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Quantum Break: Zero State Interview With Cam Rogers April 1, 2016

Posted by Maniac in Interviews.
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We’re only a few days away from the release of Quantum Break on the Xbox One and Windows 10 platforms, and it remains this website’s most-anticipated title. However, more than just a Quantum Break video game is going to be released on April 5th!  A companion novel, titled Quantum Break: Zero State will launch day and date with the Quantum Break game.

Quantum Break: Zero State promises to deliver a Sci-Fi action story, but that has left us with a lot of lingering questions. Thankfully, we were fortunate enough to get an interview with the book’s author, Cam Rogers.

Maniac: First off, I’d like to thank you for your time. We at GameXcess.net have been following the development of Quantum Break for quite a while and are greatly looking forward to the game and your book’s release.  As a writer myself, I’m curious what inspired you to become a writer?

Cam:  Star Wars and growing up in a small town. I wanted to make something that would affect people the way that film had affected me. I saw it young and it lit a fire under my ass for fifteen years.

I wanted to see and understand everything, but there wasn’t a lot going on in Cairns and it can be expensive to get out of Australia. My family had no interest in travel, so writing was the closest thing.

Over time influences expanded to writers like William Gibson and Neil Gaiman. I wanted to be as good a writer as I could be, and started building a toolkit by examining the techniques of the best in the field. Gaiman’s Sandman got me through some cornerstone bad times, so it blew my 27-year-old mind that Neil had been kind enough to read my first novel, and write something for the cover. It was a small thing, but for that daft kid at that time it made the outside world real, like getting out of solitary. Changed everything.

Maniac: What were your influences for the book’s story? How close were Remedy and Microsoft involved with the book?

Cam: Sam Lake originated the Quantum Break concept, and the rest of us worked to his brief. That’d be myself, Mikko Rautalahti and Tyler Smith. Sam, being the creative director, made sure we stayed true to the themes and goals of the project.

QB is a game first, and we knew we wanted high-octane action, a real thrill ride, so it’s structured like an action movie. Within that structure we wanted to say something, to leaven it with emotion and truth. Quantum Break is about the family you’re given and the family you choose. It’s a prodigal son story, and a time travel story. It’s about heartbreak and repair, vengeance and compassion.

My first novel, The Music of Razors, handled things in a similar fashion. It’s darker and more fantastical in some ways, but deals with similar themes: people, love, truth, betrayal and a quest for a home you’ll never get back. I think maybe that’s why I warmed to Sam’s pitch so much. There was a lot of heart to it.

Maniac: Quantum Break is a new type of video game franchise which has a lot of potential. Have you played the final version of the game?

Cam: I last played the build mid-2015, so it wasn’t the final build, but most of the game was there.

Maniac: Where does this story exist in the Quantum Break Universe? Is it set before, during or after the events of the game?

Cam: Branching futures and parallel timelines are concepts key to Quantum Break. Over the course of the game the player will, through the villain, choose different future-paths down which to send the story. People live and die, things happen both good and bad, based on those choices. The narratives of the game and the TV show react to those choices. As the game progresses the consequences become cumulative, resulting in your version of the story being different from someone else’s.

The novel is a parallel timeline as well, similar-yet-different to the game’s, and starts from a slightly different place. The first chapter, which is available online, does a good job of illustrating how and why.

It’s an opportunity to explore facets of the story which, for reasons of development, the game couldn’t. The novel runs to its own tension and deals with its own conflicts as well as the core conflicts of the game. It’s a different experience, and for someone who has played the game it should feel fresh and surprising.

Maniac: Is it difficult to write a linear narrative about Time Travel for a game which has so many decisions with alternating outcomes? Did you have to make any hard decisions while writing it?

Cam: We lost our minds, on occasion. Plotting a story that allowed for player agency over the direction of the story, and had to factor in the effects of time travel, was… complicated. It took over a year to nail down a plot flow that wouldn’t contradict itself, that the player couldn’t break. The word ‘wait’ became story room shorthand for ‘I’m about to explain why that change we made six months ago means this massively critical section of the story no longer makes sense.’

It sounds like a nightmare, but I really enjoyed that aspect: the troubleshooting. The story knew what it wanted to be; we just had to patiently tease it out. But it did mean that some of the things we loved had to go, simply because the story wasn’t shaped to contain them anymore. Its immune system forced them out.

Maniac: Should readers read the book before they play the game or should they play the game first? Are there going to be spoilers for the game in the book?

Cam: One of the reasons for setting the novel in an alternate timeline was to avoid a straight retelling of the game. The novel has its own conflicts and action set pieces, even as it shares a plot structure similar-yet-different to the game’s. It’s important to say that the story has a similar trajectory, but plays out differently and new things happen along the way. If you’ve played the game the novel will surprise you, and shed light on a few things.

So, caveat: if you want nothing revealed before you play the game, then play the game first. If you’re okay with getting the basics, then I think you’ll be fine with reading the novel beforehand.

