Search the most comprehensive database of interviews and book signings from Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson and the rest of Team Jordan.
2012-04-30: I had the great pleasure of speaking with Harriet McDougal Rigney about her life. She's an amazing talent and person and it will take you less than an hour to agree.
2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."
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In regards to the Infinity Blade book, how did you pick that up out of all the licensed products?
Oh, why Infinity Blade. You know, It’s because they worked so darn hard to get me. They just kept going through every channel they could to get a hold of me. They called up my publicist, they called up Tor, they were trying everybody who possibly had a contact with me, and finally got through Isaac. It was they worked so hard, and also, they offered me a really good deal, meaning the idea that I could do this. And it was less about me looking for a licensed product or something like that, and more of me wanting to test how the digital market worked for something like this, and also, I want to have more to do with video games. And Epic, you know that gives you Unreal Edge, and Gears of War, they are a pretty big deal of a company. And if I ever wanted to do my own video game, straight out of an IP, which I have one I want to do, having contacts there would be really helpful. And so they came to me, they pitched this, they gave me a lot of creative freedom, they gave me a really good deal, monetarily, to make it worth my time, and I got to test the waters digitally and see how it is selling a story in game, and I also got to make some contacts in video games and gain a little more street cred.
I want to build a Skyrim killer one day, is what I really want to do. I have a story, a world that I have built with magic and things that I want to do, that may be a Skyrim killer someday, an Elder Scroll type game. I really like those games. I have problems with some of the things they do, but I really like those games. So I really want to do that someday. That means I have to find some game studio who’s willing to give me 30 million dollars to play with, so I’ve got to have a lot of good street cred in video games before they let me do that. Yeah “30 million, that’s nothing!” That’s one of the big reasons that I’m doing it also. I mean I’m going to pitch this to the guys after a follow up Infinity Blade eventually, and we’ll see what they say.
Why did Infinity Blade try so hard to get you specifically?
Because they are from Salt Lake, and they really liked my books, and they kind of based Inifinity Blade sort of off of my books. Not based, but they were inspired a little bit by my books, and so they really wanted to work with me. So that’s why. They liked the books. And you know, they make really good games. I was really impressed. I am a gamer, I hadn’t played their games. And that’s another reason—I played the games and they were fun. So that’s why they tried so hard. They just liked the books. It is interesting that there is a lot of talk in video games of “Are video games going to grow up storywise?” Like they’ve really come to their own as an entertainment medium in the last ten years, and yet story tends to be a weak point still in a lot of these. Even the games that have great story lines are great story lines for a video game. There’s been a lot of editorials written and a lot of articles written saying “Guys, we need to start hiring top talent to write our stories rather than farming it out to Dave who does our Particle Effects, and moonlights as a writer.” There’s lots of discussion about this. So I think these guys are interested in doing something like this. Do you have something Isaac?
I just wanted to add why they tried so hard to get you. If you want a little anecdote, I was at a Barnes and Nobles on my lunch break, and I look up and there’s this guy that I went to college with. So I said “What are you doing lately?” “Well I own my own video game studio.” He said “What have you been doing?” “Oh, I made some maps for some guys books. It’s right here. ” He decided to buy it and read it, and he became a huge fan. He really loved it.
Infinity Blade: Awakening Hardcover
This novella, which I wrote for the Infinity Blade iOS game, never had an official print release. We've done a limited edition hardcover, signed and numbered, of 200 copies. These are signed by myself, Donald Mustard, and Geremy Mustard. (The founders of ChAIR Entertainment, developers of Infinity Blade.) Working on this story was a blast—it was something I did with friends, as opposed to something done for a buck. The response to it has been stellar. If you're a fan of the game, or you enjoyed the novella, this is a very unique item. Once these are gone, they're gone. We will be bringing numbers 1-100 to sell at SDCC. (Others will go to Gen Con and Dragon*Con.)
The author, who also writes video game adaptations, expressed interest in working with local moviemakers and the gaming industry, saying that he sees films and games as another storytelling medium.
Sanderson helped write a video game called "Infinity Blade" that was released last year. Another game based on his bestselling Mistborn Trilogy is scheduled for release in 2013.
Have you ever worked on a video game before?
This is my first extensive experience working on a video game. I have sold video game rights on one of my other books, but I haven't begun working on that yet.
How did you get involved with Infinity Blade?
They approached me. The developers of Infinity Blade were fans of mine. They tell me they spent some six months trying to get hold of me, going through different channels. But they kept trying because they really wanted to work with me. Eventually they realized they had a contact with Isaac Stewart, who has done a lot of art for my books and is a good friend of mine. So through him they eventually got me to dinner to pitch working on this project with them.
What do you think you were able to bring to the story of Infinity Blade?
