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Topic: Golden Dragon Interview: Andarian  (Read 4054 times)
« on: November 05, 2008, 04:46:21 AM »
BenWH Offline
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Gold-tinted Silver Dragon
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Today we have an interview with Andarian, winner of the Best Roleplaying Golden Dragon award for NWN1 with Sanctum of the Archmage 2: The Miracle Worker - Act I. Andarian was pipped to the post in the previous year – we find out how it feels to grab the award this time around, and whether knowing what goes on behind the scenes makes it sweeter… or not.

What made you start building modules for NWN?

My motivation came mostly from playing other custom NWN modules, and experiencing the unique way they could be used to tell stories. I’ve always had an interest in writing and storytelling, although I’ve had to keep those interests on the sidelines for many years while pursuing my career. But CRPGs have always been a regular form of entertainment for me, and I could see how they were beginning to develop over time into a new and unique medium for telling stories. That really intrigued me, but I never had the time or opportunity to follow up on that interest.

That changed with the release of Neverwinter Nights. The NWN toolset finally provided, for the first time, all of the tools that an individual storyteller without game development experience would need to create a functional and high-quality fantasy adventure story. After I’d been playing NWN custom modules for a while – especially some of the classics, like Fantus’ Lords of Darkness and the Aielund Saga – I knew I would have to try it out myself. Once I was finally able to set the time aside to get over the toolset learning curve and start building, there was no going back.

Can you tell us a little more about the inspiration for your module?

It was an idea for a fantasy story that I’d had for a long time, and that I decided would be a good candidate to try adapting to a CRPG. I’d originally developed the setting for my first D&D campaign many years ago, and I’d subsequently tried to turn it into a series of (unfortunately still unfinished) novels. I’d always wanted to return to that story someday when I had time, and this seemed like a good way to do it. For the modules, I settled on trying to tell the backstory to the novels, rather than the main story from the novels themselves. That gave me the freedom to be creative in developing a storyline that I’d previously worked out in outline but not in detail, while still keeping my ideas for the novels largely separate from it.

Strictly speaking, Sanctum of the Archmage is more in the genre of “science fantasy” than straight fantasy. It also involves some strongly philosophical themes about what happens to a civilization when it comes to accept certain kinds of fundamental ideas. My inspiration in building the modules is partly to dramatize those ideas, but mostly to try to tell an interesting story – one that’s filled with vivid characters set in a world with a rich history.

If you could, would you have done anything differently?

Oh, absolutely. In fact, that’s one of my problems, and one of the things that’s delayed my starting on the next chapter of the saga. I keep coming up with ways that I could have made the existing modules better, and going back and releasing version upgrades to incorporate them. I think (and hope) that that perfectionism has taught me a lot about how to build a really good module, so that when I really get going on the next chapter, it will be even better than it would have been otherwise.

It’s not just learning and coming up with new ideas that motivates me to keep revising the current modules, though. A lot of it comes from seeing new custom content released that I’d really wanted when I first built them, but that just wasn’t available at the time. Two examples that come to mind are ridable pegasi and romantic animations. These are just becoming available now, and I’m currently incorporating them into my last planned update to Sanctum 2.

What's the 'best bit' of your module for you?

That’s a hard question to answer. I think my favorite part of building in general is writing dialogue. I especially like writing the long, private conversations where you get to know your companions better, like the ones with Robin and Orion in the caverns, and with Diana while walking up the mountain. Combat isn’t really the focus of Sanctum 2, but my favorite fight scene (of course) is the demon battle. I also really like the mood of the lake and storm scenes, and the dramatic tension of the conference. I spend a lot of time trying to pick just the right music and/or sound effects to match the feel of a scene, and some of my favorites are the ones where I thought I’d managed to do that more effectively.

What did you think when you first heard about the Golden Dragon Awards?

I first learned about plans to form the AME from a thread on the NWN2 Bioware forums last spring. Here’s a link to my post at the time with my thoughts on it. In a nutshell, I thought it was a good idea, which probably explains my willingness to become involved myself when I was invited to join a few weeks later. 

How has the experience of being in the AME been?

It’s been very time-consuming, but also very rewarding, and for a variety of reasons. One of them is that as much as my AME work has diverted time away from some of my other projects, it’s also forced me to set aside time to keep playing and learning from other modules as well. One of the occupational hazards of becoming an amateur module builder is a natural tendency to play less, because building can take up so much of your limited time and focus. To grow as an author, though, you really need to read a lot, to learn from the writing of others – and the same is true of modding. Being an AME member has helped keep me from losing sight of that, and I hope that my own work will be better in the long run because of it.

Being so heavily involved, how does actually winning a Golden Dragon feel?

It’s hard for me to put into words how profoundly honored it makes me feel. I know firsthand from working with them just how dedicated the members of the Academy are to recognizing quality. I was impressed not only with the time and effort they were willing to invest into seeking out and testing so many works, but with the thought that they put into explaining and discussing the reasons for their nominations and votes as well. That made winning a Golden Dragon myself all the more meaningful.
 
You were barred in judging from your category but did you ever try the other finalists?

One of them, yes. It was excellent work and made me appreciate the honor of winning against such competition all the more keenly.

What are you up to currently?

Right now I’m wrapping up work on a physics degree that I’ve been pursuing for the last several years, and which I should finally be done with right around the time this interview becomes available. Then I’m going to finish the v3.2 update to Sanctum 2 to include ridable pegasi and romantic animations. That should take another few weeks to complete, and will certainly be out before the end of the year. After that I’m going to be diving in to working in earnest on Sanctum 3, which should have more of a traditional quest- and combat-based adventure module structure than Sanctum 1 and 2 did. That and my AME work should keep my CRPG modding life pretty full for the foreseeable future. 
« Last Edit: December 16, 2008, 05:47:27 AM by Andarian » Logged

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