Verses AMA w/ Narrative Lead Eleanore Drummond - April 23

Eleanore talks about hosting the Verses lore workshop.


1. <a href= "#1">What made this workshop different from the last one?</a>

2. <a href = "#2">How many people attended?</a>

3. <a href = "#3">Can you explain what type of narrative work we were doing?</a>

4. <a href= "#4">What did the work day look like?</a>

5. <a href= "#5">What did people do for fun after work?</a>

6. <a href= "#6">What were some surprising ideas or suggestions that came from outside of narrative?</a>

7. <a href= "#7">What were some challenges that you really didn't expect?</a>

8. <a href= "#8">What was easier than you expected?</a>

9. <a href= "#9">What games are you playing lately?</a>

Andy Wilson  


Awesome. So yeah today for today's AMA we have something a little bit different planned. Normally but not always we have Alex or Dan answering questions. We just heard from those two. I thought it'd be interesting to hear from someone else this time and considering the gigantic narrative workshop event that you hosted last month in March, we all thought you'd be the perfect person to talk to.

Eleanore Drummond  


Well, thanks. I'm glad to be pitching in.

Andy Wilson  


And so I guess I'll ask the first question. The narrative team had a workshop like last year, with the narrative folks. You three worked amongst yourselves to sort of wrap your head around what you wanted to do with the narrative and the story. This time it was not just the narrative folks.

<div id="1" class="anchor">What made this workshop different from the last one?</div>

Eleanore Drummond  


This time, we brought both of the major design teams together. So we brought the game designers and the narrative designers together. There were a couple of people in game design who couldn't make it but it was a really balanced group. In terms of having teams collaborating and this is really important for the project. 

There was a time when we could kind of do our own thing, when the game design needed to focus a lot on just trying to figure out what direction they wanted to go, what kinds of games they were thinking about making and what would our flagship product look like? And the narrative team was just really focused on creating good stories and producing a world that could inspire that process, but we reached a point of maturity in the project where we really needed to have a lot more cross-team collaboration. 

Now we need to be checking in with each other and making sure that we're heading in the same direction. We've been a little bit siloed so having time to work together face to face. Where we could talk either as a big group or in little breakaway groups, and geek out about the lore and the world. 

Andy Wilson  


<div id="2" class="anchor">How many people attended?</div>

Eleanore Drummond  


Well, we had our narrative team of three of us. We had I think nine people.

Andy Wilson  


Yeah, so that's a lot of people to all be in the same room for, you know, over a week.

Eleanore Drummond  


It was, and I'm really glad we did it in the southwest where the weather was good so people could go outside. We could break away and go on walks and go, you know, go walk through the neighborhood, go to a park. We didn't have to stay confined in the same room the whole time. And I think that was really good because there was enough room for us all to be together and have a whiteboard stand and do work together in a really focused way. Because then we can all break apart and go have, you know, have the space we needed if some people want to have a more quiet conversation. Some people want to play a board game and have these different activities happening.

Andy Wilson  


So when we talk about narrative work, someone might think that we were just talking about stories or just trying to write more stories. But that wasn't exactly the case. 

<div id="3" class="anchor">Can you explain what type of narrative work we were doing?</div>

Eleanore Drummond  


Yeah, that's a great question. Because it's easy to think of narrative as just writing stories, but if your stories are going to thrive together well, and if you're going to build something that can feed into a game, you need to build a world and so and there's a lot to that. 

We got to showcase all the work we'd already done, which was a lot. We did a lot of world-building in our narrative workshop last year.


But this time, we got to do a whole walkthrough all of that with game design as well and review it. I got a lot of different ideas from people who maybe hadn't had a chance to be part of that conversation before. And really think about, where do the Verses come from? What's their origin story? What are their physics, and what are the rules that make things happen in those different Verses? What's unique and different about each one? What kinds of characters might live there and what's life like? 

They're just answering a bunch of these questions and really digging deep into… Not just stories and that kind of thing, but the foundation that all of this stuff has to be built on. 

And that everything makes sense, it's not like writing for a sitcom or something where you can just kind of, it's episodic, you just kind of fudge it a little bit if you want to tell, like, oh, look, it's another time travel story, so that we can retcon something that we wish we hadn't done before. That’s the last thing we want, is to have to use time travel to retcon things because we didn’t think them through. We want to be able to write things where the threads are intentional, and there's a really rich, deep world-building behind it, even if a bunch of that isn't stuff that we're going to reveal for a long time.

Andy Wilson  


What I found interesting is that some people at the workshop are newer members of the team. And it can be difficult to onboard onto this project and then to just be like. Because it’s like, by the way, here are over 100 pages of stories for you to read, and you know, all these verses have very specific rules.

