by Evil Chris Priestly
Hi everyone, welcome to another Facebook Friday. Sorry these slipped off the radar a bit (if you have not seen the previous entries, you can look down the blog a ways and check them out)., we’ll try to get these out a lot more frequently from now on. So this week was Valentine’s Day and, since I am a romantic softy, I thought “Who really envisions romance here at BioWare?”. I immediately thought of not one, but two people: Patrick and Karin Weekes. I asked both Patrick and Karin to take part in this week’s Facebook Friday and they happily agreed, even more enjoyably, they did it together.
P: I’m Patrick Weekes.
K: And I’m Karin Weekes.
Where are you from?
P: I’m originally from Bay Area California, near San Francisco.
K: I’m from New Mexico, near Albuquerque.
P: We met in school at Stanford University, in a volunteer singing group that performed at area nursing homes.
K: I love singing, and the group was a great way to get a break from academic stress and give back to some really deserving people.
P: I was trying to meet girls.
K: Guess it worked out okay for everyone.
K: I don’t know that we’re huge movie people, but when we were first dating, Patrick and I bonded over being the only 2 people in the world who like “LA Story”.
P: We used to watch grown-up TV, but it’s been a while. We have 6- and 3-year old boys, so our TV-watching has been pretty much taken over by the Backyardigans, Wonder Pets, Pocoyo, Mighty Machines, and Phineas and Ferb.
K: Yeah. We pretty much stay sane by making off-color jokes about all that. And singing along with the music.
P: I’m reading a lot of urban fantasy these days, so Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs, and Jim Butcher are on my “Get everything new with their name on it” list.
K: Mine, too. And we like Nora Roberts. She writes such satisfyingly escapist stories and characters.
P: Well, I don’t really “read” those like you do, Damsel…
K: The “In Death” novels she writes as J.D. Robb?
P: Those are science-fiction mysteries that happen to include well-developed love stories.
K: Blue Smoke and High Noon?
P: Also mysteries.
K: The Circle Trilogy where a group fights vampires using Celtic magic?
P: That was fantasy.
K: The Dream Trilogy set in Monterey, California with no mystery or fantasy elements whatsoever?
P: Please stop.
Favorite pizza toppings:
P: We’re vegetarians, so veggie-special stuff. I like feta and artichoke hearts.
K: My absolute fave is green chile and pineapple, but I haven’t found a pizzeria outside of New Mexico that actually makes that.
Job or title at BioWare:
P: I’m a senior writer. I’m currently working on Mass Effect 3.
K: I’m a senior editor. I’m back on Mass Effect 3 after working on Dragon Age II for the last part of the year.
How long have you worked for BioWare?
P: I’ve been here six years.
K: And I’ve been here five.
What does a “your job title” actually does:
P: “Writer” is one of the rare jobs that maps pretty well to my actual duties. I help develop plots and characters, and I write the dialog for my storylines. I also work with a lot of non-voice-over text that is important to the game, like journal entries, and some gameplay systems that are tied to writing, like the Paragon/Renegade meter. Other writers work on other systems, like planet descriptions or codex entries.
K: BioWare’s editor positions are pretty multifaceted. I edit game dialogue–proof, voice and plot consistency, and IP accuracy. I liaise with our voice-over and localization departments: let those teams know when dialogue is ready for recording/translating; record pronunciation guides for the new terms we make up, answer questions from VO directors during recording sessions and from the EA translating team in Madrid (our games are generally recorded in 6 languages). I also back up our marketing department to provide IP and character information as needed for various publicity and ancillary products (like strategy guides and art books). And documentation for all kinds of game details.
P: Basically she comes in and CHANGES MY PRECIOUS WORD BABIES.
K: I consider it nurturing your precious word babies so they can be healthy and strong and have productive, independent, correctly-spelled lives.
P: Like I said.
What is your average day like at the office?
