MD: Was there any particular part of the update that was difficult for the writing team?

L: Yes! In the new Season 1, Zoe decides to compete for Social Chair. We had the hardest time naming that position. We started out with "Spirit Captain" but that didn't feel quite right. Then we tried "Social Committee." "Spirit Advisor," "Head of the Spirit Committee," and "Spirit Leader" all were rejected. I think it came down to anything having the term "Spirit" in the title felt way too cheesy.

MD: Now that the update is out, how does it feel to see fans responding?

L: It's really awesome when people are positive. It makes it feel like all of the hard work was really worth it. I know we work for a game that's put out by EA and that can make it feel like it's a big corporation behind it, but at the heart of SHS and COD, we're a team of 7 writers working like crazy and pouring our hearts into these stories that we love. When we get a fan posting something kind on Facebook or on the Apple store reviews, the team really gets a huge boost of morale from that. Especially the Amazon page for the SHS novel. Whenever we have time, we check to see what fans are saying. Then everyone forwards it around the office and we all gossip about it. People wouldn't believe how excited we get about it, it's silly. The hardest part is when people think we're being greedy. We do need to make money to keep feeding the writers. We're really grateful to all of the fans who are able to support us and purchase content so we can keep these games going!

Writer Fact: Yes, we know this is the third makeover we've given Ben.