Thursday, January 04, 2007

Of Blades and Sheep

Hidden among the Jobstreet postings I received yesterday was a Creative Writer position with Z-Zone Online Philippines, Incorporated. Normally I don't give "Creative Writer" positions with ambiguously-named companies a second thought -- I mean, for all I know, I might end up getting suckered into writing for online porn sites. This one, however, turned out to be much different... especially when you realize that Z-Zone is the primary operator for the Skyblade: Sword of the Heavens MMORPG.

Stalwarts will probably recognize that this image is available for download as one of the wallpapers on their site. The game is actually based on a Korean graphic novel of the same name; Ironically, from the reviews I've read so far, the comic holds less emphasis in presenting a cohesive universe and has more interest in parodying a "martial arts"-type storyline.

What caught my attention about the job application, however, was this little clause in the requirements section:
* All interested applicants are required to submit via email a 3,000 words story using any of the Skyblade Sword of the Heavens characters as the primary character/s of the story.
Well, now. You have to admit that that's a pretty interesting requirement.

I don't play Skyblade, mind you. For that matter, I don't play any MMORPGs at all -- my interests fall more along the lines of tabletop games. I haven't read a single page of the printed work the game was based on, much less even known about its existence until this morning.

But it's difficult to resist a challenge like this. You get an entire universe to play with, the assurance that at least one person out there is going to read your work, and the opportunity to stamp your own literary style on somebody else's setting. There are only two obvious catches that I can see at first glance: One is the three-thousand word minimum (which is the length of an anthologizable short story), and the other is the lack of available information. There are few reference pieces available (in English) on the Skyblade universe and characters; An applicant going through the entire story-writing process would be hard-pressed to gather enough data for a consistent plotline.

I never thought I'd say this, but I actually wish that there was more fan-fiction available on this thing. Despite what some people may think of it, fan fiction can provide a strangely consistent reading element at times.

I was honestly surprised when I brought up the Skyblade Philippines game forums and found that nobody had posted any fiction works for almost a year. That, along with the lack of any written fiction on the site is a bad sign: It implies that the setting isn't crunchy or workable enough to get people speculating on possible plotlines. Whoever garners Z-Zone's open position will have the responsibility of making the Skyblade world much more interesting to its fans.

Whatever the circumstances, though, this might make for an interesting literary exercise. Seeing that it's the start of the year and that most of the bigshot media companies and publishing giants haven't gotten around to setting up some calls for submission yet, a Skyblade application would make for a good diversion right now. At the very least, the art is somewhat nice to look at.

Too bad Z-Zone didn't go as far as to place a deadline on their application requirements. Their posting did mention that this was an urgent hiring, however, so I figure that they'll want the works to come in as soon as possible.

With all that said, we'll know a few things about the person who will eventually win the position, regardless of who it is: We'll know that they were creative, that they were resourceful, and that they were somehow able to spin entire stories out of an almost-nonexistent bolt of cloth. That would probably make the whole exercise worthwhile by itself.

* The Skyblade wallpaper image above was acquired as a wallpaper download from the Skyblade Philippines web site, and is copyright 2006 by Z-Zone Online Philippines. It is used here for purely non-commercial purposes, as well as the burning desire to point out the giant monster sheep in the background. I mean, seriously -- it's a giant monster sheep, of all things. It would make a heck of a bunch of lamb chops. Mmmm... lamb chops.


kat said...

I'll let you in on a secret. My friend works (or worked, I don't know if she's still there) for Z-Zone. About a year ago they did a contest similar to that requirement they're asking from applicants. I got a chance to read a few of the entries, and it was a riot. I commend those kids for being able to write those stories, but the writer in me was dying because of the awful use of the English language.

Good luck!

Sean said...

Kat: One of the few references I managed to find was a forums thread from February 2005 that asked people to vote among two entries for that same contest. Both links were broken, though, so I wasn't able to have a look. *Sigh*

I've noticed that efforts at creativity tend to be common among game communities, if only because the hobby tends to fire up their imaginations. These players usually have trouble with the part that involves expressing their ideas (leading to such things as grammatically-inconsistent English), but they do get better with time. That's bad news for me: Who knows how much these people could have improved over the past year?

kat said...

No idea how they have impored, but I do agree with you on that. Back in college, the best English speakers and writers I've encountered were not the ones who majored in lit or journ or what, but those who played D&D, pen & paper rpg etc. They also tend to be the most analytical and critical thinkers I've met. But that's a different topic altogether.

I'm not familiar with the Skyblade game myself. All I know it that it's set in a sort of mythical world based on the Orient. I can't remember much of the stories either. Sorry can't be of much help on that.

Sean said...

Kat: There are a number of factors that make for good English-speakers (or writers, for that matter). Chief among them is the presence of extensive reading habits -- anyone who's fluent in the language should have some background in grammar and vocabulary, after all.

Fluency in English, however, also requires a method of output that provides constant practice. As it turns out, most tabletop games actually hold this sort of thing -- if only because the biggest publishers in the industry happen to put out their products in English, and therefore force their respective gaming communities to use the same terms. (I note similar circumstances when it comes to the Information Technology field; Seasoned programmers always seem to be remarkably fluent in English for much the same reasons.) :)