P: My day changes based on what phase the project is in. Early on, we’re always in meetings, planning plots and making sure we’ll have the resources to get it done. We go heads-down to do the actual writing, and then once we’ve finished rewrites and edits, we get back to working with a team, running each scene by level and cinematic designers to make sure that it fits the requirements and limitations of the level and the budget. It’s usually meetings in the morning and writing in the afternoon.
K: Per my novel-length job description, I honestly don’t think I have an average day: edit dialogue, attend meetings, tackle random departmental editing requests, tweak our SharePoint site, document dragon life cycles… it really could be anything at any given moment.
Favorite BioWare moment Game related/thing you are most proud of at BioWare:
P: When Mass Effect 2 shipped, someone got hold of a store copy had broken the street date by a day. He was broadcasting his playthrough online, and a bunch of people were watching him and commenting in a little chat room attached to his video stream. He was doing a serious Renegade Shepard playthrough — every Renegade option, every time — and people were cheering as he shot half the characters and generally took the most Renegade option on every mission.
And then he got to Tali’s loyalty mission. When the big reveal came, and Tali begged Shepard not to turn over the evidence that would exonerate her but brand her father a war criminal, the chat room went crazy. Everyone started saying, “Wait, dude, don’t do it! Hang on, man, be cool, you can’t do that to her!” The guy gets to the trial, hits the dialog option, and as the chat room goes crazy with people yelling for him not to do it, he pauses and then types: “I don’t know what to do, guys. I don’t want to hurt Tali.”
He was enjoying having his Shepard be the most ruthless Renegade possible, as was everyone watching. At that moment, all of us who had worked on Tali’s loyalty mission — the writers and editors, the cinematic and level designers, the character artists, the VO team and fantastic voice actress Liz Sroka — we created an experience that made this person care about the character enough to modify his playing style. Creating ways for players to maybe be emotionally hooked like that… that’s what gets me out of bed every morning.
K: When Time Magazine said that ME2 was “the Avatar of video games — except it’s better written”… that created some joy in the writer room.
Favorite BioWare moment not game related:
P: I was planning to be a stay-at-home dad after our first son was born in California, and I got a call from BioWare asking if I wanted to interview with them on the day we brought our new baby home from the hospital. We flew up for the in-person interview in Edmonton in the middle of January with our two-month-old son. It was -30 Celsius, and all the very tan Canadians on the plane coming back from vacations in Mexico gave us blankets to keep our son warm.
While Karin and our son sat in the hotel room watching the weather channel report the record-breaking cold, I spent the day in interviews. When I came back, I said to her, “Thank you so much for doing this. I really hope it works out, because I think I have found my people.” Seeing everyone with swords on their walls and action figures on their desks, having intelligent conversations about when to spawn the bad guy or what the right line was…
K: If I may, I’d never seen him so content. He’d found a group of kindred spirits, and that was pretty much the kicker for me. Everyone we knew thought we were crazy to pick up and move to a new country with a 3-month-old baby. Maybe it was, but we’ve never regretted it. We work with the best people in the world. BioWare is such an inclusive, creative place.
Which segues nicely to my “thing”: BioWare employees and families are an amazing group of people. For all that Patrick was describing the passion for creating games that is common to everyone, we are a group with such varied interests. With these great folks, I’ve enjoyed experiences like dragon boating, running a leg of the Great Canadian Death Race, belly dancing, theatre, and high tea. Closest to my heart is the honor of being present for the births of four “BioBabies” over the past three years. We are so lucky to a part of this special camaraderie.
What do you do to relax/do you have any hobbies:
P: I’m spending most of my spare time with my boys right now, and I’ve rediscovered the joy of Legos. Beyond that, I do enough reading to have made the Kindle a worthwhile purchase, and I play and occasionally run tabletop or online games with friends. I love superhero games, and I’m really looking forward to Third Edition of Mutants & Masterminds, which is coming out soon from Green Ronin (who also did the awesome Dragon Age pen & paper RPG).
