Friday, June 28, 2013



I know it was a little bit ago but first and foremost, a huge thank you and hug to Jeff Kurtenacker, who took the time to send me a positive Vine when I was feeling down. You really helped brighten my day <3

This week we have some extra amazing additions to the WSRP Swimsuit edition thread, which if you haven't checked out the crazy, sexy, hilarity that has happened there, you should do so right now!

So to start with, here was my contribution sketch! Agent Hawkens at the beach with the only type of relaxation he understands: laptop, wine, beach chair and an ICI (insert impressive model name here) fully automated turret at his feet.

Turret comes with additional feature of deployable sun shield which doubles for unexpected ordinance protection!

This next picture was an AMAZING piece done by the artist Momo Deary a good friend of WSRP's Kanko! This collaboration of many of our characters was not only fun to watch (she streamed her work!) but also excellent at capturing their personalities! We're hoping to do more seasonal collabs in the future, so keep your eyes posted for more awesome art or give us a shout if you want your character to get in on the fun!

Next we have the brand new patch notes from Carbine for CBT3! This new round of beta testing includes both Exiles and Dominion and added in Neighbors for housing! Good luck out there testers! I personally really appreciate Carbine sharing these notes with the community. It's a nice gesture on their part and lots of fun to look over! Stay awesome guys!

I would also like to do some community shout outs in the future for people. As a community our most powerful tool is networking. Links are excellent, but I like the personal touch now and then as well. If you would like your guild/blog/etc to be featured on the Scowling Cassian, shoot me an email at and make sure you mention the blog in your Subject! Looking forwards to hearing from you guys.

And always, Hawkens and I love getting community suggestions for topics, so don't hold back folks <3

This week's blog topic is a suggestion from WSRP's Patrician. It is a problem that can crop up quite often in roleplaying, sometimes on accident and usually with frustrating results to all parties involved: Metagaming.

Now I'm sure many of you have heard the term used once or twice, if not experienced it firsthand, but what exactly is metagaming?

According to Wikipedia:

    Metagaming is a broad term usually used to define any strategy, action or method used in a game which transcends a prescribed ruleset, uses external factors to affect the game, or goes beyond the supposed limits or environment set by the game. Another definition refers to the game universe outside of the game itself.

In simple terms, it is the use of out-of-game information or resources to affect one's in-game decisions.

Originally a military term, metagaming was passed down through politics and now is commonly used to describe similar circumstances within roleplay settings. When players share information together in order to help facilitate roleplay and then one or more act upon it 'in character' without any reason for their character to know/be able to do such things, it can become quite the headache all around.

One of the key aspects of live roleplaying is communication. Rather, it is really the foundation of everything that transpires. Two or more players who agree to enact out their own storyweaving together for the sake of mutual enjoyment. Usually enacted in settings often built by imagination and the suspension of disbelief, this communication is key in making agreements on how some events might proceed or setting the rules of the engagements, or just plain explaining what you are trying to convey in case it is not clear to others. Often times it is enjoyable to go freestyle, just post and/or write back and forth and see what amazing turns the story takes on its own. But sometimes it is also nice to set certain events that would be interesting or perhaps important to the players or characters involved.

It is when you take the time to describe these concepts and/or plot devices that metagaming can worm its way into roleplaying. When you know events or ideas before they happen, it is very tempting to act upon them. For instance, if you knew your character was about to get into a fight, wouldn't you rather them win, or even pull the right moves to avoid it all together? Unfortunately it is this abuse of information that can really hurt roleplay. If someone's character stops yours from something, when they should not have even known about it, it can be really frustrating. Sometimes this might just be an accident, it can be hard to pretend to 'forget' things, especially when that knowledge lends you or your character power. And sadly, sometimes this can be on purpose, when someone cannot stand the idea of being unable to use such information.

What do you MEAN my character isn't PSYCHIC!?

To me, one of the best parts of roleplaying with others is to watch all the exciting and unexpected turns our stories can take. I like it when I cannot always guess how others will react, or what events might unfold. It lends such a powerful sense of realism and excitement to the stories that not only deepen the personality of the characters involved but even of the players themselves! (Believe it or not, you can learn a lot from playing pretend ;) ) This also means that I avoid metagaming if at all possible. It's nice to have a little heads up of what's coming or perhaps some behind-the-scenes workings because it helps to direct the storytelling and keep it focused when needed as well as lend to a wealth of ideas to everyone involved. Creativity sparks creativity!

