Search the most comprehensive database of interviews and book signings from Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson and the rest of Team Jordan.
2012-04-30: I had the great pleasure of speaking with Harriet McDougal Rigney about her life. She's an amazing talent and person and it will take you less than an hour to agree.
2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."
Logged In (1): Terez,
Newest Members:johnroserking, petermorris, johnadanbvv, AndrewHB, jofwu, Salemcat1, Dhakatimesnews, amazingz, Sasooner, Hasib123,
And there is something else that keeps nagging at my memory, but I can't put my finger on it. I'll post again when it comes back to me.
Now I have it, although it's fairly mundane. It's about the WOT game by Legend Entertainment. He said that he asked them to have a female character, and they were initially against it, but he pressed the issue and they conceded. Then Tomb Raider became big, there were some design changes and suddenly there was sex appeal.
He also asked for a replayable game, and they told him it could not be done.
So he came up with the idea of having a massive library of ter'angreal in the game, and at the start of each game, the computer randomly selects some, and they're the weapons you have to use in the game, allowing for many different strategies, depending on which weapons you have and which you don't.
He also said that Legend has done such a good job on WOT that they've been contracted to do the sequel to Unreal. (I'm no big fan of Unreal, but I don't think that he means Unreal Tournament.)
Another question involved the Wheel of Time computer game: yes, he was involved in the making of it and has played it—but not very often. He would have liked better and more extensive features like having the characters interact more with the player.
There were also questions about the language used in the book; he also wanted people to know about the card game etc. etc.
How accurate is the information in the WoT RPG? For instance, it says that Taim was captured by Black Ajah. In your books, though, you seem to leave this issue open to debate. Does your official approval of the game extend to its plot interpretations?
I didn't consult with them on interpretations at all, really. I was trying to let them set up situations where the game could be played parallel to to the story arc, or perhaps outside it. I did try to find anything that contradicted the books, or what I intended in future books, and I caught a few errors when going over their galley proofs. I would have asked them to remove this, had I caught it.
I saw the computer game as a way to attract people to the books. That's why I agreed, when I was approached by gaming companies, who started wanting the rights. But I also wanted it to be something that was going to be decent. So when I signed the first contract, I made sure there was a particular clause in the contract. And they brought me the plans for the game, now, they'd showed me a couple of games that they'd done previously. When they brought in the plans for the game. What they had done with that was file away the numbers off the previous games, took the files' serial numbers off, and put some whiteout over the names, and blacked out the names for my book into the ... over their old games. And I said no. I don't like that. I would like you to do this, and this, and this. I would like this to be possible, and that to be possible. And they said, "well, we can't really do that." And I said, "well, ah I guess...well, there is this paragraph 24, subparagraph z, and I'm invoking that now, and here's a check, that's the money you gave me, goodbye."
...go away. Here, I'm giving you back the money, go away. So they were shocked. And they came to me and said, "look, no, we'd really like to do this, and we'll do the things that you'd like to do". Well, they did. Took them over two-and-a-half years. They had to sell their company to a bigger company to get the money to finance it, [laughter] but that was okay. And I liked the fact that one review said that they'd used the Unreal Engine better than Unreal did. I liked the fact that they were hired based on my game, the game based on my books, that they were hired to write the next Unreal game, the sequel to Unreal.
I like the fact that although the Unreal Engine turned out to be incapable of doing some of the things that I wanted them to do, because they knew about these things that I wanted them to do, they were hired to rewrite the Unreal Engine so that it could do the things that I wanted it to do that previously it could not.
What is going to happen, I don't know... [asked Mike Verdu about this] ...to do more computer games. But then a French company bought Legend GTI and Mike said, "they've told us, we must go into a new direction," and I asked, "what is this new direction?" And he said, "I don't know, they won't tell us. They say we're supposed to wander around until we find it." So I don't know what's going to happen there. I think maybe there's been too much wine before the meeting but I have no idea what will happen there.
I think the game is visually beautiful, but I've never played it, because I don't play that type of game. When I'm on a computer and I'm not working, which is not very often, I play chess, or perhaps a strategic simulation of a battle. Free-fight games for every war, that sort of thing.