Maniac: I’m sure my readers would like to know how the book is being distributed. Will you be doing a retail and digital release?

Cam: Quantum Break: Zero State is being released in hardback, trade paperback and on Kindle through all the usual outlets on April 5th. There may be digital releases on other platforms, but I’m not clear on that as yet. The first chapter you can find online, though, if you want an early look.

Maniac: Now that the book is ready for release, what are your plans for the future?

Cam:  I’m continuing to write for The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land, while working on the next novel. I’d like to have on my agent’s desk ASAP. I also have to get a couple of screenplays written.

I’m returning to university to finish my degree and, if time allows, getting the first rough build of my own game off the ground. I’ll only commit to that if I have the time to give it the attention it deserves. It may be something for 2017.

I’ll also be guest lecturing at universities here and there as time allows.

Maniac:  Thank you so much for your time, Cam.  Good luck!

Quantum Break: Zero State will be released April 5th, 2016. Stay tuned, more Quantum Break news is on the way!

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An Interview with the Director of Super Power Beat Down January 9, 2015

Posted by Maniac in Interviews.
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Since that first moment we saw two Batmobiles drag race through San Diego, Bat in the Sun’s fantastic webseries Super Power Beat Down has been a staple of the Internet, and held a regular place in my YouTube “Must Watch” list.  The series regularly pits famous characters from movies, comics and video games against each other in an epic battle to the death with the winner decided by the fans.

Super Power Beat Down is produced by Bat in the Sun Productions, a company helmed by Director Aaron Schoenke. I have been following the work of Bat in the Sun since 2003, a time when they produced some incredible Batman fan films.  Since that time, Aaron and I have been good friends, and he agreed to do an interview with me about the series and his company.

Let’s see if we can get him to reveal any future tidbits about the show!

Maniac: First off, thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule to do this interview. I know you’re working hard on your webseries.  What was the inspiration behind Super Power Beat Down?

Aaron: I drew my inspiration for [SPBD] from a TV show I was on [called] Deadliest Warrior where I played the pirate among many other characters. I also got a lot of my inspiration from a card game called Overpower in the 90s.

Maniac: Does any episode you’ve worked on stand out as being more difficult than the others? What made it so difficult?

Aaron: Some episodes were definitely harder to shoot then others. Batman versus Vader had long 16 hour days whereas Lara Croft [versus] Nathan Drake we shot in 108° [F] weather which was super exhausting.

Maniac: Do you have a favorite episode?

Aaron: It’s really hard to choose among all the episodes but if I had to I would say I enjoy Batman versus Darth Vader, Wolverine versus Predator, and White Ranger versus Scorpion the best.

Maniac: Can I get you to drop any hints about future episodes of Super Power Beat Down?

Aaron: Most definitely but only for you, we have Green Ranger versus Ryu coming out soon.  We also will be seeing Spider-Man this year along with an appearance from Wonder Woman as well. Plus [expect an episode featuring] The Clown Prince of Crime himself!

Maniac: What does the future hold for Bat in the Sun? Any new shows on the way?

Aaron: We are just finishing up season two of Jason David Frank’s My Morphing Life and we also have an original project coming out starring him as well as Kevin Porter and John Morrison!

Maniac: Amazing!

I hope you guys all enjoyed the interview!  Thanks again to Aaron Schoenke for the interview.  Just remember, Super Power Beat Down is completely fan focused, and if you want a specific favorite character of yours to win the next battle, go and vote for it on their official site!

Inside The Dragon’s Lair Director Interview January 20, 2012

Posted by Maniac in Interviews.
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I recently reported that the gaming documentary Inside the Dragon’s Lair, a documentary about the history and enduring legacy of the famous Dragon’s Lair franchise, had just released its first teaser.  I’ve been looking forward to seeing this documentary since it was in pre-production as I have recently become a bit of a Dragon’s Lair convert with the more recent arcade accurate ports, but have been disappointed to learn that up to this point there has been very little coverage about this game, its fanbase, and what may be to come from it.  This is the documentary that I’ve been waiting for.

Since the release of the teaser I have had so many questions about the project.  Fortunately, I was able to get an interview with the documentary’s director, Martin Touhey.

Maniac: What is your documentary about and what do you plan to show your audience?

Martin:  The short answer on this is the documentary will cover the past, present and future of Dragon’s Lair. Vague, I know. There are many facets to this game beyond the game itself. I want to give some insight on how the game was conceived and created from its initial concept to its production and manufacture. It will cover the animation, music, and programming involved. This will include the technology of the laserdisc player and how it was groundbreaking at the time. I wish to show its importance in video game history as it was inducted into the Smithsonian. I’ll touch upon how the video game crash came and Dragon’s Lair was a hopeful addition to struggling arcades. I also want to give insight to the fan base that Dragon’s Lair had and still has to this day, along with new fans that constantly pop up. Showing the various merchandise, tv shows, and general hype that was created back in its heyday in the 80’s should be interesting as well. The home versions of the game will be covered and show the differences between them and the arcade version. The Daphne emulator will also be included in that list. I want to delve more deeply into the emotional impact it had on the creators as they struggled to meet deadlines and started running short on investment capital. I want to look into how a game that is nearly 30 years old is still ported to new consoles and devices and still sells well. The one thing that I want to know along with many other fans is what is going on with the 2d animated feature film. As I said, many facets. The trick to all of this is being able to make a film which will flow as a steady stream of consciousness. This in no way is a complete list, just what I can think of in one sitting. Besides I don’t want to give everything away.

