Thursday, 29 September 2011

The Accidental Podcaster Part II: Making EVE Sound Real


A continuation of my EVE podcasting journey. Part one can be found here.


The idea was simple:

CCP's content team already provided live events and ongoing storylines which gave movement to the tectonic plates of New Eden's majestic narrative plateaux. Those of keen interest who knew where to look could mine further into the lore to unearth the chronicles and novels. But after talking to CCP Dropbear in Las Vegas, it seemed a shame if all his grand Machievellian plans were to remain buried and go unnoticed by the majority of pilots. Although there is a segment of the player-base who diligently investigated these stories, discovering clues within the lore and in New Eden itself, they were either keeping their nuggets of knowledge to themselves or had no means to share the dirt.

EVE's content needed a light shone upon it and a voice to spread the word.

A Sound Idea

Amongst the many podcasts that support EVE's myriad of playstyles, I'd never come across one that focused specifically on the lore and the content. I would soon come to learn that part of the reason for that is the sheer amount of research required to ensure that the canon police didn't come calling. But if necessity is the mother of invention, naivety is the father of motivation. With a vague concept in mind and two of EVE podcasting's brightest talents in Angus McDecoy and Arydanika interested in getting involved, I had the kernel of a workable project.

Previously, I had only ever produced five-minute audio skits, but their popularity on EVE Commune had taught me that they worked well as bite-sized chunks of entertainment. I decided that my fiction podcast would take the form of a series of skits woven together with some kind of narrative. It made sense for it to be some kind of news or magazine show with a main host who could link the segments together.

I also wanted the podcast to appeal to a wider audience than just the hardcore roleplay crowd. I wanted it to draw new people into the lore as much as support those who were already enjoying it. I wanted to show players that there was more to EVE than huge fleet fights and mission-running. If I could get the balance right, it might even appeal to folk who don't play EVE but like science-fiction.

Carving the Concept

I sketched out the format:
  • Introduction and Headline News
  • Keynote Interview (player/character)
  • Studio Discussion/Featurette (informational)
  • Technology Focus (humorous)
  • Wormhole Explorers (dramatic)
  • Close/Outro
Over the following week I wrote a thirty-page draft script which was ridiculously ambitious for a podcast. Not only was every line scripted, the cast had rocketed from the initial four characters up to ten assorted main and supporting roles. An assortment of music and sound effects would have to be found or created.

As soon as I was able, I uploaded the script to GoogleDocs and let the canon-hound (that's Angus) get to work on it. Although I'd come up with a reason for avoiding excessive lore research; the whole show would be run by non-capsuleers. They are unlikely to be as well-informed as the capsuleer community and may be liable to misinformation.

We knocked about ideas, chopped the script about and developed the characters. Angus was the obvious choice for the larger-than-life sensationalist anchor with his rich, bassy voice and his theatre degree (he's actually very modest about this). I'd written the role of the field reporter for the velvet-voiced Dani and I'd typecast myself as the socially-awkward Amarr scientist. There was an uncast laconic Minmatar engineer character written to act as a foil for the scientist. Erin Anwwn of Notalotofnews Newshour's dry laid-back style was a perfect fit and he foolishly accepted our advances.

With the key players all in place, it seemed like a simple task to arrange script read-throughs and Skype recording sessions with the relevant people. But no, there must have been Goon hackers secretly injecting lines of Macbeth dialogue into the script, because anything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Dialogue would fail to record or be of unusable quality, files would go missing, my internet failed altogether for three days and so on. To compound this, given that the project had contributors from both sides of the pond, arranging mutually convenient recording times was not easy. Frustration, insomnia and misdirected creativity can lead to odd results.  But, with a combination of patience, perseverance and workarounds, we eventually got it recorded.

I then lost several days of my life to Audacity. But it got the job done.

Credit to the Community

It still amazes me that so many people bought into this lunacy and I appreciate the input from them all. The whole project really has been a collaborative effort. Garheade “just threw together” some amazing musical compositions which have become the show's theme tune. Hallan Turrek won the "Best Know-It-All in a Supporting Role" award and also provided some useful insights throughout the process. Max Torps and Noise quite willingly recorded some very random lines for their cameos on short notice without really knowing what the project was about (some of their outtakes are hilarious – they are EVE's answer to Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer). Penelope Star of Starfleet Comms and Breki Tomasson and Arkenor of Claims of the Normal were unceremoniously plucked from my Skype contact list to give voice the the crew of a Minmatar frigate and make the word “bubble” comedy gold (in the outtakes).

Dani used her Bene Gesserit Witch skills to convince Scitor Nantom to save me from my technological inadequacies and set up a supporting website and hosting with his Tilt 180 service. She also secured some CCP exclusives, who provided the voice-overs in the title sequences of the teaser trailers. Top fellas.

The Final Product

What we have produced is a piece of EVE Online-flavoured audio fiction which is hopefully entertaining and informative. That is not for us to decide. With our limited resources it was always an ambitious undertaking, I am proud of what we have started and now we've trodden the path once, the going will be easier and our craft will improve.

It is our intention to produce an episode a month, exploring the stories that drive New Eden and opening up the mysteries of EVE lore to a wider audience in an immersive and accessible way.

Tune into Tech Four News for unscrambled news from across the cluster.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Lay it on me.