In the early 2000s I read an OK fantasy series called The Runelords, by a sci-fi turned fantasy author with the pseudonym David Farland. I subscribed to his writing newsletter a few years ago because it's good. It turns out he seems to have had a role in BW's design?
This week's newsletter is something that I thought this forum might find interesting:
I met with Les and showed him my first novel in the Runelords series, and I asked how I might be able to see about getting a big fantasy role-playing game made. He read the book, as did several of his employees, and decided to take a shot at it. But, he said, “I think that before I can sell this to a big company, you need to get a reputation as a videogame designer.” I asked how to go about that, and he said that perhaps there was a way that I could do it. He asked if I was any good at writing proposals. Well, while working as an editor at BYU, I had helped dozens of professors write proposals that had brought in millions of dollars in grants, and I think I’d learned how to do it pretty well.
So the next day or two I worked on a proposal for a game called Starcraft: Brood War. This wasn’t hard, since I was working with Alan Tew and some other talented game designers and technicians. Les explained that if the proposal was accepted, he would have me work as co-leader of the design team. The idea was simple. The first game in the StarCraft world was very good, but it wasn’t well balanced. So we proposed to fix it. We faxed it in to the folks at Blizzard, and they accepted it with neck-breaking speed. Now, being co-leader on the design team was a pretty easy job. All that I did was come up with ideas for the game.
For example, in my novel Brotherhood of the Wolf, I had gone into a lot of work designing my reavers. I had taken some of the inspiration for them from insects, including the ant lion. My reavers would dig themselves underground, then wait for prey to bumble along, at which point they would leap out from under the dirt and pounce. So just for kicks, I suggested a similar thing in the game for creatures that we called “Zerg lurkers.”
One of the problems that Starcraft had was that the humans died too easy. So Les suggested that we develop better armor or heavier guns, but those were the first two ideas that came to mind, so I suggested a third alternative: better medics.
At the time, nothing like the Zerg lurkers or medics had been used in such games, but each of my ideas created a lot of excitement in the industry, and when the game was released in the fall of 1998, it became a wild hit. For a time, I heard that it was listed as the #3 bestselling game of all time, and even today when I see newsclips about the world championship videogame competitions in China and Korea, where videogame players are virtual rockstars, they’re usually playing my game in the final competition.
So I began doing a little work with the company Saffire, writing proposals, designing, and scripting some videogames on the side. I have to say, though, that I made a mistake. When my fellow workers on Starcraft came and asked how I wanted my credits to read on Brood War, I said, “Ah, don’t give me any. I’m a novelist, not so much into games.” That was dumb. The whole purpose of this was to build a rep as a videogame designer, and I didn’t bother taking any credit. Always remember to take credit on your work. Particularly in Hollywood, others will try to steal it to you. In some industries, it’s as good as gold.