I have a few goals I’d like to meet in regards to the audience. I’d like them to come away with a thorough knowledge of Dragon’s Lair, even if they’ve never heard of it before, I’d want people to seek out and play the game, and I want the audience to feel good about what they saw and to be excited about the long-awaited 2d animated feature film.

Maniac: What inspired you to make this documentary?

Martin:  What inspired me to make this film was simply a love of the game. My story is a familiar one to many fans I’m sure. I was only 9 years old in ’83 and I loved video games. Anywhere I went I sought out an arcade, restaurant, or laundromat to play them. As I was in the mall one day I walked into the arcade and that’s when I saw it. A crowd of people standing around one game that completely threw me for a loop. It was Dragon’s Lair. Atop the machine was a monitor and what I saw was the most surreal and fantastic thing ever. An animated cartoon of a bumbling knight fighting his way through all kinds of perils and monsters. I was almost in disbelief that this animated film was a game. It blended two of my favorite things, animation and video games. I felt that childlike wonder and amazement and knew that this was something special. As time went on my love for video games never diminished and when versions of the game came out on computers and consoles I started flashing back to those childhood memories and bought version after version hoping the next would be better than the last. It took a number of years, but eventually the technology of home computers supported faster and more vibrant graphics, enabling a more authentic Dragon’s Lair experience. As I grew older I kept the memories of Dragon’s Lair alive and, with the advent of the internet, I found that I wasn’t the only one who had the same experiences. Growing up with an appreciation for art and film, I wanted to create movies of my own. I was particularly fascinated in documentaries and especially video game documentaries after the release of The King of Kong. In the beginning of 2009 I googled “Dragon’s Lair documentary” and found references to a french documentary short and a video which was an inclusion on the 20th anniversary dvd, but nothing that was feature length. I felt that Dragon’s Lair was a great subject for such a project so I decided to take it on.

Maniac: Who do you have scheduled for interview?

Martin:  At this point there is a long list of potential interviews. The ones I seek in particular are Don Bluth, Gary Goldman, John Pomeroy, Rick Dyer and David Foster. There is an open communication going on between myself and Dragon’s Lair LLC to shoot these interviews. Although there is nothing set in stone quite yet, I am optimistic and have had an encouraging conversation with the director of marketing at Bluth Films. Shooting dates are tentative and will be announced as soon as details are hashed out. Other interviews that will be scheduled will be with Syd Bolton, who is a great resource of information on the game, Dragon’s Lair music composer Chris Stone, Walter Day of Twin Galaxies, Daphne emulator creator Matt Ownby, Dragon’s Lair superfan Jason Finn. There are many others, many of whom have worked on the game as artists, sound engineers, or programmers. Effects animator Dorse Lanpher was to be interviewed, but sadly he recently passed away.

Maniac:  What equipment are you using to make the documentary?

Martin:  To shoot we’re using a Panasonic HDX-900 and a Canon 7D. Editing and graphics are done on Macintosh computers running Final Cut Pro and Adobe After Effects.

Maniac:  What do you expect the final runtime to be?

Martin:  Final run time will be approximately 90 minutes.

Maniac:  What is your projected release date?

Martin:  The final release date is up in the air. I’d love to release it on June 19, 2013. That would be exactly 30 years from the date that Dragon’s Lair made its debut. Realistically that probably won’t happen and the date may be closer to the end of 2013 if not early 2014.

Maniac:  How do you plan to release the finished product?  Any chance of a DVD or Blu-Ray release?

Martin:  Releasing the film is a tricky business. Once finished, I’ll be submitting the film to various film festivals such as Sundance, SXSW, and Tribeca. Most films that show at festivals are without a distributor and are there to seek distribution. At this point it’s too early to tell whether or not I’ll have a distributor lined up before the festival release. A theatrical release is possible, but may not be likely as the cost to do such a release is in excess of $35,000. It’s going to depend on how successful the film is and if there’s a possibility of it turning a profit. A DVD and Blu-Ray release has been a goal from the start. Releasing the film on various digital platforms such as Netflix and Itunes are also possibilities.

Maniac:  Thank you for your time, really looking forward to seeing the finished film.

Well there you have it folks.  Be sure to check out the film’s official Twitter feed for any updates on the project.  Thanks again to Director Martin Touhey for taking my questions.  If you haven’t seen that teaser yet you can check it out here!