TRION WORLDS & WildStorm Team Up for 2 New Game Comics
TRION WORLDS & WildStorm Team-up
Northern California-based video game publishers Trion Worlds, Inc. have already generated a healthy amount of buzz in the gaming world for their unique and ambitious initial strategy. Rather than focus on one project at a time, they’re taking on the lofty task of simultaneously developing three massively multiplayer online role-playing games at the same time, the fantasy-based Rift: Planes of Telara, the futurist End of Nations and an as-yet unnamed title co-produced with SyFy.
Now they’re looking to garner some attention in comic book circles, with the announcement that both Rift: Planes of Telara and End of Nations will see prequel stories courtesy of DC Comics imprint WildStorm. Both are scheduled for four issues each starting this fall — months before the games are slated for release — with zero issues previewing the two titles available next week at Comic-Con International in San Diego.
Ricardo Sanchez, clearly no stranger to video games or comic books — he was a VP at GameTap and wrote WildStorm’s Resident Evil comic book last year — is writing both comics. Pop Mahn (Spyboy) handles art for Telara Chronicles, and Yvel Guichet (Aquaman) illustrates End of Nations.
We spoke to Sanchez about how he got involved with Trion Worlds, the difference between these two books, and the power of a comic as a marketing tool for the MMORPG-phobic in the population.
Newsarama: If you could, explain a bit how you started working with Trion Worlds — I saw on your site that you're working as a consultant for them. So was this writing gig a natural extension of that?
Ricardo Sanchez: I was hired on for some general consulting help at Trion. Once I saw the games up close (and they really blew me away) I immediately saw they were ripe for comic books and recommended Issue 0s for both franchises as a great way to tap into the comic crowd and create something really compelling. Since I was already familiar with the properties, it just made sense to have me do the writing.
Sanchez: Successfully adapting anything always requires a mix of lore-based story elements and embellishment. In the case of Telara Chronicles I literally sat down with the Lore Team at Trion (Morgan Lockhart, Nicholas McDowell and William Cook - who were all fantastic to work with) to figure out what aspects of the game had been developed enough that there was an anchor for a story, but still had enough ambiguity that I wouldn't be shackled to what was going on in the game. We quickly settled on a couple of key points in the history of Telara as the anchors: the Shade War and the fall of Port Scion. These were parts of the history that, while known quantities in the game story, still had a lot of holes that I could fill in to craft a compelling narrative around characters that players will ultimately encounter in the game itself.
End of Nations was a very different experience. For one thing, the game is being released several months later than Rift: Planes of Telara. That's both good and bad. On the good side, lots of wiggle room. On the bad, much easier to run into trouble. End of Nations is also an MMO Real Time Strategy game, which made adapting it more of a challenge — there are no central characters to use as protagonists. But the game does have one hell of an awesome villain, the Order of Nations. Adapting End of Nations became more about finding a way to humanize the conflict between the oppressors and the oppressed, and Petroglyph and Trion Worlds gave me the freedom to create, from scratch, characters and situations that fit within the milieu of the world of End of Nations.
Sanchez: Oddly enough, no. As a media consumer, I love stuff like John Carter of Mars, Conan, Lost on Venus, H.G. Wells, pretty much everything Jack Vance ever wrote, and the art of Boris Vallejo. Working on Telara Chronicles was an exercise in channeling my heroes in the fantasy genre. Rift: Planes of Telara has a phenomenal story and history of its own that would make any fantasy fan thrill, so all it takes for me to get ready to write Telara is to spend a little time ruminating on my favorite fantasy stories. That said, I'm also a war story junkie. I have a huge collection of vintage Haunted Tank, Sgt. Rock, and Weird War Tales and I've always wanted to write a war story. The world of End of Nations is a perfect setting for one. In the end, writing any comic book story comes down to a passion for the genre and finding the humanity in the characters.
Sanchez: You're right. The process is essentially the same, but the approach is always specific to the property. When I'm adapting a game to a comic, the first question is always "what are the coolest things about this game?" No matter what the story is, who the characters are, fans of the games are going to identify first with those aspects of the game that make them go "Dude! That's so cool!" (and that is exactly what I said the first time I saw a skirmish in End of Nations). The next thing I do is figure out what conflict in the game can become the central conflict in a story. With those in mind, I craft a story and fit in the aspects of the game and the conflict that will work in a comic book. Not all of them do.
Nrama: The first issues are supposed to start in the fall and zero issues will be available next week at Comic-Con, so you must be a bit into the two series at this point. How has working with Pop Mhan and Yvel Guichet — both pretty unique talents — been thus far?
Sanchez: In a word, amazing! These two guys are as different in art style as the comics are in subject matter, but each one is absolutely perfectly suited to the book they're working on. I'll start with Pop Mhan. Telara Chronicles is, at its heart, a fantasy story. Heroes, villains, creatures and swords and spells. Visually, it would have been pretty easy to do a standard five-panel page and still have a good comic, but Pop has this incredible talent for laying out action. Every single page is drawn to get the most out of what is happening in the story. His pages are a literal feast for the eyes. He is such a phenomenal story teller that you could probably get rid of every word of dialog and still understand most of what is going on.
Nrama: What's the strategy of releasing the comic adaptations before the games are actually out? Is it sort of another form of advance marketing, getting people more excited for the final product? (Or, maybe as simple as having collected editions ready near the same time frame as the game release?)
Another unique aspect about MMOs is that they are generally available for the public to play via both closed and open Betas in advance of the official release of the game. By starting the monthlies ahead of the game release, we're hoping to offer some compelling stories to game players as they're trying out the game. And, of course, we'd like the collected editions out when the game is actually released.
Nrama: And since these are coming out before the game, is there consideration given to attracting people that might normally not even find the game, but could start reading the comic, and then wind up being curious about the game?
Nrama: Drifting a bit from the specific subject, but given that you've now got a few comic book projects under your belt, is it something you've really taken to? Do you have plans to work on further comic work — maybe outside of video game books?
Sanchez: I love writing comic books. I wish I would have tried breaking in 10 years ago. Working with the artists, colorists and editors is such a fulfilling experience. I literally get giddy when I see new pages.
I've worked in other media before, but comics are special. You get all the collaborative energy from working in film or video, but none of the headaches, and as a writer, I don't have to worry about budget or technical constraints like I might with animation. I can't comment on any other comics I might or might not be working on, but I will say that I certainly intend to keep writing comics as long as editors will give me the work. I really enjoy the game comics, given my background, but would love to try some other genres as well.