|Brandon Sanderson Discusses Mistborn: Birthright|
July 15, 2012 | Ted Bade
We are always on the lookout for upcoming games here at Inside Mac Games. Recently, prolific fantasy author Brandon Sanderson announced that he was working with gaming company Little Orbit to create Mistborn: Birthright, a game based on his Mistborn novel trilogy. I was personally very excited about the game, as I have become a big fan of Mr. Sanderson’s books and truly enjoyed the Mistborn series.
If you haven’t read this fantasy trilogy and are a fan of fantasy novels, you should really consider reading it. As with all of Brandon Sanderson’s novels, the universe he creates is completely unique in the realm of fantasy and is definitely not a rehash of existing fantasy worlds. All of the Mistborn books (including a newer spin off series) are excellent reads (or listens in the case of audiobooks!).
The “magic” of the Mistborn series manifests in the abilities of certain citizens to utilize the “special properties” of metals. There are two aspects for each metal, affecting others or oneself. Most people, if they have this ability, can work with only one metal, but there are a rare few who can utilize more then one. In his novels, Sanderson develops ingenious ways for his characters to make use of these abilities to help them achieve amazing things. I will leave it up to you to read the novels to learn more.
If you are familiar with the Mistborn series, the events of the game will take place about 700-800 years before the events of the trilogy. What I believe Sanderson and Little Orbit plan to achieve is an Action RPG that stands on its own, but still exists in the world he created.
Initially, the game was to be released for consoles and Windows PCs. Later, it was revealed that the PC game will be released for Steam and that a Mac OS X version will also be available.
I had the opportunity to submit a handful of questions to Brandon Sanderson about his plans for Mistborn: Birthright. The rest of this article shows my questions, his answers, and perhaps a final comment of my own.
Ted Bade:. Why did you decide to try to create a game? Was it to satisfy a need of your own, that of your fans, or perhaps some other reason?
Brandon Sanderson: I'm a gamer, and I've been playing games since I spent my vacation money on a Nintendo instead of what I was supposed to spend it on.
Doing the job that I do now gives me some opportunities that I just didn't want to pass on; making a video game is one of them. I tried a couple of times earlier in my career to launch a Mistborn video game, to get a developer interested, and it just didn't go anywhere. I wasn't a big enough name yet. I eventually had to wait until the trilogy was done and had a good reputation, and then people started approaching us about making a video game out of it.
The reason to do it is just because I love video games. It's a bit of a self-indulgent reason, but let's just say that it's one of the perks of being an author with some success.
Author’s note: I have no issues with his “self indulgence”. Anyone who has read and enjoyed a great fantasy novel would most likely enjoy the chance to play in that world. As a successful author, Mr. Sanderson can bring fans into his world via a game. That is a terrific thing, especially if it is done right.
Bade: As an author, you can completely control all aspects of a story, the environment, and the characters in the story. When you move to a game realm, there will be many limitations and aspects you can’t or won’t control. How important is it to get “right” the following aspects of your fantasy realm? What do you plan to do to ensure they work?
a. The look and feel of the environment, which includes environmental sounds, and music
b. Character dialog and interactions, as well as NPC dialog and interactions
c. The storyline and sequences of events
d. Other aspects very important to you
Sanderson: This is quite an in-depth question. Certainly the things you mentioned, that you can't control all aspects of the story, are a consideration. The bigger thing for me with a video game, that is different from my own work, is that a video game is a collaboration. A novel in most cases is a solo work, certainly with the help of talented editing staff and art direction and things like that—but at the end of the day, I can do the bulk of the work on the book myself. On a video game, I can't. Nor would I want to.
On a video game, you take a step toward films where you need to have people who you trust working on aspects of the game that you yourself can't do. Certainly the look and feel and all these things you're talking about—I can oversee them, and Little Orbit has been great; they're showing me concept art and things and saying, do you like this or do you like this? What feels more like Mistborn to you? But at the end of the day, I have to let them do their job, which is program a great game, and come up with an engaging and fun system.
I can have some input in it myself, such as the dialogue and story—I can step in and say hey, I know how to do this; let me do it. So I have done that for this game—I've stepped in and I'm writing the dialogue and the story myself, and I'm going to try to make it the best it can be to match Mistborn. From there I'm working with and trusting people whose job it is to make great games be great.
Bade: It is early in the development process, but I am sure you have some intentions as to what you want this game to be. If you could get everything you desire in this project, what type of game would it be? I assume you have played a few games yourself, would it be an RPG like Dragon Age or Two Worlds II, a graphical adventure like Monkey Island or Myst, or will it be more of an FPS like Bioshock?
Sanderson: We're definitely shooting for, on this game, Action RPG. A little less like Dragon Age in that it's a solo adventure with one person—certainly there are NPCs and things, but we're not talking about a party; we're talking about a Mistborn doing awesome stuff. That's what I wanted this game to be. There are so many different ways you could take a game like this; I would like to try different aspects.
One of my favorite games recently was Demon Souls, and its sequel Dark Souls. I like gameplay mechanics like that, for a game like this. But we have to mix it with something more like Infamous in its combat system; powers and things like that. A blend of those types of games is what I would be shooting for. Certainly with a stronger RPG element to it.
Bade: Do you intend to create a novel (or series) to go along with or to follow this game?
Sanderson: I'm not intending that right now. There's a chance we'll do a graphic novel, but I feel like this story that I'm building matches the game, and I want it to be for the game.
Bade: Will this game explore only the nobility of the Mistborn world or will it include some of the lower class elements? Are you going to bring in any aspects of the empire or the long planned revolution?
Sanderson: This story is taking place several hundred years after the Ascension of the Lord Ruler; 700 or 800 years before the events of the trilogy. I don't want to give any more spoilers than that, but there will be lots of things in the game dealing with lots of different aspects of the Mistborn world.
Bade: I know there is nothing set in stone and there is a long path of compromises before the game becomes available. Is there any “teaser” you could share with our readers?
Sanderson: This is something really small—not a big deal—but I am planning to work into this game the origin of Mistcloaks.
Author’s Note: You’ll have to read the novels to understand these references!
Well, there you have it. I will be keeping tabs on this game and how the development is moving along. IMG will be sure to make announcements and even review this game when it becomes available for the Mac.