To turn this knowledge into a personal advantage is very frustrating. I feel like it cheapens the story and can sometimes brew mistrust between players when they cannot feel like they can discuss things with each other. It also can really ruin surprises and interesting twists.

In my opinion, it is important to keep good communication between players. Sure you can hide information or ideas from others for the sake of surprise, but you need to be careful to not go so far that your points get lost. Being able to coordinate and bounce ideas off each other is not only important to keeping roleplay going, but is also just plain fun!

I think one of the best ways to explain metagaming and its effects would be to show some examples:

In one of the storylines I have been writing in, our favorite Cassian agent has found himself accidentally caught by a group of Exiles setting up a secret base on Nexus. In order to secure his good behavior and to not be forced to kill him immediately, one member of the Exile team locked out the UI of the nanites and made pretend that they were rigged to all overheat should she die or he leave her presence.

Now the truth is that, although the nanites UI were locked out from his control, there was nothing else done. It is merely a very creative lie that is keeping him in check, and perhaps his own stubborness. See, in one scene, we find Hawkens glaring angrily as his Exile opposition 'set his coding' to allow him to move a bit more freely around the base to allow him to actually lend some help where needed. In order to make it convincing, the Exile has to make a big show of 'reprogramming' him.

This is where the metagame comes in. The other player informs me in their post that their character is actually playing a handheld videogame and that the complicated concept of his entrapment was found in some silly romance novel their character had read previously.

Now I consider: Hawkens is an agent and a good one at that.

As if there were any doubt...

Well of course not, but now we must take into consideration the aspects of yourself. As a Highborn Cassian to a long and proud bloodline, the chances of you having read “trash” novels or having played a pop culture video game are fairly slim. I could, perhaps, argue that you have heard of at least the game in your travels...but then again you are a very arrogant individual who might find such knowledge 'beneath him.'

I really have far more important things to do than games and silly novels.

Exactly! So, keeping to character, not only does Hawkens not recognize the potential signs of the lie, he actually is so paranoid about the whole affair that he uses his own extensive knowledge on programming to explain to himself why what the Exile is doing makes sense, as he figures how he would do it in his head and simply assumes that has happened.

Amusingly enough, Hawkens traps himself. Now, to be fair, I can at least defend him by pointing out that the fact of what would happen if the lie was actually true. If he tried to escape, or kill his captor, or even run away, he could end up literally boiling alive in his own skin from all the nanites in his blood overloading. Not only would that just plain suck, it isn't a risk he is willing to take if he hopes to return to the service of his people in one piece.

Otherwise I would call their foolish bluff and make them rue the day they ever crossed my path.

So, while I might have been able to make up something that would allow Hawkens to call the bluff of his captors, what would be the point? His position is far more dynamic where he stands and allows for some tense, but genuine interactions with others that are far more interesting than if he were to be “super awesome” and force his way free. I am confident in my own character and I do not need him to 'win' all the time.

In fact, I think a lot of metagaming comes from the desire for one's character to succeed, or 'win' at all opposition. I actually wrote a piece on this for the WSRP forums: “It's Okay to Lose: Why failure may sometimes be the key to success” and I would recommend taking a read if you'd like to see more of my opinion on that! It is important to remember that one does not always have to win to succeed. I have actually been complimented many times on the fact that I often allow Hawkens to fail at something, or be bested. They said it made him more realistic and more relatable to. And in return, they respect him both in and out of character, making sure that I never feel that his tripping up somehow makes him actually incompetent or foolish to others!

Sometimes we just can't help but make mistakes...

Keep in mind that one does not necessarily metagame with only one's own character. Writing for other characters or pushing them to play in a way /you/ are most comfortable with is also metagaming. You would be taking the knowledge of their character, or perhaps even your friendship for granted and using it in ways that could make others uncomfortable. Mind you this doesn't necessarily mean that someone is doing it with rude intent. Sometimes they might think it is okay or that they are just using it to help the story.

The important thing when dealing with metagaming is actually the very same tool that builds it: communication. Be willing to discuss things with others and be respectful if someone asks you to not play their characters (After all, it is their creation!) or be respectful by not using outside knowledge to your advantage. Be mindful of your fellow players, ask if you need clarification and you should be just fine! I find that most players are usually respectful about apologizing and fixing their errors if you treat them with respect when you confront them.

Metagaming can be uncomfortable, ruin stories and trust and is just plain no fun. But if you take the time to think out your actions and talk with your fellow roleplayers, you'll find that you will have so much more fun. And who knows, maybe you'll learn even more about your character and watch them grow in ways you never expected.

