The Making Of Kelli “Sydney” King

Kelli King, also known as “Sydney” is a PAYDAY 2 character that was released earlier this week. She is the second character I have worked on since I took on the role of Game Writer for the game.

Jimmy was the first character, but as he was the result of a collaboration with the Hardcore Henry movie (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3072482), he wasn’t designed by us at Starbreeze; and instead, I got to read the script of the movie and watch some uncut footage (this was before the movie had premiered) to try and get a sense of Jimmy’s personality. Based on the reception from the community and my colleagues, it seems as if I succeeded which makes me very happy ūüôā

On to Sydney then.

So, Sydney is the first original playable character I created for PAYDAY 2.
The guidelines I received from upper management was that we were to introduce an Australian female heister portrayed by Georgia Van Cuylenburg. That left me a lot of room to come up with what kind of person I wanted her to be.

The first thing that came to mind was that I wanted her to be crazy, on the verge of mental. A person who fully embodied the life of a criminal and who basked in the chaos she created. I wanted her to be young and ambitious, with a clear goal in mind that she wanted to leave her mark in history as one of the greatest criminals to have ever lived. To achieve this, she would have to team up with the PAYDAY gang, because let’s face it, no one does it¬†better¬†than them.

As always when I come up with a character (regardless of medium), I get an image in my head of how they look. One of the awesome things about working at Starbreeze is that I have the opportunity to work with amazing concept artists who takes what I have in mind and bringing them to life. Sydney’s hair was the first thing I imagined when I started working on the character. I wanted her to have a fiery red mohawk and a more thrashed outfit that would capture her wild and chaotic spirit.

The picture below is the result of the first briefing I gave Joakim, who’s an absolutely amazing artist (http://joakimericsson.se/?page_id=1058).

sydney version 1 (2)

I was happy with this iteration, to be honest, the only thing I would have wanted was more yellow in her clothing, a yellow tie for instance. I think it would have looked great and symbolized the element of a fiery spirit even stronger. But, remember, I am not the Art Director at Starbreeze, so at this point I left the appearance to the professionals and began working on her backstory. They had gotten enough ideas from me that they could run with it.

The art team worked a bit back and forth, and had her more “punk” than I had imagined, but I was still very happy with the result when they showed it to me. She looked mean and cool and crazy at the same time, which was the goal from the start. Below is a picture of her final appearance and how she looks in the game today. I think this style is more fitting to the PAYDAY gang and that they did a¬†great¬†job ūüôā

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For her backstory, I wanted her to be a wild spirit from a young age. I didn’t want a traumatic experience to have shaped her into what she is today; rather I wanted her to have such a strong personality that “regular” life was never an option for her. She was simply born to spread chaos and disobey the rules of society. As she grew up, she realized that the life of crime was her destiny, and would ultimately be her only way to gain fame for the one thing she was good at.

When I started writing her voice lines, I talked a lot with Georgia (the actress portraying her, who’s an Australian herself) about using different curse words and lingo that would make her feel authentic. That part was very important for me to get right, because I know we have a large group of Australians playing the game.

That’s all for this time, but I’ve posted her complete backstory below for those interested in reading and learning more about Kelli “Sydney” King. If you guys have any further questions, just hit me up on Twitter and I’ll get back to you ūüôā
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Kelli “Sydney” King

Biographical Information

Name: Kelli King

Aliases: Sydney

Affiliation(s): The PAYDAY Gang, The Dingos

Age: 24

Nationality: Australian

Language: English

City of birth: Melbourne

Family: Peter King (father), Kelly King (mother)

Hair color: Dyed blue

Eye color: Hazel

Ethnicity: Caucasian

Portrayed by: Georgia Van Cuylenburg

Voiced by: Georgia Van Cuylenburg

Description

Kelli¬†“Sydney” King is an Australian former gang member, and the fifteenth character for PAYDAY 2.

