When Thomas first starting making noises about creating an online game to go with his upcoming album, A Map of the Floating City, I certainly had my doubts.
Thomas has always been a catalyst as long as I have known him, and it’s clear this has been the case for longer than that. He comes up with an idea, and just runs with it, no idea how to do it or exactly who does, but he’s off and sprinting down the street far ahead of you. He’s running with scissors over and over again.
The world needs the dreamers. And Thomas has this amazing ability to catch you up in what he is doing, and before you know it, you’re hooked in and believing, too.
I don’t know how he does it.
You start out flying down to San Francisco to discuss going on a tour as the booth bunny selling concert shirts, and you end up doing that AND being the tour manager AND the one managing/herding the aftershow meet n’ greets at the same time.
I still don’t know how that one happened. Which is perfect Thomas. It just happens.
But I have learned to trust him, which is a testament to his vision and lack of fear in chasing after it, even if he has no idea how to get from the vision to reality. He finds people who can help him, and take his ideas and work with him and make them come true.
As folks came together for The Floating City (FC), we starting meeting each other on Google Wave to talk about ways to promote the album. This got too prolific, bulky, and easy to get lost in, and when we heard Google Wave was going south, we moved to Skype.
Somewhere in there, when the plot started to form and people were thinking about characters, Thomas mentioned having objects and people from his songs, and I jokingly yelled “Shotgun!” on Europa.
She had no plot, nothing, but when the time came in our discussions in Skype chat, he remembered. “Lunesse has dibs on Europa!”
The rest is just weeks of planning, coding, and a lot of hard work by the developers. We all went nuts making WAY too crazy plots for the FC that were completely over detailed and complex. (We had faith in Dolby fans, they could handle it.) But we hoped to have a gaming crowd, too, who maybe never had heard of his music. Dolby fans are quite a unique, cerebral bunch, and we knew gamers were too…but they’d have to be indoctrinated before going off chasing equations, mad scientist theories and math that makes MY head hurt.
As a G.O.D., we didn’t all have the whole picture. At all. I had been sent a basic plot line, since Europa was to be a part of it, to embellish and add to. For a while, all of us were adding character personalities and other ideas on a wiki. The storyline grew in a very organic fashion.
I decided that since Europa was going to disappear for a large hunk of the game, I didn’t want to sit around doing nothing watching everyone else have fun, so I made a secondary character.
Verre (“glass” in French, I am a glass artist)was created from the start to be a sort of Greek Chorus. I thought at first she’d be for anyone to use who needed a deus ex machina. So it was fitting she also became a G.O.D. Her visions allowed her to gently push plot if things were totally going…. AWRY (inside joke for you FCers). That aspect of Verre was not used as much as I had thought, mostly to keep Europa in the minds of players after her kidnap. And I pretty much was the only one who used her, which was great.
That was a hard day. Europa didn’t say much, being under such strict watch by Po. We needed more players to be aware of her, so a live chat was decided upon, where Europa would meet in a bar with her old friend Soot, and the players could have real face to face time for the first time, while that plot unfolded. I worked with Soot to create lines that week, we got on Skype voice chat with some other G.O.D.s and devs while we unloaded our lines in chat, half scripted, half spontaneous. This was terrific fun, but when Europa left I felt sad, knowing she would be gone for weeks, and she was so loved, the players really took to her, trying to help her have some joy the life set before her.
And, now you know why Verre wasn’t there.
The courtroom trial, the first one, was just epic. It was a LOAD of fun, with Andrea, Sara, Nikki, Paul, Grant, Thomas, Melissa and me all crowded in one live Skype chat, all talking behind the scenes while we went through the scene. Hearing the voices of some of these people was fantastic. I hadn’t seen Grant in years, nor Melissa, and have never met Paul, Nikki, Andrea or Sara in person. I wish everyone who played the game could experience what that hour was like. So much spontaneous extra dialogue, and the players! They players were amazing! We needed them quiet to get through the scene, unlike the crazy, busy bar where Europa and Soot had drinks, and they behaved perfectly! I had never seen an online chat so raptly paying attention.
The best part there was when one player came back from a Sortie, which are adventures the players could do to gain points, items and often a free download of Thomas’ music. The sortie held evidence that was needed for the trial, it turned out, for while the players behaved, they had an idea of their own how the story should go, which was exciting and live and oh NOW what do we do…..until that player arrived with information and sort of broke through the wall from player to actor. That for me was part of the magic of the game, when it was so real and fun the players became part of it as true characters.
By the way Verre WAS at that trial, but she had to duck out right before Europa showed up….so that Thomas could take her over temporarily, she had one very important line!
I could go on, and on, but I will wrap it up.
It was VERY fun for me to NOT be Lunesse in the Floating City. I LOVE working for Thomas. Even when the work is crazy and there’s way too much and how the HELL can this all get done…even when I swore on tour I would never do his laundry, and like the sucker I am, I found myself watching his underwear spinning around and around in a dryer. I love his fans. I love helping them learn more about his music and answering questions as best I can, and watching their joy when they hear his music, or get to meet him backstage. Best job in the world.
But fun to leave behind while still staying in the Dolby universe. I got to role play both a character near and dear to many, and create a new one to float around without knowing the answers to esoteric Dolby questions. I got to interact and have fun without being the admin or the code monkey.
But I hope to see many of the players join up at Thomas’ official forum, The Flat Earth Society to hang out and make plans to meet as tour dates come up over the rest of this year and next year. I am honored to have been Europa, officially. I asked to have her back after the game ended, so that I can still use her on the FC forum. She’s fun.
Verre is still around too, but her character was slowly turning solid.
From her profile:
“She is accidentally affected by the powerful electrolysis cathodes fixed to the hull of her vessel. They are designed to attract coral and plankton, but they seem to be gradually turning Verre into a statue—someday, without help she will be just that, a solid maritime organism, frozen in time, gazing out over the bow of her vessel like a tragic Greek goddess.” The Greek Goddess who was the Greek chorus. Perhaps it is best she is left to gaze out across the sea from her old boat, so in love with her tribe and her alliance, with visions of a brighter future where everything knits together as it should.
It was an honor. I have met such talent in the rest of the team, in their creativity, their art, their humor and the dedication to supporting the Dreamer all the way to the end. We did it, ALL OF US who raised the city, player and G.O.D. and developers alike. See you in cyberspace, FCers. Don’t be shy!