Thursday, December 31, 2020

Convos With Creative People | Dan Vondrak: Talking X-Men Origins: Wolverine at NYCC 2009



Convos with Creative People is a podcast about creative paths and processes. Each episode features interviews with creators of all genres and mediums, and discussions on writing, art, design, marketing, music, podcasting, and more. Hosted by me, Brian LeTendre. 

In this episode I dug into the 2009 archives of the Secret Identity podcast for an interview I did with Raven Software’s Senior Creative Director Dan Vondrak, about the X-Men Origins: Wolverine game. 


Why am I pulling up this interview now? Because Dan Vondrak directed the campaign of this year’s Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. I am loving the campaign, and what is kind of incredible about it is that much of it was created remotely during the pandemic. 

IGN did a fantastic video about the campaign’s development, which you can watch below:


The idea for this episode came from the first time I booted up the game, as I got hit with a wave of nostalgia. Not because the game itself is set in the ‘80s (though that is a big deal for me as someone whose formative years were that decade), but because of the studio logos that are emblazoned on the screen when it starts. In addition to lead developer Treyarch, there are a slew of other studios who worked on the game, including Beenox, High Moon Studios, Sledgehammer, and Raven Software. 

I could write an entire series of blogs on the work of those studios (and I likely will at some point), as they created some of my favorite games of the Xbox 360/PS3/Wii generation. Just in case any of those names don’t ring a bell:  
  • High Moon Studios brought us the awesome Transformers games War for Cybertron, Dark of the Moon and Fall of Cybertron.
  • Beenox created Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions and Spider-Man: Edge of Time, featuring my two favorite Spideys--Peter Parker and Miguel O’Hara (Spider-Man 2099).
  • Sledgehammer Games was born out of Visceral Games, creators of Dead Space, one of my all-time favorite series.
  • Raven Software was behind X-Men Legends I & II, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, among many others.
Which brings me to today’s blast from the past. Back in 2009, I was in the middle of my game journo stint, covering games for Comic Book Resources. The Secret Identity podcast was also going strong at that time, and NYCC was the place where we would get almost an entire year’s worth of interviews done for the show. 

It was at NYCC 2009 that I got to interview Senior Creative Director at Raven Software Dan Viondrak, who was the project lead on X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a game that was released alongside the upcoming movie. 


The game featured a story written by Marc Guggenheim, who you may know from a variety of comic-related projects, including his run on Wolverine of course, as well as runs on Flash and Amazing Spider-man, and his development, writing and production work on the Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow TV shows. 
 
X-Men Origins: Wolverine received good reviews at the time, and most agreed that the mechanics were the strong point. It felt great to play as Wolverine, and the game really captured the brutality of his combat skills, and how far he could push his healing factor. 
 
Sadly, unless you own a copy of the game and a console to play it on, you’d have a tough time playing X-Men Origins: Wolverine today. Thye license expired and it’s not available digitally. But there are plenty of used copies floating around out there, and it’s definitely worth checking out. 

Raven made a Wolfenstein game that was released later that year as well, and also the underrated Singularity in 2010, before working on the Call of Duty franchise for the past decade.
 
Here are links where you can find more about X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Raven Software: 

Raven Software: 
X-Men Origins: Wolverine game trailer: 
X-Men Origins: Wolverine full playthrough: 
X-Men Origins: Wolverine game on Wikipedia: 

As always, you can follow me and keep up with my creative projects on Twitter @seebrianwrite.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Convos With Creative People | Don Cardenas: Comics, Community, and Creating During a Pandemic


Convos with Creative People is a podcast about creative paths and processes. Each episode features interviews with creators of all genres and mediums, and discussions on writing, art, design, marketing, music, podcasting, and more. Hosted by me, Brian LeTendre.

