In this edition of our bi-weekly developer interview, our community team took some time to chat with Head Writer for Galaxy in Turmoil- Christopher Wiltz.
(Pictured Above: Chris)
Hi Chris, introduce yourself to me if you will?
Sure. I’m Chris Wiltz, a screenwriter living in LA (where most of them live). Currently head writer on Galaxy in Turmoil. All around geek and aspiring super villain.
How did you find yourself working on Galaxy in Turmoil?
The team at Frontwire originally reached out to me. They’d seen a short fan film I’d wrote called Batman: Puppet Master and I guess they liked it enough that they asked me if I’d be interested in doing some work on their upcoming project. I’ve been playing video games since I was five years old so obviously I said hell yes.
So you’ve written for other projects in the past. Tell me a little more about those.
Lots of stuff at this point. Working in LA you get hired to do a lot of work and a lot of it never sees the light of day, so you end up having to work on your own projects or independent projects in order to keep your sanity. I’ve written animated features, TV projects, films. I’m probably best known for a lot of my web-based work like Puppet Master. I also created a horror comedy web series entitled Semi-Dead and co-wrote a web-based sitcom called Me and My Old Man.
As a writer I’m going to assume you enjoy reading. What books do you like to immerse yourself in?
I’m a big sci-fi and horror person, probably my favorite writers (in no particular order) would be Stephen King, HP Lovecraft, Orson Scott Card, and Octavia Butler. My favorite book of all-time would have to be Ender’s Game. I’m also pretty big into nonfiction so I’ll venture into a lot of philosophy and stuff like that. I love Michio Kaku’s work and I’m always trying to keep on top of new science trends and things like that. To that I’ll also add I pretty much read all the short fiction I can get my hands on so a lot of magazines like.
Now let’s talk about your work on Galaxy in Turmoil. Can you clue us in on what to expect?
Well without giving away too much on Galaxy in Turmoil, everyone should look forward to an epic story, action, adventure, even some comedy and horror. Our goal really is to make this the next great sci-fi adventure game that people will talk about for years to come. Obviously we can’t tell a Star Wars story but I think anyone who loves Star Wars and similar types of sci-fi will instantly fall in love with the story we’re telling and the world we’re building. We’ve got a lot of big, wild ideas in store. Of course maybe I should under promise and over deliver, so tell fans to expect a standard side scroller with no story elements or emotional investment whatsoever 😛
Unlike most other forms of media, video games often have at least a partially branching story due to player freedom. How have you been dealing with this challenge?
It’s definitely been a new and exciting challenge. And it can feel overwhelming especially when you’re only used to telling a linear style of story. But I think for myself and the writing team the key has been to keep things compartmentalized and looking at all of these different branches individually as well as how they fit into the whole. Ultimately though it’s really exciting as a writer because so often in other media you have to cut things out for time or to move things along (ie. you only have about 2 hours to tell a story on film) but games encourage a type of exploration that really let you try a lot of different things as a storyteller. People will spend a lot more time with a game than a movie and it allows you to make the world that much richer.
You mention a team, how exactly do you go about delegating the creation of a fictional universe?
The key is to not let it get too big/overwhelming. In a way we’re building the galaxy one planet at a time – focusing on these different worlds, while also keeping in mind the journey of our main character. Each planet is its own world but it also has to tie in some way with the larger plot and themes of what we want to do. There’s certainly a lot of collaboration within the group and throwing ideas back and forth, but we also pull a lot from other departments like the art team who will share concepts with us. Everyone working on Galaxy in Turmoil has a lot of really great ideas and we’re really just working to incorporate all the best ones.
Many of us know about ambitious design projects that unfortunately hit too many bumps in the road and suffer as a result. What are your plans/goals to prevent something like this happening here?
Yeah that’s always a danger and concern and I think the key is keeping constant communication with the other departments and being realistic about what we can do in any given time frame. Of course we’d like to shoot for the moon with everything but that’s not realistic. But I think as long as departments are clear every step of the way it becomes less of a danger. Whenever we write something we’re always making sure it’s something the programmers and designers believe they can handle. Sometimes we’ll have to pull back, but sometimes they’ll even tell us they can go further. I think one of responsibilities of the writing dept is to keep setting up goal posts so that other departments can see the direction of things but also be able to offer feedback. I’m no AAA developer myself but in my mind keeping walls closed off and departments isolated will get you into trouble in the long run.