RJ said that Legend GTI approached him about doing a video game, and RJ gave them a list of conditions that he wanted addressed. At one point, representatives from Legend GTI had a meeting with RJ in Charleston, and said we can't do everything that you want us to do, here's what we can do. RJ was not satisfied, and said they basically wanted to repackage their last game with the WoT logo on it. When he threatened to give Legend GTI their money back, something RJ doesn't believe anyone ever does in that business, Legend decided to attempt and meet RJ's criteria. RJ apparently believes that this gave them the impetus to research new software engines for gaming (he mentioned the Quake engine, though I don't know enough about the details of gaming software to fully understand the reference) and they eventually provided the type of game that RJ was looking for.
Some time after the WoT game was published, Legend GTI told RJ they were fairly excited and wanted to do some sequels, or do a modular publication. After some time with no more follow up, RJ got in touch with Legend himself. He was informed that the company had been bought by a French interest that wanted to take Legend GTI in different directions and he never heard back from them. RJ's not even sure if Legend GTI still exists, and that their license for WoT games has expired in any case. He also basically threw out an invitation for anyone that wanted to do a WoT game, so all you software engineer wotmaniacs, get busy!
For Infested Templar, I had little to do with the RPG. Mainly my role was limited to telling them that they could not have paladins, ninjas, clerics, shuriken, etc. I had to put so much time into that fighting that I washed my hands of the rest, I'm afraid. I could see that trying to make them actually adapt the books was going to be Valmy Ridge all over again. At least I managed to stop them from putting in a ter'angreal that could bring on the Last Battle in some unspecified manner and also some other really terrible ideas. I wish I had been able to do more, but I had a book to write.
For Anonymous (Arctice), who wants to know why the MMORPG was canceled, I'm assuming you mean the online version of the PC game. The computer game was a victim of corporate takeovers, I'm afraid. Legend/GTI did the original game, which got extremely good reviews, and they were eager to go on to do further games and also add-in modules for the first game. Plus there were to be the online "tournament" versions, as I seem to recall them being referred to back then. In the middle of all the furor, suddenly all I was getting from Legend/GTI was silence. When I finally made contact with them again, I learned that they had been bought by a French company and told to go in a new direction. I asked what that direction was and learned that they'd been told, "You'll know it when you find it." I haven't seen a game from Legend/GTI since and my royalty statements for the game come from Nintendo now. The rights have actually reverted to me, and shortly the extended period I gave them to dispose of games in stock will also expire, so if anybody out there happens to own a gaming company....
If that isn't what Anonymous (Arctice) was talking about, I apologize. You will have to elucidate further.
My job has constantly evolved. First there was fanmail and filing. Then the audiobook project got underway, and someone had to go through and mark all of the changes in point of view so that Michael Kramer could read the male POVs and Kate Reading could read the female ones. Jim decided that I could do that, so, much to my delight, I was getting paid to read The Wheel of Time. I was in hog heaven, of course. At that time, Jim was finishing up A Crown of Swords, and when the proofs came in, Harriet suggested that I assist in going through them, but Jim said no, he didn't want to spoil me. I was crushed. Over the next year or so, though, my job broadened. He gave me the in-house glossary to tidy up, and some of his notes to consolidate. He also would give me lists of questions like "Has character A ever met Character B?" and "Give me three examples of character C's speech" and "Find me all of the information you can on what a baby feels as he's being born." By the time he had The Path of Daggers ready to give to Harriet for editing, I had convinced him that I could help with maintaining our house glossary going forward, and he decided that I would get the pages at the same time Harriet did. Harriet encouraged me to edit as well, and I would do that and pass the pages on to her. I don't know if any of my edits made it into the final book, but Harriet did begin recommending me for freelance editing.