That is one of the many joys of roleplaying!

The friends that play together...well, have FUN together!!!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

It's all in the Details: Humility and Respect


It has been a very busy this week, so I apologize that I haven't been able to keep up much on news this week! I will most likely be posting a blog once a week on Thursdays for the next few weeks until my schedule clears up a bit. Thanks for the understanding!

This weeks WildStar Wednesday covered their Main Events Calendar for where you can catch Carbine next! Be sure to check it out.


A good agent is self sufficient, able to succeed at a myriad of challenges. A wise agent still turns to others. They do not waste their energy on petty arrogance, believing themselves beyond the help of their fellow Imperials. Each has a role to play in the grand machine of the Dominion and only a fool wastes precious time and energy putting themselves above this.

In the end, all serve the glory of the Empire.

Back in March, I wrote the blog “It's all in the Details: Respecting the Chain of Command” which discussed how respecting a command hierarchy within both the gaming community and within roleplay was a key part for them to succeed and thrive. I also went on to note how this was a respect freely given, with little sincerely critical punishments that would drive such incentives, but rather a respect for one's community members and our mutual happiness instead.

Today I want to talk about another aspect of this idea: Respect and Humility, specifically in roleplaying with others.

There are very few aspects of roleplay that a roleplayer enjoys more then their character: the expression of their creative genius and an avatar for interacting with a fantastic world beyond their own. With few exceptions, these characters represent a significant investment of time and effort on the part of their creator and are often a source of pride.

So it should come as no surprise that one of the best ways to befriend a roleplayer is to engage them about their character. I know for myself, I personally enjoy when people ask me about Hawkens, make jokes about him, ask to roleplay with me and even create fan art. To me this shows appreciation not just for my character but for my efforts in creating him and it is humbling and flattering each time!

Seriously. I love it. <3 (Art by Himmel)

Now with all this time and effort we put into our characters, it stands to reason that we try to make them exciting and interesting! Perhaps we want them to be a great and powerful warrior or a wily rogue. Maybe they are a flying ace or a clever hacker. They can be charming and witty or perhaps they are kind and caring. Often, they represent something we are interested in or something we might like to be.

With so many well rounded and interesting characters, what happens when you place them together? What happens if two people wanted to be a scientist or multiple players thought the idea of a hacker was pretty cool? When writing with others, you cannot be the only star of the show, but then how do you show that your character is still awesome?

Interestingly enough, the best way that I have found to show how cool your character is, is what I have written this blog about: Humility and Respect.

Humility: Roleplayers with humility recognize that they are not the only character playing and do not attempt to take over every scene by 'acting out.' Now, don't get me wrong, you shouldn't be afraid to have your character do 'cool things.' You can still show off and even be the star of the show now and then. What is important, is that you still remember the other players and you take into consideration that they too wish for their characters to appear useful and competent!

Even if you know that you are in every way superior to those arou---

Hawkens! Not now!


Ahem. For example: Let's say you are playing an Aurin scientist and you and your band of Exiles are wandering one of the jungles of Nexus, looking for some Eldan ruins. The first step is finding them, which means successfully getting through a jungle full of dangerous flora and fauna. Now, as an Aurin, you figure that your character has a natural affinity with the wild and traversing such environments. However, you also have a Human tracker in your party. Even though you would love to show how wise your Aurin is in the way of the wild, you know that you will definitely get another time to shine when you find the ruins themselves. The ancient Eldan technology will be a veritable playground for a scientist, whereas the simple, but honest tracker will probably find them confusing or even boring. So instead you step back and focus on preparing for the ruins and let your companion shine for awhile and lead the group. Maybe you pipe up now and then to let others know you certainly know your stuff, as there is no shame in showing your character is skilled in something. Just in this case, your character offers help, encouragement or maybe even a little sarcasm to lend to the adventure without needing to take the lime light.

Once you reach the ruins, then you can have your time to shine!

Respect: Roleplayers with respect show that they appreciate the characters created by others. This can be very similar/overlap with the aspects of humility, but here I want to point out a particular aspect of respecting the characters of other players: pointing out the skills and/or qualities they themselves might wish to show off.

