Sunday, September 9, 2007

An interesting interview...

So a few weeks ago, I was interviewed about my Final Fantasy XII walkthrough by a blog by the name of AlphaZero. The interviewer sent me the questions by email and I answered them for him and that was that.

I kept checking his site and have finally found that he posted the interview which you can read here.

Little did I know that they would rephrase the questions in the style shown...

I considered emailing the interviewer about that after I saw it posted. I never have been good at taking jokes so I didn't see too much humor in it right away. I just wish that he would have informed me about the way it would be posted.

Anyway, it's no big deal. I was mainly just shocked at how it turned it out. It's just humor, right? I've had one reader comment (to me) that he got a good laugh from it.

Here's the actual interview through email:

Can you tell me a little about yourself beyond what's in your "About Me" on the walkthrough? School/Job? When you wrote your first walkthrough? What made you get into it?

My name is Kevin Hall. I'm 27 years old, live in Mississippi. I'm currently unemployed though I'm in the process of getting a job at the moment.

My main hobby is video gaming, which I suppose is very evident. It's been my main hobby for quite a while now.

The first walkthrough that I wrote was in the summer of 2001. I had a bunch of extra free time during college semesters, so I decided to try to write one for GameFAQs. I actually wrote it to try to win one of their bounty prizes. And yeah, I did win that prize if you're wondering.

It was much more enjoyable than I thought it would be, so I started working on guides during the summers when I didn't have anything else to do then I slowly started to write more often on a regular basis.

Is writing a walkthrough as altruistic as it seems? I mean, you produce this mammoth guide for people to use at no cost. Do companies like IGN and Gamespot pay you for rights to post your walkthrough? If so, how do you get paid? On a per-click basis? Even if you get paid, somehow I'm guessing the amount of work you put into the walkthrough makes your hourly rate pretty low. So why do you do it?

I write them because I enjoy it. It's the ultimate cure for boredom, and also I do it because it adds a lot more replay value to the game for me. With some of the games that I write for, I would usually toss the game aside after completing it fully, but while writing a guide, it gives me a new reason to go back through the game. I usually play through the game at least once before writing for it.

And no, there is no payment for the most part. I have done some Featured Guides that are exclusive to one site and received payment for those guides and I have received gift certificates or free games/services every now and then from other sites.

When you read a walkthrough, especially one for a big ole game like FFXII, you wonder how these people find this stuff out. A specific example is the Zodiac Spear, which you can only get by not opening certain treasure chests. I figure for stuff like that, you must rely on some inside information. Are you working with people who helped develop FFXII? Or is that something that you hear about from someone and then verify yourself? Or are you actually systematically opening and not opening every treasure chest in every permutation? (I hope not!)

Yes! The Zodiac Spear in particular was one secret that I had to find online - the GameFAQs message boards. There are a few treasure chests that were looked up online as well. I try to verify every single thing before I add it to a guide of mine, even if that means going through a long section of the game again.

And no, there is no help from the developers, either I learn about through the info online or it is from my own experiences. Some of the boss stats were taken directly from the FFXII Bradygames guide since it's impossible to find that info otherwise. Most of the writing in the walkthrough is based on my own experiences or reader submitted.

Was FFXII your hardest walkthrough to write? About how many hours did you put into it? What's the feeling you get when your walkthrough is finally ready to be released?

Yeah, it has been the hardest so far. But the experience wasn't near as bad as I thought it would be since I enjoyed FFXII so much during my first playthrough and didn't mind playing through it again or writing about it whatsoever.

I used to sit back and wonder how in the world a guide writer could write a walkthrough for an RPG. There's so much info! I suppose it all depends on how much you like the game.

I would spend about 5 hours a day (maybe more) on FFXII. I started in November and I guess you could say the guide was complete by January. I still don't view it as complete, but I've stopped working on it for the most part. There's still a few areas that I'd like to add... and I might do that before the year is out.

Out of the walkthroughs that you have completed, which one do you feel is your best work? What is your favorite gaming genre to write for?

That's a tough one, but it is between Shadow of Rome and Dead Rising. I was completely immersed in those two games and I feel that the guides that I wrote for each of them showcases that level of immersion.

I tend to stick with action games when writing a guide since they usually please me the most. I look for a game with a lot of replay value usually - something that I can get better at through extended play. Usually the harder the game is, the better since I'm always up for a challenge.

