• Newsletters
  • Submit News
  • SCLegacy RSS
 
Loading...

 

grahaminterview.jpg

SCL: First off could you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you've done and written prior to I, Mengsk?


GM: Back in the mists of time I worked in an architect’s office in Glasgow, but came south to England to work for Games Workshop in their Design Studio in 2000. I worked there as a Games Developer for six and a half years, and was part of the team that wrote the Army Books, Codexes, and Lord of the Rings supplements. While I was working for the Studio, I did some short stories for GW’s fiction imprint, The Black Library. They seemed to go down pretty well with the fans, so I was asked if I wanted to write a novel. That’d be a yes then! My debut novel was published in 2002 and was called Nightbringer, the first of the Ultramarines books. Over the next few years I wrote a few more novels in my spare time until, in 2006, I went full time as a novelist and I’ve been doing that since then. As I write this, I’m hip deep in my fifteenth novel, with about the same number of short stories behind me, as well as some comic strips for Boom Studios and a graphic novel that ties in with the Warhammer: Age of Reckoning MMORPG. I, Mengsk is my first commercial venture away from the Games Workshop universes.

 

graham.jpg
Graham McNeill

SCL: How does writing in the StarCraft universe and the Warhammer 40,000 universe compare? Do you find they are similar or very different?

GM: There are similarities, but on closer analysis, I feel they’re more different than alike. The challenge with I, Mengsk was to make it feel like a StarCraft novel, not just a Warhammer novel with the names changed. That meant the dialogue had to sound different and the characters had to feel more recognizably human. Now that might sound a little odd, but humans in the StarCraft universe are much more like us than their 40K counterparts, with many of the same concerns as us – jobs, family, relationships etc. Humans in the Warhammer 40,000 universe have concerns that are pretty far removed from that, like not getting eaten by a daemon, purged by the Inquisition or devoured by Tyranids. In that respect, it was easier to get into the heads of the StarCraft characters, as they could sound like us and share many of the same emotional beats.

SCL: What makes the StarCraft universe different from other, more well-known, science-fiction universes such as ST, SW, 40k etc?

GM: Like a lot of created science-fiction worlds, the StarCraft universe uses strong archetypes and bends them into interesting shapes that fit its own world. As with any good mythos, it expands over time and those archetypes start to assume their own identity as their stories grow and develop new wrinkles. StarCraft’s done this nicely and it was good to feel I was adding something to that by adding more layers to the story and universe in the same way the others novels did.

SCL: How familiar with the StarCraft universe were you before writing the book and was there much you had to do to improve your knowledge? How much contact, if any, did you have with Andy Chambers and Chris Metzen?

GM: I knew a bit about the StarCraft universe, but not as much as I needed to. Before I put pen to paper, I read all the existing novels several times over and dug out everything I could find on the net about the plots of the games, the characters and the unit types. We’d played a bit of StarCraft in the Design Studio in our lunch hours, so I knew enough to get a grasp of things pretty quickly. One of the things I liked was that a lot of the universe was largely unexplored, so it was fun to invent stuff as well. I met Chris Metzen while visiting Blizzard last year and he looked over all the stuff I sent over in the planning stages and gave me feedback after the book was written. I had much more contact with Andy, as he used to be my boss back in my Games Workshop days. He and I corresponded quite a bit in the initial stages of the book’s preparation, and he helped me get my head around the nitty gritty of the universe. Evelyn Fredericksen also helped me a lot, making sure I didn’t do anything too silly with the lore and giving me lots of invaluable feedback in the book’s final stages.

SCL: How would you describe your writing style? What were the challenges in translating to a completely new universe? Storm of Iron (and Warhammer lore in general), for instance, was exceedingly, brilliantly violent throughout - was this something you could continue into this book?

GM: I like to think I have a pretty punchy writing style; one that gets across the right visual impact of a scene without overburdening the reader with description. I try and keep things fast paced and exciting, but with plenty of character driven moments to really involve the reader emotionally. I like to mix action and emotion in a book, hopefully making the reader think as well as getting their pulse racing. And, yeah, given that the Warhammer universes are based on wargames, you’d expect them to be pretty violent, going into scales of carnage you can’t really capture on the tabletop. But then you can also go the other way, exploring character in a way the games don’t easily allow. In some ways I knew I, Mengsk wasn’t going to be as obviously violent as a 40K book, but given the history of Arcturus and the Koprulu sector, there was clearly going to be a bit of fighting involved!

