When Smoking Gun Interactive, the studio formed by ex-Relic (Company of Heroes) staff members, announced the first details on its debut project, we understandably paid attention. Relic is responsible for some of the best PC games this decade, so we dived into the X graphic novel to see what information could be gleamed from its pages. The studio has also set up an ARG, giving people even more titbits of gameworld information. We caught up with Smoking Gun Interactive CEO John Johnson to talk about how the graphic novel came about and the reason behind it.
VideoGamer.com: Much of the team at Smoking Gun Interactive previously worked at Relic on Company of Heroes? How did this experience help you come up with the universe of
JJ: The X universe has been something that I’ve been smoldering for many, many years actually; something my lead narrative designer Duane Pye and I have been talking about since the mid '90s. How it’s transformed into a focused IP is because of the strength, creative drive and experience of the team that we have built. Many of our senior and lead staff were with us on Company of Heroes. Having built previous games before does help, but we’ve also grown and brought in quite a few new and very talented people that have played key roles in the development of X. There is a real benefit to having a core team that’s worked together and collaborated with many of the staff before as we all know how to work together and “get” on with each other. That really goes a long way on any project.
VideoGamer.com: Douglas Rushkoff the author behind X is a renowned visionary cyber culture author. How did you begin working with him and can you specify how this working relationship with the development team works?
JJ: We set some incredibly ambitious goals for finding a partner in the graphic novel space, an area that we had limited expertise in. We created a shortlist, based on authors who’d already demonstrated mastery of graphic novels, and who were really visionary in the areas that we wanted to explore. That shortlist basically had one name on it. We arranged a meeting with Douglas, flew him out to give him an overview of what we were thinking and he instantly got it and was really excited about it.
Douglas works very closely with our creative teams, who have done a massive amount of research to build our back story. We gave him access to all of this to help him quickly come back with narrative threads that develop this epic, world-spanning conflict through various character arcs. He did an amazing job. He was brilliant at taking the constraints we had, and then developing this compelling story and set of characters that serves as a great introduction to the background behind the resistance.
VideoGamer.com: The universe of X is surrounded by mystery, espionage and government conspiracies; can you tell us what media have been a direct influence when creating this universe?
JJ: There have been hundreds of books, movies, documentaries, and thousands of websites we’ve researched over the years, to get to where we are, and we’re still going. Since many of the things in the universe are real, or references to things that could possibly be real, it took quite an effort to ensure we had extensive information about all these ancient mythologies, how they string together into the narrative, as well as how they relate to modern conspiracies.