Today was my last day in the offices of Artix Entertainment.
This is the Lab lobby. Labby.
I write a lot of stuff about how they keep me in a cage and I subsist off of rats. Well, brace yourselves: none of that is true. I’m going to let that sink in for a moment. In fact, today they took the entire AQW team out to lunch (delicious, delicious sushi). I was thanked for my service. I was bought lunch.
Then Alina handed me this... bracing tonic.
Then Cysero said that I should write a farewell design note saying how much working here is crazy and NOT what people think in order to curb the droves of players begging to work here. So yeah, here that is.
Reality Check In-Coming
Nothing ever goes the way you intend. Never ever. Never ever ever. I can’t stress that enough. In 3 months with a release every week, I can’t think of a single instance in which everything went according to plan*... but that's why they train us like ninjas. There isn't an obstacle so big that we can't find a way around it... somehow.
* This is how making videogames is like real life. The pictures below show how it is not.
This was not part of the plan.
You have no clue how hectic things can get around here. It would blow your unprepared mind right out of the back of your head. Every other week, there’s a crisis that seems like it’s going to send all the programmers running out the door screaming... or hurling laptops through the windows. EVERY OTHER WEEK. It’s like they take shifts or something.
Only Thyton didn't run away screaming from BrutalCorn.
And in spite of all of this, there are still metric tons of players who loudly pine for a job here and I know why. I know what they think they’ll get because I used to be one of them. They think that working at AE will be just like playing the game, somehow.
It's not. There are no camels here.
That all of the artwork and code and writing can just be magicked into gameplay, and that, upon playing it, the players will hurl their adoration at them with wild abandon.
We prefer hurling pies with wild abandon
And yes, I’m sure some of you are thinking right now “I’m not one of the people Notsgnal is talking about. I know that making a game takes effort.” YOU DON’T KNOW JACK.
Jack and his friends are pretty cool guys.
You have absolutely no concept of how hard each and every person works to bring you this game. None. The only reason that AQW is able to be goofy and fun is because everyone here has years of experience, so when they work themselves to the point of manic dementia... they only get half-Chaorrupted.
At any given point in time, half the team is busy drawing or typing whatever their insane brain dreams up while their subconscious tries desperately to revive what is left of their broken minds.
P.S: Working at Artix Entertainment has been perhaps the most amazing experience of my life. I'm making a game. Everyday I step into the office is a day that can say to myself "I'm going to make something important."
I made a release with Druids. Druids are important.
Words cannot describe how immensely satisfying that is. I am eternally grateful to the wonderful, beautiful people that pour their hearts and souls into this game. I am honored to have worked with them, even if our time together was heartbreakingly short.
I am not ready to leave.
For a brief moment, I was part of a whole. Today is the last day I can say this. (There is no WAY we are letting you go that easily. School may get you for NOW, but... - Alina)
We are Artix Entertainment. And we make games. I love all of these crazy folks that I had the privilege of getting to know.
I also got a balloon bear shark. WHAT IS THIS PLACE?!
Hey guys. I’m gonna preface this by saying that what you’re about to read will not sound like any of my usual DNs. That’s because everything I’m about to tell you is absolutely true.
How BrutalCorn Came To Be
So it’s Friday morning at around 10:30. I’m just getting out of the elevator, thinking about what kind of work I’ll have to do. I go up to the front desk, and engage Syra in small talk before I go to AQW’s base of operations. As I’m doing this I hear the door to the stairway down the hall crash open, as if someone had kicked through it. A few people get up to check it out.
The only reason I know that they got up to look is because I could hear their confused yelling from reception. I’m a little cautious, but also incredibly curious. I could not have been prepared for the abomination that was waiting for me just around the corner.
When I had first entered Artix Entertainment as an intern, I was informed to be ready for anything. I said I would do my best. No, insisted Cysero and Alina, be ready for anything. To be sure, there have been a few exciting moments in the office. The entirety of the Grimskull release, for example. Or that one time I found a dead mouse in the pantry and didn’t tell anyone about it because I didn’t feel like dealing with it (Sorry guys!).
