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Interview: Devin Grayson talks about writing Kung Foo!

Devin Grayson may be a name familiar to some of you who read comics regularly. Grayson was extremely busy in the first half of the decade writing tons of comics, mostly for DC Comics. Much of her work centered on the Batman family of comics including a five year run on Nightwing.

Since 2006, Grayson has been absent from the comic book industry but that's changing with the announcement that she will participate in Marvel Comic's Girl Comics anthology that's due out in early 2010. More importantly, Grayson has entered the game industry for the first time helping to write and localize Kung Foo!. It's a satirical look at MMO games that's being brought to the states by Perfect World International.

Big Download got a chance to ask Grayson some questions about her work on Kung Foo, her love of MMO game titles and more.

First, we have heard you are a big MMO gamer. What first attracted you to play massively multiplayer game?

The thing that first attracted me to MMOs was the idea that you could be absolutely anyone inside them; present yourself with a customized avatar that would influence the way other players interacted with you. I love being able to jump into different worlds with a few close friends and exploring different aspects of our heroic selves. I feel like I know so much more about my friends by knowing their RP characters and MMO avatars. There's something fundamental about play that allows us to express parts of our nature that might otherwise go uncharted. For example, I've been sitting here writing for over three hours and I haven't had the opportunity to kill a zombie even once.

What current MMO games do you currently play and why?

Right now a bunch of my friends and I are playing Fallen Earth. We tend to be serial MMO players, jumping around from MMO to MMO every couple of years. We've played everything from Anarchy Online, to World of Warcraft, including Star Wars Galaxies, EQ and EQ2, AoC, AO, City of Heroes and Champions Online. And Kingdom of Loathing, of course.

How did you hook up with Perfect World Entertainment to help script Kung Foo?

Perfect World Entertainment asked me if I would be interested in doing what I like to call "mega-localization" for one of their MMOs that was based on a popular TV show in China to help give it a more Western tone and humor. I jumped at the chance to work on an MMO and have found the world of Kung Foo! very charming and involving, as I'm sure a lot of other MMO players will as well.

What can you tell us about the game in general?

Kung Foo! is a humorous spoof on the classic hero's journey that gives players familiar, central quest that they can follow to develop their heroic character, such as searching for a missing princess, killing tons of mobs, and complete various tasks for various NPCs. There are also tons of side quests that allow players a lot of say in what they choose to do in game. The game is self-referential and predictable and unpredictable is some very startling ways. The QA team and I have given the dialog a lot of thought and the jokes you can expect to see address and acknowledge players experiences in gaming.

Kung Foo! sends up some of the stereotypes of MMOs. How hard is it to script a game like that and still be entertaining?

The game as it was first presented to us was already very entertaining and very unapologetic about what it was. It's filled with unexpected oddities. Adding in the "send up" humor was as easy as remembering the jokes my buddies were making over Teamspeak last night.

Overall what's your experience been like working on the game compared to your previous comic book work?

It has been a great experience. There have been some very big differences and also very big similarities between working on an MMORPG and writing comic books. On the similar side, there are tight deadlines, serious length constraints and lots of group effort. The main difference is that unlike a comic book character who is well defined over years and years of published history, like Batman, the protagonist of an MMORPG is the player, who at the time of scripting is an essentially unknown quantity.

Do you plan to explore script writing for other games in the future?

I would definitely be interested in it. This has been a great experience for getting my feet wet and someday it might be fun to write an MMORPG from the ground up.

Finally is there anything else you want to say about your work on Kung Foo! and your other future projects?

Players can look forward to a fun story to help them navigate through the world of Kung Foo! whether they're jaded MMORPGers or total newbies. We hope they enjoy actually reading what the NPCs have to say and make the hip, funny, cool, expansive new world that is Kung Foo! they're own. We're very excited to welcome the brave pioneers who first step in and to see what they do when we turn them loose in the game.

As for future projects, Marvel's "Girl Comics" anthology was announced earlier this month, and beyond that...well foo knows? ;-P


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