In this episode I welcome artist, musician, fellow podcaster, and friend Don Cardenas to the show. I’ve known Don for over five years now, and we first connected around our mutual love of music, as he was a listener of the Thrash it Out podcast. He’s an amazing artist, and I interviewed him about his book Packs of the Lowcountry for the Secret Identity podcast back in 2017 (in fact, it was the last interview we did for the show, which ended later that year).

As we always do whenever we catch up, Don and I cover a lot of ground in this discussion. In addition to talking about his work and his process, we ended up talking quite a bit about finding your creative community, and adjusting creative expectations for yourself in the midst of a pandemic. In fact, this conversation was the inspiration for the blog series I recently started about rebuilding my creative routine (you can read the first installment here). 

I’d like to thank Don for being so gracious with his time, and for the great discussion as always. Go check out his work, and listen to his podcast!

Here are links to where you can find Don, as well as some of the stuff we talked about in this episode:

Don on Twitter: twitter.com/DonCardenasArt

Don on Instagram: instagram.com/doncardenasart

Don’s Website: doncardenasart.com 

Comics - Coffee - Metal podcast: https://anchor.fm/donald-cardenas 

Brian’s episode on CCM: https://anchor.fm/donald-cardenas/episodes/CCM-Podcast-Episode-20-Brian-LeTendre-eikvta 

Packs of the Lowcountry on ComiXology: 

https://www.comixology.com/Packs-of-the-Lowcountry/comics-series/40302

I Wish it Was Xmas Today (Cover): https://youtu.be/ajKIHBrnA5o 

As always, you can follow me and keep up with my creative projects on Twitter @seebrianwrite.


Sunday, November 29, 2020

Rebuilding a Creative Routine in the Middle of the Apocalypse | Part 1: Admitting You Need to Rebuild

I cannot tell you how many mornings I have woken up with big creative plans over the past several months. Or how many times I've told myself: "This is the day I get my writing routine back."

One of my favorite pics from a trip to CA. I find it peaceful and inspiring.

I've looked for every starting point to ground myself--NaNoWriMo being the latest one. None of them have worked. I've read countless "process" blogs and books, attempting to regain the kind of creative routine that once was so organic for me. And I've attributed my inability to do that to a lack of willpower, shaming myself for being unable to write consistently.

With all of my writing friends, with my workmates, and with my family members, I am quick to remind them that we are living through then apocalypse right now, and they need to adjust their self-expectations. I point out that with everything happening right now, we can't expect to have the same level of productivity, and we have to put more emphasis on self-care, as we navigate the chaos.

But when I say "we," I don't mean "me." I don't give myself that same grace.

I know I'm not alone in this struggle. I've talked with creative friends who are dealing with the same issue, and I've seen countless posts about it on social media in the creative communities I follow.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I can share my process for trying to get out of this rut, in the hope that it may resonate with someone else who is also struggling. I'm going to explore different aspects of this process in multiple posts, but today I want to start with the idea that in order to fix the problem you have to admit there is a problem. 

More specifically for me, I needed to admit that my creative routine is completely broken. It's not in need of a tune-up, or just a little tweaking. It's non-existent right now.

I think it's important to recognize this, because it breaks the illusion that this will be an easy or quick fix. It also gets at what I think is a huge problem for creative people--the idea that your progress as a creator is continuous, or that it's a straight line.

At one point I was writing prolifically, and had a really good creative routine in place. Because of that, there is a constant thinking error I make when trying to "get it back." And that is the idea that I can just go back to doing everything the way I did before, and I will fall right back into my routine.

But that doesn't take into account everything that has changed since I had that really consistent routine. Like, the apocalypse, for one thing. Or the fact that I had a different job, with completely different hours, in a completely different field. Or the fact that I was not in school, as I am now. Or the fact that my kids were at different points in their lives and their schedules did not affect my routines in the way they do now.

You get the point. But for some reason, I often don't.

That snapshot in time is gone. My old routine does not fit my current situation. So, even if the apocalypse wasn't doing a number on my mental health, I couldn't just slip back into the same routine.