But this…this was on different scale. A whole other plane of existence. It was the first thing that I’ve seen since I started working here that legitimately unsettled me, mostly because Dage, who was wearing the get-up, would not stop laughing.
It wasn’t like actual laughter though. It was more like a low, continuous, chuffing sound, like: Huh huhhuh huh huh. He wouldn’t stop. I bailed shortly after I snapped a picture. It was simply too weird.
But that’s not where the story ends. No, I would later look to the QA chat and be horrified at the monstrosity Bladebrawl was creating. Here is the evolution of evil.
NOT YOU TOO, MEMET!
STOP THIS MADNESS
The Madness Didn't Stop!
But despite how supremely strange this seems, I urge you, the player, to look a little bit closer. This entire incident is game development in a nutshell. It’s a tapestry of madness and genius. It a fascinating blend of the beautiful and the odd. And it takes a lot of effort to channel these raw concepts into a usable form.
From the artist who made this creepy helm, to the programmer who codes gameplay, to the writer who gives it a story, to the unhinged mind that came up with the deranged idea in the first place. This is how games are made. But the most important part of the equation are the people who take the finished product and poke it, or prod it, or toy with it.
The people who journey deeply within this strange creation in search of their own individual desire. You might be search for meaning, or a good story, or a few laughs, or a quick jaunt to another world, but you’re searching all the same.
A game is nothing without these people, and these people are you, the players. And you are an enourmous part of what makes game development beautiful.
Game on, friends. Game on.*
* Begin the most brutal(corn) game by looking at the Game Menu for the BrutalCorn shop!
The rat shank has been good to me. It is my only companion in my torment. I have named him Shanky. Nobody else understands me like he does. Before I made him, the rats were getting bolder, trying to reclaim the cell. They were unprepared for Shanky and I’s devastating counter attack. But now they’re getting organized. The other night, they just watched me. They didn’t gnaw at my flesh for sustenance, or try to bear their young inside of my potato sack. They just watched, eyes twinkling from the faint light coming from underneath the cell door, studying my behaviors and habits.
Unfortunately, they appear to be as intelligent as they are delicious. I clutch Shanky close and whisper that I won’t let them take him. After I manage to shut out the sounds of my own quiet weeping, I go to sleep hungry, not wanting to antagonize the rats further.I open my eyes, and quickly decide that I am not actually awake. For one thing, the door to the cell is open and the guards are gone, something that Alina would never be clumsy enough to allow. Secondly, I am consumed with a nameless dread, much more powerful than the usual nameless dread I am consumed with. Something is outside, waiting for me. I don’t want to leave the cage.
Suddenly I feel a sharp pain shoot of my back. I turn around. Rats. Hundreds of them, as big as hounds. The cage expands to contain the sheer volume of the enormous rodents.
I bring Shanky to bear, but I know as soon as they horde advances that if I stay my ground, I will die. I rush out of the cell, despite the months of torturous training towards the contrary. I slam the door behind me. Peculiar thing about rats: they don’t squeak like mice. They shriek. Loudly. The room fills with the unearthly wail of the titanic vermin, all of them lusting to avenge their eaten brethren. They’ll never succeed in breaching that door. I should know; I’ve hurled myself against it enough to know that it’s practically invulnerable.
I survey my surroundings. The white, sterile fluorescent lights outside of the Intern Pens are shut off, leaving the facility dark. I leave as quickly as possible, unable to bear the sounds of the rats. I arrive in the main foyer of the lab. It is eerily silent. There is not even any noise from the waterfall outside.
"You look confused."
I whirl around at the noise. I see a pair of purple eyes staring at me. It’s Memet. That explains the dream. But more importantly, she looks absolutely delicious. I think of all the rats that I’ve been forced to devour. Tasty as they may have been, one would tire of any food if it’s all you’ve eaten for 8 straight weeks. I’ve never even seen a moglin before, but I bet they taste divine.
