by Andy Collins and Ian Adams
Meet two more of our designers, Andy Collins and Ian Adams. Andy, the lead writer on Moonrise, is an old-school storyteller. He was the lead story designer on the Marvel Heroes ARPG, and he also spent 14 years at Wizards of the Coast as a designer on D&D and other RPGs. Most importantly in my book, he’s been a DM — that’s dungeon master, if you never played D&D — for more than 30 years, which means he knows how to spin a yarn that keeps people playing. Ian is a content designer and a writer on Moonrise, and an inspiration to any gamer who ever dreamed of going pro. He started in customer service, worked his way up until he was running a QA team, and transitioned into design, where he eventually became the lead designer on Battle Nations. He knows what works, and what only works on paper. These are great guys, and great designers, and we hope to continue this conversation on the forum in the future! –Sanya
The people in Moonrise — the average citizens of a town like Gateway or Kijang Village — probably wouldn’t call their lives dangerous. And they’re not, not really. Sure, there are places you avoid, precautions to take. But it’s odd how quickly people start treating the most precarious, marginal survival as acceptable. Even normal.
It wasn’t always like this.
Once, so we’re told, the world was more than safe. It was peaceful. Wondrous creatures called Solari inhabited every corner of the land. People and Solari lived in harmony. Some Solari lived in the wilds, and others were tamed as pets or employed humanely as sources of labor or energy. Thanks to this symbiotic relationship, the world thrived.
Nearly a century ago, this peace was brutally disrupted by a celestial event called the Moonrise. Suddenly all Solari, from cute woodland creatures to trusted companions became violent and destructive Lunari. People fled their homes, abandoning towns and cities, and civilization teetered on the brink of destruction.
But then came Warden Marguerite, who showed us how to subdue Lunari and cure them of the Moonrise corruption. Soon hundreds of brave souls flocked to her side, fighting for our survival. These brave people formed the Wardens Guild. Thanks to their efforts, humanity was able to put up a resistance, and little by little, carved itself a new place in the world.
From that day, the Wardens Guild grew dramatically. Today there is a guild member in every town and city across the land. Eager students vie for entrance to the Warden Academy, where they will spend a decade learning everything they can about Solari, the corrupting effects of Moonrise, and how to safely engage and cure Lunari. In fact, with a job description that most kids read as “go on hikes and play with animals while learning super powers,” the guild has more recruits than it needs!
Generations have passed, and today few of us can even claim to remember the world before that first Moonrise. This is the only world most anyone has ever known. The Moonrises continued, every decade or two, and through it all, we learned to adapt. We know there are dangers in the world, and we’ve all had times where a Lunari got closer than we might have liked. But thanks to the tireless efforts of the Wardens, Lunari have become something that most of us forget about while dealing with our normal day-to-day problems.
In fact, this attitude has begun spreading even to some Wardens, particularly those in the younger generations. With a new class of young Wardens graduating each year, the population of highly trained guardians continues to grow, leaving many graduates without prospects for employment. And with not enough towns and farms to protect, some young Wardens grow lazy…or bored…or desperate for any opportunity to put their skills to use.
You are one of those new graduates of the Warden Academy. After years of training, you finally have the chance to prove yourself, to make your mark on the world. But what opportunities will you have to prove yourself with the world in a place of relative calm between Moonrises?
Funny thing about the calm. It has this well-established relationship with the storm.
ANDY: Hi there, I’m Andy, lead writer for Moonrise.
IAN: I’m Ian, content designer and writer on Moonrise.
ANDY: When I joined the project-to-be-named-Moonrise, the game’s world and backstory were effectively nonexistent. We knew what the core gameplay was about, but not why it happened. My earliest task was to create several different versions of why your character (and many other people’s characters) would wander around fighting the strange creatures that our artists were already creating. Those early drafts explored various character motives, creature origins, world designs, and even overall story tone.
In reviewing my old proposals recently, I was struck by how different they were from one another, and yet also how similar. Certain key elements, such as the protective aspect of your character and the responsibility you have due to the powers you possess, stayed relatively true across all my proposals. On the other hand, the early story drafts varied in their approach to tone (from friendly to eerie) and in whether we were telling a fantasy tale or a sci-fi epic. My goal was to provide a variety of choices that explored different directions, so that together we could choose which one we liked best.
As so often happens, no one proposal was the right answer. Instead, we ended up cherry-picking elements from all of them! Then we blended these bits with concepts and tones from other stories we liked, from the movies of Hayao Miyazaki to the amazing tales of The Legend of Korra. After a lot of discussions and rewrites, we had the outline of a world that we liked, with a guild of Wardens protecting people from once-friendly creatures that had been corrupted by a mysterious celestial event. We were still some distance away from having a story, but the world was taking shape.
IAN: When I came onboard at Undead Labs, my start date was actually delayed a week while we moved into the new office. During the week of downtime, I stopped by the old Lab, and checked in with Foge. During the meeting, I shared my number one concern about the story in Moonrise: how do we make sure you’re not just some psycho wandering around the woods punching animals? I had developed some ideas, and I was hugely relieved to find that the Moonrise team had already arrived at a lot of the same concerns, and solutions. Hence Moonrise, the Lunari, and the whole Wardens Guild.
With Moonrise, one of the goals is to give you a goal and motivation with a little more weight than the Shonen Manga “train to be the best!” plotline. We also wanted to make the world and story of the game have some real weight. The thing about that is that once you start asking players to take some parts of your setting more seriously, and require a little more critical thinking, the more incongruous things like the hero wandering around the wilderness starting fights with random creatures so they can be captured start to stand out. We needed to create a world where the player’s actions not only made sense, but were actually heroic. We also needed to make sure you could still wander around the wilderness starting fights with random creatures.
Moonrise (the celestial event, not the game) solved both of these problems. If the player was out there to cure these creatures, engaging them in battle so that they could get close enough to remove whatever dark force was causing their violent behaviors, we’ve not only given you a motivating reason to get into random fights, we’ve also made sure you’re not just a sociopath who likes making animals fight.
The second item on my agenda that was that we make sure that we had a threat that could drive us toward some big, satisfying story moments, but also one that felt natural to the world, tied in to the rest of the setting and mythology, and that arose logically from the story and world. I even had some ideas about how we could connect that threat to real world struggles and concerns our players could relate to.
But that’s almost entirely spoilers.
ANDY: And we promised Sanya we’d hold off on spoilers for at least another week!
But seriously, we have plenty to talk about regarding the story of Moonrise, and we’ll be back soon enough to share more details.
IAN: You’ll get a little more background, but for the most part, from here out, you’ll be learning about the choices we made, and why we made them. Why the quest system we have? Why relics to use skills? Why travelling companions? We’ve spent a ton of time thinking about all of these, and we’re looking forward to sharing all that with you.
ANDY: Ian, would you say that our readers have just taken their first step into a larger world?
IAN: Only under duress, Andy. Only under duress.
Comments? Questions about the story thus far? Hit the comment thread and join the conversation!