For example: Let's say this time you are playing a Draken Huntress. You may not possess that many booksmarts, but /no one/ wants to cross blades with you. You have proven yourself loyal and dedicated, eager to crush the Exile rebellion beneath your feet and yet somehow you have found yourself trailing around with some Cassian scientist who is infuriatingly inquisitive about everything and sooooo slow. Now your friend playing the scientist doesn't just want to stomp around throwing around tons of “smart words” and try to make your character feel stupid, they feel it would just push stereotypes or perhaps be rude. Instead, you point it out for them! It isn't that your Draken isn't smart enough to learn if she wanted to study, she just chose a different life path. So instead of being angry at her companion for their intelligence, perhaps she remarks on it either internally or aloud. Maybe she notes to herself that she is impressed by his ability to make sense of obscure technology while he notes that her skills in battle and the Hunt allow him the luxury of being able to explore and learn without fear. Not only did acknowledging each others strengths make you both feel good about your characters, it also helps to make you more relaxed roleplaying together! You don't have to be worried that your character will be ignored or downtrodden. The other player thinks they are cool as well!

Keep in mind you can compliment someone without necessarily being "nice" Like this meeting between Reyes and JC Denton in the first Deus Ex game. They are actually joking and further conversation gives you the feeling that this dialogue was more in recognition of their accomplishments than an insult.

So you can see how critical and how powerful these aspects can be in roleplay! They don't just make the player feel good, but they also open up comforts in interacting that everyone can enjoy!

I really wanted to talk about this because of the phenomenal experience I have had roleplaying with Hawkens alongside all the super talented people of WSRP and how much their display of these aspects has meant to me.

I tend to always be nervous about making Hawkens into a Mary Sue. Like many of the agents he was based on, he is skilled in many areas and has a good set of hobbies to round him out. However, when playing with others I am always so afraid I will accidentally make them feel insignificant to his abilities or feel unappreciated. So when I write, sometimes I try not to go into too much detail how 'graceful' he was in combat or other such self appreciating descriptions. But the problem is, Agent Hawkens is arrogant and...well a loyal Imperial and he believes himself above others around him for the most part. On top of that, I'll admit, I think Hawkens is pretty cool. So I like him to do 'cool' things and try to look good doing them.

But this does not stop me from appreciating others, nor Hawkens, by proxy. For instance, Hawkens knows a bit of first aid. As he is often on his own, it is imperative that he knows how to keep himself alive in tough situations.

However, I only know enough to keep myself alive until I can get to a real doctor. Therefore I do not hesitate to show my appreciation of those who have dedicated themselves to the healing arts. Who knows when it may be them that tends to my wounds one day?

Exactly! And as for pointing out Hawkens' strengths? It is always a pleasure when someone makes a comment in or out of character that I was trying to make come across with Hawkens. One notices that, while outwardly grumpy and prickly, if you can manage to get close to him, Hawkens is actually rather kindhearted for those he cares about. Whereas others note that they respect and fear his abilities. Right there I didn't have to fear that they would somehow ignore his prickliness just because he was nice once or fear that, just because he wasn't throwing his weight around, people would not respect that he was dangerous.

By these people showing me that they understood and respected his capabilities I felt not only more comfortable playing him, but more comfortable playing with /them./ I have played with people who wanted nothing more than to be the coolest character in every scene and it can become tiring and sometimes depressing when you feel your character keeps getting shoved aside because you are trying to be polite. And the more comfortable people feel playing together, the better adventures they can build! When no one is wasting time posturing or feeling left behind, everyone can enjoy growing together instead.

So Humility and Respect end up being a win-win all around. By showing you care not only about the character you are roleplaying yours with, but that player as well you help create a sense of camaraderie that spreads throughout the community little by little.

In conclusion, respect me the most, and show ME the most humility, and we should all get along fine.

Hawkens! You wipe that grin off your face right now! ANYWAY, in the end, if you work together like this, everyone has more fun. Which is what this is all about! I cannot possibly emphasize that enough! We will have good days and some bad days, but in the end this is for relaxation and entertainment. So if we can help another have fun as well? Fantastic!


Thank you once again for joining us, dear readers! As always feel free to leave comments and suggestions to either myself or Agent Hawkens and we will reply as soon as able! 

Or you can all revel in his glory if you wish...;P

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Unsung Hero: Roleplaying Support Characters


Another awesome piece of fanart here by Sushi again! “Hawkens Cadet Portrait, upon graduating the ICI Academy” Love it~

I especially love the sepia tone! So regal!

And an awesome little surprise here. Jen Gordy of Carbine printed off a sketch I made of one of the scanbot personalities of WSRP “PROBIE” for her little one and here is the result. I sense an artist in the making! <3
PROBIE looks cute in green!

Also, if you want to see some fantastic art (and a lot of hilarity) head over to The WSRP Swimsuit Issue thread! Need I say more?