I surreptitiously slip Shanky behind my back. I can’t simply lunge forward. I’ve been imprisoned here long enough to know that things aren’t always as they seem. I decide to lure her into a false sense of security. I remember my interview with Dage the Evil. This shouldn’t be too difficult. I let fly with my questions. With any luck, Shanky and I shall dine upon fresh moglin.
How would you describe what it is you do at AE?
Well, I’m sort of in a transitional period. I guess that’s why this is a hard question to answer. I used to focus completely on art. I was making weapons, armor, and pets. I learned some animation. In the last couple weeks I’ve been learning a bunch of stuff about the more behind-the-scenes aspects of the game. I’ve been learning how to create quests- actually I’m doing that today. I add items to the databases, I’ve been making ads…I’m going to be writing design notes. I did write some DNs but I think I posted them under Alina’s name.
Oh! I also worked on updating the skeleton monster art today.
So you’re really all over the place, huh?
I’ve been all over the place recently, yeah. It’s kinda cool because it’s actually making me feel more connected with the games and what we’re doing than just focusing on the art did.
What do you do that you wouldn’t consider to be a part of your job description?
I don’t believe there is such a thing. I figure that right now my job description is “help Alina get the game out.” So yeah, anything that does that. Anything that helps the company as a whole runsmoother. [Clean up after Notsgnal when he makes a mess with the rats. - Ed.]
How did you come up with the concept for your NPC?
I figured everyone has a human- or humanoid- NPC, so you know, I didn't want to do that. I guess I like the idea of something that seems innocent and innocuous, but definitely isn’t. I’ve always enjoyed the concept of shape-shifters, and stuff to do with magic and dreams.
When you draw, where do you find your inspiration?
That’s one of those questions that’s really hard to answer. Literally, all over the place. Of course I look at other games for inspiration, but also movies, real life, my dreams. Sometimes stuff just pops into my head and I have no idea where it came from. The aether, I guess. But yeah, I try not to limit myself. I think that if you’re only drawing inspiration from one source, you kind of…you end up covering yourself, if that makes sense. You’re just doing the same thing over and over again, doing the same thing everyone else is doing. I try to avoid that.
How did you make your way to AE?
I have known Zazul and Nythera since college. Actually, I had a radio show at USF with Zazul. We played gothic and industrial music. At the time Zazul was the station head, and I was the DJ in charge of the gothic, industrial stuff. I think Nythera was there too for a while. When I was looking for a job, Nythera told me that there was an opening in the player support department. I applied and they hired me. Then Alina found out I could draw, so I got moved into the art department for AQWorlds. Then Alina needed an assistant, so here I am.
What did you do before coming to AE?
Oh, geez. Um, I’ve had a lot of weird jobs.
Oh, you need to explain all of them right now.
(laughs) Okay, well, in college I worked at a winery and custom bottling place. I literally just made wine. That was pretty cool. I left the winery to work for the art department for a semester, taking care of the ceramics area, mixing glazes. I helped build a soda kiln. After that I had a job at a record store for a while. That was probably pretty normal, I guess. Directly before working here, I worked as a photo editor for a local place that does school photos. Essentially, I would edit the snot off of the kids’ faces. I’m not even kidding. That was 90% of the stuff I would have to do. Like "Oh no, he was just eating oreos," or "Oh crap, his nose was running."
When you were growing up, did you ever think that you would be in the game industry doing art?
I wanted to, but I didn’t really know how to go about it. I was really interested in doing comics and games, and I definitely knew I wanted to do art in some way. I played a lot of games growing up.
Like the Final Fantasy franchise, Legend of Zelda, stuff like that. When I was really little, I played Pitfall for the Atari.
What inspired you to pick up and learn Flash?
Actually, I was focusing on more organic programs, like Photoshop and Painter. I ended up learning Flash for AE. I had a passing familiarity with vector programs, but I never really had a reason to focus on them. When Alina said that she wanted to see how I was with the AQWorlds style, I had to learn Flash. I picked it up pretty fast.
Outside of the Lab, do you socialize with other AE team members?