I did other things as well. Jim had a massive personal library, and mentioned that he would love for it to be cataloged; I cobbled together a classification system, using WordPerfect mail merge. I also cataloged his music collection, and kept the existing catalog of movies updated. I did shopping for him, arranged appointments, worked on the Wizards of the Coast RPG and the New Spring comics. When the new cat went missing, I made and put up posters in the neighborhood (we found her hiding under the house, eventually); when cranes and herons started stealing goldfish, I was given fox urine to spread around the pond to discourage them (Jim did encourage me to delegate; I managed to pass that one on to someone else. It smelled so bad that that idea was soon abandoned and we covered the fish pond with a net. I still sometimes find huge birds staring hungrily at the fish when I walk out there). Eventually I took over the bookkeeping as well. He took to calling me his right arm. Over time, I picked up assistants, two of whom are still with me: Marcia Warnock, who took over the book catalog, spread the fox urine, keeps me in office supplies, handles all the annoying phone calls, and keeps me on schedule; and Alan Romanczuk, who took over the questions and research, became our IT specialist, and assists with the bookkeeping, among many other things.
Then, after the Knife of Dreams tour, Jim was diagnosed with amyloidosis. Our focus changed somewhat; we all worked to help him and Harriet as much as we could. After the night that Jim told the ending to Wilson and Harriet, I would sit and talk with him about the end of the series, with a tape recorder running. The last thing that we did together was select the winners of the calendar art contest. Note: I didn't select, I just gave him the art and took notes, and then emailed the winning names to Tor. That was two days before his death.
The significant thing that has changed about my job since then is that Jim isn't here. It's quieter—there is no big, booming voice calling "Maria!" or singing as he comes in the office. There's no one explaining military stuff to me and making it really clear and interesting. There's no one sitting at his desk wearing a silly hat. What I do at my job hasn't changed that much. Now I work directly for Harriet, who is as wonderful a boss as Jim was. When Brandon has questions about the books, I work on finding answers, as does Alan. When Brandon sends us a book, I go through it looking for continuity errors, just as I did with Jim, and suggesting other changes, just as before. I still do the bookkeeping with Alan's help, and other banal stuff. I know a lot more fans now, of course; I went to JordanCon, DragonCon, and the Charleston and New York booksignings for The Gathering Storm. I can hardly wait until JordanCon 2, which as I type is 11 weeks and 1 day away.
Movie: No movement, if you're up to date on things I've said over the summer. Those things are thus. The books have been bought (not optioned) by Universal. They are planning on doing feature films, one per book. Many of us have suggested that television would be a better venue. (Perhaps Game of Thrones will persuade them.) I have met the studio exec and writer, but have been told I cannot release names. A script is done, but needs a lot of work.
Video Games: Red eagle is working with Obsidian on video games. I have suggested a Knights of the Old Republic style RPG. I don't know yet if they will listen, though there are talks of doing an Age of Legends MMO, and of exploring various time periods in the world. No specific games have been announced or begun, I believe.
Do you know what kind of rating will be aimed for the movies? I would imagine a visual depiction of what happens in the books would almost require a R for violence, but that rating would cause a lot of people to stay home.
I strongly suspect, from what I've heard, that they would shoot for PG-13.
I can only give one 'really' on either one. They are in the works, but anything coming out of Hollywood gets hesitance from me until we get a greenlight. (And there hasn't been one on the film, despite the projected release date. 2013 is possible.)
Video Games are more likely, but I haven't had any updates on those for a few months.
The following questions all come from a single interview, published in a computer magazine called PCPowerPlay, in November of '99.
So how much of The Wheel of Time game bears the mark of Robert Jordan?
Well, I only know a little bit about the game. I'm not a programmer. My real programming skills are decades out of date. I started when you had to learn how to operate a key-punch machine so you could do your stacks of cards to hand into the mainframe, 'cause there was nothing else than the mainframe!
Oh dear! So what role did you play in the development of the game?
To a large extent it was that I said I wanted certain things to be done. And it was not that I was asking them to do these things, it was that I was telling them "Do these things, or there's no deal". They were okay with that. The things I asked them to do made the game much more complex; made it much more difficult to design—hence it wasn't on the streets three years ago.
It could have been ready, theoretically, three years ago. How long has the game been in development then?
