THE MATRIX ONLINE
Q&A with PAUL CHADWICK
What are the sort of challenges you come across in writing for a video game which is an interactive medium rather than a more linear story based medium?
PAUL CHADWICK: Scheming to get everybody involved - from every organization to lone wolf players. Hooking them all is a massive undertaking. It's one of the reasons we occasionally have crises that threaten the Matrix as a whole, which all three organizations must work to resolve. But playing the organizations off each other is quite the trick.
There's the problem of player/reader focus. People read every panel, and generally every word, of a comic. Everybody watches the entire movie. Readers seldom skip paragraphs or pages in a novel.
In a massive multiplayer, people receive information at different times, second-hand, during missions, in cinematics, reading the in-game newspaper, through rumor, via word puzzles in the environment, via NPC's – it's a spray of story in six directions. Hopefully, everybody gets wet enough. But the fact that not everybody gets everything is the biggest challenge.
You've been an acclaimed storyteller for a long time now - any chances of you progressing even further within THE MATRIX franchise, maybe stories outside the comics, ie anime?
PAUL CHADWICK: Perhaps you could say that a little louder. The Wachowski Brothers are over in Berlin shooting V FOR VENDETTA, you know.
Seriously, I have a lot invested, emotionally, in THE MATRIX ONLINE. I hope to stick with it for a few years. I suspect I'll reach a point where I'm written out – those hungry hours, weeks, months will bleed me dry, eventually, of inspired story ideas. But it's really all I'm thinking about, except for a little 'Concrete' work on the side.
Were there any rules you were given in creating the story, any characters you weren't allowed to touch or kill, certain narrative functions you have to adhere to etc?
PAUL CHADWICK: Oh yes. A character in two of the movies and THE ANIMATRIX was saved from my wanton whim by the Wachowski Brothers. Well, actually, it was a heroic death after a long struggle. But they apparently want to keep that person around. Who knows what for?
They had well-developed ideas for the first year. An uneasy peace, which is Morpheus' new obsession. The actions it inspires, and the reactions to those. Exiled Programs like Greek gods, clashing, with Red Pills caught in the crossfire. A new character who plays a major role.
I took it from there, with them vetting subsequent drafts of the story outline (which eventually became quite detailed).
I think I was hired because the comics' stories I did showed I understood THE MATRIX sensibility pretty well, so story guidelines didn't need to be spelled out.
However, I had to adjust to the odd beast that a massive multiplayer is. One example: we can't draw a hundred people to one location at the same time – players' computers will start to refuse to recognize all the other players, and freeze up. That, and its other peculiarities, guided my hand.
What other games did you look towards in the process of writing for THE MATRIX ONLINE?
PAUL CHADWICK: I'll answer this by taking "you" as the entire team at Monolith. We benefited from Toby Ragaini's experience on 'Asheron's Call', and Geoff Zatkin's on 'Everquest'. I think the vast clothing/body/skin tone/hair choices we offer in character creation are a reaction to the way players in MMOs who follow similar paths (earning magic swords and cuirasses, for example) often end up looking alike. And the Beta finale to 'Asheron's Call', an apocalypse with burning skeletons falling from the sky and giant demons killing players wholesale, inspired our sky-of-eyes Beta-finale apocalypse (which is already passing into legend).
As for my story work, specifically? I've never actually played another MMO. There, I said it.
What's the proudest thing you've taken away from working on THE MATRIX ONLINE?
PAUL CHADWICK: Well, so far, that Beta finale, which succeeded beyond our dreams. I resisted doing some of it – it spilled some story content we will actually use in the game, later on, which I at first thought should be held in reserve. But it so jazzed the Beta testers, and created such a buzz for the game, that it left all of us feeling a bit giddy.
Mainly, I'm happy the game is now up and running, and my colleagues seem happy with my work. Now excuse me, while I run ahead of this express train, laying track.
Question & Answer Text Copyright SEGA Games and Warner Bros