Well, Neveya is my next door neighbor, and Zazul lives in our apartment complex, so I hang out with them a lot. I hang out Nythera a lot. I’ve been known to hang out with Jemini and Samba. I actually love everyone I work with. There’s no one that I wouldn’t want to socialize with. This is probably the first job that I’ve had where I felt like that.
What does your daily schedule look like?
I wake up, I come to the office, I figure out what needs to be done, and then I triage it so I can do it in the best order possible. But sometimes things stop being things I need to work on. It's kind of like "Oh crap, we need to do this now." I don’t know if it’s really scheduled. Then I go home and if I have time to draw, I do. Home life feels a lot like work, actually. There’s always something different that needs to get done, some errand that needs to be run. So when I can find time to be creative, I definitely am, and when I can find time to play games, I do, but mostly I have to clean the house and other boring stuff like that.
If you could master a different skill besides art, what would it be?
Oh, besides art? Hmmm. Well, I’m assuming that most creative things would fall into that category.
Well, let’s say besides drawing.
I definitely want to learn 3-D art. I’ve dabbled in it before, and I kind of know what I’m doing, but not really. But that’s kind of cheating. That’s a cheat answer. I want to get better at writing, but that’s art too. Hmm…I’d like to build robots. You know, I want to get better at 3-D stuff in general. Like, I really want to make action figures.
What do you want to see happen for the next release?
Like, next week?
Um, what can I even say…I want the game to not break. No bugs in the release.
Something realistic though.
I would like to see Zazul take over and turn the entire town of battleon into a big, evil carnival.
Of all the releases that you’ve seen so far,which one is your favorite?
I was really into the Darkblood stuff. I don’t think that’s a secret. I did a lot of artwork for the armors and stuff because I thought they were friggin’ awesome. That’s fresh in my head because it was something I was really involved in.
What’s the most hectic, crazy, catastrophically-apocalyptic release you’ve ever been a part of?
Oooh, well there was that one release where Ghost lost internet access. He had done all of the animation and suddenly he couldn’t send it to us because he didn’t have internet. Samba and Cysero had to derp animate the entire thing. That wasn’t really my problem, as I didn’t know how to animate at the time, but being in to the Lab for it, it was obviously pretty crazy.
If you weren’t working at AE, where would you be working?
Am I dreaming, or am I being realistic?
Let’s do both. Start with your dream job.
I wouldn’t mind working in movies. Behind the scenes, maybe. I had this one class at USF. It was technically a sculpture class, but we were learning how to build stage sets and dioramas and stuff, and I would love to do stuff like that. I would love to be someone like Guillermo Del Toro, either as a director, or a screenwriter, or working on the special effects and make up.
Realistically, I have no idea what I would be doing. I don’t even know what’s available for artists right now. I would probably be freelancing and I would hate it.
She’s talking but I’m no longer listening. Shanky can’t wait anymore. I’ve been moving closer and closer to her as slowly as possible. The time to strike is now.
"Oh wow, that is so interesting. I think tha- DIE YOU TASTY DREAM-BEAST!!!!!"
Perfection. Shanky and I leap onto the small creature and begin[Text removed because Oh my GOODNESS are your hallucinations dark! - Ed.] It is sometime before I realize that I am not actually [Again. Dark. - Ed.] Memet, but a plushy replica of a treasured childhood pet.
"Memet? Come on out, now. Shanky just got a little excited, that’s all. He doesn’t meet many new people."
"Come on, be reasonable. It’s not like I’m going to [DUDE. - Ed.] Perish the thought!”
A low rumbling is the only warning I get. A torrent of huge rats begins pouring with unnatural speed into the foyer. Memet is riding on top of the lead "alpha" rat.
"Onwards, my children!" She shouts.
They fall on me, all claws and teeth. I scream until it’s over.
I awaken in my cell.
I have been chained to the wall. Alina’s inquisitors are taking turns giving me their most [happy fun times - Ed.], the infamous destroyer of minds known as the "wet willy." It is beyond horrible. I wish that I was still dreaming about getting torn to shreds by giant rats. Alina watches from the doorway.
"Another interview down, Nots." She says. "Keep at it."