Background

Kelli King grew up in Melbourne, Australia and was a rowdy child right from the get go. She would suddenly have outbursts of anger, usually ending with violence of some sorts. Her parents tried everything to make her “normal”, but nothing worked – Sydney was simply not like other children.

Kelli grew up hating all kinds of rules and authority. She couldn’t stand it when someone told her she wasn’t allowed to do something. This behavior grew worse and she was eventually kicked out of school. Her parents grew more desperate and threatened to institutionalize her, so she ran away from home

and ended up joining a criminal gang called the “Dingos”.

The Dingos consisted of troubled youths, all with an appetite for violence and disobedience – but no one was crazier than Kelli which she often displayed by pushing her limits to the extreme, always looking for the bigger rush.

She ran with the Dingos for several years, robbing stores and fighting other gangs. That kept her satisfied for a while, but after some time she was starting to get bored. It wasn’t extreme enough. And while some of the other Dingos would maybe decide to leave the criminal life behind someday, Kelli knew she could never do that. She would never fit in to society and be like everyone else.

As she became older her anger and hatred was directed more towards the system itself, and that’s why she decided the Dingos alone couldn’t satisfy her needs anymore. She wanted to take it to the next level and challenge the perception of how life was supposed to be lived.

It was around this time that she one day stumbled upon a news article talking about an infamous group of criminals called the PAYDAY gang. Kelli realized that this group of criminals were living the life she wanted, and not only that; they were getting the fame and recognition she had started to crave.
She wanted a piece of that fame.

With that in mind, she left everything behind and traveled to America in pursuit of her new goal which was to join the PAYDAY gang. To accomplish this, she knew she had to prove herself to them. She was going to have to do something extreme…

Washington seemed to be where they operated from, so when Kelli arrived she got herself a small apartment, a police radio to monitor the PAYDAY gang’s activity and the weapons and explosives needed to pull her plan off.

The time finally came when she decided to crash an ongoing bank heist executed by the PAYDAY gang. Out of nowhere she showed up and attempted to steal their loot. The element of surprise mixed with an array of explosives got her the edge she needed.

The officers at the scene were just as confused as the PAYDAY gang seemed to be, which resulted in a wild west-shootout between the three parties. In the end, Kelli succeeded to escape with a bag of cash, which she had barely managed to secure.

The days after, she waited in her apartment. She knew it would only be a question of time before the PAYDAY gang would retaliate. She’d read that they had gone after a certain Hector Morales and executed him for double-crossing them. They were not going to let her get away with what she’d done.

In the mean time, she felt a moment of acknowledgment as she saw that her stunt was headlining the papers and various news reports. This could be her future if her plan worked out the way she was hoping.

A mysterious voice suddenly took control over her police radio. The man speaking claimed to be Bain, the infamous individual in charge of Crime.Net. He casually stated the address she was located at and warned her to not try anything stupid. “I respect your spirit, miss King,” he said and Kelli gasped as she heard him mention her surname.
“You are good, but you’re not that good. You made it personal by attacking us, and the gang isn’t too happy about that. I don’t blame them. You lack real experience but you have balls – I’ll give you that. I’m guessing that was the purpose of your little stunt? To show you could play in the big leagues?”

Before she could react, the door came crashing down and several guns were pointed in her face.

It was the PAYDAY gang.

“Right on cue,” Bain continued. “You wanted our attention? You got it.”

Kelli nodded and smiled

It was time the world learned the name of Kelli ‘Sydney’ King.

 

 

Writing For PAYDAY 2

The people have spoken!

For this blog post I asked my twitter followers what subject they wanted me to write about. I gave them three alternatives.

  1. Novel edit update #2
  2. Writing for PAYDAY 2
  3. What’s the novel about?

And as the title suggests, writing for PAYDAY 2 was the winner.

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Some of you may know that I was actually a Producer at Starbreeze/OVERKILL before I started working as a Writer, and thus I worked very closely with the people running the whole company  (both from a business and creative aspect). I believe this has given me strong edge for my current work on PAYDAY 2, because I know what kind of things motived the creators of OVERKILL when they made Payday: The Heist back in 2011.

