Interview with an Arch-Lich
Alternate Reality Interview Series #1
The door to my cell opened, flooding it with a harsh, burning light. I covered my face with my arms and made pathetic mewling noises while trying desperatly to move back into the darkness.
"Come on, Notsgnal. Your interview with Dage has to go up tomorrow."
It was Alina. I had, of course, forgotten all about the interview I was supposed to conduct. Time in the cage flows like a swirling miasma of despair. I could've been told to interview Dage yesterday or 3 weeks ago. For all I know, the enitre assignment could simply be some fever dream of malnourishment and anguish.
I blink rapidly, eyes adjusting to the light. I don my flax potato sack, the only garment allowed to me. Alina brings her inquisitors in, who shackle my hands and feet. They shepherd me with thier cattle prods from the cell I call home into the blinding paradise of the underground lab. Alina is saying something, but its impossible to hear her over the roar of the tropical waterfall that disguises the lab's entrance. I ask for clarification, but this earns me a swift jolt from the cattle prod weilding inquisitors. I'm not allowed to speak until told to. My stomach grumbles as we pass by the Fountain of Infinite Chocolate Fondue. It has been a month since they last fed me. I've had to subsist off of the rats that were clumsy enough to bumble too close to my filthy, grasping fingers. We finally pass through the wormhole that leads to Dage's eldritch office. Everything goes black. When my vision returns, I am seated at a long table. Opposite of my is Dage himself. At the head of the table, Yorumi is idly arguing politics with her sword.
"You ready to do this?" Dage asks
I see a tape recorder in front of me. I push the record button, and pray that I can remember all of the qustions I have to ask. The punishment for failure is too dire to think about.
How did you come up with your NPC?
Well when I was a kid, I was really inspired by Hades from the Hercules movie. You know, the guy with the flaming blue hair? It started with that, and obviously there’s The Lich King from Warcraft. I got really into that game as a kid. The image of Arthas really had a big impact. But I didn’t want to just clone the Lich King, so I ended up touching base with the Hades route.
Where does the name Dage the Evil come from?
It was actually created in a name generator from Final Fantasy 11. It’s actually been with me for quite some time, I’m not sure how many years now.
So it’s your online handle?
Well it started as a handle, and then it became more…(He pauses for a moment). You know, we all kind of have a second personality inside of ourselves. Dage became what I named that personality.
Where do you get your inspiration from in terms of Drawing?
It’s something that I’ve been pre-programmed to do. I just have these urges, you know, where I just consistently have to draw. I can only get my head to shut up after the ideas are out onto the paper.
How did you find AE?
I’m not exactly 100% sure, but I think it started with massive amounts of searching the internet out of sheer boredom. I finally came across the Adventure Quest site. When I first started, I only played for about 30 or 40 minutes, and I came back maybe a year later and actually started playing. It reminded me of a 2-D Final Fantasy. At the time, there was nothing else like it.
Can I be a mod?
What did you do before joining AE?
(Sighs) I wasn’t really doing much. I worked at Abercrombie and Fitch, which was a pretty dead-end job. [Working there], I found out that I had no patience for anything except doing art. When it came to working and stuff I was like “Man, I’m gonna be screwed”. I just can’t keep my mind on anything. I ended up getting fired from that job, obviously, for not working (Chuckles). I was going to go into the army, because, you know, college wasn’t working out, and you gotta make money. I figured the army was the only alternative. But then I found out I was color deficient while I was in the army, so it blacklisted a bunch of jobs. I couldn’t even be basic infantry. At the same time, though, I had an offer from Artix, because I had been doing volunteer work for AQW for quite some time out of my home in Houston. So they flew me down here to see if I would like this better than going into the army. Me and my dad had a talk: If AE didn’t work out after a year I’d go back to doing the whole army thing. Clearly, I stayed. It was the best thing that ever happened to me.
What do you like most about working here?
The environment is just perfect for being creative. It’s so open. I don’t really feel pressured. I don’t have horrible bosses breathing down my neck to get stuff done. I feel the freedom to be creative. They unleash me into the art world.
When you were growing up, did you have any idea of what you wanted to be?
From a very young age, I knew I was going to be doing some sort of art. Originally I wanted to be an architect, because I had a real big thing with legos as well. I thought maybe it would translate into architecture, but when I started playing Diablo II at age 12, those images just got cemented into my mind. All the armor, and the equipment, and all the stuff that you could find: I had to draw those things. I had to draw all the variations of different armors. I guess you could say that there was where my love for drawing equipment came from.
What inspired you to pick up Flash?
I was actually never inspired to pick it up. I used to imitate the AQW style through photoshop using the line tool, and I thought I was using Flash. Turns out I was just mocking it. They had offered to take me on to the dev team and use Flah, but I had no idea how. I picked up flash on the job. J6 showed me the ropes for about 2 weeks and from there, I took it upon myself to keep going with it.