What? Interview? I have no clue what she’s talking about until one of the inquisitors reaches into a fold of my potato sack robe and takes out a tape recorder. He tosses it to Alina, who catches it deftly. The inquisitors undo the locks on my chain, and I frantically clean out my [wet, wet willy - Ed.] ears. When they leave, I remove Shanky from my robe, thankful that the inquisitors did not find him. I am slow going to sleep that night.
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.
I see you going about your life. I’m just outside. There isn’t a lot to do out here but watch. So that’s what I do. I watch. I’m always watching. I watch you quest and slay, I watch you gather and laugh with your friends. I watch you explore and grow. I watch you eat, and breathe, and live, and die. I watch you go to sleep, wondering what tomorrow will bring. I’m always watching. I’m just outside. It’s cold out here. Cold and so, so lonely.
Let me in.
I can feel that maybe, deep in your heart of hearts, you’re lonely too. Let’s be friends. We’ll quest and slay together, laugh together, eat, breathe and live together. Die. Forever and for always. Until the end of all things. You and I. Just let me in. Let me in. Let me in. LetmeinLetmeinpleaseplease
There’s no specific date for when the Void Incursion began. Spirits and elementals from that eldritch place had been materializing in GreenGuard for quite some time. No one can say when they became organized. It was I who first theorized the concept of a unifying intellect. I took the Elk Clan into hiding. Finding this intellect would be our way of fighting off the invasion.
The Eagle Clan dropped out of contact on the day that I tapped into the hive mind. I have lost count of the days since then. Every waking moment is a battle against the intruder in my head. When I sleep the dreams come, and sometimes, when I wake, the dreams stay. I am left walking through the nightmarish, rotting corridors of my own mind.
I have to stay secluded from the rest of my tribe. To see their Elder in such a state at such a trying time may be too much for them. Now that I have seen into the consciousness that is commanding the void forces, I know that this is a task that must be shouldered, no matter the cost to myself. There are more living, sentient beings besides the druids living on this fragile world, and I would not wish the fate that the void has in mind on any of them.
I can’t confront my tribe until I can keep the dreams under control, or at least competently pretend that I am in good health. But so often these days my mind is not my own. Sometimes I can feel this presence looking at me. It makes me feel cold. Cold and lonely. Sometimes I hear it talk, and I can’t distinguish the sound of it’s voice from my own. The only way for me to fight is to watch it back.
And so I say to this voice, this consciousness, I know you’re out there. And I’m watching you. I’m always watching. There isn’t a lot to do but watch.
Authors note: It isn’t often that I get the chance to speak personally to you all. The support and feedback that I’ve received from this community is nothing short of staggering. Words can’t describe the depths of my gratitude. So thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Tomorrow will be the advent of my first in-game release, and without your comments on the forums and on twitter, the AQ Worlds team would not have let me out of my cage for long enough to write it. Also, if it does well enough, they’ll actually feed me this week. Here’s hoping!
(P.S: To those who want to know how to pronounce my name, don’t worry about it. Just call me Nots or something.)
Man has killed man since the beginning of time. Each new frontier brings more ways to kill, and more ways to die. Every man who comes down to me thinks that his civilization, his era, is the most important event the world has ever witnessed. Every single one.
Charon, Ferryman of the Underworld, waits for you.
And where did their strides lead them? What came of all their ridiculous progress, all of their petty atrocities? The knowledge that, in the end, you can’t take it with you. Just hope that you have enough to pay me. Hope and pray that you have enough to pay the Ferryman’s due.
No Fear, No Trouble
Today a stoic passes over. He emerged from the darkness of the riverside and pays his toll. He pays in coin, as he was buried according to the old ways. I let him onto my ferry. He causes no trouble. The stoics rarely do. I’ve always hated that. The recently dead should fight for life, not meekly surrender. No, that comes later.
The Final Defeat
Today a fighter dropped by. He was scared, but also brave. He faces being dead with the same bravado that he likely faces everything else with. The ones with fires in their hearts are my favorites. He has no coin to pay. I heft my oar. I will enjoy this.
No one battles Charon and lives, because they're already dead.