The sequel, PAYDAY 2 was released in 2013 and is still wildly popular. We have a huge amount of players and fans, and that close relationship with the PAYDAY community is definitely one of the coolest things about my job.

As a creator, I would–naturally–have loved to be a part of PAYDAY right from the get go; setting the tone and theme of the game, but that’s not the case.¬†I simply have to do the work to the best of my ability, while respecting the IP (intellectual Property) as we go forward. One of the¬†challenges for me as a Writer on PAYDAY 2 is that there’s¬†been a few different¬†people before me doing the writing and setting the “voice” of characters.

The new characters I have helped bring to life are rather easy ones, because I have helped mold them¬†into what¬†they are, from start to finish (a certain Australian heister might be one of these). I have written their backstory and I know them very well.¬†When I have to write lines for Bain¬†for instance, I have to try and capture the voice of a very established character, and be true to who he is. For instance, Bain does not remotely swear as much as the other people in the game, and I have to remind myself of that constantly when I write his lines, otherwise the fans of the game (and my colleges) would react negatively to that change of voice. One of the first thing I did when I started as a Writer on PAYDAY 2, was to create a “project bible” where I collected all the lore of both games, and also made bios for all existing characters. This is very handy for me, because I can always reference things if I’m uncertain about something.

So what is it I actually do on a day-to-day basis? It’s too much to break down thoroughly, but I can try and give you the bigger picture.

Firstly, we have the heisters – the playable characters of PAYDAY 2. We are always looking to create more unique individuals from all parts of the world and these characters need a written backstory that can be shared with the team, so everyone understands the vision we’re going for. We have a lot of voice-lines in PAYDAY 2, and they need to be written and revised before it’s time for the actors to go into recording.

Secondly, we have all the new levels we make for the game Рthese require a large amount of written voice-lines and, sometimes, we introduce new minor characters as well, filling a special function for one specific heist. Boris, from the PAYDAY 2: Goat Simulator DLC is one of these characters, and most recently, the Reapers, the Russian special forces we created for the PAYDAY 2: Hardcore Henry Packs DLC.

Up until a few weeks ago I was writing all text for PAYDAY 2, but we recently hired a copy editor that now works with the marketing team. His focus is on the text for websites and promotion material, giving me more time to focus on in-game related things.

Lastly, we have the FBI Files feature, descriptions for masks and weapons, Contact Database text and so on. Smaller things that still requires some time.

If you guys have any questions or anything, just leave a comment and I’ll reply.

Have a good Sunday! ūüôā

MELTDOWN-WALLPAPER

The Love For The Craft

One of the best things about working in the video game industry is the fact that I get to work with so many creative and talented people. In order to make a game, it requires all different departments (3D & 2D Artists, Level Designers, Animators, Sound Designers, Programmers, music Composers, QA (game testers), Writers, Producers etc.) to work together and fulfill the vision the company has for the game.

A few years back I worked at a smaller game studio where I got to have many interesting conversations with the Art Director/Game Director. The way he talked about the vision for the game we were working on (Pid) was really inspiring to me. I remember complementing¬†him at one point¬†and saying he was really talented at what he did, and he quickly dismissed the concept of natural¬†talent. In his case, he told me, he had dedicated so much time in learning the craft of drawing and how the complexities of different colors worked, that he would’ve been pissed if all that time hadn’t payed off. Look up the games¬†Pid¬†and¬†Shelter¬†and tell me those aren’t absolutely stunning.

That conversation got me thinking about the word talent and how we humans quickly use it when describing a person who’s really good at something. “You’re so good at playing the guitar. You’re so talented.” Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Mozart and so on, were absolutely amazing at what they did. And I think it’s an easy way out in saying they were born with some kind of gift, instead of talking about the endless hours they spent in refining their respective craft. ( I recommend Spike Lee’s documentary “Off the Wall” if you want to learn more about Michael Jackson’s thoughts on the art of music).

