Offworld Games Interview, Part 1: A Chat With Author William C. Dietz!

Today we’re honored to have prolific sci-fi author William C. Dietz in the hot seat! Among the staggering list of novels to his credit are the Legion and McCade series, and he’s written numerous videogame tie-ins as well. Thanks to Offworld Games, we were able to get in touch with him to ask about his script work on Legion of the Damned, an iOS strategy title bearing the name of one of his novels and due this December.

Sci fi readers have had a long time to get to know William C. Dietz the author, but what about William C. Dietz the gamer? Would you describe yourself as someone who’s long been an enthusiastic videogame consumer, or did your interest in this industry begin when someone came out of the blue and called upon your writing expertise for a game-related project?

My first exposure to video games came when I was asked to write for a joint enterprise consisting of Penguin Publishing, Dark Horse Comics, and Lucas Films. The task was to write three tie-in novels for the Dark Forces games — and being a huge Star Wars fan, I said yes right away. Never mind the fact that I had never played a video game up until then and had to rent a PC in order to do so! I was hooked in a matter of minutes and a gamer was born. Since then I have worked on projects related to Halo, Hitman, Resistance, and Mass Effect.

As an author who’s approached the novel/game transition from both sides, as it were – videogame IP to novel, novel IP to videogame – you must have quite an interesting perspective on both forms of media! How do the concerns of a videogame script writer differ from the concerns an author has while composing a novel?

It’s strange how things come together sometimes. Although I had written numerous novels based on videogames, I had never written a script for a videogame until the offer from Offworld Games came along. Then I found myself taking an entire novel (Legion of the Damned) and squeezing it down. The effort to condense the story without losing the essence of plot and character was difficult at times but I’m pleased with the result. Conlan Rios deserves a great deal of credit for having a clear vision, steering me through the process, and adding some very nice touches.

Then, as the Legion game was moving along, I was hired to co-write (with Mike Bates) the script for a new game for Sony’s new PlayStation Vita. The game, Resistance: Burning Skies, was introduced at Gamescom to an enthusiastic audience. So suddenly I had an opportunity to learn even more about writing games and it’s been a blast. The outline, treatment, and script are complete at this point but there’s still plenty left to do.

So how does the plot of Legion of the Damned, the videogame, relate to the book series? I suppose I immediately assumed that this would be an adaptation of the first novel since they share the same title, but is that actually the case? Or will the game take place in the Legion of the Damned universe without necessarily re-treating the book content?

Conlan’s vision was to stick to the first book and actually follow the plot, rather than produce a new story or some sort of pastiche created from all of the books. So the central story is consistent with the original Legion of the Damned novel. Of course lots of the individual games/levels/missions are new and delightfully so!

I was reading through an interview you conducted with the Halo.Bungie.Org Fan Fiction Community a few years back with regard to Halo: The Flood, and was fascinated by the challenge of producing a novel that the IP holder would take pride in. Now that the shoe’s on the other foot and you’re the IP holder working with Offworld Games, have you taken the opportunity to dabble heavily in the game’s design? Or would you say you’ve pretty much left Conlan & co. to their own devices in that regard?

I wanted to be involved in designing the game to the extent that it was appropriate to do so. Meaning that I wanted to ensure that the game would be true to the universe and the characters as laid out in the books — but I also wanted to tread lightly, so that Conlan and his folks would be free to make the coolest game ever. Have I succeeded in walking that line? You’d have to ask Conlan. But he’s been very careful to honor the series and knows the Legion universe inside out. In fact, there are times when he tactfully reminds me of details that I have forgotten! Embarrassing but true.