K: I sing with the Richard Eaton Singers (we perform with the Edmonton symphony a lot), run when I can, and do an awesome lunchtime yoga class with fellow BioWarians. I’ve paddled with our dragon boat team, the BioWarriors, for 4 summers, and Patrick joined us this year! I also mostly love spending time with our kiddos–reading or playing or being lectured on the finer points of Diego’s Dinosaur Adventure and Lego Batman.
What game are you losing sleep for right now (that you are not working on)?
P: Red Dead Redemption. I’d be farther along were I not so terribly bad at the game. (This is in no way a reflection on the game. It’s a fantastic game. I am not so good at playing it.)
Being a vegetarian, I decided I would be a Friend of the Earth, and I wouldn’t attack any animals. So I rode around enjoying the scenery and having a great time. Then night fell, and I was killed by coyotes.
I reloaded and decided to be a Friend of the Earth who Fights Back, and while I wouldn’t attack anything, I’d defend myself from wild creatures that came after me. I rode around, saw a coyote, greeted it as a fellow creature of nature, and then accidentally rode over it with my horse. At which point all of its friends showed up, and I was killed by coyotes.
The next time I reloaded, I resolved to be the Enemy of the Wild. I practiced with the rifle. I steeled myself to kill anything that moved. I even read part of the manual.
K: Even game designers don’t read the manual.
P: Nobody reads the manual, Damsel.
K: As one of the people responsible for assembling game manuals, I am aware of this even as I take umbrage.
P: Then I rode back out into the wilderness, found those coyotes, trotted up, raised my rifle, activated the ability that slowed down time… and proceeded to accidentally shoot my own horse. While riding it.
After I was thrown to the ground, I was greeted with a crushing GUI popup indicating I had lost 50 Honor for performing the Dishonorable Action of killing my own horse. I sat there and tried to find some way to apologize to the sad corpse of the animal I’d just killed with my aggression and my hubris.
And then I was killed by coyotes.
K: As much as I’d love to say I’m playing an incredibly immersive, complicated strategy game, right now, most of my gaming time is spent obsessively playing Plants vs. Zombies with my boys. And sometimes without them on my iPhone. I do love my PvZ.
P: And in her case, she is literally losing sleep. If you listened at the door while she gets our oldest son to sleep, you would hear some animated discussion about the appropriate number of sunflowers to use.
K: At LEAST two rows, amiright? He always wants to plant marigolds instead.
What is the most “nerdy” thing about you?
P: I want to bring up my ability to calculate 3rd Edition D&D saving throws for all base classes in my head, but at BioWare, that’s not really that nerdy. Maybe my love of Sondheim?
K: Your ability to immediately conjure ALL things D&D regardless of version is pretty Alpha Nerd IMHO. I think being married to Patrick is the nerdiest thing about me.
P: How many Gilbert & Sullivan productions have you performed in?
K: That’s nerdy?
P: Umm, yes.
K: When I was surprised that not everyone knew what Doppler-shifting was, you just shook your head.
P: Yeah, but that was hot nerdy.
K: …Thank you?
If you didn’t work in video games, what would you be doing?
P: Well, I was an English major, so I’d probably be unemployed and mooching off my wife.
K: Before BioWare, I managed a team of technical editors at a Silicon Valley chip design company, and did nonprofit marketing writing before that. So something writing/editing-related if I didn’t manage to win the lottery and create my theoretical dream homeless animal refuge.
What do you want people to know about you?
P: My half-elven ranger/cleric romanced Jaheira in BG2. I played an elven ranger/bard in NWN because people said those classes were underpowered in 3E. I romanced Carth and took the Star Forge as a scoundrel/consular who redeemed Malak. I was a fan for a long time before I was an employee, and the support we receive from the community is one of best parts about working for BioWare.
K: If I’m worth my editing salt, I know a good closer when I see one. Well-said, good sir.
PS – Evil Chris again. I just thought that I’d point out after Karin sent me their profile, she caught a spelling error and insisted I fix it before this could go up. Now THAT’S an editor.