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Age of Conan: Unchained Interviews: Last Bastion Machinima Director Interview

By Garrett Perkins on September 18, 2009

For anyone who doesn't know The Last Bastion - The Chronicles of OSD is a new machinima series of epic proportions. Using the characters, models and stories of a prominent role playing guild in Age of Conan; the Order of the Silver Dragons, it tells the story of their origins and present strife through the eyes of multiple characters. A member of OSD Zsolaith (real name: Zoltan Paul Nagy) put together this huge undertaking in story telling and machinima to create one of the most ambitious machinima movies ever created. Recently I was able to get a few questions in with the brains behind the series to learn the amazing story behind The Last Bastion as well as getting to learn a bit more about what goes into making such a big production.

MMORPG.com:

First off, wonderful series but before we talk about that tell us a little about yourself. How long have you been playing Age of Conan and how did you come about becoming a member of the Silver Dragons?

Zoltan Paul Nagy:

I believe I became active in the Hyborian MMO world of Age of Conan roughly mid-July, 2008. While playing my main character (toon) Zsolaith, I became aware of a humble band of players who valued maturity and were highly committed to their community. They were called the Order of the Silver Dragons, a multi-wing gaming community with various divisions, one of them being within the AoC environment. As I ventured with them, I realized they had a strong level of respect for all players. I took my first steps and became an Aspirant (beginning level) within the Order.

Why the Order of the Silver Dragons and not another noble guild that helps others? It’s all about the community inside and outside of the gaming environment. If a community is committed to mature interactions, civility and concern for others, and a strong placement of value on effort and communications, it can only move constantly forward.

I am very proud to be a member of the Silver Dragons.

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MMORPG.com:

The Last Bastion is a huge undertaking to say the least. A carefully written story, fully voiced characters and spectacular editing that is unheard of for an independent machinima film. What exactly was it that inspired you to take up this project?

Zoltan Paul Nagy:

My inspiration stemmed firstly from the maturity of the players around me, and my desire to give something back to their community by filling a void that existed… A rich and beautiful background history and mythology for the OSD. I’m a very creative person that has never lacked a vision so I found it easy to start molding a colorful and dramatic story.

My second inspiration came from a ‘gifted’ community member named Silverar who is a member of our virtual family. He is a long-standing Silver Dragon who usually interacts with us by virtually blessing our quests and adventures through OSD forum communications only. Over the years he has built up a rapport with the community and we see him as our Mystic who helps our members in his own way. I wanted to build him into the background history by giving him the role of the lost mystic who does what he can to save the Silver Dragons. This is truly the case.

These two inspirations, and others, were the mental building blocks that propelled ‘The Last Bastion’ into reality. The premise surrounds the trials and tribulations of the mystical Order of the Silver Dragons as they struggle to make sense of the treacherous path they must follow. The mini-series will be released entirely online via YouTube in an episodic format. The premiere episode, which has been released, opened with a 2-part cliff-hanger that introduced the protagonists and antagonists, focusing on our mystical wise-man named Silverar and our guild leader Sook Dukar.

MMORPG.com:

Do you do all that editing, lip syncing, video capture and coordination yourself or are there others working behind the scenes?

Zoltan Paul Nagy:

Currently, all pre and post production is taken care of completely by me as I work through all the stages of production. Since I’m a one-man show and I’m not a professional in any sense, production can take a very long time to reach completion. What keeps the project moving is my vision of what I want to see in terms of the visual story and concept.

Overall pre- and post-production is very time consuming and visualizing the bigger picture can be hard at times. But as long as I’m committed and devoted to the project, ‘The Last Bastion’ will continue to thrive.

Special effects are the biggest consumer of time than any other aspect. I specifically add items only when needed to drive the story further (massive siege engine trebuchet in Episode One is a perfect example). This CGI 3d object took literally days to create to get it right, including the motion paths needed for the boulder to hurdle across a chroma-keyed background. It takes lots of man-hours and focus to get it all working together in unison with the raw footage filmed inside of the Age of Conan gaming environment.


Screenshot

MMORPG.com:

Two parter. How long did it take you to complete the first episode and do you think it will take just as long to complete future episodes?

Zoltan Paul Nagy:

I am asked this question quite a lot. Initial pre-production began on September 29th, 2008. I had to write the script for the first three episodes (a story arc across 90 minutes of air time), set the expectations on myself, organize filming events, etc. Turn-out at the start was rather small as players didn’t understand what I was trying to accomplish.

As time went on the word got out that I was filming an epic tale called “The Last Bastion” so production times reduced to a more suitable time-frame and were much more organized. As well, I was gathering stock footage for episodes one, two and three all at once. This slowed down the release of the first episode considerably, but has reduced the time needed for release of episode two and three, which are smaller in length than episode one.

So to give viewers a comparison, the usual lengths of most machinima productions are roughly 4-6 minutes long for each episode. My episodes are broader at a whopping 20-45 minutes in length. In order to meet the length requirements on Youtube.com of a maximum of 10 minutes or 2 Gigabytes, my episodes need to be broken into pieces or ‘parts’ to accommodate. Using Episode One as an example, it was broken into eight separate parts to make up the total 44 minute runtime. So to continue the comparison to the usual 4-6 minutes episode length for other machinima episodes, I’ve already released the equivalent of eight episodes, and will soon be releasing another eight to ten. (I’m already 2/3 into a full machinima series! Heh!)

