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A Writer's Lament: Requiem for a Game

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Gods & Heroes - A Writer's Lament: Requiem for a Game

Michael Fiegel, a former writer and content designer for Perpetual Entertainment's Gods & Heroes, pens this article from a developer's perspective, about the indefinite hold that has been put on the game and his own reactions to it.

You will never meet the young lady in the sewers. You will never discover why she's down there, or what she's looking for, or how that involves a disembodied spirit with a short temper.

You will never meet the man who -- mimicking a myth he had once heard -- tied his infant daughter to a spear and hurled her into a river, assuming the gods would save her. You will never learn if he was right.

You will never meet the daughter of the goddess of vengeance. You will never hear her warning about the weather, never hear her funny quips and wry observations. You will never learn where the West Wind went.

The reason you will never meet these people is that the game they were a part of, Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising, was put on "indefinite hold" on October 9. For six months prior to that date, I was a writer and content designer for the game, and the individuals mentioned above were but a few of the hundreds of personalities, quests and stories I created during that time, alongside a team of other writers, implementors and designers.

The game's sudden change in status came as something of a surprise, not just to those involved in the game's development (including many people who had worked on it for much longer than I had), but also to the game's many devoted community members and Beta testers. However, it was not altogether unusual. Cancelled games, it seems, are fairly common in the industry; Wikipedia has a list of over a thousand, and from my discussions with other writers and designers I daresay that anyone who's worked in the game industry has probably worked on at least one title that was held, cancelled, shelved, or otherwise never shipped.

This wasn't a first for me as a writer; I've had material shelved before. Back in 2001 I wrote 6000 words for a D&D 3rd Edition supplement about various inns and taverns. Although never officially cancelled, it's fairly clear that the book will never see publication at this point, especially with the pending release of D&D 4th Edition. As a small publisher, I've even cancelled a few of my own game projects; sometimes you miss your window, or costs rack up, or things just lose momentum.

This isn't even a game industry thing for me. During the time I spent writing radio commercials, I saw lots of scripts and commercials get pulled at the last second, never to air, for one reason or another. And when I wrote for a newspaper, lots of articles got dumped simply because we ran out of room when we were putting the paper together on Thursday night.

It happens. It sucks, but it happens. Sometimes, it happens a lot. And the more it happens to you, the faster I think you find yourself skipping through the five stages of the Kübler-Ross Grief Model: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. This time around, I didn't really experience Denial, or Anger, or Bargaining; I had been there before. There was however some Depression, some sadness; there always is. When you've spent any amount of time creating something, you invest a little piece of yourself in that work, and when that work is a personality -- a character in a story, or a screenplay, or a game -- you invest a little bit more. Maybe you don't quite sell your soul, but you do put your heart into your work, and that means there's a little bit of heartbreak when it has to end, as with any relationship.

That's why this was sad: because of the lives lost, the lives of the intangible, imaginary little characters that I dreamt up, gave stories and dialogue and quests to. It's like losing a pet -- not a dog or a cat or a horse, of course; more like a gerbil, or a hamster, or a fish. Or, in the case of an MMORPG, an aquarium full of fish. Ick.

Acceptance. That's where I am now. What happened, happened. I don't blame anyone, or anything, and I don't regret the time I got to spend working on the game. I met some really great people, got some experience in the industry, and most importantly got to spend a lot of time doing what it is that I like to do best: creating characters, giving them voices, writing their stories and quests, and otherwise "making stuff up."

I know in time there'll be another game to work on, and as long as there's another game there'll be another world to populate with characters, another aquarium to fill with fish. One fish, two fish. Red vs Blue fish.

Perhaps some day a Hero like Hercules or Orpheus will descend into the underworld, and bring the game back out of "indefinite hold." As often as that sort of thing happens in ancient myth, you'd think Hades had a revolving door. Who knows? Perhaps only the Gods can say, and they seem to have gone quiet...

And so for now, let there be one final moment of grief, one final libation for the NPCs that were born, lived, and died in the past few months, all within a virtual world that, for a time, I called home. I wish you could have met them.

Article By: Michael Fiegel


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