SCL: How is the writing of I, Mengsk going? Is it now finished?

GM: The writing was finished up way back in early March 2008 and I have a box of printed novels in my office as we speak. And very pretty they look too. The writing process itself was about as smooth a ride as I’ve ever had, with the characters writing themselves onto the page and behaving in ways I liked.

SCL: How is I, Mengsk laid out? Is the book split into three different sections or does it transition seamlessly between the histories of Angus, Arcturus and Valerian?

GM: Yeah, it’s split into three major chunks, with each of the Mengsks getting their own section. The story’s bookended by a major event in the life of Arcturus and Valerian, and while Angus, Arcturus and Valerian each have their own section, there’s degrees of overlap, and hopefully the transitions happen naturally without you even noticing them.

SCL: Much of the history you are writing about in I, Mengsk had already been written. Arcturus's story particularly has been told in detail during the games. How did you deal with these slightly limiting factors? Is there anything you can reveal about information relating to Angus and Arcturus that StarCraft fans will not have heard before?

GM: Actually, very little of what I wrote about has been detailed to the level I was telling it. Yeah, the StarCraft manual tells some of the history, but it does it in about a paragraph, which leaves lots of room to tell interesting stories. There’s almost nothing written about Angus and his relationship with Arcturus, and a lot of what I felt was the real meat of the drama between them was fresh territory to explore. I, Mengsk was never going to be a novelization of the game’s storyline, that had been done very well already in Liberty’s Crusade. So even though there are a few events referenced that will be familiar to fans of the games and books, the vast majority of the novel will be new and previously unknown to fans, even if they’ve played the games to death and read all the books ten times over. And there’s lots of things in the book that fans won’t know; like the identity of Valerian’s mother…

 

imengsk.jpg

SCL: If there was one thing you could change about pre-defined characters such as Arcturus and Angus, if anything, what would it be and why?

GM: Honestly, there wasn’t any point during the research or writing that I thought, “Damn, I wish that wasn’t the case…” I liked the characters and it was fun to develop the character of Angus, since there wasn’t much written about him. Working out the chronology was a pain at times, as some of the dates I found on the net for certain events conflicted with one another, and trying to figure out things like why Arcturus would join the Marines given his father’s vehement anti-Confederate stance involved some clever thinking, which all worked to the betterment of the novel.

SCL: Which character was your favorite and what did you enjoy most about creating them?

GM: As far as characters I created, there’s a Marine character named Angelina Emillian who was a lot of fun to write, as she was tough, no-nonsense, sassy and utterly ruthless. She got some killer lines and was the one person who gave as good as she got with Arcturus. Writing Angus and Katherine was fun, but writing dialogue for Little Dot, Arcturus’s baby sister was a hoot.

SCL: Do you know of any plans to continue the threads of stories started in I, Mengsk into future Blizzard products? Do you have any plans yourself for development?

GM: I don’t know of any plans to continue any of the plot threads begun in I, Mengsk, but there’s certainly a bunch I’d love to take further. These characters were such fun to write that I’d happily go back and tell more of their stories. I’m busy with a few novels for The Black Library at the moment, but I definitely want to do more StarCraft books.

SCL: If you were to write another novel in the StarCraft universe, are there any characters, situations or locations that you would particularly like to focus on?

GM: I, Mengsk is actually the second story I put together for a StarCraft novel. I had one all ready to go that was set in the StarCraft universe, but didn’t deal with game characters or storylines. Before I got going on that story Blizzard contacted me and asked if I’d mind putting it on hold for a bit to do a novel dealing with the game characters to tie in with the release of StarCraft II. And I, Mengsk was born. Much of the novel deals with events before the arrival of the Protoss and Zerg, so it’d be nice to have them take more of a central role in any other books I do, but beyond that, I think I’d prefer to explore the unexplored areas of the Koprulu sector and see what’s hiding in its darkest corners…

 

 

This has been a StarCraft: Legacy (http://sclegacy.com/) interview.

