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28.08.2009 15:00 [Interviews (english)] Interview with english story author Andy Walsh
1. Many passionate gamers have heard about you but not everyone is a passionate gamer. We could use Google but why don't you tell our readers a bit about yourself with your own words? Who are you, what do you do and where might we have already stumbled across some of your work?

First of all let me say hi to you and to the Risen community, itís great to get a chance to talk to you and thanks for the questions. Itís great to be part of this world.

Who am I? Wow, start with the deep philosophical questions wonít you? In a nutshell, Iím a writer/director and Iíve worked on and overseen the English language rewrites and voice overs for Risen. Iíve been writing for about sixteen years now and have written for television, radio, theatre, animation, film and Iíve worked on about forty games to date either as a writer, director or both. Which games, some big well known ones such as Prince of Persia, Harry Potter and SOCOM as a writer and directed a number of games including Medieval II : Total War as well as some less well known but fun projects such as Dirk Dagger and the Fallen Idol and Sola Rola.

2. The humour, the language and the entire atmosphere of a game very often gets lost in translation. You have been given the task to adapt RISEN to the english market. Do you speak german? Or do you work on an already translated version?

I lived in Germany for a year (in Frankfurt) but sadly my German isnít up to translating. Piranha Bytes and Deep Silver arranged for the script to be translated, then we set to work on this translated version.

3. How did you get this job? Did Deep Silver approach you, were you brokered by some agency or did you contact Deep Silver because you heard about the game? Did you get a script before you had to decide if you take the job?

Deep Silver approached me, put me in touch with Piranha Bytes and everything moved on from there. I saw some script extracts and we talked over the game before I came onboard.

4. Would you say that you are a gamer yourself? Which genres do you prefer?

Oh yes, definitely a gamer. If you want to work in games you have to understand them...and like them! I get frustrated when writers tell me they want to work in games, but then tell me they donít play them!

Genrewise, I like adventure games and RPGs, but I do seem to play a lot of FPS style games (Bioshock, Half-Life and Dead Space stand out for me). I have just finished Call of Juarez 2, am finally starting Mirrorís Edge and have GTA:Chinatown Wars running on my DS.

5. Have you played Gothic 1, 2 or 3? The german or the english version? How did you like them? Remember, the fans from our site don't know where you live so you can be honest.

The other writers had played some of the Gothic games, sadly I hadnít. I have been playing role-playing games since the paper and dice days (many evenings and nights spent throwing d20s in D&D, WFRP, Paranoia and other games) so I do like RPGs and it was great to finally encounter the world Piranha Bytes has created.

6. It is often difficult for european games to be successful on the american market. A part of your job is to help and change that for RISEN. But what is your personal opinion? German roleplaying games. Isn't that a bit like mongolian rap music?

I think some of it comes down to the translation, the gameplay translates, but the story, characters and dialogue often donít convert directly. Previous games had just had a straight translation meaning some dialogue was a bit clunky, difficult to understand or contained jokes that worked in Germany but made no sense in English. For Risen that was something they wanted to change and we have.

7. Does your work require a form of preliminary research or do you just... start writing?

Whatever youíre working on you always need to do research. You have to know what youíre writing about. For Risen that meant reading the character bible (a set of biographies), the story outlines and the quests. After that we split the script up and worked out how it all connected. After that...we started writing.

8. Many countries use the english language but culture and humour of them are quite different. Do you focus on a specific country/market or do you try to make a bit of a jack of all trades?

I think you have to pick one, trying to cover all the bases means you lose a lot of flavour and end up with a bland boring mess. The language in the English Version of Risen is definitely more British English than say South African, or American, but the is set on Faranga not in Britain! So while weíve chosen one style of English it has to obey the rules of that world and sound right for the world of Risen.