In other news, WildStar has had a few new articles up for read:

-Meet the EU WildStar Community Team! I know one of these guys stopped by WSRP already to say hello while I was at work, these guys are clearly showing the same love and dedication to the community as the rest of the WildStar team. Welcome aboard guys!

-WildStar Wednesday- Game Jam: Learn more about some of the excellent creative process that goes behind the scenes for the Carbine team while they create WildStar!

-WildStar press briefing and Q&A w/ Gaffney: Check this out on Massively for a little sneak peek at the fate of the Eldan (spoiler alert sort of if you do not want any hints)


Today's blog is a suggestion from WSRP's Fenwick for advice and ideas on how to roleplay a supporting character.

Supporting characters have long been crucial to storytelling. Yet it is their very nature that makes it easy to forget just how important they are. While it is the supporting character's job to support the main character and their goals in narratives, so do supporting roleplayers aid their fellow storytellers.

In regards to roleplaying, I actually prefer to use the term “story drivers” instead of main character as there can be many and they vary from group to group. While these story drivers help to push the narrative of the team forwards, the supporting characters have another role that is just as important. In roleplaying, it is the role of the supporting character to make the journey enjoyable and exciting while pulling out hidden depths for both themselves and others along the way.

Now this is not to say that supporting characters cannot help move storylines or that they are shallow characters by any means. In fact, supporting characters are just as rich and complex as the story drivers usually. Often times they themselves are not story drivers out of personal choice. Many of my roleplaying friends choose to play supporting characters because they really enjoy watching others comes up with awesome stories while getting to help out and be a part of it, but without the stress of rallying the group behind them.

I think that one of the best ways to explain this, is to use an example. In fact, I will be using Fenwick himself for this one! On WSRP, there is a thread that features a group of Exiles trying to set up a secret base on Nexus away from the prying eyes of the Dominion. In this team, Fenwick plays the role of an Aurin xenobiologist and doctor.

Fenwick! (Art by Himmel)

So right from the start, Fenwick has set himself up as a great support character. Though crazy scientists and mad doctors could certainly make for good story drivers, healers and researchers are also very good support roles.

Scientists/researchers/etc can make very useful additions in a team. Perhaps the team needs to know if some flora or fauna are poisonous? Perhaps they need a potion concocted or a connection to get them inside an enemy laboratory. This role tends to lend itself to interesting characters with above average intelligence and often with clever dialogue and ideas.

Doctors/healers/medics/etc are extremely helpful and needed by just about everyone in roleplay. People get hurt, in dangerous missions or even in everyday life, or they can get sick. So who do they turn to? The doctor! Often times, when people are injured or feel vulnerable and/or weak, they tend to open up. The idea of confidentiality and care tends to create an atmosphere that allows for other characters to speak about things they might not otherwise be willing to talk about.

This is one of the most powerful tools/benefits of the supporting character. They help provide situations and atmosphere that encourage character growth and development. By being both a scientist and a doctor, Fenwick makes himself available and helpful to each member present, opening up the most potential opportunities for roleplaying.

Now, in this thread, events happen from time to time to help drive the story forwards. Perhaps there are cargo drops to pickup for the team or bandits that might post a threat to the Exile's camp. During these times, story drivers tend to take the lead, pushing the story forwards while some of their support goes with. Fenwick chooses to stay behind. He is no fighter or scout, so he sticks back in the medical ward and prepares it for the team's return. Perhaps he engages those still around the base in conversation in the meantime, giving them someone to talk to and some fun for those not on the front lines.Fenwick is also now prepared for the return of party, ready to help heal the injured if physical conflict happened.

Fenwick also has another powerful tool up his sleeve. As a scientist in the WildStar universe, he has his very own scanbot. He names it PROBIE and gives it the personality of a bumbling puppy. Throughout the thread, PROBIE makes his way between the players, adding bits and pieces of usefulness along with lots of humor to lighten up an otherwise serious plot. By not only adding his scanbot to the adventure, but by also letting said bot wander around as a separate entity, Fenwick has made it possible to be able to interact with anyone on site.

PROBIE up to his usual antics in the swimsuit thread... (Art by Evion!)

This is the beauty of the support character. Fenwick is still a deep character with thoughts, ambitions and a clever wit. But rather then focus on some big personal story to push or on being the major player in every progression in the narrative, he enjoys filling all those spaces in between. Just like in real life all the periods in between big exciting events are full of everyday chatter, silly stories, learning more about people, making friends, etc. It is the role of the supporting character to help these sort of things along. They are the fun and the 'making friends' and the in-between that is SO important and so critical to character development.

