Gameplanet: Overseeing lore: What’s your daily routine? Is there such a thing as a daily routine for you?
Brian Kindregan: Yeah, I’m really starting to think that there isn’t! It is pretty strange. The key element of every day is the coffee of course. But I’ll come in and like anyone I think my first hour of the day is emails and getting caught up on stuff and pretending to be awake – don’t print that!
Then the meetings start. A big part of my job is collaboration. I work with artists, designers and the cinematics team because the storyline really affects every part of production. A lot of times we can do the storytelling with art – if they design the level a certain way or place props on the level.
So I end up talking to people a lot, we brainstorm, throw ideas out and all of this. And somewhere late in the day I get to start writing, sometimes, sadly, very late in the day. And I’ll write either until I run out of steam because it’s late at night, or until I have to go home.
The writing, to me, is the reward. That’s the fun, creative part that I really enjoy.
Then there are days when I’ll go up to Los Angeles and sit in on the voice over sessions.
Gameplanet: What’s the idea genesis process? Is it yourself, Chris Metzen and others sort of gathering around a table and spitting ideas until something sticks?
Kindregan: Absolutely, yeah. Blizzard is a very collaborative place and I spend a lot of time in meetings with Chris Metzen, Dustin Browder and Samwise Didier. Also folks from the cinematics team, really just a bunch of different orbits that all collide at me.
So yeah, a lot of it is very loose and informal: [we] throw stuff up on the wall, some of it sticks, most of it doesn’t, and most of what does stick we end up throwing out the next day anyway. But eventually certain themes keep coming up. It’s great, it’s a very egoless process in that I’ll argue with Chris – and of course his title puts him way way above me – but when we’re brainstorming it’s not about titles and I’m more than happy to draw diagrams on the whiteboard explaining just how wrong he is! And then he’ll erase my diagram and draw another one explaining just how wrong I am, but it’s all in good fun! And actually that, along with the writing, that’s probably my favourite part of the process.
Gameplanet: So obviously there isn’t time or space for all the ideas that you might have, but is there a particular idea that you’ve had for Heart of the Swarm – a child that you’ve nursed for so long – that just hasn’t made it in?
Kindregan: [Laughs] Oh that’s a painfully timed question! I am in the midst of a debate right now with Dustin about something I think is absolutely vital to the game, and he still needs to be convinced. So I’ll get back to you on that one.
But yes, the short version of that is yes, there are other love children of mine in the past that did not make it.
Gameplanet: Without giving away any spoilers, is there anything you can give us to contextualise that?
Kindregan: Uhm, not really, no, but if we talk again after Heart of the Swarm comes out I’ll tell you specifically what the thing is that I’m fight for right now.
Gameplanet: I’m going to follow you up on that.
Gameplanet: Dr. Ariel Hansen seemed to drop into and out of the Wings of Liberty campaign. While there were two ways her story could end it felt a little inconsequential or “throwaway”. Are you bringing the player’s decisions forward?
Kindregan: I wouldn’t say she’s “throwaway”. Obviously in some people’s games she’s definitely not coming back because she’s dead. We’d like to [bring the player’s decisions forward]. There are some technological issues that we’re trying to figure out. From a creative side if we can bring those choices forward we absolutely will. We would love everyone’s StarCraft universe to be consistent with choices they’ve made in the past. I would say any character that isn’t dead always has the potential to crop up again. Certainly anyone we’re invested in – and by we I mean players, the community, developers, everyone – we would all love to see them come back.
Gameplanet: Speaking of investment, how go you get the player to invest in Zerg characters beyond Kerrigan?
Kindregan: It’s an interesting question: First of all the Zerg is a hivemind so most of them have no personality, but there are Zerg who are individually sentient, you know, Queens and Brood Mothers, for example. So with those characters I will try to figure out about them is something that people can latch onto and recognise, something they can respond to on a visceral or personal level. At the same time, I have to make sure they don’t turn into humans wearing Zerg costumes I definitely want to keep them alien, other, strange and different. But they still have to have that certain something that you can understand on a deep level.
Gameplanet: Abathur feels like a bit of a butler at the moment, is that intentional?
Kindregan: I wouldn’t say intentionally that he’s a butler. I would say that he’s a character in flux. What you’re seeing right now is a snapshot of Abathur. I think it’s safe to say that when the game comes out he will probably be a pretty different character to what he is today. I’m still definitely working on who he is.
Gameplanet: StarCraft has a roster of kitsch characters such as Donny Vermillion, and obviously such caricatures are incredibly difficult to do with the Zerg. Are you working on ways to get that levity into the game?