9. The language in games from Piranha Bytes is often very blunt which gives the games a unique charm. But no one in Germany feels offended by it because it is a presented in a very natural way. The characters in the game just say what they think. I imagine it to be difficult to find the correct dosage in a translation. On one hand, you don't want to loose the typical flair. On the other hand you don't want to offend or snub people - or make the ingame characters sound like "gansta rappers" where every second word starts with "f". How do you deal with crude language in the game?

What the F*** are you talking about? To make it work, it has to be right for the character, sometimes swearing in games can feel childish, because itís just there for the sake of it. The game has an 18 rating so suddenly all the characters are cursing randomly for the sake of it. If you put swearing in a game it has to be right for the character and the circumstance. That means there are lots of characters who never swear, some who use mild swear words (or only swear when under stress) and others like Oscar the Smith who swear all the f***ing time. For Oscar, he uses swearing as emphasis, itís part of his natural rhythm and helps define him as a character. The Inquisitor on the otherhand is much more in control of himself, he doesnít swear because it would just sound wrong if he did.

10. What was the most difficult thing during your work on RISEN?

The size of the game and the amount of time we had. You ALWAYS want more time and Risen is a big game.

11. What is your personal opinion on the main story of RISEN?

I think there are some really nice things in there, to tell you what they are would give them away though and itís better for you to find them yourself. That said I think the thing I liked best is the sheer diversity of different characters in the game there are so many that I enjoyed that itís impossible to pick just one.

12. You are not working alone on this project. How do the authors coordinate their work and make sure that their texts fit together smoothly? Do you split the dialogues by chapter, by character or by quest? Or is it something totally different?

There were three of us working together to write the English dialogues - James Leach, Rhianna Pratchett and myself. We split the characters between us with each taking an ownership of particular ones. All the script then came to me, to Michael and the team for notes and editing to make sure they all told the same story, supported each other and sounded right for the world.

13. How much do you try to keep close to the original and how much do you invent maybe even entire new storylines? Are there specific topics that are a complete no-go and must be rewritten from scratch?

None of the story is different from the German game, all the story even the number of speech files was all set in stone. The English Version does, however, tell the story in a different way to the German game (people say completely different things to the other version on a lot of occasions) and the English version gives more detail about some areas of the story. Other changes...well a number of the characters have different names and personalities to suit the move from German to English, that said their game and story roles remain the same in each.

14. Are you in contact with the developers to ask them about problems you might have? Do you ask them for feedback?

We were in contact throughout the project, after all this is their baby! I worked with Michael Paeck who then filtered questions and answers between me and Piranha Bytes. Of course I also went out and spent a day at the developers talking to them about the game, the story, the characters and what they saw as making Risen the game it is.

15. You can either adapt an existing text or write something completely new. Which is easier and which is more fun?

Both have their own challenges. Owning something yourself is great, you have a lot of freedom, but that also means a lot of decisions. Working in an almost complete world limits the things you can change, but that gives you focus.

16. Did you know who the voice actors of the characters will be and then tailor the role to fit them?

The script was written before we cast the game, so we chose the actors to match the script rather than the other way round. Thatís generally the best way to go, actors donít like to be typecast, they like to, well...act! That said, I hope you enjoy the performances as much as we did when we were putting them together. We were in studio for about two months recordings all the voices (yes there is that much dialogue in the game). Each week brought new characters to life, from the page to living breathing voice. That was a great process and I canít wait to hear them all in the game.

17. How many times did you grow desperate because you did not know what to write?

Oh...never...*cough* *cough*. Getting stuck is part of what writing full-time is about, you find lots of ways to get round problems. The ticking clock of a deadline is definitely an inspiration!

18. Is your work on RISEN already complete? Any hints about your next projects?

The script and voice recordings are all done and completed, but I am still doing a little bit of polishing on something that Deep Silver will be releasing to help promote the game, but youíll have to ask them about that. Iíve moved on to work on a game for Electronic Arts, but canít give you any details on that as itís all shrouded in uannounced secrecy!

19. Will you spell colour with "u"?

Yes Definitely.

This interview was conducted by foobar from the World of Risen.