As we mentioned yesterday, at San Diego Comic Con we had the opportunity to sit down one on one with one of DC’s top creative talents, Marv Wolfman of Crisis of Infinite Earth fame, to discuss his involvement on DC Universe Online. During our time he discusses his involvement in the DC Universe as a writer and the many different mediums it has been a part of, his own video game fandom and
The Flickcast: First off, thank you for taking the time to speak with us about this project.
Marv Wolfman: My pleasure. This is fun.
TF: For the audience who doesn’t know yet, can you explain what your involvment with the project was? I’ve heard your name attached, Jim Lee and Geoff Johns. Can you explain how all that kind of fit together?
MW: Okay. Think of it as a building. Geoff put up the structure. It has all the beams. It has all the floors. I’m coming in now and I’m putting up the walls. I’m putting up the paintings. I’m painting the walls. I’m putting up the rugs. I’m filling it with furniture. Jim is the one who has designed all of that. (Phone call interruption) Geoff came up with an overview concept for the center part of the story.
The one that sort of motivates the entire storyline. I’m coming up with now hundreds of other stories, some of which will lead you to that center story. A lot are what I call just DC stories, stories that don’t center on that big storyline but are the things that characters do normally that you get involved with. So Superman adventures, Batman adventures, Wonder Woman adventures and all the other characters down the line.
TF: Does this story take place anywhere within a certain point of DC Continuity or is it just the “everything’s on the table, we have all the toys to play with” scenario?
MW: It’s recent DC, not current by the moment because you can’t. It takes years for them to build this thing. So we can’t be that current. What we can be is the last couple years and the characters are where they are in the last couple years.
TF: This was your first MMO, correct?
MW: This is my first MMO.
TF: How did you prepare for writing an MMO as opposed to other games which are much more linear and have a start/finish and endgame.
MW: Well I played MMO’s. I’ve played City of Heroes and I’ve played some of (World of) Warcraft so I was familiar with the concepts but not as much as I was with regular console games because I’ve been playing console games for ever. A lot of it, it was trial and error as we worked together. I went down to Sony in Austin and there was a lot of “Here’s what we need from you. We need the missions. We need this. We need it set up in this fashion,” so it was a matter of following instructions on just learning how to do it because an MMO’s needs are very different from a console game’s needs. And they knew that I knew how to play video games so that was not a problem.
They knew that I had played MMO’s, I’m not a huge MMO player. I just don’t have the time and they’re too big. But I’ve played them enough because I played City of Heroes for months, (World of) Warcraft a little bit less. But once I started writing the scenarios, that sort of didn’t matter because I understood the basics of the MMO needs and if they had a specific need they would say, “I need this,” and guide me along. But I’d been writing games so the idea of writing interactive material that was meant for either one or multiplayer was not an alien concept.
It was just learning the few specifics of how to do an MMO and where that differs. Everything is going to be a little bit different. Every video game I’ve written is different from the previous because they’re all for different companies and everybody has a different engine so you have to relearn. Some companies like all their writing on Excel sheets. Some of them like it in script format. Some of them like it in blends of both.
Some of them do it in forms I can’t even figure out what they want. So everything in the video game business because it’s interactive and it sort of grew up grass roots is different and you’re always learning, which by the way is one of the things I love about it because there’s no writing by “wrote”. And as somebody who is constantly trying to make sure I’m employable, frankly, honestly, I’ve got to keep up with everything and I don’t ever try to sit back, even in comics, and keep writing what I wrote before because otherwise they’re not going to hire me. And it’s not out of this great other thing, it’s great, I gotta learn this. I have to learn this otherwise I don’t know how to do anything else but write stories.
TF: You’ve developed somewhat of a reputation for being the guy who helped put the DC Universe where it is now. You got the pieces in play and all the right players, do you feel a little bit of pressure with getting the DC Online experience in that same way?
MW: No, strangely enough not because when I did Crisis on Infinite Earths I was the writer and the editor. I pretty much determined everything and when we brought in the artist, of course the artist George Perez wasn’t actually attached to it in the beginning. Since he and I were doing Teen Titans we didn’t think we’d be doing another book together. Um, that was me. That was all me. An MMO is one hundred and fifty people, every one of whom is working together to get this done.
So, though they talk about me being the writer, everybody contributes ideas. I sit in a room when I go down there and we’re all hitting things out. Everybody comes up with concepts, then I’ll take them and I’ll flesh them out in some fashion. They take them and expand them in to endless missions. So I don’t feel the same sort of pressure.
I’m one person in a large, large group and frankly they spend a lot more time with it than I do because they’ve got to take my paragraph, my half page, my page and just keep breaking them in to endless and endless and more missions and making what I just casually toss off in to something that works. So no, they have the pressure. I have the fun. I just come up with great ideas, hopefully they’re great ideas, and they actually have to do it all.
TF: Once the game launches, do you see yourself being a regular player on it?
MW: I hope so because I think that unlike a lot of the MMO’s that I have played, I think there are so many surprises in what they can do. Also frankly, I love those characters. I’ve been a Superman fan since I was five. I’m appreciably more than that now. And the day I saw Superman on TV when it was aired the first time, not in rerun, I’ve been a major fan of comic books and superheroes and DC is the company that I grew up with because Marvel didn’t come out until I was a teenager.
So I love these characters and I’ve been involved with them in one fashion or another in every medium whether in novels, comics, video games, animation and other so I’m looking forward to playing it. I hope I can actually get through it because it’s so long and I have so little time. I can only play like an hour a day or so.
TF: Well we won’t keep you. Thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate it and is there anything else we haven’t touched on that you want to make sure the audience gets to hear about for DC Universe Online?
MW: If you’re a DC fan, the characters are in character. They’ll be doing the type of stories you’re familiar with. If you’re an MMO fan, I think they’re really good adventures and they’re running the game a little bit different than you’ve seen before and you will know some of those characters whether or not you even read comics.
There’s no way not to know Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor, the Joker and a few of the others. You’re just born knowing that stuff. So I think if you are into either of those you will enjoy it.