Eleanore Drummond  


We've had kind of a really slim document for a summary of the world-building, but this time, we got enthusiasm across the whole team, from executives, all the design designers, and like everybody was on board with the idea that we need to get a detailed World Book. 

Which of course for the narrative folks we’re like “Yes!”. I want to dive into all those nitty gritty details. My process for these workshops is to take really detailed notes on the whiteboard and then photograph each one and just keep moving. I have two whiteboards that we rotate around so that we're just constantly able to have a fresh whiteboard to work from. 

Now we’re going through all of those whiteboards, all those photographs of whiteboards of all these notes, and we're converting all of that into a workbook. Initially, it was just going to be internally facing, but a lot of IPs have a world book which becomes an outward facing product. Which I hope we get to do at some point, but for now, what’s really important is that we have an organized encyclopedia of the world and lore. So there’s a place where people can go and get all of the information they might need. And so it's pretty exciting to have that going.

Andy Wilson  


Yeah, I've always wanted to have a giant Verses illustrated book on my coffee table or something.

Eleanore Drummond  


Absolutely. A world book that's a coffee table book would be really fun like that. Because the lore is exciting and the origin story is really cool. And it has all these really interesting settings that I can't wait to see visually represented.

Andy Wilson  


I know some people would really, really love to have one. You know, I'm sure all of the artists who contributed art for the game would love to have one. I'm sure several of our NFT holders would love to have one. You know, I know everyone on the staff would love to have one

Eleanore Drummond  


For sure.

Andy Wilson  


With so many different people in a room to do work. 

<div id="4" class="anchor">What did the work day look like?</div>

Eleanore Drummond  


Luckily, we're all sort of late risers. So that was nice to have. You know, for me, it was different because I was hosting and it was in my house. So my routine was get up, feed the cat, make coffee, and make sure that there's food and that everything is set up and we really got into it pretty quick after getting up. I'm not somebody who's going to get up at eight in the morning and putter around for an hour while waiting for everybody else to get up. I'm just like, Okay, I'm gonna get up and we're gonna start in half an hour so I better go make coffee and make sure everybody's got what they need to be functional and then gather around in the living room and then start. 

We’d start going through the questions and we did plan ahead and we had a whole series, a whole big list of brainstormed questions. And we were kind of going down those questions like in chunks. We’d go over the history and what's the materiality and what's the culture and answer these questions for every different Verse. So it was a lot of thinking work, where we’d just be in a room together and ask the question and give everybody who has an answer a chance to kind of share their answer and then identify also like if there were questions that we just didn't really have a good answer for that you wanted to explore more. We would table that instead because the in person time is so precious. So if something felt like it was a little sticky or we wanted to dig deeper or we had a lot of conflicting opinions about it then that just got noted and tabled so that we could keep moving, it was pretty fast paced.

Andy Wilson  


Yes. As a fellow attendee who was also a late riser. I remember looking at the original schedule, and I think that we wanted to start at 10 am on the dot. I just remember looking at that and thinking, I don't think that's how it's gonna play out. I'll show up around 10: 30 And we'll probably start around 11 And that's basically what happened.

Eleanore Drummond  


It really is and then we went until dinner. We would usually have a little bit of a lunch break, but it was more of a lunch snack. We’d say “Let's take an hour.” I always took that time to go for a little walk. A lot of us like to go for a midday walk in the sun.

Andy Wilson  


With work like this, eventually everyone kind of hits a wall and they might not realize they've hit a wall but eventually they all hit a wall. And so I kind of want to ask you…

<div id="5" class="anchor">What did people do for fun after work?</div>

Eleanore Drummond  


Oh man. Yeah, like that's so true. I feel like we were so exhausted by the end of pretty much every day. It's like sometimes I felt like my brain hurt from the focused effort. We were there to ask questions and generate creative answers to those questions for hours, and so by the time that was done, I was like I need to do anything other than have to think. For everybody that's different. For some of us, the way we turned off was board games, which I'm sure there are people listening who are like, “What?” that's all thinking. Like yeah, but it's different thinking stuff. Instead of having to be creative, I just had to be strategic which is totally different and very relaxing. 

Karaoke was a big one for Dan Burdick. I had no idea he was such a karaoke guy, but he is all in on the karaoke. And so that was a regular thing for him to go out and you know, just be, just decompress and be relaxed and social. And then some folks to unwind just needed a chance to be outside in a quiet comfy place and just chat and get into a deep conversation that wasn't structured. Because it's really a structured creative activity that's different from when I'm going to get together with one or two people and we're just going to have a free flow conversation. No holds barred, we can just explore to our heart's content without any kind of rules that we have to adhere to. Other than being, you know, polite, I think that was very relaxing for people. Nobody was like, let's watch TV. I don't think we'd have any screen activity going on at all.

