Wednesday, December 07, 2005

a bit of what i do

Much of this blog is devoted to what I think about writing, reportage of things in my life and sundry. From time to time, I also write about business, about the work I do. Here's an article from the newspapers that sheds on light on one of my company's ongoing projects for Level Up Games, the people behind the MMORPGs Philippine Ragnarok Online, Rose, and RF Online (and no, I did not write it).

This long term engagement is one of my favorite projects in a long time. In the course of developing interlocking stories, the creative writer in me (that is usually divorced from my corporate self) is given free reign. And if the stars align, I may write novels based on the game. Nikki, who is my team's primary writer (and in many many instances, a finer writer than myself), was sadly cut out from the article.

It's also very important for me to clarify that the game came from Korea and that Filipinos did not develop it. We're developing additional content to make it ours.

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The Filipino ingenuity behind
Korean online game sensation

A little known fact is that Filipino writers are the ones crafting the exciting stories that will unfold next year in RF Online, the first massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) that has stirred a craze in the Philippines. This new MMORPG blockbuster from Korea presents a galactic setting wherein three racial groups -- the Accretians, the Bellato Union, and the Holy Alliance of Cora -- each with equally devastating power and weaponry, are at war with each other for dominance of the universe.

From these three races the gamers will choose which to join and fight for, with their individual and collective performance determining how this adventure saga will develop and end.

The stunning and suspenseful stories that will soon surface from this inter-stellar conflict are conceived and written by a team of Filipino writers led by Dean Francis Alfar, a novelist, fictionist, playwright, eight-time Palanca awardee, and founder of content development firm Kestrel IMC.

“Our aim is to create story arcs that players can appreciate and get into. Since our game is experienced by three races, we developed stories that star each race in turn and amplify the very core of the RF Online playing experience. Our master storyline for the first year involves the secret origins of the races over a series of startling revelations and adventures,” Alfar explains.

“The story must serve the game, of course, and create opportunities for players to be involved in the outcome of events. Part of our strategy is to create situations where the actions of players determine the path of the story.”

The stories being developed by Alfar’s group also reinforce the nature and character of each of the races, including their physical, psychosocial and cultural differences.

The Accretians are those who have turned themselves into cyborgs to attain physical superiority, whereas the Bellatos are a fiercely independent race of inventors who combine creative tools and weapons with the light form of universal magic called Force, and the Corites tap ambient force to acquire superhuman strength and manipulate the Dark Force to teleport people and equipment.

Those who want to join any of the three races may visit their respective websites -- of the Accretians, of the Bellato Union, and of the Holy Alliance of Cora, or visit for registration. The game has come online since November 17 after a series of open and closed beta (sneak previews) in the past two months.

Its three warring races were all developed in Korea, but it was Alfar’s group who decided on the final naming conventions. “The foundation storyline (the baseline events) are all Korean. Kestrel, as content developer, builds on that, creating our own fiction in the massive world of RF Online,” Alfar points out.

Much of Alfar’s work involves interweaving the three races along the main plot through various points of conflict and racial characterization. “We used a character as an anchor and developed interlocking storylines that are engaging and exciting. We will also develop completely new characters and quests, acted out by actors in-game,” Alfar says.

With all their many differences, it is their common consistency with human logic and adherence to their respective racial character -- as dramatized in Alfar’s stories -- that make RF Online a captivating and thrilling personal experience.

“In the context of a game, we can explore aspects of the human condition such as loyalty, duty, evolution and cultural development - without losing sight of the fact that this immersive game is first and foremost an engaging way to exercise the imagination,” remarks Alfar.

On how his group creates the stories, Alfar reveals: “Our team throws ideas around, selects the best and most novel, then writes the "bible". This document is the roadmap for our gaming scripts, which we then expand and develop over the period of time allocated. We develop scripts for each race, having them do things that help the storyline along towards a series of important events which the online community will participate in for the duration of next year.”

The goal, according to Alfar, is to have segments of the populace supporting their favored races, “just like we have avid supporters of sports teams.”

And on whether or not he sees RF Online as a sport that can be played, not just in the Philippines and Korea, but also globally, his answer is: “Why not?”


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