I'm a writer. This is what I do. One thing I've noticed—and I'm a big gamer, I enjoy video games—is that a lot of video game people have great ideas. They have excellent storytelling instincts. What they don't have, often, is a lot of practice doing it—you get better at telling stories by telling stories. A lot of the video games out there will have this core of awesomeness but a little bit of roughness around the edges when it comes to dialogue, making sure that the worldbuilding is rigorous, making sure that the characterizations are smooth and have nice arcs. I think that's something I can bring expertise to.
One of the nice things about video games is that it's a big collaborative effort. There are certain things that a writer like myself should not be involved in. I don't have any practice coming up with fun ways to play games. I know some writers who assume that because they know how to tell stories, they'll be able to make a game that's interesting, but that's certainly not the case. The developers at ChAIR are experts at making really fun, awesome games. But I can help them with their worldbuilding, making sure it's consistent; with their dialogue, making sure that it's both evocative and interesting without being cliched and overdone. I think that the more people with skill in various areas you have working on a project like this, the better the outcome will be.
What was the process of working with ChAIR like?
I met with them, wrote down all of their ideas, and then spent several weeks doing some hardcore brainstorming and reworking, where I kind of had to break apart the outline of their world and rebuild it from the ground up. Then I would bring things to them and say, "What do you think of this, what do you think of this?" I built for them a story bible, essentially a world book for their setting, and then constructed what I thought would be a really great narrative to bridge the two games. I was like an outside expert they brought in to consult on their story.
What did you find most interesting about working within the Infinity Blade universe?
I was really interested by something that may be surprising to you, and that is the constraints that I had. I find that good creativity commonly comes from having really interesting limitations. I often say this about magic—the best magic comes from what the magic can't do—and the best characters are the ones who have really interesting limitations. In the same way, a lot of times the best stories come when you have some really interesting constraints. You can't have too many—but let me give an example.
I saw that they have healing magic in this world, and it works like standard video game healing—boom, you just drink a potion or cast a spell and you've been healed. If you look at that from a real-life perspective, that is way too easy to be interesting narratively, and it also has all kinds of wacky ramifications for the way society works. So I took this and said, "How can I make this work in the actual framework of a story, in a way that's interesting, different, that people haven't seen before, that does not contradict the video game, and yet also doesn't break the economy of this world?" So I built things so that drinking a potion or using a magic spell heals you but it also accelerates your metabolism and ages you for as long as it would have taken you to heal naturally from that injury. So what we've got here is something that doesn't really affect the video game at all, but if you look at it world-wise, yes we've still changed the world somewhat, but now there's an enormous cost. You don't want to heal every time you get a little cut, because you're taking weeks off your life. Taking the chance to heal yourself is only going to be something you're really going to do if it's life or death for you.
How does the novel, Infinity Blade: Awakening, fit within the game universe?
It is a bridge directly from game one to game two. It begins basically right at the end of game one, and then game two overlaps. You get to play through the ending of the story, for the introduction to the game when you're going through the tutorial and whatnot. Then the game heads to new ground. This was actually really fun for me—I liked writing something and then having them say, "Wow, we're going to make this part of the game. It'll be our prologue."
Which of the characters do you find most compelling and why?
Siris, our main character. I felt I really needed a protagonist who was compelling, so I did everything I could to make him fit the bill. I also think that Isa, the character I created to go alongside him, is very fun and very interesting, but certainly Siris is the most compelling.
I wonder which of the BSBs (Brandon Sanderson Bots) wrote this one? I'd guess it was BSB_04, since I'm pretty sure the current situation is:
BSB_01 is focused on Words Of Radiance
BSB_02 is working on Firefight (Steelheart sequel)
BSB_03 is prepping the Rithmatist sequel
BSB_04 is prepping Shadows of Self (next Mistborn)
BSB_05 is handling the promotional events
BSB_06 handles the Writing Excuses stuff
BSB_07 does M:TG/fathering
Seriously, how the hell does he do all of this?!
You forgot BSB-8: The Reddit bot.
Actually, this was my breather short piece between Words of Radiance (rough draft) and diving into Firefight and the WoR 2nd draft. I'm really feeling like I could use a few more bots, these days. The promotional events side of things has been killer.
I do have to say that these two Infinity Blade shorts have been quite fun to do. They've been my first chance to dive into something video game related, which is another entire world of writing. I plan to write the Mistborn video game when we finally get around to doing the thing, and getting some first-hand experience with the backend of video gaming has been wonderful.
So much awesomeness at once. Please don't burn out though! We want you to keep making books in the years to come too.
Also, we'll keep bying your books, so you don't need all that promoting ;)
Well, promotion for someone like me is more about going out and saying "Thank you" than it is about going out to encourage people to buy my books. Most of that promotion involves doing booksignings or conventions, which I do explicitly to meet with readers. (Without whom, I'd never have been able to do what I've done.)
The problem comes in saying yes to a full slate of conventions, then having two publishers decide to release three of my books this year. (When I had no book releases last year.) That added a heap of publicity onto my slate. Next year should go back to a more normal schedule.