Andy Wilson  


No, there was no TV whatsoever. It was funny. I think it was maybe on day three or four. I thought, wait a second, there's not a TV in the living room. And then that, you know, a day later I was like, oh yes, there is it's just we've used it so little that it's just completely blanked it out.

Eleanore Drummond  


I basically didn’t do screens for a week other than occasionally checking in on my phone, but I didn't have time I really liked the people I work with. And so being in person, my decompressing from the work of the day was being able to get to really know these people that I that like hanging out with, like you and hanging out with Dan Clegg and hanging out with Billy who's a newer addition to our game design team, but we just really clicked and you know, just getting to have that experience of feeling like making really concrete personal connections with the people that you work with. And seeing how much we all love games and that our idea of chill out was sometimes we'd have a board game going and a card game going on the same table. That was really fun.

Andy Wilson  


Yeah, I really liked it because I had met almost everybody on our team. And some people I've known for over like 10 years. But you mentioned Dan Clegg and Billy Marino, I had a lot of fun talking with them and getting to know them better. I think there was one night me and Billy were on the porch. We probably talked for three or four hours.

Eleanore Drummond  


Yeah you and Dan and me and probably a bunch of others have a story like that. You know, me and Billy got to just hang out and talk for a long time. It was so great because like Billy was just practically always up for that. And there was enough time and enough evening downtime that we could kind of do that. I got to have my time where you and I got to hang out, and got to have my time where I got to hang out with Billy and different people. I got to have my first like really just kind of personal conversation with Dan Burdick, like a lot of people in this company knew Dan Burdick, but I didn't. And so we got a chance to walk back from the grocery store. Just talk about like, well, what was playing games like in our families. We were able to find some of that, you know, that kind of human connection that you don't get when all of your time is focused on work.

Andy Wilson  


You didn't spend a lot of time looking at your phone, but you are also in charge of the whiteboards most of the time. And it was in a lot of ways narrative was running the show. But not entirely, but I think for the most part. And so one of my questions is… 

<div id="6" class="anchor">What were some surprising ideas or suggestions that came from outside of narrative?</div>

Eleanore Drummond  


Oh, boy, that's a great question. I think I'm gonna have to think about that for a minute. Because there were a bunch.

When we were talking about culture, we got to talk about holidays for the different Verses and what that looks like. We already have some of them as a group and narrative. We had already had that conversation, but to revisit it with the whole group was really generative. People came up with a whole bunch of other ideas that I thought were really fun and enhanced everything that we had done in a really wonderful way. So I feel like I want to write some stories about Verses holidays. I think the most surprising stuff came out of talking about culture and really imagining some of the things that are really distinct about cultures in each Verse. I want to give you a specific answer, but I feel like I've been holding so much information in my head. And so little of it is actually those specific details. What might have to come back to that question.

Andy Wilson  


One thing that jumps out to mind, I don't want to go too deep because I don't want to spoil anything. But Billy’s idea about ancient and ancient Verse history. What are the ancient origins of every Verse, this multiverse, and how did it work? Not just 1000 years, but like a billion years ago, 10 billion years ago, and so on and so forth.

Eleanore Drummond  


Absolutely. I feel like I have to be careful about that. I know that there are some details about that, that we don't want to spoil. We want to surprise people with later but that conversation and in particular, how we put something out there and then having Billy reflect back with their interpretation was so cool. I feel like they got what we were talking about. And often had just a little bit their interpretation just added a little bit more and, and made it extra. And that was very, very cool. They even came up with some visual components to kind of represent what we were talking about. And that was super useful. I guess it was a pleasant surprise that somebody really gets this on a deep level who's not in narrative. And that was very, very cool.

Andy Wilson  


We're so ingrained in it, that it's really helpful to have someone who's, you know, kind of a little bit more of an outsider or not that familiar with the content. Because if we say different ideas or concepts, and if they didn't understand it, that was a clue to us that maybe our ideas weren't as clear and as grokkable as we thought. But when they did get it and they started to get excited about it, then we could kind of know okay, we've done a good job here.

Eleanore Drummond  


Absolutely. I already have such deep familiarity with this that I'm kind of blind to what might be missing, and having that person who is new to that information, to be able to reflect back to us and say, “This is this is very clear.” There's a lot of value, I think in having somebody from the outside to bring their critical eye to the work because boy that I feel like that was extremely generative and additive.

