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Fantasy author R.A. Salvatore is best known for creating Drizzt Do'Urden, the star of a series of books set in the Forgotten Realms setting of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise. He is, however, a longtime gamer -- both pen and paper and MMO. In 2008, baseball player Curt Schilling, an avid MMO fan and lover of Salvatore's books, recruited him to help found a company.
Now, Salvatore is one of the key creative figures at 38 Studios. Along with EverQuest and Elder Scrolls veterans, Salvatore is working on an MMO code-named Copernicus that promises to deliver an ambitious and densely realized fantasy world.
And now that 38 Studios has acquired Big Huge Games, the Copernicus setting will also be home to a single-player game code-named Mercury, to be helmed by Elder Scrolls designer Ken Rolston.
Gamasutra recently sat down with Salvatore to find out what goes into the creation of believable, emotionally resonant fantasy worlds.
So, what is your role on the Copernicus and Mercury projects? Are you world-building? Are you getting down into the nitty-gritty of actually writing the script?
R. A. Salvatore: At this point I'm world-building. When I came in, I took the basic idea that Curt and his gang wanted to do an MMO, and I turned it into an MMO for them. I created a very detailed history of the world and created all the different regions with a team.
And then of course we hired in a bunch of people: Steve Danuser (EverQuest II), Ryan Shwayder (EverQuest II), and Mike Woods were the first three to come. And we built this world, race by race, and made everything make sense in the world.
My actual title was Creator of Worlds, which I thought was pretty cool. I was a COW. So, when Big Huge Games came along, my job, along with some of the other guys, was to show them what we were doing and give them a ton of information. Then Ken Rolston (The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion) and Mark Nelson (The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind) created a story that would fit within that world.
I went down and worked with them a little bit on the story but my job, right now, more than anything else, is making sure the world smells the same no matter which part of the world you're in, whether you're talking about the art, the music, whatever.
When they show me what they're doing, I always say, "Does this fit? Where does this fit? How does this fit?" Right now, I'm like a kind of den mother to all these creative people more than anything else.
With Project Mercury, it's a big get to have Ken Rolston on board.
RS: Yeah, isn't he great? I love Ken.
Game writing seems like a difficult thing to separate out from game design. I'm wondering what the back and forth is between you two when it comes to designing the game.
RS: Really my job is to make sure that the story, particularly the metastory, which is where they were when I was down there, fits into our world. So, Steve Danuser and I met with Mark and Ken, and then my job was to relate to them my feelings about the world. The guys from 38 Studios are actually closer to the particulars of the story than I am now because they're working on it every day.
Is the idea to spread the material out across a whole bunch of different titles?
RS: I don't know. I know that they're talking about it. It's a big IP and that's the whole point of it.
Do you see yourself writing novels set in that world?
RS: We've talked about it. I don't know whether it's going to happen or not. It's certainly a big world.
A lot of your work has been tied into the Forgotten Realms setting that Ed Greenwood originally created. Is this an opportunity for you to take on a similar position?
RS: Exactly. And I've done it before. I did it with my DemonWars books, but this was even bigger because there were so many other people that got involved right away. So, yeah, this is, along with DemonWars, my second attempt at really building my own world. I'm kind of the Ed Greenwood, I guess, of Copernicus.