I'm the author of Garwulf's Corner and Fooling Garwulf - want to ask me a question?

So, this may be asking for a bit more than I can chew, but what the hell, why not?

I've done a Q&A on Reddit a couple of times, but it occurs to me that I haven't done one here yet, where the lion's share of my readers are. So, let's have a Q&A!

(I can't promise speedy replies, unfortunately - I am a working writer, and that leaves me somewhat busy. But, I'll answer everything I can as quickly as I can, and I guess we'll make the cutoff for questions the beginning of Sunday or so, with answers coming when I can get to them.)

So, I'm "Garwulf" - the author of Garwulf's Corner and Fooling Garwulf here on the Escapist, as well as the author of Diablo: Demonsbane and The EverQuest Companion...and I was possibly one of the first, if not THE first, video games commentators in the English language. Want to ask me a question?

Uh, yeah, I have a question.

This is probably going to sound a bit rude, but rest-assured I don't mean it that way. Anyway...
Why do your Escapist column comments threads get posted in Gaming Industry Discussion, even when the article isn't about the game industry?

IceForce:
Uh, yeah, I have a question.

This is probably going to sound a bit rude, but rest-assured I don't mean it that way. Anyway...
Why do your Escapist column comments threads get posted in Gaming Industry Discussion, even when the article isn't about the game industry?

That's not a bad question - it's also something my editor could probably answer far better than I could, but I'll give it a shot.

Part of it is that the column bounces around topics quite a lot. As I understand how the programming of the site works (translation: "not very well" - I haven't been a programmer since high school twenty years ago), there's a default forum that the posts go into. But, the topics jump around so much (it's a pop culture column in general, so it covers just about everything) that sometimes the best place for the discussion is another forum. Whether it gets moved there...and whether it gets moved back to the Featured Content forum in the next installment, is up to the editor. So, there is an effort on the Escapist's side to put the column into the forum where it will facilitate the best discussion, but whether something like the Hugo Awards column ended up in Games Industry Discussion forum by accident because a setting wasn't changed back, or on purpose because my editor thought that would be the best place to have it for that discussion, is not something I really know.

However, as a general rule, I do read each forum thread, and if I see people suggesting that it's in the wrong place, I do pass that on to my editor as soon as I can. But, other than that, it's not something under my control.

Oliver Campbell recently wrote an article about video games as a storytelling medium.

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/video-games/14625-Video-Games-Tell-Stories-In-a-Way-No-Previous-Medium-Could

Building on what he wrote, what are some things you think that video games can do better in regards to storytelling? I mean, for every The Last of Us we get 50 forgettable excuse plots. Why is that, and how can developers make it better?

SlumlordThanatos:
Oliver Campbell recently wrote an article about video games as a storytelling medium.

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/video-games/14625-Video-Games-Tell-Stories-In-a-Way-No-Previous-Medium-Could

Building on what he wrote, what are some things you think that video games can do better in regards to storytelling? I mean, for every The Last of Us we get 50 forgettable excuse plots. Why is that, and how can developers make it better?

First, I hadn't seen that article yet, so thank you for sharing it!

Second, I think the main thing we need in video game development is more people telling the stories that speak to them. I know that diversity tends to be a divisive term, but there's a lot of good that comes from it (it is, after all, all about adding new voices, and as I've said, if you're doing it by removing or replacing voices, you're doing it wrong). The more voices we get telling stories, the more variety there will be, the richer the general field will be in terms of storytelling, and the better the stories will become.

That said, I think it is important to note that Sturgeon's Law does really apply to every single medium - for every great story we get, there's going to be a lot of unimaginative crap. I don't think there's any real way around that (I remember having a friend during my second degree who worked in the television industry in Japan - one of the things he told me is that Japanese television has around the same amount of terrible anime as we have terrible television, but they just don't export the bad stuff to the West). But, the richer the field of video game storytelling is in general, the better the really good stuff will be.

