Thus Spake the Creator

The Wheel of Time game

Q: I've heard that there is going to be a Wheel of Time computer game... How much are you involved in this (if it's true), and how do you feel about a game based on your work? 
A: Well, it's true, it's in the works from Legend Entertainment. I'm involved to the extent that I told them I would not accept the first scenario they gave me. i told them there were certain things I wanted done int he game, such as being able to play as a female character, multiple solutions to problems, being able to get through segments without solving all the problems and they're working on it. Apparently Glenn Dahlgren, who is designing the game, is very much in agreement with me on these things. 

Q: Any chance of seeing the "Wheel of Time" in other media (television, CD-ROM's, etc.)? 
A: I don't know about TV certainly, but a company called Legend Entertainment is working on a "Wheel of Time" role playing game that will have both strategic and tactical levels and be able to be played against your own computer or on the Web against other players. I think it should be interesting. I gave them a number of requirements which all boil down in a way to ... it should be impossible to play the same game twice.

Q: About the upcoming (and looking really great) Wheel of Time game by Legend Entertainment... how much control over the game do you have ? (I'd hate seeing it ripped for the wot feeling)... do you think it would be possible to move the one power into the game, working as it is to be understood in the books, and what is your overall opinion about making a game of the books b4 the books are finished ? (I know it's a prequel, but anywayz ... ) 
A: I'm happy about making a game about the books before the books are finished. There have been some compromises between what I wanted in the games and what Legand wanted. At first, they told me that they couldn't do certain things until later and I said "well, here's your money back." After which, they decided that maybe they could do those things now and, in fact, it seems that these things are part of what look to make this one of the hottest games - and maybe the hottest game - anywhere in sight.

Q: Will there be a Wheel of Time Role Playing Game? 
A: There is a computer game coming from Legend Entertainment to be released next spring.: I am told it was the absolute hit of the #e show this past summer. (E3) And if I can believe the things that various computer gaming magazines said, it will be one of the best or perhaps even the best game to be released in years.

Q: The Wheel of Time series is very popular and I believe the PC game using the unreal engine has done very well. Has there been any plans to branch into other mediums such as film or tv?
A: Well, NBC has an option for a miniseries, but I understand the option is unlikely to be renewed. I guess you can write to the network

Q: ...How much influence did you have on the WoT computer game, what is your feeling about the game, and what is your opinion about the community? And, within the community it is well known that a lot of readers got into the game, but the other way around as well: a lot of gamers tried the books, the Wheel of Time books and liked them and what is your opinion about that?
A: I saw the computer game as a way to attract people to the books. That's why I agreed, when I was approached by gaming companies, who started wanting the rights. But I also wanted it to be something that was going to be decent. So when I signed the first contract, I made sure there was a particular clause in the contract. And they brought me the plans for the game, now, they'd showed me a couple of games that they'd done previously. When they brought in the plans for the game. What they had done with that was file away the numbers off the previous games, took the files' serial numbers off, and put some whiteout over the names, and blacked out the names for my book into the ... over their old games. And I said no. I don't like that, I would like you to do this, and this, and this. I would like this to be possible, and that to be possible. And they said 'well, we can't really do that' And I said 'well, ah I guess.. well, there is this paragraph 24, subparagraph z, and I'm invoking that now, and here's a check, that's the money you gave me, goodbye.'
...go away. Here, I'm giving you back the money, go away. So they were shocked. And they came to me and said 'look, no, we'd really like to do this, and we'll do the things that you'd like to do. Well, they did. Took them over two-and-a-half years. they had to sell their company to a bigger company to get the money to finance it, [laughter] but that was okay. And I liked the fact that one review said that they'd used the UnrealEngine better than Unreal did. I liked the fact that they were hired based on my game, the game based on my books, that they were hired to write the next Unreal game, the sequal to Unreal.
I like the fact that although the Unreal Engine turned out to be incapable of doing some of the things that I wanted them to do, because they knew about these things that I wanted them to do, they were hired to rewrite the Unreal Engine so that it could do the things that I wanted it to do that previously it could not.
What is going to happen, I don't know...
... [asked Mike Verdu about this]
...to do more computer games. But then a French company bought Legend GTI and Mike said 'they've told us, we must go into a new direction' and I asked 'what is this new direction?' and he said 'I don't know, they won't tell us. They say we're supposed to wander around until we find it.' So I don't know what's going to happen there. I think maybe there's been too much wine before the meeting but I have no idea what will happen there.
I think the game is visually beautiful, but I've never played it, because I don't play that type of game. When I'm on a computer and I'm not working, which is not very often, I play chess, or perhaps a strategic simulation of a battle. Free-fight games for every war, that sort of thing.