What I have come to realize when talking with all amazing people I’ve met over the years, is that many of them truly dislike the word talent.¬†A majority of them, if not all of them, have dedicated a big part of their lives in learning their respective craft. Day in and day out, they have worked and worked to get better at what they’re doing. So when someone from the outside tells one of these creative people they are so talented, it might actually in some sense diminish the blood and sweat they have sacrificed to get as good as they are.

Writing has always been a part of my life in some sense since I was very young, but it wasn’t until a few years ago when I completely changed my perspective on writing.
The major difference is that I began to consider it as a craft, something I could learn and get better at by reading about it and practicing.

At one point, I simply started writing the book because I could, but what I wrote was crap. I believe it was about 35 000 words into the novel before I realized I wasn’t respecting the art of writing and decided to throw it all away and do it differently.
If I wanted to write a good book, I needed to study writing (on my own, I haven’t taken a course on writing) and learn what the best authors did. And I also had to dedicate non-writing time to much more reading then I was currently doing.

And from that day, when I threw away those 35 000 words, I went forward with a completely changed mindset. Below is a picture of all the books I’ve read and studied on the craft of writing, and holy moly, I have learnt so much from doing it.

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There is not a single thing in my life that I feel I have improved faster in than writing.
Just picking up stuff I wrote 5-6 years ago, I can barely finish them without wanting to slap myself for how bad they were. And another thing: writing the novel I’m currently working on is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. That tells me I’m doing something right. There has been/and are so many days when I’m absolutely exhausted after work and want to do nothing else than to lay on the couch and chill. But that’s when the voice in my head kicks in and tells me the book isn’t gonna finish itself. If I want to make this dream of mine real¬†then it’s all on me. And that’s the beauty of it. I have complete power over making the best damn book I can write, and if I fail for some reason, there is no one else but myself to blame. Thinking about it that way really lights a fire under my ass to put in the hours needed.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to return my attention to the novel ūüėČ

Editing Update 1#

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Plot-wise the first draft is complete. My four POV (point of view) characters all have a beginning, a middle and an end, completing the arcs I had planned out for them in the first book of my series. There’s a climax that wraps up things neatly and hints what’s to come in the second book.

However, as I read it through, I felt there were things missing. Things I want the reader to have learned about from reading the first book.¬†Currently I think¬†I have a tight plot for the first book, but I want to introduce other elements of the main story that isn’t there right now, to give the reader the same feeling of wonder as I mentioned above. Things that will play a bigger part in later books, but that can build an interest from the start. I want to give the readers a glimpse of what’s to come and establish the other conflicts that exists in the world. To do this I have decided to add another POV character, and also add some additional scenes in the book, both for foreshadowing purposes but also for more depth in the story. This will roughly bring the word-count up to around 140 000, which is still kinda decent for an epic fantasy, I think.

To give a few examples of what I mean, let’s look¬†at¬†A Game of Thrones, the first book in¬†A Song of Ice and Fire.

The prologue for instance, is one of my all-time favorites in the genre.
It promises the reader that there are unnatural threats in the world George R.R. Martin has created, but as you read on, you understand that’s not the focus of the first book; the threats are just there, building and building, creating a sense of tension.

In A Song of Fire and Ice¬†we also have¬†Jon Snow who is a POV character dedicated to give the reader an understanding of what goes on beyond the Wall. He is not a part of the main plot which focuses on King’s Landing and the Iron Throne, but as a reader you begin to understand that the real threat to Westeros are the¬†Others who are about to make their move against all of mankind. This is something we can only learn about when we follow Jon’s story, making this POV vital.

Then we have Daenerys Targaryen who is on a different continent, letting the reader follow her personal growth into a powerful contender for the Iron Throne. You¬†anticipate¬†that when the time is right, she’s going to release mayhem on Westeros and claim what is hers.

