Interview with Koobismo: Marauder Shields and Beyond

Following the launch of koobismo.com we speak to the man behind the Marauder Shields comics on that series, the website, and what we can expect from Safehaven, the next series Koobismo and his team are working on.

1) In the Safehaven teaser trailer the tagline at the end is ‘the world has ended. Long live the dark.” Presumably the new series will have a much bleaker tone than Marauder Shields but what can you tell us about it?

Safehaven will take place in the near future, with our world radically transformed by an event of cosmic proportions. I don’t want to reveal too much, but, yeah, the series will be a bit darker than the average thing you receive in your entertainment inbox. We’re not going to drown you in brooding poetry, however, I’m not a believer in the “gloomy equals artistic” school of thought. We have a very specific story to tell, and we want to do it as effectively as possible.

2) Can you give a clue as to what “we are what fills the void” – another trailer tagline – might mean?

It’s connected to the role the protagonists will play in the story, to the way they interconnect, what they mean to each other and to the people around them. Even though we enjoy the wild twists and turns we plan to introduce, our main focus will always remain on the characters, on their goals, needs, wants and fears.

3) How did author Phil Hornshaw become involved?

I met Phil when he interviewed me about Marauder Shields, for the first piece of the ‘Gamefront 1-on-1 series‘. We talked a lot and quickly discovered that we share the same passion for storytelling, that we agree on a lot of things, that we speak the same language… Figuratively at least, though I do my best not confuse anyone with my Polonisms [Koobismo is Polish].

After a bit, I knew that I’d really like to have Phil aboard for my next project. We talked, we got excited, decided that we want to cooperate and the idea of co-writing Safehaven was born.

4) Safehaven is coming out in late 2013 but can you narrow the release date down? And how many instalments do you have planned for the first season?

As was the case with Marauder Shields, the idea is to create the scenario for the whole season first and divide it afterwards, with the number of episodes being an outcome of cutting up the story at its natural division points. The precise date will be revealed a bit later, as I want the series to be released closer to the end of Marauder Shields, with just a few episodes overlapping.

I do need a bit of sleep in-between my work and private projects.

5) With Safehaven coming how do you expect it to impact production of Marauder Shields? Will you continue to make the Mass Effect spin-off?

Marauder Shields is written as a single serialized entity, a full story – it wouldn’t have much sense if it would just end out of the blue, without arriving at its final conclusion. The reason for pushing Safehaven later in the year is to make sure that Marauder Shields’ production continues without any hiccups.

The series is too important to me to just ignore or set to a lower priority.

6) How would you rate the success of Marauder Shields until this point and would you say interest in the series has waned or grown since I last spoke with you?

The interest shrunk a bit after BioWare’s release of the Extended Cut, but remained pretty damn incredible. We started to climb up again since then, despite the bi-weekly publication schedule. We’re receiving much more attention from professionals and – surprisingly – people outside of the Mass Effect community.

Hell, we may have a shot at a possible licensed thing in the future, though we’re still pretty early in the talks, way too early to comment on it publicly. Let’s just say that we’re smiling widely and someone out there is smiling back, at least at this moment.

7) Now that koobismo.com is up and running how do you hope to expand both Marauder Shields and your other ventures, including Safehaven?

We want to grow the site at a slow, but steady pace, making it a centre for not only our team, but also our community, inviting other storytellers and creative people to join the fun.  I have a very specific philosophical approach to all of this, one that I hope will flesh out our uniqueness and steer us away from losing our passion, from trading our heart for quick gains, be them monetary or psychological.

There’s a sentence I tend to repeat over and over again, and I think it captures some of my thoughts on this pretty well: steady as she goes.

8) You’ve said you wanted to evolve the author-audience relationship; is this based off how Mass Effect 3’s ending was handled, or is it something you’ve wanted to do for awhile?

Both, truth be told. I never thought I would be in a position to actually have a chance of making a statement like this – but I was always pretty critical of the relationship between the majority of the gaming industry and its audiences. Handling of Mass Effect 3’s ending remains just another example of the problems eating at our beloved industry, another brick in the wall… One that was fleshed out and picked apart because of BioWare’s history of playing a different game, one of their own, emphasizing the connection to its core audience, not just sheer numbers.

