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Interview

Rhianna Pratchett Interview

IncGamers caught up with Rhianna Pratchett, lead writer of Overlord II to talk about the story in the upcoming sequel.


I’m from Greenpeace, I just wanted to talk to you about clubbing seals.

As you can see, you are evil, so by definition it is inherently an evil act. And why should seals get away from it? I think we’re biased towards fluffy creatures!

What other animals should we be clubbing? We’ve seen some of the other animals in Overlord.

In the first game we had sheep – maybe not as cute, but they had to go down as well.

I don’t think the game did very well in Wales, though, did it?

I don’t know, I think they may have been holding back on a desire to kill sheep. I think everyone’s reacted really quite well to people clubbing seals and punching pandas, and so I think gamers have been holding back an innate desire to kill soft cuddly creatures.

You bring up a valid point – you are an evil character. It’s a dark character, it’s a dark game, but it’s very comedic as well, isn’t it?

It’s core – the gameplay itself is very funny. You’re an evil overlord running around the countryside looting and pillaging with this army of sycophantic minions. Right from the off, it’s fun, and you think “What is not to love there?” So the gameplay is inherently funny, and it’s much easier to make a funny, twisted script around that.

The first game was a bit difficult because you were brought in halfway through, if I’ve got that right –

It was maybe a third of the way through, a quarter of the way through. So there were some levels designed, some characters… for the point I was brought in, it was fine. It was better being brough tin for the start of Overlord 2 because I could build the history a lot more. Obviously we’d had Overlord and we’d had Raising Hell, so we know a lot of the history of the world, we knew a lot of the things that’d happened in the past, so that informed the story a lot more. I think it feels more like a world story than smaller stories, which I think Overlord was. It was sort of a small story, then a boss fight, and although all the bosses were linked, you never really found that out until the end.

I presume then that this leaves open options to expand on the franchise and to do other stuff. Have you thought about the next iteration and where you’re going to take the title? Have you started working on another game?

I’m not allowed to say! But I’m sure there will be other Overlord games in the future. I mean, I would hope. It’s been a really fun franchise to work for, and it’s been really fun working on Dark Legend and Minions as well, because they take place in the same world but there are differences. It was quite fun building that in, because I had to have a map of the world in my mind, and then I’d create new areas in the domains, so in the first Overlord game you had an area called Spree in the Mellow Hills, which was the halfling and human area of the game, and in Dark Legend you had a little town called Meadowsweet which was also in the Mellow Hills area of the game, and Briarthorn Burrows, which was another part, and so I was building the world in my mind and could do things like – “The elf domain doesn’t have a name. Ooh! I can come up with one!” And I just came up with the elf domain name, and that got into Dark Legend. So there’s a huge world if you take all the places that have been covered from Overlord up until Minions. It’s a vast world, so there are lots of things that can happen.

It’s notoriously difficult to get into the mind of a writer, and coming from a journalism background, you need to be quite organised in what it is you’re trying to ask and ascertain, and much as you hate talking about it, storytelling is in your blood as it were. But how difficult is it to juggle these projects when you have Overlord to do, and then Mirror’s Edge 2 is coming out… there’s a couple of storylines there. How difficult is it to keep these things separate?

People talk about changing gears when you’re working on something like Overlord 2 and Mirror’s Edge – it’s pretty much changing cars! But I worked on them at different stages. They all have some kind of interesting cool twist about them, I was able to help create something, so they were all great projects, but I kind of… access different parts of my brain, I guess, to work with the story of the different games.

Presumably then, the different things that you’re accessing are sort of different themes. So you have an idea of what Overlord is going to be about, so you have a certain thread that you want to follow. Mirror’s Edge is similar in that sense?

There are a lot of themes, from personal themes to do with Faith about what she was running from, what had happened in her past, her desire to remove herself from making any real choices about what happened in the city and whether the changes were good or bad. You learn in the comic series that I wrote in DC what happened in her past, why Kate became a cop, why there’s a little bit of hostility between the two, what the changes were that happened in the city, who stood up for them, what they actually meant to the people in the city… but you know, it became much more of a political story as we went on. It was very much based on a lot of things that I experienced in London, or all over the world where they have been restrictions on the amount of information that we give… Oyster cards, for example! You have to give up a lot of information to get this good thing. People have been fined for using their recycling bin inappropriately and putting the wrong recycling in the wrong bin, and Mirror’s Edge sort of spun out to more extreme conclusions, I guess. It was looking at the idea of – people thought it was a dystopia, but it isn’t; it’s an anti-utopia. A dystopia is trying to be a utopia, but fails; but an anti-utopia isn’t trying to pretend that. It’s… the other way around, actually! A dystopia isn’t trying to be a utopia, it knows very well what it is. But an anti-utopia is trying to be a utopia, it’s trying to be this grand thing, but it has certain fundamental flaws. So everyone would say “It’s a dystopia!” and I’d go “No, actually it’s an anti-utopia!” They were fascinating projects to work on. Obviously Overlord is very different from Mirror’s Edge, Mirror’s Edge is very different from Heavenly Sword –

Which was a great game, and very well received.

Thank you very much.

RPG elements in Overlord – can you choose whether you want to go combat-centric, or be a better leader?

I’m probably not the best person to talk about that, I think Len [Lennart Sas, director] would probably be the best person, but the RPG isn’t like Mass Effect or traditional RPGs. You do get to upgrade your armour, and your weapons, and your helmet, and your tower, and your minions, and things like that, but there are different strategies you employ using your different coloured minions to get through the world; there’s no one way of doing it. You can decide whether you want to crush, kill and destroy everyone and follow the destruction route, or enslave everyone and follow the domination route, or kind of mix and match!

What’s your favourite thing about Overlord 2, from a story perspective? It’s come from your head, there’s got to be something you’ve always wanted to get in there that you’ve finally managed to.

I liked having more mistresses to work with – that was a lot of fun! The ladies in the Overlord world are always a lot of fun, and it was quite interesting putting on my nail varnish in the bathroom, standing next to figments of my own imagination! That’s possibly one of the weirdest experiences I’ve ever had, doing games writing. But I was glad. The mistresses were a lot of fun, and I loved doing the tower ambience, which we have a lot of. Gnarl has his different views towards the mistresses and he’s very, very fond of Juno. They sort of chat to each other, and they have opinions about each other, and they’re very catty and… they’re really really good fun. So having more elements in the tower and having more ambience going on in the tower is a lot of fun, and the tower area is fantastic. It really is improved on the last game.

Rhianna Pratchett, thank you very much for your time.

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