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December 5, 2019
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Interviewing Alexis Kennedy

by Daniel Nissenfeld on 07/08/19 10:46:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Alexis Kennedy stopped by the Titans of Text podcast for episode 9. Up until this interview the Titans, as you may be able to see from our episode history, have talked exclusively to people within the MUD community, hence the name Titans of Text. I can make the excuse that Fallen London is basically an open-world-sandbox interactive fiction game but that's really stretching it. We get into a bit of this in episode 8 but we had already gotten the interview with Alexis approved and scheduled prior to recording that; in fact we recorded his episode the day before episode 8 went live. 

The narrative and designs of Fallen London, Sunless Sea and Cultist Simulator (all very different games) has fascinated me for quite a while. Many of my own current designs rely quite a bit on a similar system to Fallen London and Sunless Sea where you gain string-integer pair traits as events occur which translates into gate checks for other events elsewhere. Perusing the Sunless Sea wiki reveals this sort of design as it lists out all of the trait value ranges needed to qualify or trigger events.

So, needless to say, I went into this interview as a huge fan of his work and the audio proves that out pretty well as I get a little giddy having the chance to talk about design and books. The last time I had met someone I was a fan of "in person" so to speak was running into Mike Morhaime at Blizzcon 2013 and I barely managed to get out a sentence while shaking his hand nervously. I wasn't going to have the luxury of shaking hands and walking the other way this time; I was nervous.

The nervousness subsided over time, primarily due to the genesis of the interview: I simply emailed him (directly, all of the staff's email addresses are on their website) and he agreed. Not that this has much to do with me or my charisma stat total; he is incredibly friendly and easy to talk to. What happens over the course of the interview, however, is something entirely amazing for me.

I do and talk about game design a LOT but the audience is normally limited to people in the MUD community. Not that the discussions are lesser in any way but they are what I would consider peers; familiar people that chat every day. Alexis was someone that I, for lack of a better word, idolized in the industry specifically for narrative and mechanical design. Talking with someone about the things I'm passionate about who is also passionate about those same things is entirely uplifting.

We had "played it safe" for some time with Titans of Text. With a release cadence of every 2 weeks there was quite a lot of time between episode 1 and 7. It might be a result of having been a lifetime RPG player and designer that the thought of "leveling up" permeates so much of my decision making.

Just going for it works, some of the time at least.

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