No Answer To Give
Today I receive a philosopher. It is a purely human convention to ask questions that have no answers. I hate that. I’ve never understood the point of ponder quandaries that lead nowhere. He is constantly talking, talking, talking. He asks so many questions. I ask him the only question that matters. As it happens, he doesn’t have the coin to pay my due. Before I give him my oar, he asks me if there is any such thing as eternity. I answer ‘Certainly not for you’. It has been a long time since I laughed like that.
Today an artist creeps aboard the ferry. He has the coin to pay. The artist doesn’t ask questions like the philosopher does, but he seems to be always thinking. The artist looks, studies, internalizes, and all without a sound. He’s looking at me and won’t stop, something I never could abide. I consider lifting my mask, but even I am not that cruel.
Take on the Hydra AND the three-headed guardian this Friday!
Waiting for YOU
In three day’s time, you will come through. You will stop at the riverside, seeking passage. But the underworld is not for the living. No matter how much you pay, no matter how desperate you are, I will never let you through. For you, there is no eternity. For you, there is no fight for life. For you, there is only me. And my oar.
“Wet” did not do justice to the state we were in. Soaked, maybe. Drenched. I could’ve drowned a moglin in my boots. Not that I would, that’s sick. It was miserable. The only thing that gave me the slightest comfort was knowing that the other members of my party were suffering just as much as me.
When the orange firelight of the inn came into view through the rain and the fog, I felt like cheering. All four of us trudged into the stables to change, because no self-respecting innkeeper would let us within spitting distance of the hearth, sodden and filthy as we were.
We took off our armor, donned our plainclothes, and sprinted through the doors to avoid the rain as much as possible. Deidrick paid for our stay and the rest of us ordered food. We sat down gratefully in front of the hearth. I looked around. The place was pretty much empty, except for us and a hooded man, face barely visible, dressed almost exclusively in rags sitting in the corner, far away from the fire. As we acclimated to our surroundings, the rest of the party took notice of him. I turned to Hawthorne.
“What’s up with him?” I said. “He looks awful.”
“I don’t know, dude. I passed by him on the way to check out our rooms. He smells bad. Like, really, really bad.”
“Like cheese and feet bad?”
“No, man. Worse.”
We whispered amongst ourselves. Trist was worried about him. She wanted to ask if he was okay, we could tell. But before she could say anything, Deidrick spoke up, with his loud, booming voice.
“I want a story.”
He looked us over. We didn’t say anything. It can be dangerous to upset Deidrick. He turned his gaze on the man in the corner.
“You! Over here. Now. Tell us a story.”
Trist looked angry, but Hawthorne put a hand on her shoulder, and shook his head. Just because we’re mercenaries doesn’t mean we don’t have common courtesy. But Deidrick gets us the jobs, and Deidrick pays for our meals, so Deidrick gets what he wants. The man in the corner got up unsteadily and shambled his way towards us. When he spoke, his words came out in a choking rasp.
“Aye, I got a story fer ya, yes I do. Settle yerself, big man, and listen in close now.”
I barely managed to stifle a cough as he came closer. Hawthorne was right. The man smelled truly putrid. He leaned in close to me, and it was all I could do to stop myself from gagging.
“You,” said the man. “He used to look just like you. And if that fool boy o’ mine had never ventured near that crypt, he’d be about your age now, I’d say.”
We never had much, see? Barely had enough for the farm and the clothes on our backs. There ain’t much for a poor farmer’s boy out there in the world. Surely you know that. That’s why ya became mercenaries, I’m bettin’. That’s what my son tried to do, anyhow. Any company he tried to join rejected him, of course. What sorta mercenary company would take a boy who can’t even afford a proper sword? So he came back. Had a fire in his belly, he did. Said he had to prove himself. Next morning, I found his bed empty. He was gone, headed to the one place that was sure to get him killed. I put the saddle on my mule, and rode him near to death tryin’ to catch up to the boy. After a day’s worth of riding, I found him. There he was, at the entrance. Frankly speakin’, it was a miracle he even got there in one piece. Everyone who’s got an ounce a’ sense in their heads knows that no one who enters Grimskull’s Crypt leaves alive.