For at least four or five years. The thing is, I wanted it to be a game where it'd be, at least in mathematical terms, impossible to play the same game twice. Every time you start the Wheel of Time, it's gotta be different. I mean, the landscape is the same, but you're not going to be able to play the same game again—there are too many changes in conditions. There are ter'angreal (magic foci, used as offensive and defensive weapons in the game)—there is a large library of ter'angreal in the game. But they are not handed over to the players. A random selection is made when you start up the game, and distributed at random over the landscape. I also wanted the NPCs to be as close to player characters as possible. So you can bribe them to lie to or kill others. And they'll respond to you depending on your character and the way you've dealt with others.
So why did you specifically ask for all this?
I hope well. It takes place somewhere between fifty and [a] hundred years before the time of the books. It doesn't involve any characters from them either, and it's not going to be exactly like the books—there's no way it can be as it's a different genre altogether.
It's shaping up to be a really good game. Hopefully, if it's well received, there will be modules that take people more into the world as it exists in the books, and possibly even modules where people play characters in the books, or interact with characters from the books—which I'm hoping is something the fans would love.
The game also uses the Unreal engine, and one of my favorite quotes is "It uses the Unreal engine better than Unreal does". The design team have done so well with it that they've been hired to design the sequel to Unreal—Unreal 2. Another quote I liked was "Every year we're promised something new, something different, something fresh. At last somebody has delivered".
You come across as someone who knows games!
I play games! But the games I play are Chess, and Go, and very firmly reality-based military-strategy and tactic games like Civilisation, Sim City, Sim World and so on. I really enjoy those. I don't play them very often though, and recently just cleared 12 GB of games from my hard drive.
That's a lot of space for games!
Yeah, yeah. Well, there are shelves of games up at home. I buy the darn things, I just find very little time to play them.
To change the topic a bit, do you feel threatened, as a novelist, by games becoming more appealing as elaborate story-telling devices?
Year after year, they tell me about the death of books. Yet I see more books sold. You can't take a computer into the bath and let it dry out if you happen to drop it by accident. You can't take a computer to the beach without worrying about sand getting into it. With a book, you can treat it as rough as you want to, and if it ends up destroyed, you can buy another one at a relatively low cost. Books also don't have maintenance costs nor need to have their batteries replaced on regular occasions. You can just put one in your coat pocket and walk. I think that says it all, really.
I thought it was a good game. I have to admit I have not played it. I have seen it. I think it is visually beautiful. I have talked to people—friends, and fans—who are both gamers and fans to the books, and they seemed to think it was a very good game, so I trust their judgment more on that than I trust my own. I would like to see more games, yes, and, I would like to see different types of games. I think that this type of game is fine, I would have no objection to another game of this type, certainly not, but I would also like to see it expanded into other types. I‘m not sure how workable that is. I have a tendency to speak full of ignorance in this area—I wouldn't know. There were things that I asked them to do, when Legend was beginning to do the game, and I didn’t know that the technology did not exist to do what I was asking them to do, and in fact, the last time I talked to anybody from Legend/GTI, they had been at that point hired to rewrite the Unreal Engine itself, in order to make the Unreal Engine capable of doing some things that I had asked them to do in the game, that they couldn't do.
You’ve seen the level design and the detail in each level from the game—do you like it, compared to the amount of detail you put in the environments in your books?
Yes and no. Yes, it is wonderful realism for in the game. But, compared to the books, I wouldn't be fully satisfied with anything other than photo-realism. Not for 100% at least.
He said that the game designers did a fine job with it, but didn't get everything he wanted in there. This is mostly because of the limitations of the Unreal engine. His role in creating it was pretty limited because he was writing a book at the time.
Something came up about Wizards of the Coast. He said that they were working on an online WOT game. If he gave more details, I missed them.
Right now, taking a (short) break from the WoT rewrite to spend an evening working on the Mistborn video game script.
Any plans for a WoT game?
Yes, there are many plans. I don't know how far along they are, however.
Any news for a date on WoT?
Fall, most likely.
For those curious, I did finish the video game work I needed to do last night, and am back at work on the WoT revision today.
Was Towers of Midnight the last book to be published? I live in Ireland so news travels slow. XD
Myself and many others love the universe of the Wheel of Time. I know the possibility of future books has been discussed between yourself, Mr. Jordan's wife, and the publishers. And it's been said none of you wish to "cash-in" on Mr. Jordan's work.
