Leaving the Lab

Friday was my last day at Flying Lab. I worked there on Pirates of the Burning Sea for three years and three weeks. I had not been happy in my job for some time. For starters I was tired of working on pirate material. It’s been nine years since I wrote Death in Freeport and I’ve been working on pirate oriented stuff off and on for most of that time. After Pirates of the Burning Sea launched, I hoped to move on to a new game and get a chance to lead the narrative design effort from the ground up (PotBS was several years into development before I came on board). There were many proposals and many meetings with potential publishers, but none of the big projects ever got a green light. So it was just week after week of grinding out new content for the game post-launch. Once you’ve written over five hundred missions that involve a ship combat or a sword fight, it gets a little old.

On top of all that, I had of course been continuing to run Green Ronin and for the last year design the Dragon Age RPG as well. I worked just about every weekend of the last three years on GR and most of my “vacations” were conventions or business trips. At the certain point the weeks just began to blur together. What day was it and did it even matter? And even when I would take a day off for mental health, I just thought about all the work I had to do and usually failed at relaxing anyway.

I hung on and hoped something would break my way. But at Flying Lab the content team was at half its original size a year after launch. Some people left the company and others moved over to work on the kids MMOs the company is doing. We also decided to make the missions less cookie cutter by designing each from scratch instead of using templates. The upshot was we had fewer missions designers creating fewer missions and that meant less and less writing for me to do. At the end of the summer the content team and the design team were combined into one team under a new lead. We finished Black Flags and Dread Saints, an eight month serial story line I had conceived, and then started working on an expansion. With the state of the game and nothing else in the offing, there just wasn’t enough for me to do. So here we are.

In the short term it’s not so bad. I can concentrate on Green Ronin as we launch Dragon Age. I can maybe relax a little and take some weekends off. Health insurance is going to be an issue though and Nicole and I still need to figure out how we can afford to fix the heating system in our house (see her blog for that story). There’s also the larger question of where I want to go from here. There are other forms of writing I’d like to explore, such as fiction and comics, that I simply haven’t had time to consider the last few years. It may be time for that or something else. I’m sure it’s going to make 2010 interesting.

10 thoughts on “Leaving the Lab

  1. I'm glad there will be more of your heart and soul left over for Green Ronin. Congrats on some long, well-used years, and glad you made the choice when the time was right!

  2. It seems like whenever anyone comments on the writing in PotBS, it's to call it some of the best in the industry. Good luck on whatever comes next, Chris. We were lucky to have you.

  3. I can only echo what everyone else has said. Best of luck in your new endeavors and I look forward to following your progress. You were an inspiration to work with and made Potbs one of my favorite games to play. -Kate

  4. I will echo that the PvE missions in Pirates are the best written I've seen in any MMO. It's a shame that so many of the game's current population are only interested in the PvP side of things.

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