There are three things I'm wondering.

First, what was the fact-finding process like when you wrote The EverQuest Companion? If you want me to be more concrete--did you ever feel the need to re-check things you felt you know, just to be sure?

Secondly, how big creative freedom did you get with Diablo: Demonsbane? Dan Abnett once said that when he wrote a Happy Meal comic once, there was a gigantic list of things that Ronald McDonald always does, never does, wouldn't be caught dead doing, and so on. Were ther any kinds of rules like that?

Thirdly, is there some book that you really want to have read, but you're not that interested in actually reading? (I know this is unrelated to your work, but I'm always interested to hear people's answer to that question.)

Queen Michael:
There are three things I'm wondering.

First, what was the fact-finding process like when you wrote The EverQuest Companion? If you want me to be more concrete--did you ever feel the need to re-check things you felt you know, just to be sure?

Secondly, how big creative freedom did you get with Diablo: Demonsbane? Dan Abnett once said that when he wrote a Happy Meal comic once, there was a gigantic list of things that Ronald McDonald always does, never does, wouldn't be caught dead doing, and so on. Were ther any kinds of rules like that?

Thirdly, is there some book that you really want to have read, but you're not that interested in actually reading? (I know this is unrelated to your work, but I'm always interested to hear people's answer to that question.)

Those are some really great questions! In order:

1. The fact-finding process for The EverQuest Companion was actually going to Sony Online with a tape recorder and interviewing everybody I could get my hands on. So, I really had a lot of access to the key people I needed. I went back to the tape recorder a few times while writing, and there were some chapters (such as the addiction chapter) where I did a lot of referencing a mountain of research. That said, I remember every chapter was also fact-checked with the interviewees before the book went into the page proof stage (although it was long enough ago that my memory may be faulty on that).

2. There was a writer's bible for all the Diablo writers that laid out the history of the world and its basic rules. I think about the only thing that I was flat out told not to do in the writer's bible was to talk about what was planned for after the Diablo II expansion (aka, not talking about Diablo III...yes, I knew it was coming and had access to an early outline in 2000). Outside of that, I had to pitch story outlines to my editor and Christopher Metzen, but I think the only time they actually shut something down was an early idea for a story set in the barbarian lands (ironically, they had actually liked the story idea - an adaptation of Beowulf - but they were developing the barbarians for the expansion at the time, and they didn't want me causing an accidental continuity error). So, I grabbed a section of the map that hadn't been developed, and planted my precious Vikings and Anglo-Saxons onto it...and they loved the story that came out.

3. It's an interesting question...and I don't actually think I have an answer to it. There are definitely books I want to read, but none that I really feel that I should read more as an obligation to be informed than anything else. I think the closest would be the Qu'ran (I picked up a lovely bilingual copy when it looked like I'd be doing some research on the Crusades during university, and I figured I should have a good translation of it if I'm doing any writing or research involving Islam)...and I've already read the Bible (both Testaments and most of the apocrypha) cover-to-cover.

Do you thing Penn and Teller could be fooled by School Days's "magic trick" of sorts?
Do you listen to any music while writing any of your columns? If yes, then any specific genre(s)?
Is Now You See Me still a good movie to watch, at least?

FPLOON:
Do you thing Penn and Teller could be fooled by School Days's "magic trick" of sorts?
Do you listen to any music while writing any of your columns? If yes, then any specific genre(s)?
Is Now You See Me still a good movie to watch, at least?

In order:

1. I haven't seen School Days's "magic trick", so I really couldn't tell you.

2. I don't tend to listen to music when I'm writing non-fiction. I DO often listen to it when writing fiction, though, and it's usually instrumental soundtracks. I don't like using anything with words that I can understand, as I tend to get caught up in the lyrics and distracted away from the writing.

(Back when I was doing my first degree, I was taking an Old English course...and I studied for the exam while listening to Wagner's Ring Cycle. Right up to the end of the exam, I had this terrible feeling that what would actually come out on the exam would be this weird combination of German and Old English...)