Chris, can you tell me about where you draw inspiration from, and give examples of how this inspiration has manifested itself in your works?
Really all sorts of things. I think the biggest thing that I draw from is really news, current events, and social trends – stuff that’s happening in the real world. I really like my work to have some level of commentary in it about how I view society and the state of the world today. That could be something large and political or it could be even as simple as a social media trend. I was a big Rod Serling/Twilight Zone fan growing up and I think the best stories – even the fantastic ones have something to say about the world we live in today.
So with that, would you say that Galaxy in Turmoil’s story is going to leave the players with a powerful message?
I’d say so. My goal is for the story to leave people with a powerful impact. I don’t want players to just feel like “Yes, I finished the game.” I want them to feel like they’ve shared a journey with the characters and leave them with some things to think about. I can’t remember who it was now but I once heard a filmmaker say he wants to make “parking lot movies” – movies that people are still talking about in the parking lot as they leave the theater. That’s my goal for GiT. For people to keep talking about it.
Can you give an example of a game you feel achieved that same sensation you’re aiming for?
Lots of games come to mind. One of the best examples to me is BioShock Infinite. It’s this really powerful emotional story and on top of that there’s all these philosophical layers. I remember so much debate and conversation happening around that game online. People are still talking about that game 4-5 years afterwards. A more classic example for me would be Final Fantasy 7. That game is almost 20 years old and people who love that game can still think of moments from it and still feel emotional about it.
What is your opinion on memes?
Hmmm… no comment. I don’t want to end up as a meme.
At the start of the interview you mentioned you were an aspiring super villain, so here’s a bit of a different question. Using your creative skills, come up with a new method of torture.
I’ve spent many hours thinking of this. I won’t reveal my methods in case my enemies read this but I will say it involves electric shock, Kanye West, and videos of your ex.
How familiar are you with the genre cyberpunk? Do you feel it’s a wise choice for a game even though it’s a bit more of a niche?
I do. I think cyberpunk is due for a resurgence. Back in the 80s when guys like William Gibson and Bruce Sterling were first writing in the genre a lot of the technology and things were close to pure fiction. Now we’re closer than ever to a lot of the technologies cyberpunk dreamed up, plus new things they never even thought about, and I think we’re going to see a lot of cyberpunk themes and aesthetics starting to emerge again.
Do you believe a cyberpunk future will happen?
I mean who knows. If you followed a lot of fiction in the 80s/90s we should already be knee deep in the post apocalypse. Depending on who you ask we’re already in a world of oppressive companies and governments. I don’t think it will happen to any real extreme but I think we definitely need to keep a close eye on how new technologies – especially medical things like CRISPR that can have a profound impact on the human body — are used and regulated in the future. Personally I’m less afraid of technology than I am of regressive thinking. People who wish it was 1950 again are far more concerning to me than people trying to come up with new technologies and ways of doing things.
Many believe the first moments of a single player game to be crucial. A lot of people tend to skip through the story or don’t pay attention to it. Do you have any formula or plan to captivate the player from the moment they select “Play Campaign”?
I won’t go too much into what we have planned for the campaign yet, but I think the way you grab players’ attention is to pull them in immediately. As a gamer myself I know I lose a lot of interest when I have to deal with a lot of setup, tutorials, and just kind of wandering around having things explained to me. I prefer to be thrown into the deep end and figuring it out myself. Weirdly enough the best example goes back to old school Mario…how does that game start? There’s a Goomba coming at you and you better move your ass or it’s going to kill you.
How did you get into writing?
Really I’ve been writing all my life and it’s been a lifelong passion. After I got my safe undergrad degree I took the plunge and moved out to California and went to film school and haven’t looked back since.
And to finish off, what is your favourite food?
Hamburgers. Hamburgers are the perfect food. All four food groups in a single delicious package.