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9Dragons : Steven-Elliot Altman, Lead Writer

Posted Aug 15, 2006 by Dana Massey

Author Steven-Elliot Altman is leading up the lore and writing for the North American adaptation of 9Dragons by Acclaim. Our Carolyn Koh recently asked him a few questions. Since 9 Dragons is actually an existing game in Korea - have you been given a blank slate apart from the historical basis to work on or are there some “don’t touch” elements in it?

Steven-Elliot Altman: Well Carolyn, I must admit that at the beginning I felt lost in translation. A lot of the early documents I read based on the backgrounds of the Clans (those are the groups you can join in-game, each with their own special philosophy, ideals and Kung Fu) were rather confusing. There are elements of Asian culture that simply do not translate. So, the earliest part of my job was trying to ask the right questions (through translators) to the designers to find out how clan history was actually interacting with elements like alliances and quests. Once I understood what elements were essential to game-play, I could choose which historical information would be fun and accessible to English-speaking gamers. The Korean team’s writer and Loremaster, Jwa Baek, a rather famous best-selling author in Korea, did an amazing job at weaving the original story with compelling characters and Chinese mythology. So I felt a little nervous when I started changing story elements to suit the English market… but he has been very accepting of the new work as they translate my “Remastered English” back to the Korean designers.

There weren’t any real “don’t touch” moments, but everybody did get a little antsy when I explained that we had to adjust the names of several of the clans. Sure, our gamers have probably heard of Shaolin and Wu-Tang Clan, but other clan names would have been meaningless (and difficult to pronounce). So a good example might be that I studied the “Mojiao Clan”, thought about their arcane ideals, read up on their Bloody Fist Kung Fu technique, and then renamed them Heavenly Demon Clan.

So, rather than a blank slate, it was more like an empty plate I could fill… and when I couldn’t understand something on the menu, I asked them to bring the cart around and let me taste the food. Then I did my best to describe each delicacy.

You can read more here.

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