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A chat with Mike Kennedy SR producer.

NEW YORK - Vogster Entertainment is partnering with Archaia Entertainment to publish BLEEDOUT: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL, which includes the story telling and artwork of eleven of the comic industry's most celebrated artists, such as Tim Bradstreet, Ben Templesmith, Nathan Fox, Zach Howard, Sanford Greene, David Williams, Gary Erskine, Howard Chaykin, Glenn Fabry, Vince Proce, and Trevor Hairsine.  Each artist will bring his unique graphic style and story-telling skills to a different chapter of the intricate backstory behind the campaign.

BLEEDOUT explores the complex, yet frighteningly possible, series of events that throw the world into violent chaos. It is a new Age of Ruin, caused by mankind's own greed, a new Wild Society run by criminals and outlaws, that players can explore and profit through exciting combat and conspiratorial adventure.

Mike Kennedy SR producer

Mike, CrimeCraft is having a re-launch with Bleedout using episodes to tell a bigger picture -- what made you decide to use multiple graphic artists to tell the stories, and why not just stick with one artist?

At first, it was a matter of practicality -- we had a fair amount of story to convey, and using a "motion comic" approach was the most efficient way to produce it all.  We also needed to have multiple episodes in production at the same time, and if one artist had been responsible for all 60+ pages of artwork, he would have been a bottleneck to the rest of the production pipeline: coloring, animation, audio, etc.  But this situation allowed the perfect opportunity to explore the different aspects of Sunrise City through different lenses, offering the players an evolving experience and a variety of different perspectives.  Just as the game is played by people from around the world, in multiple countries and cultures, Sunrise City is filled with different personalities and subcultures, primarily embodied by the different criminal factions.  Having multiple artists allowed us to describe these different factions with visual styles that suit their different personalities.

Mike, how did you come about choosing the artists?  Did their individual styles dictate the story direction, or was it the other way round?

One of the first tasks completed on the design side was defining a basic story structure that supported the 10 episodes of gameplay.  We knew what sort of events we wanted within certain episodes, which in turn helped define what each episode's "theme" would be.  We then reached out to a wide number of comic book industry artists, to see who might have time available in their schedule.  This list included a lot of what we thought might be long-shot daydreams, but we were quite surprised and excited by the interest and line-up we were able to draw together!  We've been friends or fans of all of the artists involved on the project, so it was quite a thrill to work with them all under a single banner.  Once the line-up had been secured, certain episodes gravitated immediately and logically to certain artists, and the individual scripts were written with those styles somewhat in mind.

Mike, can you explain how the 10 episode story structure came about?

There were three main goals when designing this episodic campaign.  First was to establish the grim backstory that sets up the world the player exists in -- why are things the way they are and how did the world get this way?  It was important to have some explanation for the ruin, some justification for what might otherwise seem like arbitrary rules and aesthetic choices.  Defining the backstory helped explain current events in the game.  The second goal was to provide a more story-driven PvE experience that solo players or small groups could pursue aside from the dominant PvP gameplay.  This PvE content would not only give players more activities to enjoy, but help bring the world around them to life through colorful NPCs, secret agendas and bubbling conspiracies to unravel.  The third, and perhaps most important goal for us, was to keep players coming back for more.  This is where the weekly episode structure came into the plan:  each week, a new set of events and missions would be made available full of action, drama and unfolding intrigue.  Just like a good, gripping primetime drama, players would finish one episode eager to see what will happen next week.  And ideally, in the time in between, they would tell all of their friends!

Mike, who are the main characters, and how do they relate to each other in each episode?

Each episode focuses on a different criminal faction or theme.  Sunrise City is governed by a collection of 7 different crimelords who together form what is called "The Scorpion Chamber".  Each of these crimelords has an interesting history and private agenda, and they are all explored throughout the 10 episodes.  Key among them is Arkady Kravchenko, a madman who may or may not have the City's best interests at heart.  In the course of the 10 episode campaign, the player will learn about his secret dealings with other faction leaders, and how those other faction leaders might hold secrets behind what caused the global ruin.  Although not directly involved in these political events, the player is guided through each episode by a mentor of sorts named "Pilot."  He helps the player navigate these choppy waters with advice and information dealt from the shadows.  Where he comes from or what his own agenda might be is something that is revealed slowly throughout the campaign.

Mike, these 10 episodes will be around for a while as a major feature in the game – when do you expect to bring more episodes? And will those stories be new or stories that follow the characters in previous episodes, like what happens in a TV series?

We are approaching the end of the first season of Bleedout now.  The cool thing is that new players won't have missed anything -- all episodes are available (in sequence, of course) to start at any time.  So even after the 10th episode has premiered, new players can still experience the entire 10-week campaign from beginning to end.  Without giving away the surprises in the final episodes that have yet to premiere, tables will be set for what could be another major change in the world.  There are certainly many stories to explore, and any follow-up campaign would likely build on those events set-up in the final episode.

Mike, I believe that you are releasing a graphic novel on the Bleedout game episodes?

Yes!  Archaia Entertainment will be releasing a prestige format hard cover graphic novel this spring!  Since the episode artwork was created in standard comic book format, it made perfect sense to collect and release that material in a single volume.

Mike, will the graphic novel be used as a virtual slice of the Bleedout campaign, following the events in the game, or will it contain additional stories not covered in the game?

The book will contain all 10 episodes of story material directly from the game, as well as a some additional story material, a gallery of concept art, maps, etc that fleshes out the world in further detail.  It could be considered a "brand bible" of sorts, a relatively complete supplement to the game-playing experience.  Players will benefit from additional background information not currently available in the game, and non-players will be encouraged to jump in the game to discover details not found in the book.  


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