Dishonored’s Ricardo Bare: Geek For All Seasons?
Though, About Those ‘Canned’ Stories…
And yet, despite feeling that way when it comes to making games, Bare has also managed to carve out the beginning of a career as a fiction writer. (If this makes you feel unaccomplished, join the club.) Switching gears between the two styles of story creation, not to mention dealing with a busy schedule, is a challenge. “I have to compartmentalize,” he told us. “At least the way I work, I get kind of creative momentum about something.” He spent hours banging out the first draft of his novel, “and then it was a giant turd of course, and it took a couple of years after that to get feedback, edit it, smooth it out.”
That novel is a young adult book (the first of a proposed series) called Jack of Hearts. It concerns a young man (“sort of like a dark fable”) who gives his heart, in this case the ability to feel, to a spirit in order to stop feeling tremendous guilt over the terrible things he’s done. In exchange, he’s required act as the spirit’s agent in the mortal realm. He ends up regaining some of his ability to feel, which causes significant problems for his new job.
Work on the Jack of Hearts stopped as Dishonored entered final development. “It’s not just the hours I spend at the office, it’s that I go home, we’re exchanging emails, problems with a character or with a level are in my head constantly, so it’s really hard to go ‘nope, can’t think about that right now, I’m going to wait until tomorrow and work on Jack of Hearts’. It’s easy to maybe edit like that, but not to actually create. During the final work on Dishonored I would go maybe a month or two without writing at all, and when I would start back up, it would take sometimes a day or two, maybe more just to get the engine turning and build enough steam to actually start creating and flowing again.” The results will be seen on bookshelves in early 2013.
One of Bare’s most recent works is a short story called The Rat Burner. Written after the collapse of Midway, but before he moved on to Arkane, it’s set in a very run-down version of Austin, into which come elements of hell who have used what he calls “spiritual technology” to redefine the old Faustian bargain; rather than having to sell your entire soul all at once, the new arrangement allows people to shave off tiny slices of their soul one bit at a time, in exchange for more modest rewards, spending money for clothes, rent, or drugs.
Rats are of course a large part of a story, a similarity with Dishonored Bare says is coincidence, but it’s Austin itself that matters more. Bare has worked there for the majority of his career, the exception being an 8 month stretch in Lyon, France after he was first hired by Arkane. About the city, he says “it’s definitely an interesting creative stewpot. You do have a strong video game industry, lots of independent film stuff, the Alamo Draft House is here, lots of music stuff, and on top of that it’s also the state capitol, there’s a lot of tech stuff here too, and of course there’s UT, so all these elements come together and make it a wonderful place.”
This factored into the world depicted in The Rat Burner. “There’s this expression here in Austin, you see it on people’s bumper stickers, “Keep Austin Weird“. I saw that sticker and wondered ‘what if Austin really was weird?’. And for some reason I was thinking about these Nutria, they’re these huge ass rodents that look like rats, and you can see them sometimes swimming in the river. ” Bare says he’s written several stories in this universe and hopes to see them all published one day.
With Dishonored finished, Bare has more time to spend writing rather than thinking about the game 24/7. He’s currently spending his spare time working on a sequel to Jack of Hearts, and putting together more short stories. There’s also more time to spend with his family, including his two kids. “Both of my kids,” he says, “play games, but my son is much more of a gamer than my daughter is, or at least spends more time thinking about games. Conversely, my daughter is much more of a reader than my son is, and she writes stories”
Will she follow in dad’s footsteps? “I have come home sometimes and opened my writing laptop up, and this document is on my desktop, something like “Snowflake, The Lost Wolf”. It’s like two or three pages typed out, the beginning of a story, and my daughter is doing the thing I was talking about earlier, she is imitating the novels that she has been reading, like Harry Potter and a bunch of other stuff, and I can see her mimicking the voice of those authors. And this has happened a few times.”
“It’s awesome,” Bare says. We’re forced to agree.
CORRECTION: The article initially misstated Ricardo’s position as Producer of Dishonored. He served as Lead Designer.