I told him this. I shouted at him, begged him, pleaded with him, told him that this wasn’t what his mother would’ve wanted. He turned around at the door, nothin’ but the rags on his back and a pitchfork that he was usin’ like a polearm. He was scared. He started to walk back towards me, started to call out to me. And that’s when the door opened. That’s when the laughter began. It came outta the darkness and took my boy. I went in after it for hours, days maybe, but I couldn’t find my son, or the strange beast that stole him away.
We were all silent when the man finished. There was nothing but the sound of the fire, and even that seemed like a hollow, insufficient thing. A little bit of life seemed to be taken out of Deidrick.
“There’s yer story, big man.” Said the man. “Happy now?”
Deidrick shook his head, slowly. The man walked away from us, and I alone watched him go. There are still nights when I wish that I had just stared into the fire like my companions. He turned back to look at me, and the firelight showed me his face underneath his hood.
It was drawn over his bones as though it was removed, dried, and put back on again. As he turned more towards the light, I could see that he had just one eye. There was only a concave, fleshy area where the other one should’ve been. I could see maggots writhing in the empty socket, tunneling deeper into his flesh to escape the light of the hearth. He smiled at me with rotted teeth, and I looked away in horror. The man’s story was racing through my mind.
Everyone who’s got an ounce a’ sense in their heads knows that no one who enters Grimskull’s Crypt leaves alive.
Wild tales and rumors abound of the fabled and dangerous Isle of Fotia. However, whether they are stories to tell your fellow adventurers around the camp fire, or stories to tell your children (or grandchildren), no one has laid a foot on the island in many, uncounted ages. But that’s about to change.
Oh yeah, get excited. Unless you’re a native Fotian. In which case, you should probably be terrified. Why, you might ask, skeptical Fotian? Well, there’s a gigantic supervolcano in the center of your island that is on the cusp of an eruption, which will hasten all life on Fotia to a very unpleasant conclusion. Duh. That was a stupid question. Shame on you.
Of course, if you are a Fotian, chances are that you belong to the Femme Fatalities, and thus are too proud to be afraid. After all, you have the Frozen Flame on your side, an ancient artifact which contains the soul of your greatest queen. But you already know that, of course. I just said it for the benefit of everyone else reading, who I should probably get back to.
The Frozen Flame
Sorry about that guys. Amina, the leader of the Femme Fatalities, though proud and solitary, needs all the help she can get. The Frozen Flame is a fickle deity, and demands that homage be paid to it by people the world over. Only then, with the power of Lore’s supplications behind it, can the Frozen Flame curtail this whole extinction level eruption business. Just a word of advice though: you probably shouldn’t mention Dage while you’re on Fotia.
See, a long time ago, a great and powerful queen was madly in love with a - ah, nah. That's a pretty big spoiler. I'm going to save that for the end. Just know that Dage is involved somehow. Yeah, you heard me. Fracking Dage. So yeah, all that happened. But it’s fine, I’m sure that the Frozen Flame and her followers have gotten over it....
That’s a lie. They’re definitely not over it.
NEW ITEMS WOOOOO!
UPDATE: We made the Legion Soulseeker Quest pet have much better rewards than we originally anticipated when we gave the original price, as such the price has been raised in proportions with the rewards.
Look for another Legion quest pet AND 2 full Legion ONLY sets to be released in the last week of June (MUST be in the Legion to buy them. There will be NO AC shortcut for non-Legion folks).
New items comin’ at you all with the force of an erupting supervolcano! That’s actually terrible. Everyone on that island could die. We shouldn’t joke about that, guys. Anyway, these items are hot hot hot! Among other things, there’s been an update to Dage’s item shop. Grab yourself some of Dage’s finest!
•SoulSeeker Battle Pet •Legion SoulSeeker Pet (must be a Member of the Undead Legion)* •Two-headed SoulSeeker Pike staff •SoulSeeker Spear staff
* We said 500 ACs on the other Design Notes, but then we made the rewards SUPER GOOD. (Better than a supervolcano... like 20 Legion Token drop good!)