I need a new routine. A new structure. A new process. And accepting that makes it easier to stop shaming myself for not adhering to the old routine.

In the next installment, I'm going to talk about thinking smaller.

If you are reading this, and you are also rebuilding your creative routine, I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Power Chords Podcast: Track 62--AC/DC and Blue Oyster Cult



Opening Act:
AC/DC’s Power Up is #1
New Exodus album news 
Anthrax to Release Among the Living Comic 
UFO Box set being released 
Stryper podcast news 

Ear Candy: 
Blue Oyster Cult - The Symbol Remains (2020) 
AC/DC - Power Up (2020) 

6 Degrees of Frankie B. 

Comin’ Atcha Live: 
Stryper - Even the Devil Believes (Spirithouse Studios) 

Rockversation: Bill Leverty 
Matt spoke with the guitarist and founder member of FireHouse about the history of the band, how they’re still playing great music today, and his latest solo album, Divided We Fall. 

Bonus Track: Blue Oyster Cult - Tainted Blood 
From the new album The Symbol Remains, out now. 

Thanks for listening! If you're subscribing on iTunes or Google play, please leave us a review, as it will help spread the word about the show! You can find more news, reviews, and discussion at powerchordspodcast.com. You can also hit us up on twitter at twitter.com/powerchordspod, and email us at powerchordspodcast@gmail.com.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Convos With Creative People | Ed Greenwood: Talking Forgotten Realms 4e at DDXP 2008

Convos with Creative People is a podcast about creative paths and processes. Each episode  features interviews with creators of all genres and mediums, and discussions on writing, art, design, marketing, music, podcasting, and more. Hosted by me, Brian LeTendre.

In this episode I reach all the way back into the 2008 archives of the Secret Identity podcast, for a conversation with the creator of the Forgotten Realms, Ed Greenwood. 

Way back in April of 2008, my friends Alana Abbott, Max Saltonstall and I traveled to the Dungeons and Dragons Experience (DDXP) convention, to get a preview of the upcoming 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons. We got to meet, interview, and play games with some of the architects of 4e, and it was an amazing time. 

One of the highlights of the show was getting to sit down with the legend himself, Ed Greenwood, the creator of the Forgotten Realms. We got to talk about the Realms being the base setting for the new edition, what was new and different with the Realms in 4e, and some of the projects Ed was working on at the time.

Maybe my favorite part of this interview from a creative standpoint, was hearing Ed’s take on the Living Forgotten Realms initiative, and how it contributed to the richness of the stories being told around that world. Fantastic stuff.

As I said in the intro for this episode, these old interviews are great to revisit, and provide a time capsule of what was happening at any given point. This time in particular was a very exciting one for D&D and the Forgotten Realms, and it’s fascinating to see what part of WOTC’s plans for 4e came to fruition, what didn’t, and how that informed a lot of what we see with 5e today.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this interview from 2008! 

Here are links to some of the things Ed and I talked about, as well as things I mentioned in the intro:

Blackstaff Tower (Book 1 in the Waterdeep series): https://www.amazon.com/dp/0786949139

Forgotten Realms Player’s Guide (4e): https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/57376/Forgotten-Realms-Campaign-Guide-4e

Ed Greenwood Presents Elminster’s Forgotten Realms: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/166568/Ed-Greenwood-Presents-Elminsters-Forgotten-Realms

Living Forgotten Realms Campaign Archive: https://www.livingforgottenrealms.com/ 

History of Winter Fantasy/DDXP: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_Fantasy 

Ed Greenwood on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheEdVerse 

Article about the launch of Gleemax: https://v1.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/video-games/editorials/interviews/1218-Gleemax-Wizards-of-the-Coast-s-Gamer-MySpace

Article about the shutting down of Gleemax: https://critical-hits.com/blog/2008/07/28/someone-broke-the-brains-jar/ 

As always, you can follow me and keep up with my creative projects on Twitter @seebrianwrite.