 

sclball.gif

Project Revolution (referred to as PR) is a Warcraft 3: Frozen Throne to StarCraft: Broodwar total conversion that appreciates the original work by moving it to a 3D environment. You can read about the project in our in-depth FAQ here (coming soon). Firstly, to understand the context of this interview, you need to be introduced to a few PR members:

 

Scott “Skizot” Deason – Project Lead
Martin “Cooler” Press – Lead Internal Programmer
Daniel “Naga_Warrior” Pierce – Webmaster/Programmer
Adam “Adam_Ant” Jackson – Software Quality Assurance Lead
Kenny “Jun” Zhong – Lead Artist, PR ModDB Webmaster
Justice “Soulphalanx” Hsiung – Junior Artist
Mantis – Debugger (CON)

Collectively, these people – as well as countless others – form Snowflake Entertainment. There are two general parts to the 'company' (insomuch as every Blizzard begins with a Snowflake...): Members and the Contributor team. The CON pool is often a starting base for Snowflake to interact with the community and draw future members. Admittedly,

Skizot and Cooler wrote:

'Yes, we abuse... I mean USE our cons as much as possible.'

'I used Adam so much he had to become a member.'

 

The CON's are a vital part of Project Revolution. This interview occurred in an informal chat setting. The questions have been put in a logical order, with “bonus” material interjected; the interview has become more of an article. SC:L is once again proud to present Snowflake Entertainment - the ambitious team behind the revolution.

 

line.gif

LordofAscension:
Let's start with some of the big questions that everyone is wondering about. What percent of the project is finished?

Skizot:
Does "enough for a demo" count?

LordofAscension:
No.

rise:
The last public estimates were 60% est last November.

Skizot:
Well technically those estimates were for a demo.

LordofAscension:
When I spoke with Skizot at BlizzCon - I was told that the Zerg were proving to be nearly impossible - is this still true?

Cooler:
To directly answer your question LoA, it's done. Snowflake Entertainment is officially done with Project Revolution. We will be looking for skilled individuals to help optimize the mod from its current state via Patched mpqs. Due to legal reasons they will not have access to any of the original mod files.

LordofAscension:
So the demo is all we'll ever see?

Skizot:
No. There will be patches, and should a VERY skilled group of people pop up PR will be continued.

LordofAscension:
What's the reason?

Cooler:
Also our loader is a major game hack.

 

blueline.gif

rise:
In prompting this decision, did Blizzard finally address PR and Snowflake directly?

Naga_Warrior:
No.

Skizot:
No. We really wish they would though... HINTHINT

Cooler:
Indirectly they have.

Skizot:
Friend of a friend of a guy of a friend of Blizzard type.

Naga_Warrior:
Which is the closest they will get to us or so it seems.

rise:
That's unfortunate, hopefully you will get some further contact in the future.

Medievaldragon:
There are two factors when we talk about Blizzard. A Blizzard Dev could say unofficially: "hey that's cool", but Blizzard Legal Department is another story.

LordofAscension:
After SCII was announced and details about the new editor were released people began to question the relevance of the PR considering all of the original units from SC will be available. How did this affect the subsequent decisions?

Cooler:
The first and foremost reason is the fact that we have reached the limit of using the Wc3 engine. Even with all the customized C++ code added (as you can see took us so long), the engine did not have the ability to recreate StarCraft down to the last detail. Just last summer it was decided that the only possible "race" that could be put in were the Terrans due to large slow downs experienced with the coding required for Zerg and Protoss.

LordofAscension:
Did you feel cheated at all by the SCII editor's features?

Skizot:
Not at all. I honestly EXPECTED Blizzard to up the ante on their new project and am glad to see they have done so.

rise:
Just to add: there has been long standing problems with features such as the Carrier's interceptors, cloaking, etc...

Cooler:
Cloaking was fine other then the shader effects needed were not in the Wc3 engine... Wc3 was created in DX7/DX8 error. It's a very simple render engine.

LordofAscension:
Do you all have plans to start on a new project (have you already)? Or do you plan to all go your separate ways?

Naga_Warrior:
While it may be true that we are currently in a state of "finished", the team has held on throughout these few years. While there might be a possibility of other projects, we are not at a public decision to say there is anything happening, if there is anything at all. The years have been hard on us and the connection that holds the team together has weakened. We still HOPE to rebuild this so that doesn't mean you shouldn't give

Enter ChoasSmurf dragging Polonius.

ChaosSmurf:
btw Naga, everything after "shouldn't give" was cut off.

Grapples with him while editing occurs.

ChaosSmurf:
Does what has been seen of the StarCraft II editor interest you at all? Does it seem like a big enough for a jump in technology for a new project?

Cooler:
Let’s just say: imagine what Snowflake could do with SCII engine.

ChaosSmurf:
So a remake of Warcraft III is in order then. Good stuff.

 

blueline.gif

rise:
In Project Revolution's long run, there have been many accomplishments in unit graphics. There is a valid argument to say some of the graphics (specifically units) are superior to the current builds of SCII. On that note, will Snowflake fix some of the issues in the defunct PR site features, such as the Gallery?

