Issue #1: Community Author Spotlight - Mooseknee10, Keserakk & Wraeven
It would be hard to dispute the meteoric rise of the community around Intrepid Studios’ ambitious title, Ashes of Creation. In a very short time, the in-development MMO has rallied gamers from all walks and built up quite a strong following. While Intrepid Studios has been tight-lipped on the lore behind their endeavor, there are those within this growing community that have shared their talents in the form of fan fiction. Makinoji, producer of the Ashes "Anthology" Series, sat down with three such community authors to discuss their background, the inspiration behind their work, their views on Ashes of Creation and what is yet to come in their literary portfolio.
The first author in the spotlight is Mooseknee10. A gamer since the age of 6, Mooseknee10 started out as a console gamer and then subsequently tried his hand at PC gaming with the original Diablo. He fondly recalls having to share a single "ancient" pc with his brother to get his gaming fix. Now, at 24, due to a love of reading, particularly fantasy genre, his gaming interests have evolved to fantasy MMOs - most notably World of Warcraft, Wildstar, Lord of the Rings Online, Guild Wars 2. He is currently living in Northern California with his boyfriend, whom he is thankful is a very understanding soul that knows what it means to date a gamer. One thing he did note was that he was now looking for an MMO to breathe life back into the genre, the same genre that had a profound impact on him when he was growing up.
As far as when the writing bug stepped in, Mooseknee10 was 11 years old when he recalls reading a series of books about a young couple who were half-dragon, a coming of age story. He doesn't remember the name of the title but he did identify it as the catalyst for his writing. It was the first time he was completely taken into another world and he hungered for more. It was shortly thereafter that he began writing with his main influence being the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Growing up in a Christian household, he speaks about being quite alone and alienated and the descriptions that Tolkien used to lay out scenes, animals and people were so vivid and eloquent that he was completely transported by them. Tolkien's work provided him with a way to leave behind his worldly and concerns and immerse himself in the amazing fictional world of Middle-Earth. He does find that Tolkien's style of attention to detail is reflected in his own work because of how poignant of an experience it was for him as a reader. The other author that Mooseknee10 cites as quite influential in his writing is John Grisham. While he recognizes that the two authors are wildly dissimilar, he feels Tolkien's descriptions resonated the most with him as a writer but on the other hand Grisham's talent for "intellectual plot" also inspired him. Grisham's legal thrillers would often lead to somewhat of an all-nighter for Mooseknee10. He just couldn't put them down once started.
Mooseknee10's current projects include the next few parts of his short story set in Verra, Gidron's Assignment, which as of yet have not been released because he is still working on the finer points of the plot. He is a perfectionist indeed, wanting to ensure the plot twists he has planned satisfy his readers with the same type of finesse that Grisham himself is known for. Mooseknee10 is also working on the foundations for a Pathfinder game set in Verra. He's run a few Pathfinder games in the past with success, so he really wants to make sure he has a clear idea of every aspect, as a game set in Verra is extremely open-world. Outside of Ashes of Creation related work, he also is working on a few shorter pieces just to provide himself with some mental variety and keep his Ashes work in perspective.
As he continues to follow the development cycle of Ashes of Creation, he is "hopefully skeptical." In his opinion, Intrepid has promised to deliver on many of the hot buttons that MMO gamers have been clamoring about. He personally wants them to create a world that feels as alive as possible and really captures the wonder that MMOs began with. So if Intrepid can deliver beauty as well as strong player agency, he will be quite happy. One point he did hope is addressed is about character gearing - he did hope that gear effectiveness between PvE and PvP would not be mutually exclusive, a view many in the community share one would imagine.
Mooseknee10 is a member of Nexus and wanted to recognize the great job his guild leader, Zara, has done in building up the guild in preparation for the release of Ashes. He also wanted to recognize Makinoji's work on the roleplaying side of the Ashes community. He hopes to see the creativity of the community grow as Intrepid releases more on the game's lore.
Kesarakk is addicted to coffee as much as he is gaming - many would agree they are quite intoxicating indeed! For the majority of his gaming history he has been an MMO player - World of Warcraft primarily, but also dabbled in other games such as Star Trek Online, Guild Wars 2 and the like. He also loves to play Dungeons and Dragons which he acts as Dungeon Master currently and also participates as a player.