Support characters also excel at adaptation. They are skilled at complimenting the more solid personalities and aspects of those around them. Just like Watson added a touch of humanity and kindess to Sherlock Holmes, so can a good support character add humanity to the disconnected, humor to the gloomy, or they may try other tactics. Perhaps they egg on their adversary or do a silly dance with their friends. Another powerful tool of these roleplayers is the ability to mold themselves to the situation at hand.

They are the unsung heros!

So, if you think this sounds like the type of role you would enjoy just remember:
  • -Support characters tend to be helpful characters. Try to pick a career or skills that could be very useful to a group or encourage people to interact with you.
  • -Support character do not necessarily have to be bubbly and friendly to everyone. You just need to be willing to engage others. Sometimes conflict can make for some very interesting interactions!
  • -You do not have to be a huge story pusher to be a beloved character. You can simply enjoy hanging out with and helping others. Trust me, people LOVE to talk about their works of genius. If you encourage them to play out their characters and help them to grow, you will make lots of friends!
  • -Be adaptable!

And above all else HAVE FUN!!!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Music of WildStar: Q&A with Jeff Kurtenacker and Exclusive Video!


Carbine has been all over this last week, providing us with plenty of tasty tidbits to keep us going! If you haven't yet, check out these three new WildStar articles!

Look at that detail!

Behind the Scenes/Artwork article on Polycount- This has some AWESOME screenshots, concept art, and even shows the incredible level of detail that went into animating Agent Voxine's face!

Check out WildStar's Economic Game by the Senior Systems Designer Bull Durham

WildStar Wednesday- Stress Test Postmortem- Carbine continues to excel at keeping their community up to date on their beta testing. So come check out the information from the first stress test and their followup from yesterday!

I would also like to give a big shout out to the Carbine devs, especially for Chad Moore and Troy Hewitt for stopping by WSRP lately to visit with all the fine folk there! We really appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to talk to us! We are especially flattered for Chad adding his opinion on Luminai lore in our thread and some exciting news from Troy!

Chemical Cutthroat of WSRP has made some fantastic WildStar themed drinks for the community including the Scowling Cassian, the Psyblade, the Logic Bomb and many others! Troy stopped by to talk about potentially bringing these recipes to PAX and other community showings for fans to try these exciting themed drinks! Thank you CC for your wonderful creations and thank you Carbine for showing once again, how much you love your fans and take our efforts into consideration!

 Okay now. Are you ready? I have such a treat for you today, my dear readers! I have right here a Q&A with the talented Lead Composer of WildStar, Jeff Kurtenacker as well as an exclusive video for the Scowling Cassian!

And so without further ado, let me talk about one of the most powerful and exciting aspects of WildStar: the Music.

Not long ago my friend brought to my attention, a comment from someone online in regards to the music from Mass Effect. They were saying that those who created the music were 'cheating' by forcing fans to 'feel' specific ways for certain scenes. They seemed so insulted by the idea that they felt that people only felt sad or excited thanks to the 'manipulative music'. I had to chuckle a bit because this is one of the aspects that makes music such a powerful and unique tool to use!

Take, for instance, the soundtrack to the recent Doctor Who seasons. Personally, I am not the biggest fan of the music. Or rather, by itself it is interesting but nothing super fascinating to me. Now...put this in alongside the acting and scenes in the show and I am blown away! The music integrates so flawlessly with the scenes, helping to encourage grief during the sad times and excitement when the Doctor tries out some daring plan. With the use of such clever compositions, this series turns into an epic adventure, pulling you completely along for the ride with sight and sound!

To me, this is so important and so very wonderful. That music has the power to make us feel and creates an experience for us. We have been trained to recognize sounds and tones to create ideas and emotions in our minds. You hear dissonant chords and you become discomforted. You hear harmony and it carries a sense of power or perhaps a clear voice brings peace. Fast scores get our blood pumping while slower ones might bring on the tears. So you can see, music is such a powerful tool, especially in the hands of a talented composer.

The Master of Music!

Enter Jeff Kurtenacker, the Lead Composer for Carbine Studios. If anyone understands the power of music, it is certainly this man and his entire talented team working on the music of WildStar. When I first took the time to check out the pieces he had on his soundcloud I found myself utterly blown away! These pieces aren't just a pleasure to listen to, they are gateways into an exciting world full of adventure and sound! From the powerful and heroic “Defend The Gates” to the “Character Creation Screen” that invokes a sense of wonder and mounting excitement, these pieces are a brilliant window into the world of WildStar.