Well, I can't pretend to be sorry for getting several books out of you this year, but it does sound like a monumental task.
Some of us really appreciate you interacting with your fans here, so thank you. That being said, I really prefer reading works that came completely from your own imagination than that of someone else.
I understand this, and don't worry—I don't plan to do a lot of this. At the same time, working within confines like these offer me a chance to flex different kinds of writing muscles, ones which I'd like to practice using. I plan to take these kinds of projects sparingly. However, if I'm going to dabble in video games, I figure I should gain some experience with the medium before I tackle something like Mistborn.
Are you tempted to write some content for an RPG like Patrick Rothfuss is doing for Torment? Love the books by the way.
The thing that would most tempt me would be doing Magic: The Gathering content, as that is my nerd obsession. I could foresee doing some kind of RPG content, however. Depends on the project and how behind on things I'm feeling.
Ha my respect for you just went up a notch. Nothing more fun then playing Magic: The Gathering with a big group of friends.
To be honest there must be versions BSB-9 and BSB-10 because you're also in those writing lectures on youtube.
I'm loving them by the way. At the start of the last years session where you started asking if anyone read Honor Harrington I literally raised my hand in front of the screen (couldn't believe more people didn't). You should assign it as a mandatory reading!
Glad you're enjoying them. Keep writing.
Are the Infinity Blade iOS games necessary to play in order to read Sanderson's novellas?
Hi, the title pretty much says everything I want to know. I have an Android device, so I can't play the Infinity Blade games in whose world Brandon Sanderson's two IB novellas are based. That being said, I tend to read all things Sanderson, so I was wondering if anyone out there who has either read the novellas but not played the games or done both could give some input as to whether playing the games is necessary for reading the novellas.
The answer is "Kind of."
For the first one, all you really need to know is the basic premise of the game: In it, your nameless hero would go to fight his way through a palace in an attempt to defeat the God King at the end. (Who was deathless, a kind of immortal.) If you died fighting him (which you usually did) your character's son arrived twenty years later to do the same thing. Eventually, when you beat the game, the king's throne unfolded, showing some science-fiction technology.
The fun of writing the story that came after was taking video game tropes (such as generic healing rings and potions) and trying to make a complex and interesting magic system, along with trying to figure out a character and setting that would work with what the game had displayed—yet also have narrative depth.
It was quite a fun exercise, but is of most interest to those who have played the game, because of the reasons mentioned above. That said, the first story can be read with only a small lead-in.
The developers brought me in for the story of the second and third games, however, and so my novella between games two and three is directly linked to the events of the games. It will stand far less well on its own. (Though you can watch all of the cinematic cut-scenes from the second game on Youtube.)
That was amazing. At first I thought "This guy is really knowledgeable about this". It only makes me happier to see it's actually you! I want to congratulate you on being awesome as well as taking part in the community that appreciates you. It makes me glad to know you take care of your fans.
I hope to see more games based off your work. I think Stormlight would lend itself great to an MMO. I could see high level characters getting together once a week to take out a chasmfiend.
I've actually been toying around with the idea of trying to bring a Rithmatist game to life on touch screen devices. Both Rithmatic duels between players or tower defense single player modes could lead to some really fun game play.
One of my main goals in agreeing to jump on board with the Infinity Blade guys was to learn about gaming from the industry side. I've always played, but wanted some real experience before being involved in video games based on my own works.
One thing I found confusing in the first story was mention of some events between killing the God King and when the story started. Taking the Infinity Blade (obviously), and killing some people in a basement? Or some lower level of a building, I think. I guessed that it was from some DLC add-on to the game, but I was never sure if it wasn't something the story added on its own.
DLC, as you guessed
Hm, I have the Infinity Blade 2 game but I haven't gotten around to finishing it yet, should I wait to start the second Novella until I finish the game, or should I just jump in and try to recover from the possible slight confusion? Btw, I really enjoyed the first Infinity Blade Novella, not only did it give a whole new look on the game, it was also just a great story.
Wait. Seriously. There's some plot events that you want to experience from the game.
I try to make it somewhat clear what happened at the end of the second game in the novella, but it might be a little confusing to you anyway. You COULD always watch the cut scenes on youtube, though. They're all up there. Either way, thanks for reading!
What happened there was, I came in when the first game was already made. They said we'd really like to do something, and I really like the guys, they're friends of mine, and I'm like, "You don't have a story here. You've got to have a protagonist and things like this." So then I said, "Okay, let's take what you have, tell me what you have for the world, and let's brainstorm together, and let's construct a narrative". And so we did it together. We spent a lot of time in their offices constructing the next two games, then I was able to write the novellas between the two.
So did you have any input on the game stories, then?
Yes, I did. I had a lot of influence, though I did not write the dialogue, so sometimes it's a little bit cringe-worthy. They sent me the script, but I just didn't have time to go over the scripts for them. Sometime I'd like to actually do a game with them, because they make great games.