3. I liked Now You See Me a lot...so, I'd say yes. The one criticism I had was that I thought they used too much CGI on certain effects, where they could have done it better with practical effects.

In your Fooling Garwulf column (and on Fool Us itself) illusions are discussed in a deliberately obscured way for the purpose of both protecting the work of others and for not spoiling the trick for people who don't want to know. However, as someone who does want to understand more about what is actually happening in detail (not in regards to just understanding how one specific trick works, more of an understanding of overall theory and the terminology and the like) are there any resources you would recommend?

MoltenSilver:
In your Fooling Garwulf column (and on Fool Us itself) illusions are discussed in a deliberately obscured way for the purpose of both protecting the work of others and for not spoiling the trick for people who don't want to know. However, as someone who does want to understand more about what is actually happening in detail (not in regards to just understanding how one specific trick works, more of an understanding of overall theory and the terminology and the like) are there any resources you would recommend?

That is a great question!

Perhaps the best book on performance theory right now is Strong Magic, by Darwin Ortiz. It's written for magicians, so it assumes that you have a basic understanding of how to do a card trick. There's also The Magic Way, by Juan Tamariz, which is very highly regarded.

As far as getting started in general, The Magic Book, by Harry Lorayne is absolutely a wonderful resource - he builds "from the bottom up," teaching the basic sleights first, and then moving into how they work into tricks. While this is just for card tricks, when you get into more advanced material, you can't go wrong with Expert Card Technique, by Jean Hugard. And, the bible of card handling remains The Expert at the Card Table, by S.W. Erdnase.

For how the brain works, there's a very good book titled Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals About our Everyday Deceptions, by Stephen L. Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde.

For the history of magic (and a good idea of how the stage illusions worked in the first Golden Age), I cannot recommend Hiding the Elephant, by Jim Steinmeyer, highly enough. He not only talks about the magicians, but also their methods and how they evolved. I'd also highly recommend Phantoms of the Card Table, by David Britland and Gazzo - it fills in what's going on with the close-up magicians during the 1920s and 30s.

And, that's the short list...

Appologies in advance if these questions have been given answers elsewhere. And that this will be focused on Diablo (admin of the wiki, so, yeah):

-In addition to 'Demonsbane', you also at least conceptualized the ideas for 'A Kingdom for a Sword', 'The Fate of Siggard', and 'Angels of Darkness, Soldiers of Light'. Is there any particular information you can give us on these ideas?

-You mentioned in your above post that Diablo III was at least being planned in 2000. Is there any information you can give us on this version/concept of the game (presumably this is the Blizzard North version)?

-Speaking generally (or at length), what are your thoughts on the three main Diablo games? Strengths, weaknesses, stylistic differences, etc.?

-Moving away for a bit, in your experience, how hard is it to break into writing as a career, or at least getting works published?

Do you do magic/illusions yourself or are you just "on the theoretical level"? As in, you know a lot about it and are intersted enough to keep gathering info on magic/illusions/tricks/spells but don't do them yourself?

Followup:
Are there many people of this sort (if you have any clues)?
Or are most people who start looking into, for example, sleight of hand, later getting into doing it themselves?
As a reference, football/hockey/tennis are watched by a lot people, but still, many just follow it (even religiously), and still don't get into the action themselves.

Can I, uh, "deposit" a few... large bags in you backyard? It will be temporary, things are just getting a bit too hot over here...
Where can I find a 500 cantaloupes and clown makeup at this hour?
Have you ever looked at a tree, and went "damn, that tree has a hella nice ass"?
How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?
Has milk gone bad?
Can you give me directions to the nearest notary?
Who are you, really? I mean, really?
Que?
Can I borrow your car for the weekend?
Who (or what) is making all that racket?