I began listening while I blogged. It seemed appropriate. Then I found myself humming the tunes around the house and at work. Not long after, I was flailing with excitement and enthusiasm to Jeff himself on his Twitter, eager to tell him how much his music had moved me and how it made me even more excited for WildStar!

And here I am today with an amazing treat that I am so very honored and excited to share with you all!
Thanks to Jeff, Troy and all the wonderful folk on the Carbine team, I present to you my Q&A with Kurtenacker and a Scowling Cassian exclusive video of the recording of none other than the AMAZING Dominion Faction theme (and my personal favorite ) “Systematic Domination”

WildStar Music Q & A Questions for Kurtenacker for the Scowling Cassian.
  1. What/who are your biggest inspirations for your music?
I’m definitely influenced by a lot of different composers and artists across a wide variety of musical genres, but in the film scoring world I’m inspired and influenced by Alan Silvestri, Jerry Goldsmith, Thomas Newman, Tyler Bates, John Williams, Danny Elfman… the list goes on. I’m also really inspired by some great classical composers like Bach, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Haydn, and Beethoven. I love to listen to all kinds of pop, rock, jazz, blues, opera, musicals… everything. I would say I have a pretty healthy and eclectic mix of influences. In a single car ride home from work I can go from The Killers to Shooter Jennings to Indiana Jones and everything in between. I’m all over the place.

  1. Can you tell us a bit about the creative process when you make a new piece? Do you visualize what you are working with or perhaps look at screenshots?
This is usually the most daunting part of the process… the blank page. I like to sketch out my ideas with staff paper and pencil before I get too carried away in a digital workstation piece of software. I’ve found once you take that step you can end up wrestling with the software rather than wrestling with developing your music. So I have a giant notebook of staff paper that I chart out all my ideas in. When I begin a new zone I have a few things I tend do first: I read a design document written by our lore department about the zone, which is the overview of what the zone is, and what’s going on there. That always gets some ideas flowing.

