Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Out On A Limb

Like a lot of people, I was part of a band when I was younger. Did the bar scene, and even scored a few gigs that were significantly more important. Every time I had to step on that stage and grab that mic, those dang butterflies would start playing a football match in my stomach. And it didn't matter how many times we performed, that stage fright would always be there. But fortunately, for me at least, getting the first note out was the hardest. The minute I would sing that first line, the stress would drop and then I would just roll with it. That is when the public enjoyed the show. But when they didn't respond well, that was a whole different story...

Then I grew older and decided I didn't fit the "starving artist" profile. So I moved on behind the scene and watched others perform. As a Stage Manager for nearly 10 years for the Montreal Drum Fest (among others), I got to meet a lot of pretty big names in the showbiz and it always blew my mind to see how nervous some of those really seasoned artists would still get before getting on stage.

And then I became a game designer for a MMO and it feels like I've gone right back to those band days. Back then, I was one of the main composers of the group, did vocals and keys. So every time we performed, I was putting myself out there to be judged both for creativity (song & lyrics) but also as a performer. And it was nerve-wracking because any way you cut it, your creation is a part of you. When it gets rejected, even though you know better, it's hard not to take it to heart. Sometimes it was good material but bad timing. Sometimes it was downright poor material. The hard part is knowing the difference and learning from the mistakes.

When I was working on console games, I compared the profession more to that of a writer, a novelist. You create your fiction, your characters, the world they evolve in with all its rules, however wacky they may be, at your own pace. And once you're ready and you believe you got it right (or marketing puts their foot down!), you bring your "masterpiece" into the world and hope critics will kindly welcome it.

But with a MMO, it's more like being that stand up comedian that must come up with new material on a regular basis, because you just can't keep feeding them the same joke week after week. And every time, you look for that inspiration, that stroke of genius that will make your public go ooooh! aaaaah!! And while you're dreaming of the stand up ovation, all you really think about before you step out on that stage is "please, let it not be boos!"

When I ran player events, I would get nearly sick with nerves in the minutes that preceded it. It's incredible things that you can tell yourself when it's too late to back down: "What the heck was I thinking? This thing sucks!! They will laugh at me! They will say it's lame and retarded! They will (insert other random self-depreciating comment here)". And I would wonder why do I put myself through this? And the answer would always be the same: I just need to create, I need to write, I need to do this. And then the event would take place and it would be well received for the most part (there will always be the disgruntled few), and it made it all worth it.

And now that I do this on a much larger scale, with significantly more people to judge my work, it's all the more terrifying, but at the same time, all the more exciting. And to continue the comparison with a comedian, while my goal is to get them all rolling on the floor laughing themselves to tears, if I can at least get the majority to give me that grin, that giggle and better yet that laughter outburst, then I will have had a good performance.

But regardless of the outcome, I will be right back at my drawing board because, just like the musician, the comedian or the dancer, the "artist" within just need to express himself. (You can translate that as "we're suckers for punishment!")


Uriah Heep said...

Good attitude and good analogy :)

In my mind's eye, I can see you guys (probably only 3) working on UO, being in the backroom with only 2 working lightbulbs flickering, cobwebs in the corner of the ceilings, burnt out monitors and keyboards with the symbols rubbed off, little a/c, poor heating, while the WAR and DAoC guys got the good offices with new workstations up front! ;)

I also suspect that you guys do quite a lot on your own time, as per our Christmas shard last year.

While I am generally thought of as an arse and a troll on the boards, I do have a lot of respect and admiration for yall's dedication and effort. This last round of plants, good deal. Yeah I was a bit disappointed they won't make more generations, or reseed, but then, none of the mobs we have to kill are too hard. So it all turned out good =).

Hang in there kid, and bear with us. As a long time UO player, I can guarantee ya you are playing to a fickle crowd, standing ovation today, and we will hang you in effigy tomorrow *laughs*

But then, you already new that *winks*

Regine "Sakkarah" Abel said...

ahaha it's not as grim as you think, quite the opposite. But we do work with the lights dimmed. When my parents came down from Montreal to visit, I gave them a tour of the studio and Mom thought it was way too dark. But I love it because I find it more peaceful and easier on the eyes :P

But no, we have no complaints equipment wise. Mythic takes good care of us.

We all do quite a bit of stuff on our own time. Pet projects if you like. You could kinda say that's the case for me and the plants. And despite the flames (I've gone through 5 flame resistant suits already since Pub 55!), I'm generally happy with the players' response to them. I REALLY hope to be able to squeeze in some time to add the other stuff I want to do with the plants. If I get to do it all, I'm fairly confident that even the disgruntled players will not think of this system as being so bad after all.

And yes, you don't mess with UO players, because when they speak their minds, they do not sugar coat it lol. But to me, it's all about pleasing the majority. The unhappy people usually shout the loudest and have the sharpest tongues. But the happy ones have a way of just sending you that 1 liner email or PM or ICQ that totally makes it all worthwhile.

Right now, I'm just loading up on more anti-flame gear for when we turn on the Halloween event. Because I already know some people will feel cheated that their crafters cannot go toe to toe with everyone else who has invested 700+ skill points in their PvM characters :P

Muu Bin said...

I can only imagine how you (or any of your colleagues) must feel just prior to having your work released for the masses. And yes, as with any other creative profession from musician to artist to writer the same thought goes through their head... "Will they like it? Is it good enough?"

My philosophy is that you have to always please yourself first because if you don't, then it comes across as contempt for your "audience". And the audience WILL know if you only gave it 50%. Many artists have done this in the past and it has ruined them for years (or in some cases forever).

Regine, you seem very passionate about your work and to me it does come across. I love the new work that's been done with the new seeds and it has managed to suck me back into gardening once again. Sure, you can never please everyone all the time but I would say that the majority of players that enjoy gardening have found new life in the game as a result of this work.

On top of all of this, as an artist you also have to deal with an added factor that other artists don't necessarily have to deal with on a regular basis - corporate management. As strongly as any of you may feel about a project that you work on, it ultimately is at the mercy of someone/ something out of your control at the end of the day. I've been there and it isn't fun.

In closing, thanks for the work you've done so far - and the little unintended bug(s) that have come out as a result. Little easter eggs like that are fun. I look forward to your next contributions and playing in my garden.

All the best