I for one think you are all looking at this backwards, for you to continue writing books about the world and characters we've all come to know and love over the past two decades would do nothing but keep Mr. Jordan's legacy alive! It would not be "cashing-in" to make all his (and your) fans happy by providing them many more stories that we will all enjoy. I don't believe any of us want to just give up this universe after following it for this many years.
I for one do not want this story to end with A Memory of Light. I would love to be able to continue reading about all our friends for another 20 years. None of us want Mr. Jordan's world to simply end, he created a vast and wonderful world that is filled with endless stories. Please continue to write them!
If you truly believe it would be bad for Mr Jordan's memory or that it would appear you're writing more to make money off him then by all means donate the proceeds of any future books to a worthy charity.
Please don't deny us the future stories.
Signed, A dedicated fan
A thoughtful letter. Thank you for writing it.
Let me make a few points. The first is that Robert Jordan was very uncomfortable about people writing in his world. He said several times that if he died before the series was finished, he intended to have the notes destroyed and the series left undone. (He later changed his mind about this, or may have been mostly joking in the first place.)
The Guide to the Wheel of Time (known as the big white book) was originally going to have fiction in it written by other authors in the Wheel of Time world. Robert Jordan eventually decided he was uncomfortable with this idea, and they pulled the stories.
To be honest, there probably wouldn't be anything wrong with doing a few more books—the ones RJ said he was planning to write, like the two other prequels or the Outriggers. However, I worry that the further we go, the more we will invariably stray from RJ's original vision for the series. (Because we'll have less and less direction left by him.) Therefore, I will have to step in to fill the gaps, and the series will more and more become about me and less about him.
I don't want that to happen. I never want to reach a point, for example, where I've written more WoT books than RJ did. Is it not much better to quit while we're ahead? I'd rather be Bill Watterson than George Lucas. I'd rather stop on a high note and not drive the series into the ground.
Perhaps I will change my mind eventually. (Though, I should point out it's not even my call, but Harriet's.) However, the price of stopping now is leaving a few stories untold that might have been great to tell. The price of continuing on is to risk undermining the Wheel of Time's integrity and Robert Jordan's legacy. I don't know that I want to roll those dice.
If I could do one absolutely terribly immoral thing, and get away scott-free, it would be to steal the notes after A Memory of Light is done. I want to read them very badly.
It's not impossible that Harriet will let me post them once this is through. I've asked before, and she's undecided.
If it really matters either way, what I'm after is not super-spoilerific, but things that are either interesting but ultimately unimportant easter-eggs (the allusions to modern events at the beginning of The Eye of the World for example) and things like character notes and place notes (if those exist.) Above all else, I want to see what Jordan was thinking when he wrote the world.
I think these are completely reasonable questions that should either be answered in the Encyclopedia or (hopefully) when we're allowed to release the notes. I'll say what I can once the book is out.
Are the notes for the prequels quite extensive like for the final three you have written, or are they just general theme and plot?
The notes are not great for most of the outriggers or prequels. We'd be relying mostly on things Team Jordan remembers of what he said about them.
One conversation we've had is potentially doing these other stories as video games. That way, the fans can experience the stories—but if we flub them, they won't detract from the main sequence of books.
If we're very lucky, there will be some good video games that come out and things like that, and that could be...I've always felt that's a great way to kind of continue the Wheel of Time without having to risk Jim's legacy with more books, if that makes sense. If there was a way that the outriggers could be done as an epic trilogy of RPG adventures, or something like that, or you know, some of the prequel stuff, I would love to play something that's like the Mass Effect / Dragon Age version of Tam's story, going out of the Two Rivers and going and fighting a war, and things like that. And so, if...hopefully, if that can happen and Red Eagle is able to get those going, you will still have some stuff like those coming that don't necessarily have to be 100% canon, that you can accept and say, "Okay, this is interpretation..."
It's a Portal Stone.
Yeah, exactly; it's a Portal Stone version of things, and I hope that will happen.
That would be exciting, if they do that.
Yeah, I might actually start playing video games again if that was going on.