Much like his fellow author, Mooseknee10, Kesarakk became enthralled by the fantasy genre through the works of J.R.R. Tolkien when he first read "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit..." From that point on, he felt compelled to be a writer. He was around 8 or 9 years old when Tolkien's work came to life on the big screen and he like, many others, young and old alike, reinvigorated their love of elves and dwarves. It was around this time that he began writing short stories, but at the time he was still honing his talent. However, as anyone with the writing bug would, Kesarakk pressed on in his work.
His main source of inspiration is Death and Sacrifice. While some might consider the choice morbid, he thinks it's just the opposite. Whenever he reads a story, he always looks at the character deaths and what those characters are giving up in order to ensure the protagonist or supporting characters, succeed in their quest. In his view, these are the most beautiful moments in literature. Every time he reads a well-thought-out scene of death through selflessness, it inspires him to write. He feels some of the best writers that portray these themes are David A. Wells, writer of the Sovereign of the Seven Isles saga, Deborah Harkness, writer of the Discovery of Witches trilogy, R.A. Salvatore, writer of the Legend of Drizzt novels, J.R.R. Tolkien of course and Steven King (last by certainly not least in Kesarakk's eyes). His opinion is that Stephen King is by far the best at keeping true to the story, "even at the risk of breaking someone's heart... or ego in today's culture."
His current work revolves around writing short stories for Ashes of Creation. He apologizes to his fans that he hasn't produced new content as quickly as he would have liked, but he does plan to have at least one new story for October, just in time for Halloween. It is one of his favorite holidays and he feels it would be bad form not to write something during the time when witches and ghouls come out of their hiding places to join the realm of mortals. He also plans to work on his original novel, set in a fantasy world of his own design. He jokes that in it's current form it is far from readable without a dose of alcohol to lubricate the mind - "a work in progress."
As far as his thoughts on Ashes of Creation, he feels it will have the same success that World of Warcraft had in it's prime. He cites the freshness of the world, passion and dedication of the development team, the growing community and sheer scope of what Intrepid is working on to be the main drivers for the future success. He plans to play daily if he can manage the time. The fact that the game will strike a balance between PvE and PvP elements is most intriguing to him. He hopes the game will provide freedom and flexibility for him to sit in his "hobbit hole" to craft one day, help his guildmates defeat caravan marauders the next and then when it comes time to do so, participate in raid level content. While some might find the political intrigue aspect of the game more drama than it's worth, Kesarakk has a different view. While it's not uncommon for guilds of any size to disperse over politics - be it individual or a small group - he is looking forward to experiencing this on a "virtual global scale." He feels player actions that could throw the entire world into conflict are the most fascinating aspects of what the future holds for Ashes.
Kesarakk wrapped up the interview by expressing his deepest appreciation for all the work Makinoji does with his stories. He also wanted to thank those behind the scenes on the Anthology YouTube channel. The music and stories shared definitely help excite the community about the upcoming game. He hopes every player has a chance to watch the videos created by the channel, not only to acknowledge the time and effort that was put into them but also as a way to continue to grow the community bonds. Kesarakk is a guildmember of Reign and Archive, an alliance of guilds. He also wanted to recognize those members that allowed him to use their characters in his stories: Anastacia, Miller the Bard and many others!
The first impression we get of the next community author, Wraeven, is one of a sense of humor, but behind that was a more profound and insightful soul. He's quick to point out that he's Canadian, not a lumberjack, has running water and doesn't live in an igloo. Quite a quirky character indeed and claims that he's "no youngster." His gaming experience started before the internet was available broadly and he started gaming when the Nintendo system came out in Canada. He was the first of his group of friends to get one and ironically, it was the first and last console he ever owned. However, this was not before Final Fantasy (the original English version) became one of his favorite games to play on the console.
The game that really got him into the fantasy genre was Ultima 6 and still in his mind a high point in the history of the computer game that he feels has seldom been reached again. The biggest draw of the game for him was that it actually took thought and cleverness, back when a walkthrough wasn't a quick search on the internet away. The player actually had to do it themselves. "Gaming in those days was a different experience."