Also, if you do a good job, maybe the Femme Fatalities might honor you with gifts forged from the heart of the volcano. See if you can get yourself a Firelit Reaver, or maybe a Magma Protector. Also, IMPORTANT: Daimyo’s birthday shop will become unavailable tomorrow, and Captain Rhubarb’s 10th anniversary shop moves to /pirates on Monday. Get the rare items while you still can, and know that some of your favorite pirates' gear will be here forever!
Alina note: the Chaos War map has been temporarily removed while we investigate the increased lag and unexpected log-outs. The map will return once we know more.
I'm on vacation next week! Reens is going to run the crew this week while Cysero helps out with Project Omni. I will be hiking in the mountains to take amazing background reference pictures for J6, then flying across the country to break open various shellfish with big hitting implements.
All right, all right, settle down now and take a knee. Grandad’s gonna tell you young’uns a story, so sit down and shut up. Especially you, Alfred. I’ve got my eye on you. Now this story isn’t gonna be like the other ones that I tell. That’s ‘cause this one is true. Or as close to truth as you can get from rumors and hearsay and what not.
You might not think it to look at me now, but I used to be young too. I grew up in Lolosia. My father was a sailor, as was his father, and his father’s father. Sailin’ is in your blood.
Anyhow, living in a port town, you hear plenty of rumors and other bric-a-brac from all around Lore. We got all sorts of tales. Sea creatures from the black depths of the oceans, big as islands, or lands across the sea with grown men and women no taller than your pinkie finger.
These stories are told with loud, boisterous voices in the seaside taverns and inns. These stories are told when a man, or woman for that matter, wants to bring up the mood in the inn. That’s how you know that they’re lies. The true tales are told when the wind is high, and the thunderstorms roll into the coast.
On those black nights, when sailors huddle together with their shipmates around the inn’s fireplace, they speak in hushed tones of the dangers and mysteries at sea. They speak of the Isle of Fotia.
No, Albert, you can’t ask questions, Grandad’s talkin’. Now, where was I? Ah yes. Fotia.
Not a lot of people talk about Fotia. There’s a good reason for that. No one who has sailed close to the Island has ever returned. The Isle is populated only by women, to hear the sailors tell it. Unlike island-sized sea monsters or pygmies, no one could deny the many disappearances of ships around that area for no apparent reason.
But that’s not the strangest thing. Only ships without a woman on board disappear in the waters around Fotia. Actually I –
Alfred, so help me... if you interrupt me one more time... No! No! I don’t care if you have to go to the bathroom, I’m telling a story. You know what? Fine. You’re adopted. There, bet that makes goin’ to the bathroom a whole lot less important, huh?
Ahem. As I was saying before I was cut off, I actually have a little somethin’ that isn’t rumor. One morning, my father didn’t return from his usual merchant run. My mom and I waited for days, but there was no word of him, until, six days later, my father’s ship drifted onto the shore. It was a miracle the thing was still floating. The hull was riddled with holes. The sails were torn to shreds. It looked like it was attacked by a dragon.
No one was on board except my father’s first mate, who we found hiding in the cargo hold, gibbering like a lunatic. His responses to our questions were more or less unintelligible gobbledy-gook, until we asked who had done this. It was his only lucid answer. He whispered it at first, his voice rising with each repetition of the name until he was screaming it without pause or restraint. Femme Fatalities. Femme Fatalities. Femme Fatalities.
Alright, that’s Grandpa’s story. You kids should go toddle off to bed now. And would someone get Alfred to stop crying? He’s givin’ me a headache.
Hi! I'm Notsgnal, AQWorlds' newest writing intern and freelance henchman. I'll be helping out this Summer, and there's a good chance you'll see more story Design Notes from me!
We're on track for release tomorrow... unless the tornado blows the Lab off-course! But if it doesn't, you'll get the first release in the four-part Dage Scorned Saga! Reward previews and more news (like the gear for Dage's Artist Showcase shop) are coming in tomorrows Design Notes from Beleen!