Writer Devin Grayson
1. What MMOs have you played or are you playing? Why those?
Right now my friends and I are jumping from Champions to Fallen Earth, which I'm really enjoying. We're kind of serial gamers-we play an MMO for a couple of years and then get distracted by something new and shiny. We've been in everything from Anarchy Online to World of Warcraft, with significant time in EQ, EQ2, SWG, AO, AoC, and CoH
I'm a big fan of the MMORPG genre and really enjoy being able to submerge myself, along with several close friends, into a creatively rendered world.
2. How often do you play D&D?
Twice a month, though I also have an ongoing RIFTs world game (that has come to encompass both Palladium and White Wolf zones as it has ticked along) that meets weekly.
3. You've been somewhat off the radar for a couple of years. What have you been doing?
I've had the privilege of working with an innovative nonprofit organization very close to my heart. I've had insulin-dependent, type 1 juvenile diabetes since I was fifteen, and one of the most serious side-effects of insulin-dependence is acute hypoglycemia; a literally life-threatening condition that can incapacitate me without warning in as few as twenty minutes.
Unfortunately, there's no medical device that can warn me when this is about to happen, but there is an organization, Dogs4Diabetics (D4D), that trains service dogs to sense and alert on impending hypoglycemia. The dogs use their phenomenal sense of smell to identify chemical changes in the body that occur at the onset of hypoglycemia, before the diabetic is even symptomatic, and then they're taught a range of alerting behaviors from pawing at your lap to mouthing a bringsel to bring the situation to your attention. It's absolutely amazing, and as a proud and grateful recipient of one of these dogs-Cody, who we discuss briefly later-I went from volunteering at D4D to working there full-time as their Director of Development. I actually intend to go back to that when I'm finished with the awesome pile of writing assignments that recently landed in my lap, such as Kung Foo!
I have also been helping to raise my boyfriend's nine-year-old daughter and two-year-old son. Both of whom can kick my ass on iPhone apps, by the way.
4. How long have you been involved with the KF! project?
I just came on board this month, so things have been going 100 miles an hour, but the team has been great. I work closely with QA and they have turned out to be great writers in addition to being very helpful as a sounding board for some of the humor and jokes going into Kung Foo!
5. What convinced you to come aboard this project?
I'm an avid MMORPG player, so the medium is very close to my heart. The challenge of trying to bring a product that is already up and running and popular in China to a western audience was also immediately appealing to me.
6. What part(s) of Kung Foo! will you be writing? Episodes? The main arc?
I'm writing the main hero's quest and lots of the dialogue and directing the overall story concept and zone flavors. When I'm "megalocalizing", I'm trying to make sure I'm writing something that I'd respond to and enjoy as a gamer.
7. Are you working with a writing team to bring KF! to the US?
Yes, they just don't know it! My writing team is Perfect World Entertainment's amazing QA department, who have not only been incredibly gracious about letting me come in and disrupt their whole process, but who have also proven to be solidly talented writer and jokesters themselves.
8. KF! is based on a Chinese (yep!?) TV show. How do you bring a TV-based MMO from another country to the US?
Very carefully? There's a lot you just have to make peace with letting go of. Usually it makes less sense to try to translate a joke than to just write a new one. We've taken the game structure and layered on popular culture and gaming references appropriate to our audience. The wackier elements of the game play, though, just are what they are. It's our job to create a world that allows those actions to be plausible, or at least humorously jarring instead of "taking you completely out of the story" jarring.
9. What types of changes to the story are you going to have to make?
We've basically revamped the whole story, except for the central idea that there's a missing princess to be rescued.
10. You've written comics (and WHAT a resume!) but do you consider yourself a 'comedy writer?
Oh, not at all. Most of my work isn't all that funny, actually. I even had a friend of mine tell me I needed to work on my sense of humor, but that was nearly ten years ago, so hopefully she'd now approve. As I writer, I'm most interested in human relationships which tend to come with a lot of conflict, angst, damage, perseverance and, yes, humor. In some ways, the darker you're willing to go, the more absurdist humor, at least, you're going to be exposed to.
11. How difficult has it been to change your brain pattern from more "serious" comics writing to writing comedy?
No harder than having a serious argument with someone and texting a joke to someone else two hours later.
12. Does the question above make ANY sense?
::Laughing:: Yes, it does. But writing is a discipline. You don't usually have the luxury of sitting around waiting for the right frame of mind to hit you, you create the mental space you need to get any given job done. Fortunately for me, the atmosphere at Perfect World is very conducive to my work. The people here are smart and funny, but they also take their work seriously and have a genuine passion for gaming. Plus, the game makes me laugh. Mechanically and artistically it's a very amusing, genuinely likable world.
13. What's a typical day like for you?
It completely changes depending on what I'm working on, but right now I'm spending most of my days at the Perfect World Entertainment office in Redwood City. I carpool in with a friend of mine and then settle into the cubicle they've graciously lent me, update the game, open 90,000 QA Excel sheets (that's a slight exaggeration, there are actually only 78,432 of them) and get to work. Cody grabs his ball and makes his rounds, first seeing who wants to pet or play with him and then checking the garbage cans for leftover goodies from the day before. We break around one for lunch, go outside and play some ball, and then work until 7PM, when the office here closes. Lately, I've spent at least a few of those afternoon hours answering interview questions. :-) Then I rush home to feed Cody dinner and see the kids before they go to bed, and once I've eaten and they're safe and snug, I jump onto TS, coordinate with my buddies, and meet them in Fallen Earth. After they crash, I turn to my other writing assignments (unless you ask my Marvel editor, in which case obviously I do those last two things in the opposite order), rinse and repeat.
14. OK so I read your Twitter feed. Tell the story being Cody-dog and the 8' inflatable snowman?
You always know people are reading it, but to hear someone you don't know actually admit it is a little creepy. Like, do I need to worry about you? (YES! BWHAHA!) I already have one cyber-stalker! ; -) Hmmm...they're assuring me that you're perfectly normal....Okay, so, the Perfect World offices are a very festive place, and there's an inflatable snowman standing next to a large, decorated Christmas tree. It had been up for two or three days when the snowman, for whatever reason, begins to lean against and then slowly slides behind the tree. Maybe it was losing a little air or it got hit by an errant ping pong ball or some such. Anyway, Cody, who hasn't even blinked at the display for days, suddenly looks up form where he's lounging in the hall outside my cube, notices the obviously suspicious snowman peering deviously out from behind the Christmas tree, and--as any good, loyal dog would do--decides to alert me and all of our new friends to the impending danger. Mind you, Cody is a service dog, and normally an extraordinarily well- behaved one. No one here had even heard him bark, much less howl or growl. But all the sudden he's standing in the middle of the hallway with his hackles raised, just howling at the snowman. I went over and righted it and shook its hand and Cody settled down, but by then everyone was already laughing at him.
Still, I'm glad he thought it was worth a try. The last time he howled like that I was very firm with him, only to find out that there was a California brown bear standing eight feet away from our campsite.
15. And what's this about constantly bowing to the Chinese employees at PWE.
Oh, it only happened once, but I felt rather foolish. The head of Perfect World Entertainment was visiting, and we were talking about Cody, so I was sort of already leaning over. And one of my RP chars is a samurai, so suddenly I noticed myself offering a small Japanese bow, and once I did it, I just kind of kept bobbing there for a few seconds while we finished the conversation. As soon as he walked away-he's very nice, by the way, and speaks beautiful English-I sat down and did the contemporary version of smacking my head and saying "D'oh!" - I tweeted.