After that, I’ll jump in the game and go to that zone to get a visual representation of what is happening. WildStar’s art style is a really big influence on me, so when I walk into a zone for the first time I definitely get a mood and vibe based off the art. The last thing I do is talk directly to the people who are working in these zones. They are the experts on these places, so they can sit down with me and walk me through the content players will be experiencing, and I can get a sense of the emotion and moods within the zone as the player progresses. After all that, I pull up a piano patch on the computer and start to sketch out some ideas. Usually just plunking through some melodies or chord progressions and jotting it down. I keep the game open on one computer screen so I can make sure that what I’m doing matches the mood of what I’m seeing. When I find something that feels right, I take it to the next stage and start to really develop it.
  1. What programs do you use when you record?
There are a few different pieces of software used to make the whole piece of music come alive. I’ll walk you through the process from concept to final mix so you can get an idea. I just mentioned how I usually start the creative process for a cue, so what I’ll do once I have some ideas sketched out is start making a more detailed mock-up of the piece. I use Logic on a pretty powerful Mac Pro. I open Logic and load in my orchestral templates for the orchestra instruments. Even though the orchestra tracks eventually get replaced with live orchestra at the end of the process, it’s still great to get a pretty realistic representation of the cue. I use a combination of LA Scoring Strings, Vienna Symphonic Library strings, and 8Dio Adagio Strings. I blend those three libraries together for a nice rich string section to use in my Logic session. For brass I lean heavily on CineBrass, and augment that with Hollywood Brass and Vienna Symphonic Library brass. Often there will be other instruments such as ethnic instruments, woodwinds, percussion, etc… and I have a wide variety of musical instrument libraries to draw from should I need to use them in a cue. I also use a lot of Omnisphere, Damage, Evolve, Alchemy, Phaedra, Project Alpha, Assault, and other great electronica/industrial libraries to get those edgy, electronica, hybrid sounds. I craft the cue entirely in Logic, and I’ll do a rough mix on the cue in order to get it in the game and live with it for a while. When we batch up enough pieces of music to make it worthwhile to do an orchestra session, then I take each cue and orchestrate it using Finale or Sibelius notation software. This is a really critical step. Real instruments behave differently than sampled virtual instruments on the computer, so it’s important for me to make new decisions on blend and balance of the orchestra with the mind-set of live musicians on a stage rather than what I did in Logic to make it sound right. Sometimes, depending on the cue, the orchestration choices may be only slightly different than the MIDI, but sometimes it may involve a whole new approach to the arrangement. Once I have all the scores and parts notated, then we are ready for a day of recording. At the orchestra session we are using Pro Tools for recording. Our audio engineer captures the session on Pro Tools, and then takes it back to his studio to edit and mix and ultimately deliver the final version of the cue.
  1. What fuelled your passion for music?
I guess it was mainly the ability to express myself. When I was in middle school I used to come home from school, drop my backpack, sit down at the piano and play for an hour or two. Not playing anything in particular, but just making up music that resonated with how I was feeling. It was an emotional outlet for me. Even if no one else was home or no one else was listening, I felt like I was able to get those emotions out by playing piano. I was also impacted a lot by music I listened to. I still remember how I felt when I first heard the Back to the Future score, and Edward Scissorhands, and The Who’s Tommy, and Nightmare Before Christmas, and the original Superman, and.. I could go on and on. I vividly remember being moved by the music, and being envious of how the composer was able to manipulate my emotions through the score. So for me it was that connection of the language of music and its ability to say everything I needed it to say. And music is such a rich language that it can express anything! So I’ve never felt short of ways to express emotion or storytelling through music, and that was a big reason I fell in love with composition.
  1. What other projects have you worked on prior to WildStar?
Before working at Carbine Studios I was a composer for SomaTone Interactive Audio, an audio post-production house for multimedia. Mainly we did video games – everything from mobile phone games to casual download PC games to console games. I wrote a lot of music for a lot of those kinds of games, and in a wide variety of styles. Before that I was doing contract work as a composer, where I got to work on some short films, pop production, be co-lead composer on Pirates of the Burning Sea, as well as some arranging and chart/score preparation for WarCraft 3 and WoW.
  1. What is your favorite WildStar song so far?
This is a difficult question to answer. Of the songs we’ve released so far, the Character Creation track is probably my favorite.  To be fair, I love them all, and some days certain themes or certain cues resonate with me more than others. That said, there are a lot of great memories wrapped up in the creation and production of the Character Creation piece, and I remember being really moved emotionally as I was conducting the orchestra during the recording session.  I wanted to do something a little different (as far as character creation music loops go), and I think we were able to do that. As a result, we’ve got an emotionally engaging piece of music that is ambient yet stirring, and conveys that sense of epic vastness and wondrous adventure.  Even so, I am REALLY excited for the next couple pieces that are going to be released in due time.
  1. What is your favorite part about WildStar?
My favorite part of this game is actually beyond the game itself. It’s the experience of making this game together with some really awesome people here at Carbine Studios. Yes, we are making an awesome game that has a ton of highlights, but honestly for the rest of my life I’m going to look back on this journey of making WildStar music, and being a part of the dev team, and it’s going to stand as an iconic time in my life. Not only because of my own personal journey during this time, but all the relationships I’ve built and experiences I’ve had over these years. It’s difficult for me to separate the game from the people who are making it, because the game is so much a part of who we are here at Carbine – so for me, what means the most about this game, is actually the process of making it and journey we get from it.
  1. Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Yes there is, and I’m glad you asked! With a name like the Scowling Cassian, I know you would be excited to get a little more insight into the creation of the Dominion theme – Systematic Domination. So I want to share some footage from Eastwood Scoring Stage when we recorded the orchestra playing that piece of music! The video starts with some banter between the booth and me about bringing the trumpets back up to full volume, and then you can see me conduct the amazing group of musicians we had at Warner Bros. that day. Enjoy!!

Strong and powerful, this piece certainly represents the courage and might of the Dominion! And if you close your eyes and just listen, you can almost feel the heroes of the Empire marching by... ;)


I want to extend my sincerest thanks to Jeff Kurtenacker for taking time to share with the Scowling Cassian. It has been a pleasure not only with this interview, but chatting with you on Twitter and being able to share in your enthusiasm and excitement in your work. I look forwards to more talks in the future!

I would also like to thank Troy Hewitt for all your hard work in helping to get this all together and in taking the time out of your busy day to talk with me!

And I would like to say thank you to all the rest at Carbine Studios! I simply cannot express how amazing they have been for the community. They fly their fans to Arkship events to share in their excitement of your game, they chat with us on Twitter and visit our sites to say hello or share information. They ask us what we think and feel and then thank US for being such devoted fans. As I said before one of the most exciting parts of WildStar is that, thanks to Carbine, this isn't just some game we are watching being made, but a game we are a part of. The devs are certainly listening!

And that makes WildStar very special indeed