No. And also, I should say that the film rights to the Wheel of Time are at present being developed at Universal, and not—I'm sorry to say—as a series, but it's another medium, and what—que sera, que sera, as Doris Day and Alfred Hitchcock taught us all those years ago.
Thank you very much.
My name's Jeremy Griffin; I'm from Orem, Utah as well. I bought Eye of the World in 1991, so I've been reading them for a very, very long time. So thank you so much. By the way, Brandon—Alcatraz, fantastic—if you guys haven't read any of them...rarely does a book make me laugh out loud. So thank you. Thank you very much.
Harriet, did Mr. Jordan have enough clout to be able to push his last book through to make it one novel like he wanted to? He said two thousand pages, I don't care if that's what it is...could he have done that because of his history?
Well, the problem is, it wasn't clout; it was pushing up against the laws of physics. [laughter] There are limits to the size a bound book can be without sort of falling apart the minute you open it. And then you're up against the shelf space in bookstores.
Okay, great. Real quick too, please don't sell the rights to a computer game for it if it's going to be as bad as [?] was...[laughter] Please, please don't do it.
Ah, the rights are sold. [laughter]
I haven't played any of them, but my family and friends who have tried them gave them good reviews. I rarely play games, truth to tell; I tend to play chess on my machine.
Have you had any experience with role playing games?
Back when my son was little [Editor's note: he is 34 now], we played with his friends and I was the storyteller.
How long did that last?
About three years.
The second time through I made sure I was last in line. There was one guy who tried to be last until I convinced him I had more questions than he did. He was asking stuff on behalf of his friend David who was ill and couldn't be there. He video-recorded it and asked Brandon to address David personally because it would 'make his world'.
Robert Jordan...did he lay out all the war tactics for you, because he is a war historian, or was...
Actually, David, no he didn't; he didn't have an opportunity to do that. He indicated that it was supposed to be a big, long battle for the last book—basically all battle—but he didn't give us much of the tactics. There are a few things that he put in there, that he told us to do. But what we did is, we went to several experts that Harriet knows, and asked them for suggestions, and then we relied on Alan Romanczuk, who is part of Team Jordan, and we had him outline the battle tactics, which I then used to tell the story.
Okay, good. Thank you. And another question:
When you got his notes, were they digitized or was it a big stack of papers?
It was both. I got them in digital form—the bulk of it was in digital form—but they had printed off about 200 pages of them for me, which were ones that were relevant specifically to the last book, which turned into three.
Okay, and the final question is:
Are there any—and I'm sure you get this question a lot—are there any plans for any aspect of the Wheel of Time universe to keep going, maybe in another story?
No, we are not doing any more books. Robert Jordan specifically didn't want more books being written, so we feel it's best to both respect his wishes and stop while we're ahead. That doesn't preclude video games from being made, and so we perhaps may see films or video games or sort of things like that that will tell some of these other stories, but as for fiction, it is done. So, thank you for the questions, David, and thank you for reading.
A movie would be irritating, because it would just ruin it. They could never capture it.
There was a PC Wheel of Time game in the late 90's (of which quality we will not speak). Is there a chance of future video games in the Wheel of Time world?
Yes, those rights are with Manetheren, and I don't know how they are coming along with the development, but it is in development.
Actually, similar question, though slightly broader scope. So Robert Jordan . . . well, I should say the Wheel of Time computer game came out mid 90s. I personally wasn't too fond of it, but I'm hoping that other computer games and things like that based on that world will come out. Any plans for that, is signed publishing . . .
The game rights . . . Well, forgive me, I think they're doing business as Manetheren. They were Red Eagle. It's the same people. It's just a change of the moniker. And they're working on it.
You know that . . . we haven't heard any press about it. Is there any details available on the net?
I don't know.
Not that we know. No major movement right now.
And last, when's your Mistborn computer game scheduled to come out?
Mistborn we pushed back until 2014 because we worried that we don't have specifics about the potential new console releases in 2013, and we figured we would rather be . . . A lot of you are like, hmm, I can't say anything. [laughter] We figured we would rather be a newer title on the new consoles than a title that got lost in the shuffle of all the hype about a potential 720 or things like that.
Sound reasonable. Thank you.