Alas, returning to the question – there’s not a lot large-scale “evolving” a small team like us can do. But if we can make some noise at the very bottom of the well, by yelling, clapping and singing merry songs – we will.

9) Who do you consider to be the best at listening to fans, and adapting their games to meet gamers hopes, within the industry?

If you asked me this questions a few years back, BioWare would be at the top of that list. Right now I think the title belongs to indie developers, smaller studios and a few bigger independents. I was talking to Chris Avellone after the interview we had with him a while back, and I can tell you that Obsidian’s approach to their titles and fans is quite remarkable, both from an organizational standpoint, and from a philosophical one, with a lot of that coming from their independence, now multiplied by their Kickstarter success.

And allow me to clarify: you don’t have to cave to pressure to be “listening to your fans”, not if you really believe in your creative stances… But dismissing dissent as entitlement or trying to downplay it is just wrong.

If you’re standing at a brink of a controversy, the very least you can do is to explain your creative choices, respond to the critics, show why you think your decisions are worth defending. Somewhere along “communicativeness” was put on the list of the qualities we expect from entities bringing us our entertainment. I do consider that a very positive change myself.

10) Can you give us any hints about what come in MS episode 42 and beyond?

Episode 42 will be focused on Cerberus, another piece of Miranda’s arc. There’s a pretty complicated set of objectives and reasons behind Cerberus’ actions in Marauder Shields, going far beyond the simple “we’re evil now” approach. As far as what’s coming in the second half of the whole series… A new Reaper origins story.

Krogan warriors and STG fighting and dying side by side. The keepers showing up. Zaeed kicking ass. A whole bag of plot twists and turns just waiting to explode. And… Yeah, our finale. And we will end with quite a… reaping.

11) How will you distribute Safehaven? Will there be instalments like Marauder Shields?

Safehaven will be distributed as a free weekly series on Koobismo.com, with an accompanying audiobook and an original soundtrack, some truly haunting tunes composed by our very own Jeff Daniel and Kaneda. A little pet idea of mine is that we’re going to release Safehaven’s universe for other storytellers to use as well, distributing it with a unique “moderated freeware” license, with everyone encouraged to tell their own stories within Safehaven’s brackets, ones that would be declared canon and resonating in our flagship series.

12) You joked before about JJ Abrams and lens flares but you’ve also said he’s something of an inspiration, now that he’s helming the Star Wars reboot what would you hope he brings to the franchise?

I guess my connection to Mr. Abrams will wind down after Marauder Shields, since my lens flares are a detail specific to that comic, trying to mimic – and go far beyond – the ones in the Mass Effect series. Alas, if I would choose three things to say about J.J. Abrams it would be that he really loves to tell his stories, he understands what made the 70s and 80s a pretty unique period in the history of storytelling and that he usually cares, sometimes even loves, the characters that he presents in his movies.

And all of that brought together makes me pretty optimistic about the upcoming Episode VII. He will bring some freshness and yet – at least I hope so – respect what came before him. Come on, J.J., don’t make me look like a trusting fool now!

13) For Safehaven can you reveal some of the things you’ve looked at when developing the story and universe of the series?

My general approach to this series comes from what I learned when developing Marauder Shields, more so than anything stemming from my education or professional work. We want to tease, keep an eye on the audience’s reactions and play with quite a few mysteries, with the general goal of keeping people guessing…

But never deceiving them in a way that can end up in disappointment. We want to pay a few homages to the classics we love, classics of comics, horror and sci-fi, but we also want to make something of our own, something that has its own voice, something more or less unique. And, last but not least, we want the series to upkeep our own standards and interest. Which won’t be an easy thing, but, hey, a man can dream, right? Wink! Wink!

Thanks for the interview, thank you for these cool questions and thanks to everyone reading this!

Leviathyn would like to thank Koobismo for taking the time to answer our questions and wish him the best of look with koobismo.com, Marauder Shields, and Safehaven.