What did you think of the Wheel of Time game, and would you like to see more of them? If so, First-Person-Shooter type again, or something completely different? Something you would like to play yourself, perhaps?
I thought it was a good game. I have to admit I have not played it. I have seen it. I think it is visually beautiful. I have talked to people - friends, and fans - who are both gamers and fans to the books, and they seemed to think it was a very good game, so I trust their judgment more on that than I trust my own. I would like to see more games, yes, and, I would like to see different types of games. I think that this type of game is fine, I would have no objection to another game of this type, certainly not, but I would also like to see it expanded into other types. I‘m not sure how workable that is. I have a tendency to speak full of ignorance in this area - I wouldn’t know. There were things that I asked them to do, when Legend was beginning to do the game, and I didn’t know that the technology did not exist to do what I was asking them to do, and in fact, the last time I talked to anybody from Legend/GTI, they had been at that point hired to rewrite the Unreal Engine itself, in order to make the Unreal Engine capable of doing some things that I had asked them to do in the game, that they couldn’t do.
You’ve seen the level design and the detail in each level from the game - do you like it, compared to the amount of detail you put in the environments in your books?
Yes and no. Yes, it is wonderful realism for in the game. But, compared to the books, I wouldn’t be fully satisfied with anything other than photo-realism. Not for 100% at least.

The following questions all come from a single interview, published in a computer magazine called PCPowerPlay, in November of '99.

So how much of The Wheel of Time game bears the mark of Robert Jordan?
Well, I only know a little bit about the game. I'm not a programmer. My real programming skills are decades out of date. I started when you had to learn how to operate a key-punch machine so you could do your stacks of cards to hand into the mainframe, 'cause there was nothing else than the mainframe!

Oh dear! So what role did you play in the development of the game?
To a large extent it was that I said I wanted certain things to be done. And it was not that I was asking them to do these things, it was that I was telling them "Do these thngs, or there's no deal". They were okay with that. The things I asked them to do made the game much more complex; made it much more difficult to design - hence it wasn't on the streets three years ago.

It could have been ready, theoretically, three years ago. How long has the game been in development then?
For at least four or five years. The thing is, I wanted it to be a game where it'd be, at least in mathematical terms, impossible to play the same game twice. Every time you start the Wheel of Time, it's gotta be different. I mean, the landscape is the same, but you're not going to be able to play the same game again - there are too many changes in conditions. There are Ter'angreal (magic foci, used as offensive and defensive weapons in the game)- there is a large library of Ter'angreal in the game. But they are not handed over to the players. A random selection is made when you start up the game, and distributed at random over the landscape. I also wanted the NPC's to be as close to player characters as possible. So you can bribe them to lie to or kill others. And they'll respond to you depending on your character and the way you've dealt with others.

So why did you specifically ask for all this?
Because I think the world changes and things are different. Things change all the time. It seemed to me that making a game where you learn all the rules and zip through and go back and do it again to see if you can do it faster is boring. I find it boring.

Given the almost rabid demeaner of your fans, how well do you think they will receive the WoT game?
I hope well. It takes place somewhere between fify and [a] hundred years before the time of the books. It doesn't involve any characters from them either, and it's not going to be exactly like the books - there's no way it can be as it's a different genre altogether.
It's shaping up to be a really good game. Hopefully, if it's well received, there will be modules that take people more into the world as it exists in the books, and possibly even modules where people play characters in the books, or interact with characters from the books - which I'm hoping is something the fans would love.
The game also uses the Unreal engine, and one of my favourite quotes is "It uses the Unreal engine better than Unreal does". The design team have done so well with it that they've been hired to design the sequel to Unreal - Unreal 2. Another quote I liked was "Every year we're promised something new, something different, something fresh. At last somebody has delivered".

You come across as someone who knows games!
I play games! But the games I play are Chess, and Go, and very firmly reality-based military-strategy and tactic games like Civilisation, Sim City, Sim World and so on. I really enjoy those. I don't play them very often though, and recently just cleared 12 GB of games from my hard drive.

That's a lot of space for games!
Yeah, yeah. Well, there are shelves of games up at home. I buy the darn things, I just find very little time to play them.

To change the topic a bit, do you feel threatened, as a novelist, by games becoming more appealing as elaborate story-telling devices?
Year after year, they tell me about the death of books. Yet I see more books sold. You can't take a computer into the bath and let it dry out if you happen to drop it by accident. You can't take a computer to the beach without worrying about sand getting into it. With a book, you can treat it as rough as you want to, and if it ends up destroyed, you can buy another one at a relatively low cost. Books also don't have maintenance costs nor need to have their batteries replaced on regular occasions. You can just put one in your coat pocket and walk. I think that says it all, really.

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