Do you hang out after work with other AE team members?
You know, I’m actually quite an anti-social person. Art has made me into a hermit, so sadly, no. I would like to, but there’s certain nervousness, like, I have to get back to art and there’s no time to hang out with other people and…I don’t know. Its like I’m on a ball and chain with art.
What your average daily schedule?
I do about 8 hours of Flash a day, 5 days a week. Most weeks, I’ll draw every day after work. I’ve been in kind of a rut, but I usually try to get 3 to 5 hours of sketching or digital paint in. So its about 13 hours a day of art.
Yeah, it doesn’t stop. Except for the weekend, I try not to draw on the weekends. I have the urge to, but I know I shouldn’t. It’s kind of an addiction, really.
If you could master a different skill besides art, what would it be?
Yeah, I’ve actually taken up an interest in dueling and stuff. I actually have a fitness gym based around dueling and swords, but without the whole renaissance feel to it. Its more like an MMA kind of thing.
MMA sword-fighting. That’s hardcore.
Yeah, that’s the only bad thing about art. I have some physical things that I want to get into, but it keeps you firmly planted in your seat.
Do you ever meet any offsite AE team members?
Well, if they come by the office for a tour, then yeah. There’s some of the fans that I’ll go and hang out with if they're nearby. Like Laiken. Every now and then I’ll meet up with him.
Do you learn things from players like they do from you?
Of course. I get a ton of feedback from them that I try to work into my stuff. I can’t just be creating what I want to see. If I do that, than it only appeals to me and that small niche of people who happen to like my style. I try to cater to everyone. And that kinda hard to do, because you have to cater to everyone with, like, 2 sets a week. But yeah, I do try to take in their info.
What do you want to do in AQW with Dage next?
I’d really like to do more with his story. I’m not the best background artist, so a lot of the assets I want to create and show the players, I don’t get to put out there. My brain is just spent from trying to create all these different sets and other stuff, it’s like there’s nothing left, you know?
What is your favorite AE release? What about your favorite release from AQW?
The Carnax Saga used to be a huge motivation for me for a very long time. That’s easily my favorite. From AQW, probably the Desoloth saga, cause thats one of the releases I actually had a lot to do with, in terms of planning and creating assets. Plus the dragons were awesome. They weren’t just normal, common dragons that you see all the time. They were embodiments of a certain element. And Desoloth, when it all came together…(he smiles). And that was at a point when I figured out some new artistic techniques that were really making things go by faster. I think I pumped out like 6 armors, Desoloth, and all the other dragons in, like, 2 weeks.
If you weren’t working at AE, what would you be doing? I know that we already kinda covered that-
Yeah, but at the same time, I would still be doing art. That’s my main drive. I don’t want to say where else I would work, but there are other places out there as well. But they’re not in my focus. I’d like to stay with AE as much as possible.
Do you have any ideas that aren’t implemented in the game?
Oh, plenty. But that’s the nature of the beast. Some things make it in, some things don’t.
What is your favorite food?
Uh, I would have to say sushi. I try to get the weirdest stuff possible, you know. Stuff that no one wants to eat.
Can you give me an example?
Sea slugs and stuff like that. There’s some strange attraction to eating the weirdest stuff possible. I also love that Andrew Zimmerman show, where he goes around eating all that weird food from around the world.
Which one is that? Is it Man Versus Food?
Well there’s Man Versus Food and uhh…Do you know it Yorumi?
(From across the room) Know what?
The Andrew Zimmerman show where he eats all that strange food from around the world.
I have no idea. I know it from The Soup, but I don’t know the name of it.
What have you done around the office that you would consider unusual?
Some days I walk around in armor, or with a sword. Any weapon I can get my hands on around here I usually carry around. I’m actually going to have a duel in about five minutes.
A duel? With who?
Zazul. He’s pretty crazy at dueling.
Well, that’s all the questions that I and the players have for you. Thanks for obliging me.
Yeah, I’m pretty curious to see how their gonna react to this.
(We end the interview by engaging in a celebratory fist bump.)
My vision once again goes black. I come to in my cell, woken by the insistent shocks from the inquisitors. Alina nods in approval at my winces of pain.
"The interview was well done. So well done, in fact, that I'm considering doing more of them in the coming weeks."
Its a trap. If I respond, the inquisitors will shock me for speaking without permission. If I don't, I'll be forced to continue with the interviews. I keep my mouth shut. At least I have a chance to succeed without punishment if I take Alina's way out. After they leave, I take a smuggled Artix action figure out of my potato sack. I managed to grab a defective one out of the Merchandise warehouse trash bin without the guards noticing. I rub it on the rough stone floor vigourously to sharpen the plastic into a cruel point. This will make a fine rat shank. I will not go hungry tonight.