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Interview with the Tyranny Writing Team at Game Revolution

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Interview with the Tyranny Writing Team at Game Revolution

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Sat 13 August 2016, 18:10:44

Tags: Matt MacLean; Megan Starks; Obsidian Entertainment; Paul Kirsch; Robert Land; Tyranny

With Gamescom coming up fast, Paradox have begin to promote Tyranny more heavily. Yesterday, Game Revolution posted an interview with the game's entire writing team - Matt MacLean, Megan Starks, Paul Kirsch and Robert Land. And then they took it down for some reason, but now it's back. It's a nice look at the game's inspirations and sensibilities, with a few story tidbits as well. Here's an excerpt:

Matt Maclean, Lead Narrative Designer: The dark setting was one of the original pillars of the game’s design. ‘What if evil won?’ was the question asked in the earliest pitch documents. So ‘evil setting’ was an owner mandate from day one and as far as design constraints go, that’s a fun burden to have around your neck.

Our inspirations included The Black Company, the Fallout series of games (Obsidian created Fallout: New Vegas), and the ‘What if evil won?’ question was unavoidably read as ‘What if Sauron won?’ so there’s always a little Lord of the Rings in any modern fantasy, though I’m proud to say we don’t have elves or dwarves or a lovable midget race of any kind.

For my own interpretation of the question ‘What if evil won?’, I’ve always assumed the answer would be ‘sounds like real life.’ Evil wins when people learn (or are shaped by ignorance) to accept it as required and normal. So most of my own inspiration for Tyranny has come from real life. I’ve never read a book or seen a movie with a fictional villain as fascinating as Alan Dulles, Qin Shi Huang, or Kim Jong-Il.

GR: Did you take any ideas from books, games, or movies for this environment of evil winning? Which and how?

MacLean: The Black Company was very influential, with is an excellent show of a world wherein the cast of characters know the stories and myths of the magical bigwigs but are only semi-aware of how it all actually works. Black Company also had a great sense of soldiers-as-people and it didn’t fall into the brash-hero/peasant-savior nonsense that most fantasy novels can’t help but repeat to death.

Myth: The Fallen Lords was also a big influence, with its grim take on the true cost of being a hero. Myth was also inspired by Black Company, and like Myth, Tyranny features magical sociopaths with personality-driven powers set alongside grim, desperate regular folk trying their best not to die.

A world wherein there’s one big evil dude on top really only works when it’s sold with great big lies that get the average person invested in the evil (or just dependent upon it), instead of willing to resist it. And for evil to win long term, it also needs to be immune to self-implosion (since we’ve all read enough fantasy literature to know that evil defectors are involved in 9 out of 10 evil regicides). So with that in mind, I’ve found most of my inspiration comes from non-fiction: fascism, American exceptionalism, drug cartels, capitalist corporations, and militaries through the ages have all provided a great deal of inspiration as to how evil wins.

GR: Do you have a favorite faction to write about/for?

MacLean: My favorite faction to write was the Scarlet Chorus, mostly because it’s a faction of grumpy jerks and I’m a grumpy jerk, so it’s a perfect fit. More a lawless mob than a ‘proper’ army, the Scarlet Chorus is made up of folks forced to join or die, with the masses kept in check by aggressive gang leaders who rule as despots until they are challenged and dethroned. The folks in this bloody motley have to be rough, jaded, and darkly optimistic to make it through the day, so they’re all tinged with sass and deceit, and that’s far more fun than writing honest villagers.

Kirsch: The Disfavored and the Scarlet Chorus are fun for different reasons. As the most militaristic and viciously patriotic, it can be enjoyable to test the Disfavored’s limitations—what a soldier will do for their unit, how they balance their emotions and needs against the needs of the legion, and how their personality measures up to the expectations of the legion.

When it comes to the Scarlet Chorus, this is more fertile ground for creative exploration. No form of psychological manipulation, physical torture, or all-around weirdness is off the table when the Scarlet Chorus is concerned. We’re talking a Fury Road magnitude of diversity and strangeness. Since every gang has its own rules and twisted leadership structure, there isn’t what you’d call uniformity in any gang of Chorus rats.

GR: The short stories suggest there's more to these factions than just burning and pillaging. Will we learn their backstories in the game? And is this indicative of how the narrative and role-playing will run in Tyranny?

Kirsch: If you want to understand the armies of Kyros, there’s no better entry point than the soldiers and Archons. Talk to everyone, take the time to ask questions and figure out who these people are. Even the Chorus understand that their way of life is unsustainable, and that someday the survivors will have to pick up pitchforks and boat oars for their intended purposes. If you’ve explored every dialogue option, we’ll know that we’ve done our job.​

If you'd like to learn more about the Scarlet Chorus, a detailed description of that faction, including its various subgroups, was posted on GameSpot on Thursday. Interestingly, in the Game Revolution interview, Robert Land mentions an Archon character named Sirin (who apparently appears in a short story which hasn't been published yet), while the Scarlet Chorus description mentions a captive Archon of Song. I'm willing to bet that those two are the same person, probably the unknown female character who appears in the game's logo alongside the other Archons.

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