Brooks Bishop — August 4, 2012
I realized fairly early on one thing while developing Aeternum: I can’t write dialogue for crap. I can push out code for hours on end, but coming up with consistently believable dialogue through numerous characters’ voices is just beyond me. Having to do that and be funny with it is, if you can believe it, a fairly monumental task. So I think it was quite the serendipitous happenstance that I came into contact with none other than the illustrious Nate Graves. Yes, the one that most of you should be familiar with as the editor in chief of Gear-Fish, and learned that not only is he literate, but he enjoys writing. From there it was a simple task of bugging him until he agreed to write for me.
To help shed a little light on what Nate is doing for this game, I asked him a bunch of questions. And then I asked him a bunch of silly crap, too!
Q&A With Nate Graves
How did you get involved with Aeternum?
Some kind of divine providence. As it turned out, I lost my full-time job and the next day, Brooks pitched me the chance to write for it. I’d played early versions of the game, but definitely felt it needed a story component. We talked about the world behind the shooting and I was immediately interested.
What is your job on the team?
I do dialogue, playtesting and help flesh out the world and characters behind Aeternum.
How do you approach writing dialogue and story for a universe developed by someone else, as opposed to something you have created yourself?
It’s actually a pretty natural thing for me. I grew up writing with other people, developing worlds and characters in tandem with others. Even authors that create primarily on their own still look externally for feedback and ideas. Most works are collaborative in some sense, even if it isn’t always apparent. I love the world of Aeternum and it’s a lot of fun to play around with. I might not have invented every aspect of the background, but I get to lend my own voice to expand and shape the overall picture.
What is the hardest part of writing for a video game so far? Is that specific to a dialogue heavy SHMUP or to a doujin style game?
Definitely the lack of action. Without scripting events, variable facial expressions or narration, everything has to be conveyed through dialogue. Aeternum is pretty light-hearted, and when you think about most anime, even Japanese video games, there’s a lot of humor that emerges from the combination of sight gags with dialogue. I’ve written scripts before, but even those have minor direction, it’s definitely a challenge.
From where are you drawing inspiration to write? Any particular game/tv show/anime/movie?
I’ve seen so much anime/manga over the years, it’s hard to say which specifically I’m most inspired by. Stuff like Cromartie High School, Azumanga Daioh, Angel Beats, certainly. Ideas come from everywhere, though. All of the characters in Aeternum have ties to other things, and even elements of their personality are a mish-mash of experience and media, just like anyone else. I tend to think long-term with characters, their history, their future… and even if we never did anything else with the IP, I’ve been considering a variety of paths for the characters in it. Jeanette as kind of like a magical version of Hodgins from Bones.
Is there a game writer you particularly look up to or love reading?
I’ll admit, I don’t know many. My experience has usually been that many devs consider writing something of an afterthought, from Triple-A to Indie because hey, anyone can write stuff, yeah? I have my literary and industry inspirations: Vonnegut, Gibson, Stephenson, Dick, James Alan Gardner, David Riley and Joel White from Fast Karate for the Gentleman, Greg Kasavin (who is a really nice guy), Sam Lake and of course, I have to give a nod to the cadre of Guild Wars writers. I love that particular game world and mythos.
When Aeternum is super successful and makes us all mega-rich, where do you want to go from there?
Simple – I want to do more. Money is just a means to an end… I love working with games in particular as a storytelling platform, and I look forward to working on future projects. We’ve got some pretty cool ideas in the works already, and there’s no shortage of ambition in either Brooks or myself. I think a lot will depend on what kind of reaction Aeternum gets, but I’m hoping to get a chance to return to that world as well, there’s a lot of stories that have yet to be told in there.
This is like Sophie’s Choice here, but I’m a cold, heartless bastard so I’ll say Gradius.
Futura, hands down. There are tons of others I love for different reasons, but Futura has always been my favorite. I wish more people got excited about fonts. I mean, c’mon. It’s on the moon!
If you could be any moe moe anime girl, who would you be and why?
I’m more of a Tsundere kind of guy.
Perfect sandwich cookie stuffs count?
E.L. Fudge. Single or Double, but no more. They’re already pretty rich. I’m not big on cookies, but those things are made with siren blood. I have a couple of friends that used to kick off their marathon game sessions by buying a whole pack each and a two liter of orange soda which is hardcore but kind of gross.
Last song you listened to?
It was probably Aphex Twin or Shpongle. I’ve been listening to the Crystal Method a lot lately.
How do you shot web?
Mysterio is totally gay for Spiderman. I’d ask him.
Thing you’ve procrastinated with the most instead of writing?
Oh god, probably watching every single season of Bones or Borderlands. I need to be banned from Steam and Netflix to get anything done.
Cats or waffles?
Cat + Waffle = Feline Indecision.