Cooler:
We don't have control over anything on that site anymore.

Skizot:
We are hoping to get our OWN server soon and not be hosted under any community sites that will go under...

Cooler:
The thing we are dreaming about is SVN on the same server as our website. However the cost of such a server is out of our reach.

 

blueline.gif

Medievaldragon:
If the demo is considered the final release, why weren't the German, Italian, and other languages considered from the start. Only English-CD versions may install. Won't those fans feel cheated? Are you planning to support those languages later so that they can natively install the demo in its own language Cd's?

Skizot:
Main reasoning for that: none of us HAVE Italian or German SC. So making those changes are something we can't do.

LordofAscension:
You mentioned patching with help from the community. Is this something you'll be looking at for the future?

Skizot:
Should a talented person with German or any other language SC want to step up we would be willing to accept the help.

Editor's note: Skizot was very quick with anticipating these types of questions. In fact, it prompted this from MD:

Medievaldragon wrote:

Are you a telepath?

LordofAscension:
In the future do you plan to stick with the Blizzard games/engines or branch out?

Skizot:
Well I'm currently helping with a few outside projects on other engines such as XNA and UT3. So I'm not opposed to working outside of Blizzard's engines, but I have no plans to take any of their IP's outside their domain.

LordofAscension:
And for that matter do you plan on modding? Or perhaps working on something more "mainstream" such as full size campaigns?

Cooler:
If we got a voice staff it is in the realm of possibilities.

Skizot:
Well, all of us have voices right? Dibs on being an Archon.

Mantis:
Lavarinth, one of the mods on the PR site, is a voice actor and knows many voice actors Cooler, so that would be something to consider.

ChaosSmurf:
Has PR warded you off larger modifications? In the future, would you prefer to stick to smaller stuff (perhaps balance mods, which have become popular recently)?

Skizot:
Nothing. NOTHING. will ever put me off [total conversions (also referred to as TC)]. I enjoy stretching the limits of an engine.

Cooler:
If anything PR has told us how to do a large TC correctly. After 5 years we know what works and what does not. It is safe to say any other projects, will be completed faster and will be much more organized.

rise:
I think PR is more then a simple modification. It's certainly been a process that is above raw gaming.

 

blueline.gif

rise:
I have a question for Soul, and for the rest of the team as well. What do you think of SCII's current art direction? It's the subject of hot debate...

Skizot:
I'm Iffy on it. I mean i like some of it, but some of the changes seem unwarranted.

Cooler:
Our lead artist Brenden seems to dislike some of the non grity feel the new SC2 models have.

Skizot:
It's shiny! Also... Tonka toy command centers. 'nuff said.

rise:
'Tis true... I'd like to hear every one's opinions on it. Feel free to praise it or let loose.

Jun:
I think the engine couldn't be more of what I would love but the art they put into it could use a little more "StarCraft" style to it. It feels like Warcraft in space as of now.

Soulphalanx:
I agree. From what I've seen of SCII so far, its missing the old SC feel. Every thing's too shiny

ChaosSmurf:
So am I the only one in the entire world who thinks SC originally was pretty freaking shiny?

Skizot:
Well yes, but it was also A LOT more detailed due to it being 2D.

rise:
On a sentimental note, do any of you remember when PR first got flack (four years ago?) for being 3D. Everyone wanted PR and SCII to be 2D.

Skizot:
Oh yeah.

Medievaldragon:
StarCraft units should look rusty in my opinion, rather than brand new shiny.

Cooler:
That's how most of us feel. It's war nothing should look clean.

Naga_Warrior:
I think that is the biggest problem with SCII everyone wants completely different things for it, and so it is hard to make everyone happy.

rise:
You're correct, it IS hard to please SC, Wc3, and C&C fans...

LordofAscension:
Except the Proto.

Skizot:
Well they should show some wear and tear too. I mean 90% of their civilization was destroyed... I would rather they looked more like the robots from "batteries not included."

Medievaldragon:
Lore-wise, if Blizzard could justify all this technology by saying okay, the dominion got hold of Protoss technology, and Valerian Mengsk's archaeological ventures helped get technology from Xel'Naga temples, and such. Units would look shiny, and such.

rise:
That's the issue, though, Blizzard can make up Lore on the spot to justify anything. If you're constantly correcting the course of a process, it'll never go in a natural direction. It's like driving a car around the corner. you look around/down the corner, you don't keep doing corrections. I.e. "Flow"

ChaosSmurf:
Sorry if this sounds like I'm being a douche, but did you just say SCII's models were more detailed than StarCraft's?