Have you ever thought of trying to write epic poetry al la Beowulf or the Iliad. In my idler moments, I think that the tale of the black cowled Batman and the green haired Joker fighting over many towered Gotham would work as an epic poem.

albino boo:
Have you ever thought of trying to write epic poetry al la Beowulf or the Iliad. In my idler moments, I think that the tale of the black cowled Batman and the green haired Joker fighting over many towered Gotham would work as an epic poem.

It probably would...I'd read it!

As far as poetry goes, I don't write much of it (prose comes very easily to me - poetry not so much). I do write a bit, but I don't think any of it has been published yet. At this point in time, I think an epic poem a la Beowulf would be a bit beyond me.

Guffe:
Do you do magic/illusions yourself or are you just "on the theoretical level"? As in, you know a lot about it and are intersted enough to keep gathering info on magic/illusions/tricks/spells but don't do them yourself?

Followup:
Are there many people of this sort (if you have any clues)?
Or are most people who start looking into, for example, sleight of hand, later getting into doing it themselves?
As a reference, football/hockey/tennis are watched by a lot people, but still, many just follow it (even religiously), and still don't get into the action themselves.

I don't perform professionally, but I do actually do card tricks (mainly for friends and the occasional passer by if I'm sitting down talking shop with another magician). I think I go through at least one deck of playing cards every three months just practicing sleights. I'm HOPING to do a call-in to Desert Bus this year and do a set of magic tricks with Magic cards for donations (and I'm just waiting to hear back from them about whether they'll have me).

As far as your follow-up goes, I don't doubt that there are magic fans out there (there's a degree to which Fooling Garwulf is designed to convert people into magic fans). As far as how many there are, or where they tend to hang out, I'm afraid I really don't know.

Hawki:
Appologies in advance if these questions have been given answers elsewhere. And that this will be focused on Diablo (admin of the wiki, so, yeah):

-In addition to 'Demonsbane', you also at least conceptualized the ideas for 'A Kingdom for a Sword', 'The Fate of Siggard', and 'Angels of Darkness, Soldiers of Light'. Is there any particular information you can give us on these ideas?

-You mentioned in your above post that Diablo III was at least being planned in 2000. Is there any information you can give us on this version/concept of the game (presumably this is the Blizzard North version)?

-Speaking generally (or at length), what are your thoughts on the three main Diablo games? Strengths, weaknesses, stylistic differences, etc.?

-Moving away for a bit, in your experience, how hard is it to break into writing as a career, or at least getting works published?

Ah yes - the Diablo Wiki! I've read parts of it (that's actually how I found out that Blizzard had named a magic item after me...that's right, everybody, there's an item in Diablo III named "The Cloak of the Garwulf" that's named after me and my little column).

So, in order:

1. A Kingdom for a Sword was originally a piece of Diablo fanfic that I rewrote in progress to be set in my Road of Legends universe. When I approached Pocket Books to try to get a Diablo book to write, it was one of the writing samples I sent in. Looking back at it, it's not bad, with the exception of the final paragraph, which is absolutely terrible (let's just say that it was not written from a point of maturity). Anybody who wants can read it here: http://garwulf.livejournal.com/tag/a%20kingdom%20for%20a%20sword

The Fate of Siggard was a Garwulf's Corner column that was written after it looked like Pocket Books wasn't going to be picking me up for another book, and also after I had outlined a second e-book (the title of which I honestly don't remember) and a novel (titled Angels of Darkness, Soldiers of Light) finishing up the story of the character. So, figuring it wouldn't hurt, I summarized the outlines for both in an installment. It can be read here: http://garwulf.livejournal.com/37786.html I do love the story, so if The Escapist, Blizzard, and Pocket Books ever conspired to get me to start writing chapters as a serial, it wouldn't take a lot of arm-twisting to make it happen (and that's not a hint to my editor...nope, not a hint at all...not a hint in the slightest...)

