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Exclusive Interview with 38 Studios' R.A. Salvatore

Updated Thu, May 14, 2009 by Dalmarus

The act of creation is thrilling. Whether you're a painter, musician, actor, or writer, making a world come to life in a particular medium is an amazing experience. So imagine that you're creating an entire world - top to bottom - that will be filled with thousands (if not millions) of people that are creating their own individual stories. Intimidating? You bet.

But if there's anyone that can do it, 38 Studios' R.A. Salvatore certainly has the credentials to make it happen. Every so often, we sit down with R.A. to see how the story and history of Copernicus is progressing. While the studio still can't state specifics, there certainly are some hints in Salvatore's discussion. Check it out!


R.A. Salvatore

Ten Ton Hammer: When you were originally concepting the Dark Elf Trilogy after the success of Icewind Dale and fleshing out Menzoberranzan, were you given any directions by TSR initially, or were you given free reign? Did they say “Go at it? You've obviously set the precedent here, so create what you want?”

R.A. Salvatore: It was actually a pretty funny conversation. I called TSR and said, "Ok, you want me to define the dark elves and their society. I have the old Dungeons & Dragons modules that follow the Against the Giant series (Descent to the Depths of the Earth, Queen of the Demonweb Pits, The Vault of the Drow). I've got all that. I also have the Fiend Folio entry for dark elves (which was like a page, if that). That's all I've got. What else do you have?" They said, "That's all we have." and I said, "But... but... but..."  They said, "Oh no. Go ahead. You have carte blanche to create the dark elves in the Forgotten Realms.”

So I went and got Mario Puzo's The Godfather out.

Ten Ton Hammer: *laughs*

Salvatore: I'm serious. That was where I started developing the society of the dark elves. Between that and the old Gygax modules.

Ten Ton Hammer: So as your books have become more popular, do editors and publishers take a more hands off approach with you now and just say, "You've obviously proven yourself? You can write these books. We've done this with you before and you know how the editing process works." Or do they still go at your text and say, "We need to fix this, we need to fix this, etc."?

Salvatore: Yes and no. At Wizards of the Coast and TSR, they have two different kinds of books that they write. They write the books that support the game, like the Avatar series; books that really tie the world to the D&D mythos. Then you have the other storytelling books like mine, and Doug Niles’ original Dark Walker on Moonshae series, and Jeff Grubbs’ Azure Bonds and there have been a whole bunch since, where they take a more hands off approach because we're telling more personal stories that don't really affect the wider world.

So with me, there have been times when they've tried to bring me more into the bigger world. Sometimes it's worked really well, other times it's been disastrous for all of us. It's a back and forth.

They don't tell me what to write. That's one of the big misperceptions. I mean, if I turned in a book in which my entire group of heroes got killed, there might be some pushback. Certainly from the marketing people.

Ten Ton Hammer: Right. They want to see those sequels. More sequels equal more readership, right?

Salvatore: But... if I did that, they’d let me do it. I have complete confidence in that. They'd let me run. They're trusting my instincts on my books. It's a good relationship. They don't limit me very much at all. I understand the sandbox that I'm playing in and how much I can push the limits one way or another and I don't work in a vacuum. But I still have creative control.

Ten Ton Hammer: So shifting gears a little bit, EverQuest turned 10 this year.

Salvatore: Yeah, imagine that!

Ten Ton Hammer: Did you start playing when it was first released, or did you pick it up during one of the expansions? Did you find it on your own?

Salvatore: It was a couple of months. When I came into the game, the highest level characters running around were in their teens.

But remember, back in EverQuest, it took you awhile to get up in the game. It wasn't like the games today where you play for ten hours and you're level 30.

Ten Ton Hammer: Yeah, I remember seeing my first set of bronze and going, "Wow. This is fantastic!"

Salvatore: Absolutely! The last story that I heard before creating a character was that people were fighting over bronze pieces in Unrest. So I came in soon after the game released. It was probably three months after. 

I remember the first time I stepped into the game. It was funny because two of my friends had been playing, so they were like level 9 or 12, around there, and three of us decided to join in. Two of them creating characters in Freeport, but I created a Barbarian warrior in Halas.

Ten Ton Hammer: *chuckles*


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Some of the remaining game properties from 38 Studios were sold off during an auction this week but Copernicus wasn’t one of them.

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Bidders made their offers for the remaining game assets and tech left over of the defunct 38 Studios in the final asset auction earlier today.

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The auction for 38 Studios’ game assets and IPs has been pushed back to December following “greater than expected” interest.

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The lawyer charged with selling off 38 Studios’ game IPs wants to delay next week’s planned auction due to “greater than expected interest.”

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