Skizot:
The original StarCraft had NO models. It was all 2D art, so they could put in as much detail as they wanted without worrying about it slowing gameplay.

ChaosSmurf:
OK, I'll rephrase. Did you just say that StarCraft's buildings and units were more detailed than StarCraft 2's?

Skizot:
To me it feels that way.

 

blueline.gif

rise:
We have known where PR has been coming from for years. I think that presence is needed in the community. It's why I'd love to see Snowflake hang around

Skizot:
Well we're not going anywhere yet. We're still here.

LordofAscension:
Ultimately where would you all like to end up? Is it possible to form your own studio eventually? Get hired individually by studios as a group? Ultimately is this anything more than a hobby?

Cooler:
We plan to. Who knows what we have planed for next.

Skizot:
Just deciding on what the future holds. I honestly would love for the entire PR team to end up at a single company. Konstantin already got a job as an artist though.

Naga_Warrior:
You do have to remember we have people from all across the nation, and across the world for that matter.

Skizot:
That being the other point.

LordofAscension:
Any posiblilty of creating your own or is that unlikely?

Skizot:
Not exactly sure on that.

rise:
Every Blizzard begins with a Snowflake...

Mantis:
Am I the only one that would love to work for Blizzard.

Skizot:
No. I'd give a certain pair of appendages for a job at Blizzard. They got awesome shirts at BlizzCon.

Mantis:
Well I'm going to be majoring in Digital Media, eventually thats where I would like to head.

Cooler:
I would like to meet some of the other staff members at BlizzCon this year if they hold one. None of us have ever met face to face.

LordofAscension:
I'll try to arrange that.

Speaking of BlizzCon,

Skizot and LordofAscension wrote:

'Nice hotel by the way. :D'

'It was wasn't it? I liked it on Blizz's Dollar. :P'

Perhaps a few of you can relate to a certain someone's informative antics:

Skizot wrote:

[LoA], at BlizzCon, had me going nuts.

Medievaldragon:
Will you get community feedback concerning bugs, since there won't be an official PR beta test.

Cooler:
Bugs in Terran race will be part of any patches we support. Zerg/Protoss are no where near balanced. And it would be a wast to add anything until Terran bugs were fixed.

LordofAscension:
Will the Zerg/Protoss even be added?

Cooler:
Zerg / Protoss are not playable to any real standards. Wc3 engine has an order limit that cripples the Zerg. So a single ZvZ battle could lag the map beyond playable.

LordofAscension:
So there are no plans to add either of the races?

Cooler:
It was planed long ago not to. At least 18 months ago. During early alpha tests in 2005/2006 we hit major engine problems. The Zerg you saw there is the exact same Zerg from that time.

Skizot:
Yeah the first race LoA picked at BlizzCon was Zerg -_-

Cooler:
Protoss worked at one time but then our loader code changed and pathing messed them up, and if we fixed it other races would have issues. Shields however work fine as you can see.

Medievaldragon:
So in short, PR will be only Terran vs Terran. Zerg is in there just as decoration/viewing pleasure.

Skizot:
People can use them in a Terran campaign.

Cooler:
I had the choice of leaving it in and I said the fans would want it.

Medievaldragon:
I see. kinda like Blizzard adding some old units in the World Editor, but not in-game

Finally – and most importantly:

LordofAscension:
How many of the friendships have survived? :P Were there any huge fights or anything along the way?

Skizot:
I'm gonna stab Berry if that's what you mean.

Cooler:
Most of us are good friends. You kinda have to be to work on something together this long.

Skizot:
There's always disagreements, but we tend to work them out.

 

line.gif

 

Conducted Tuesday, January 1st, 2008 by SCLegacy with special guest, Medievaldragon, from BlizzPlanet.com.

SC:L Staff present: LordofAscension, rise, ChaosSmurf, and DiscipleofAdun.

SC:L would like to extend our thanks and best wishes to Skizot, Cooler, Naga_Warrior, Jun, Soulphalanx, and Mantis. It's been an honor to know these people for the last several years. Expect big things from those who started a revolution.

 http://www.wc3campaigns.net/revolution/ text-align: center; mce_src=

Ventrilo Servers
Contact Us About Us

SCLegacy is hosted by DarkStar Communications, home to high quality Ventrilo Servers.