What is the community like? Is there competition among people to write the first/longest/best walkthrough? Or does everyone get along? For instance, I noticed that a guy named Alex also wrote a walkthrough for FFXII. Did you talk with him at all? Did you guys collaborate? Or are people very territorial?

I don't keep in touch with other authors myself, though I do visit the GameFAQs contributer board every now and then to read about some of the stuff that is going on with them and the site. The GameFAQs contributor board is a very solid community with a bunch of fine writers on it.

There's a little competition among us. There has to be some there for all of us to write well. I think every writer is a little conceited in their own way.

And no, I haven't spoken with Alex, or any of the other guide writers for FFXII, though I have emailed Split Infinity and sephirosuy a bit to discuss a few minor details on FFXII.

I'm the kind of person that prefers to work alone. That's just my style, though I would be open to some collaboration with the other writers at some point if they didn't mind.

How, if it all, has the walkthrough-writing experience affected your personal life? Have you made friends? Have you lost some? Does your family support you?
You mention that you want to write walkthroughs professionally -- how does that happen? Do you know anyone who makes a living out of writing walkthroughs?

I definitely have more online acquaintances. Not so many friends though since I tend to keep to keep a low profile most of the time.

My family is slightly supportive. They know all about this hobby of mine - throughout the family. Though it's not really something that I can sit down and discuss with them that often.

I'm really not sure how one gets into the business of writing a strategy guide professionally. For Bradygames and Prima Games, I have read that you basically just send off your resume after you post a guide up on GameFAQs (with a link to that guide) and hope for the best.

I still haven't tried that. If you look on you'll find a resume of mine up with the other resumes though. I've just recently posted that up.

Do you get a lot of weird feedback? What is the oddest thing that has happened to you in your walkthrough-writing career?

Yeah, some of the feedback can get quite amusing at times, especially since I've wrote for FFXII. I've received an 80K email from a reader that just wanted to talk about his experiences with FFXII and give me some pointers. I had to spend about a good thirty minutes one night reading that one, especially since I'm a slow reader.

I have received a flame email where, when responded to, the reader actually commented on how much he enjoyed the walkthrough when he replied to my smart remark to his flame.

Also, I have received emails from the developers of some games that I have wrote for. One developer for Final Fight: Streetwise actually emailed me about my guide for that game and sent a whole bunch of Capcom freebies that he had lying around. I was quite shocked at his generosity in doing that, which is why that is often my most memorable email.

Thanks again for your time.

No problem. Glad to speak with you.


Nish said...

He should have been more honest with you although he wouldn't have got what he wanted if he had been.

It's a shame that he had to try and make fun (I didn't find it amusing) because Edge magazine actually had a decent feature on game FAQs a few months ago. It's certainly an avenue of gaming that's worth exploring. This guy could have produced something worthy rather than just seeking a cheap joke.

Nick said...

kevin, you're probably right that I should have contacted you before to run my idea with you.

I'm sorry if it came off as stupid or offensive, especially since I didn't really mean it to be.

My idea was to sort of write as this outsider anthropologist, studying the exotic walkthrough writer, expecting him to be very weird/dangerous.

Your answers were sort of meant to deflate that, since they showed you weren't particularly weird or dangerous at all.

If I failed at that, blame bad writing but not bad intentions.

Berserker said...

Thanks for responding - both of you.

When I first viewed that interview a few days ago, the first idea that came to mind was that the interviewer was making a fool of me, mainly with the way that the questions were phrased along with my normal response answers.

I can see what you mean, Nick, when you explain it, but, to me, there are two ways of looking at that interview when you first read it without knowing what you said - one with good intentions and one with bad.

It's cool though, now that I understand it.

subordinater said...

Wow... Berserker's still at it. I guess I shouldn't be surprized that he's become famous or something because of it. But, hey, I liked the interview. I've never been interviewed for anything, but... well, that's because I've never done anything real amazing.

Yeah, Berserker, I'm back. :)

Someone drop me a line; I've been in Brazil without an outside link for two years, and I'm really lost:

Sorry for the off-topic, but that's great that you're continuing your walkthroughs. :D

Berserker said...

Yeah, I get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame next month!

*pops out of daydream*

Oh my sweet lord, it has been quite a while, sub! Good to see you back.

No problem about the off-topic info.

You'll receive an email from me either tomorrow or this weekend.

I was going to say that you should post something up on the Advent Trilogy blog, but I see you already have. ;p