When the internet came to pass, Wraeven began exploring the "multi-user" dimension (or “MUD”) gaming genre. There were three games that that he played regularly: NannyMud (circa 1990), one of the oldest and probably most successful text-based MUDs; Armageddon, a MUD loosely based on the game "DarkSun" where character death was permanent; the third game, which Wraeven can't recall the name of was based around "'Sailor Moon.' Yes, Sailor Moon." As the internet began to evolve and he began playing "Imperial Secrets," a e-mail listserv game. This was a turning point for him as he described it as a golden age of writing and gaming because the two were combined in "such a magical way." It was extremely exciting for Wraeven as not only was he able to be personally creative with his own characters and storylines, the interaction with other real players added a random element that was quite appealing the experience.
20 years later, Wraeven spent most of his gaming time in was Conquer while beta testing Cabal. As far as sandbox MMOs go, his favorites were Eve and Wurm. He only played World of Warcraft and FFXIV for limited amounts of time, two months and six months respectively.
Wraeven enjoys writing, but he never really set out to be a writer. When he was very young, he used to write stories with his favorite sort of story protagonist being the beast of burden (horse or donkey)ridden by the adventurers. Interesting point of view indeed! He feels the internet has done his generation more harm than good to his and subsequent generations - he adds that the graphic interface in general has done harm. He feels the internet allows "instant distraction" and that people spend "99% of our time consuming and 1% or less contributing." This is an intriguing point of view and quite relevant especially to the MMO genre - the mainstream trend has been the theme park MMO versus one driven by player contribution.
Admitting the digression, Wraven focused back on the topic at hand on writing. To him, stories were a way to keep him company as an only child. Over the course of his life through research and his own personal learning, he came to a realization that the story of our world is buried within our history as human beings - he refers to it as a story "buried in time." That big picture doesn't always seem clear because we focus on the individual pieces of our own lives. This distracts us from that wider view that is much more important. "Sometimes we tell a story and sometime a story tells us." What can be gathered from this statement may be that the tapestry of events that create the world around us can have a profound impact on who we are as people and what themes we express in our spoken and written word. He hopes to write this story buried in time in the future and that the intended audience is willing to hear it. Sounds like a very admirable goal indeed!
Wraeven finds that mythology is a source of great inspiration for him, along with the works of Neil Gaiman and Douglas Adams. He adds that the cleverness of the writers of "Doctor Who" also played a part in his literary influences. He admits he feels out of practice considering he hasn't written in about 10 or 15 years prior to his current work. However, that hasn't seemed to stop him from providing some wonderful tales for the Ashes community to enjoy. His current project is "The Scion of Echoes," which is based on the the time before the gates of Verra re-open and one man's search for the truth of what happened to the old world. The narrator will go on trial though the circumstances in which which he was accused is a point of conflict in the narrative between the narrator and his accusers. An elven scholar also plays a role in telling the tale of how the world of Verra was corrupted and betrayed.
When asked about Ashes of Creation, he mentions the main draw for him was the node system - he's quite keen on the idea that the world develops and changes through player agency. He does express his hope that the combat is fun as this could be a deal breaker for the project's success. He does also mention some caveats about using anything that might have already been implemented in other successful MMOs (i.e. World of Warcraft). He feels that Ashes doesn't just need to be better than WoW, but wholly different. It is a fine line to tread - where does a developer draw the line between what is an MMO mainstay versus World of Warcraft exclusive?
Wraeven is not currently guilded, because he is waiting to see how the game and community develops between now and launch. He does think it feels a bit odd to guild up two years before launch given that a lot could change in that time. True but there are a few that would argue the opposite. To each his own! His parting shout out is to all the writers and writer guilds to keep their stories coming. That statement doesn't feel out of character at all given how vehemently he feels about player agency in gaming, in life and the stories we all write every day of our lives.
The Last Word
So there you have it, just a small vertical slice of the talented authors that are part of the Ashes community. Some great work being done and in the works by the community's authors! Take the time to experience and appreciate it!