Andy Wilson  


<div id="7" class="anchor">What were some challenges that you really didn't expect?</div>

Eleanore Drummond  


Yeah, for sure. There were definitely some components of what we thought were essential, essential to the work to the IP that others did not think was essential. And so kind of having to navigate what I was taking for granted, what we in narrative took for granted as truth and reevaluate that was very surprising. 

I feel like there was just a lot to discover. You have to be able to prioritize, and can't tell everything all at once. And when you have a room full of really creative people, they're all going to have priorities, they're all going to have the story concepts that they really relate to. So I guess I hadn't been as prepared for that conversation. When it comes to having a room full of very opinionated, creative, game loving people try to identify priorities for the project in terms of what we wanted, what stories we want to tell in each Verse. I realized, there are a lot of voices here that need to be heard and how do you navigate that?

Andy Wilson  


So my next question is on the flip side.

<div id="8" class="anchor">>What was easier than you expected?</div>

Eleanore Drummond  


Yeah, talking about the rules of physics and materiality I thought would be difficult. But actually, it went very smoothly. And I really thought that we would have a lot of difficulty because some verses like Kaleidoscope are really unique. Synthex being sci-fi and Fantasia being fantasy and Gloom being horror they're very well established genres. But what is Commedia? What is a Kaleidoscope? What is Proxima? I expected there to be a rougher conversation, that it would be harder to bring people who hadn't been involved in that conversation into an understanding of the physics. But it went really well. People were like, “Oh, I get that. Yeah, yeah, that's cool.” Going into that conversation I didn't know what to expect. These are coworkers who I've only worked with online except for a very small number of people who I've known for a long time, and so like, having a bunch of strangers in your house. Like what am I going to expect there? People were easy to accommodate and easy to get along with which was really nice. That doesn't always happen.

Andy Wilson  


So kind of winding down, there's one question I always ask near the end of all of these, which is what 

<div id="9" class="anchor">What games are you playing lately?</div>

Eleanore Drummond  


Oh, boy, the game I've been playing most lately is like the exact opposite of what we're doing, which is Cyberpunk 2077. My husband and I call it murder Muppets because it's a very violent game. But I love the story. I think the narrative is so good. And I love a good RPG. So that's what really captured my heart. But I'm also playing Wildermyth. Again, it's a very narrative story. It's an indie game. I think it's just three people who did it. An artist, a coder and a narrative person. And oh, it's so good. It made a very smart choice to keep the art inexpensive, and doable by just one person. And the narrative is brilliant. And it's so compelling and fun. You're in a fantasy setting running a group of adventurers, and you're building a story that continues on to the next generation. So they have kids that become adventurers, and their story continues and it's really, really cool. So I love that one. I just bought it but haven’t started and I'm excited to play is Stray. 

Andy Wilson  


Is that the cat game?

Eleanore Drummond  


That's the cat game. This is the game I've wanted my whole life. So I'm very excited to play that one too.

Andy Wilson  


So the final question is, is there anything else you'd like to talk about? Is there anything you'd wished I'd asked but then or just anything that you want to say before we close it out? Oh

Eleanore Drummond  


I think that this was such a good experience to have everybody in person. Like I really love that we are a remote company. I like that we don't have to uproot our lives and try to live somewhere that we can't afford in order to be able to work together. But having that in person experience to be together and be creative, is so valuable. And I think we all agreed that it was really helpful. It’s changed how we talk with each other online and how the remote work has been going has been dramatically improved by having that in person experience. And so I think there's a real possibility that we might do that more than just once in a year and that we might actually make this something that we think about twice a year or quarterly or something like that. It’s not my decision, but I had some conversations with Alex and Dan afterward, and they thought it very helpful. And you know, just watching the conversations, the tone of the conversations and the productivity. 

The creative pace that's happening after the workshop is really exciting to see. So I think it was so valuable in a lot of ways that are kind of intangible, you know, there's the tangible one of we're gonna have this world but with all of the lore that we built during this time, and that's great. But the intangible benefit is that people got to be humans together. And form trust, that kind of trust that only happens when you're in a, you know, in a room together for a while. And especially because we were all most of us were staying sleeping and working in the same space and so that, that adds a whole other layer of you know, kind of going through this together. This hard adventure together. And so it's good for the team. I hope we do it more and help me. I hope we are able to do this at least twice a year.

Andy Wilson  


Yeah, I think we should do it twice a year minimum. Thank you Eleanore for joining us. It was wonderful having you.

Eleanore Drummond  


Oh, thank you, Andy. As usual, you're wonderful to chat with

Andy Wilson  


And to our listeners. We will be back on May 4. So catch you all then.

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