2. The Diablo writer's bible had a two paragraph section called "The Future," which had a brief plot summary of what appeared to be Diablo III, and a sentence before stating that the only way it should appear, if it appears at all, is in the context of a vision or prophecy. It wasn't named Diablo III explicitly, but it was pretty obvious what it was. The paragraphs outlined the Second Great Conflict between order and chaos, mentioning that powerful heroes would emerge (and it didn't really go beyond that - the writer's bible did not go beyond a general summary, and it didn't say who would win).

Personally, I thought it sounded like a massively multiplayer game. So, when Blizzard started gathering people for World of Warcraft, I nodded sagely and told my friends that Diablo III was coming...let's just say when the actual announcement was made, it surprised the hell out of me.

3. I would say that it is easier to become a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer than a successful writer (aka somebody who can pay their bills using their writing). If you're just in it to make money, well, forget it. If you love it, and it's your calling, then write and keep writing, and you'll probably make it.

The thing that helped me best, I guess, was balls of steel. I got my first publication credit (the Myth II review in CGW), my first e-book contract (Demonsbane), and my first print book contract (The EverQuest Companion) all by actually telephoning editors out of the blue. Happily, I had the writing skill to back that ballsiness up. But, you do need to be brave, and be willing to take the risk.

BreakfastMan:
Can I, uh, "deposit" a few... large bags in you backyard? It will be temporary, things are just getting a bit too hot over here...
Where can I find a 500 cantaloupes and clown makeup at this hour?
Have you ever looked at a tree, and went "damn, that tree has a hella nice ass"?
How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?
Has milk gone bad?
Can you give me directions to the nearest notary?
Who are you, really? I mean, really?
Que?
Can I borrow your car for the weekend?
Who (or what) is making all that racket?

In order:

1. The rental fee will be $1 million in unmarked bills.

2. "Clown Cantaloupes 'R Us"

3. Once, but the owner of the donkey then chased me away.

4. 15.4

5. Once it has held up the fruit punch at gunpoint, yes.

6. Pick a direction and start walking, and you should find one. If you come back to the place you started, you've gone too far.

7. A figment of your overactive imagination.

8. 42.

9. Only if I can borrow your plane for the same weekend.

10. Dinosaurs.

Do you think one day some gaming companies would do crossovers, a la Project X Zone, with two compatible franchises, like Devil May Cry and Bayonetta and have a good story and/or gameplay?

Also, what would be your favorite crossover, be it done already or not made yet?

CrazyCapnMorgan:
Do you think one day some gaming companies would do crossovers, a la Project X Zone, with two compatible franchises, like Devil May Cry and Bayonetta and have a good story and/or gameplay?

Also, what would be your favorite crossover, be it done already or not made yet?

Well, my favourite crossover is Penny Dreadful - Gothic horror done right, with just about all the major players. I love that show.

And, there might be a crossover in gaming sometime. As far as I know Nintendo does it with their Smash Bros. Brawl series. As for whether it will be good, I guess the big question is why are the creators doing it? If it's to cash in on two moneymaking franchises, then I'd put my odds on "not very." If, on the other hand, it's because somebody looked at these characters and said, "I can tell a kick-ass story with these...," I think it has the potential to be quite good.

What is the fundamental practice in good beard cultivation?

Where are my keys?

Can Rene Lavand do it any slower?

Mikeybb:
What is the fundamental practice in good beard cultivation?

Where are my keys?

Can Rene Lavand do it any slower?

1. Frequent, even trimming.

2. Where you left them.

3. Yes.

Okay...it's Sunday morning, so we'll call it here! Thank you, everybody, for a wonderful set of questions, and we will have to do this again! The next Fooling Garwulf will be going up on Tuesday afternoon, and the next Garwulf's Corner will be up next Wednesday.

Thanks for taking the time to answer even the inane ones.

Oh, and thanks for the opportunity to plug Rene Lavand.
I know what he does is simple, but he does it elegantly.
Also the single handed work, of course.

 

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