So you might ask why the long episode lengths? Why not stay with smaller lengths? The overall story that I’m trying to tell is not feasible across 4-6 minute durations due to its very nature. This story is epic and broad and requires more time and attention to reveal the plot and characters. I will continue with larger episodes of 20 to 40 minutes in length, then eventually a bit down the road move to smaller 10-15 minute episodes.

MMORPG.com:

I understand you are working on the second episode right now, have you run into any silly problems while getting footage? Like a group of gankers running up and messing with your shot or a random disconnect ruining a perfectly good take?

Zoltan Paul Nagy:

No disconnect issues have occurred at all during on-set filming, however occasionally other players have walked up to watch us filming due to their curiosity. In many cases they realize what is going on and most offer to help as an extra hand (with their name added in the credits). There has been the occasional griefing attempt to ruin the shots but we swiftly deal with it. To be honest, at the very start of filming back in early October 2008, attempts to ruin the shot were more prevalent, however as players have grown to know ‘The Last Bastion’ over the last while even they just move on or decide to watch. I’m happy with the community involvement right now on all levels.

MMORPG.com:

So are there any plans to take The Last Bastion further than just the Internet? Maybe a DvD release, T-shirt or even OSD coffee mugs!?

Zoltan Paul Nagy:

In the near future, I do plan on re-releasing enhanced versions of each episode in a DVD format to allow for the full experience, and with no ‘part’ breaks. I have had several requests for exactly this so will look into it later on. Who knows what the future holds, however I really like the idea of the OSD coffee mugs! Alas, if the guild has its way the mugs would portray an image of Sook Dukar holding up his secret BBQ sauce! (Laughs out loud).


Screenshot

MMORPG.com:

Any crazy outtakes or bloopers that occurred during the filming of The last Bastion? If so please share.

Zoltan Paul Nagy:

I have collected quite a few amazing bloopers that occurred during the filming of ‘The Last Bastion’, some of them are completely wild! They range from antics of the players, situations that did not go as planned (taking dozens of takes), to glitches causing unforeseen events to occur that made everyone fall back laughing! I would absolutely love to share them here with you; however I have been compiling them together for a special bloopers edition which I hope to release sometime soon as well.

MMORPG.com:

What is the forecasted length of this obviously long series?

Zoltan Paul Nagy:

To be honest, it truly depends on the support from the community. As long as there is a flow of continued support then the machinima will continue, however if the support is short-lived then unfortunately ‘The Last Bastion’ will be as well. However I’m always the optimist.

For the best case scenario, I have outlined an overall series concept and have set certain markers that must occur throughout its entire runtime so that the tale is virtually told and all plotlines and character development are resolved. As I approach each aspect of the series I focus time to flesh out the specifics and then add life to the elements.

Thinking too far in advance with a community based project like this can sometimes be catastrophic. Right now I am focused on Season One and specifically focused on the episode at hand, keeping myself on track with current tasks, setting general completion dates for specific aspects of filming, pre and post production, etc.

With that said I am a family man and my wife and children come first and foremost. ‘The Last Bastion’ being a one-man show, I am always limited by the time at my disposal. I have done my best to juggle all of this at once and will continue to do so.

With continued faith and if all goes well with community support, I predict a strong run for the series.


Screenshot

MMORPG.com:

When is the expected release date for your next episode of ‘The Last Bastion’?

Zoltan Paul Nagy:

After the release of Episode One on the internet I took the rest of the summer off to spend time with my family and to catch up on many things that had fallen to the side during production. I had left Episode Two almost completed in the final stages of post-production. Now that the summer is almost over I will focus once again on finishing up Episode Two and finalize production of Episode Three.

As well, I had run out of time when releasing Episode One so I did not get to complete the series opening sequence that will be seen attached to each episode. I have been working on this sequence as well so it will be present for Episode Two (as well as included in the enhanced re-release of Episode One down the line).

So to answer your question the second episode should be completed by late September, early October.

MMORPG.com:

Last question before we can wrap this all up. Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring movie makers in the AoC community and beyond?

Zoltan Paul Nagy:

Yes I do, in fact. Have a vision of what you want to accomplish and stay true to that vision no matter what others might say. Devote yourself completely too visually create through whatever medium will work. Machinima is truly an art-form that allows everyone to express themselves, so allow yourself to be artistic in your expression. When working on your machinima, do your best to meet your own expectations by pushing your limits, however do not over exceed yourself. Have faith in your abilities and take all commentary, positive and critical in a constructive and beneficial way. You will later thank yourself for doing this. Not only show commitment to your machinima but to yourself as well.

Finally, find inspiration from others around you. Friends, colleagues, gamers, family members, whoever is around you. I know I have found that inspiration… inside and outside of the virtual world of AoC.

That's all the info I could squeeze out of Zsolaith before the local guard started to give me suspicious looks. If you want to see the first episode of the Last Bastion or are wanting to learn more about the Order of the Silver Dragons then check out the links below and thanks to Zoltan for his time and professionalism in putting this series together.

More information on the machinima ‘The Last Bastion – Chronicles of the OSD’ can be found directly; or on their Facebook page.

For information pertaining to the Order of the Silver Dragons multi-wing gaming community, please follow this link.

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