These examples above are just taken from the top of my head, and something to highlight  what I love about the epic fantasy genre. The scale of the world, the vast cast of characters and the world-altering events that will take place.

Where do you get your ideas?

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There is no definitive answer to this question, but lately I have started to think more about this particular conundrum myself. As some of you know, I finished the first draft of my novel¬†about a week ago, and one advice I’ve heard repeatedly from other authors, is that you should always let the script rest for some time. Try and forget about it and get some distance, so you can tackle it with a set of fresh eyes when the time for editing begins.

In my case, I often find that a story comes to me in the shape of a first line – the absolute first thing that hits the reader when opening up a book. I’m talking about what is commonly known as the “hook”.

This can happen anytime, anywhere really. Right before I fall asleep, or while commuting on the train on my way to work. One factor that seems to be consistent, is the fact that it mostly happens when I have no other real distractions; no video games, no series, no TV. Music is fine, because in my case it actually awakes my imagination and gets the brain working.

When a story idea hits me, I quickly scribble it down on my phone or in a small notepad I carry in my jacket. (Always wearing a notepad and a pencil is a must.) But sometimes I hesitate, and don’t fully accept the idea right away. When that’s the case, I don’t write it down. I believe that if it’s really a good idea, it will come back to me again, not leaving me alone. If not: then it probably wasn’t worth my time.

I think every story has bits and pieces of the author in it. We have all experienced different things that has shaped who we are, and even though it might be hard to pinpoint exactly what part of an author’s life actually translates to the words on the page, the text is still imbued with who the author is as a person.

As I suggested earlier, there is no definite answer to this question. There is most likely as many different answers to this question, as there are writers. In my case, I have always made things up. I find this world boring, so I make shit up that excites me, and can hopefully excite others.

That’s who I am. I make up stuff out of my head.

 

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The First Draft Is Done!

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I fucking did it. I set out to write a novel and I achieved that goal. Whatever happens next, I have proven to myself that I can do this!

The first draft was completed in the early hours of the morning¬†and lands at roughly 121 000 words.¬†To give you all some sense of length, I’ll compare my word count with a few other books:

The Hobbit-95,022
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban-106,821
A Game of Thrones-284,000

Now it’s time for some real-talk.

Writing this novel is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but at the same time nothing has ever made me as happy as when I have been working on it.

Confusing, right?

Some days really sucked¬†and I questioned what the hell I was doing, while other days it was nothing but¬†pure joy.¬†Something that helped me tremendously during this process was the support in the writing community. I truly find it amazing that so many authors are willing to share their experiences for aspiring writers like myself. Reading that authors like Neil Gaiman, George R.R. Martin and others still struggle to this day, made me realize it was normal. It’s not only them, most authors I have talked to say the same thing: writing is fucking hard but you just have to push through.

So what happens now?

I’ll let the script rest for a while, so I can get some distance from it before it’s time to revise. I have hundreds of notes that I scribbled down of things I want to change/add/fix.
I want to make sure the story is where I want it to be before I start sharing it with the beta-readers.

Before the editing begins, I’ll take a break from the novel and¬†work on a short story I have in my head. I also want to catch up on some tv-shows, games and movies that I have missed, either that or I’ll just sleep for a while.

Today is a great day ūüôā

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going After Your Dreams

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The road to get where I’m today has not been a straight line. The only constant factor in my life is that I’ve always wanted to work with writing in some capacity.

Oh, yes, I had a short stint where I wanted to be an actor, which made me study theater for four years in high school. That’s definitely behind me now.

Anyhow, after high school I studied film & TV-production (with a focus on script writing) for a year. Afterwards, I felt kind of sick of theater and television, and a big reason for this was video games. Video games felt so fresh and explosive compared to the movie and TV industry.

I have been a gamer my whole life, but it wasn’t until I was in my early twenties¬†that I realized working with games was a possibility. For some reason, that never crossed my mind all those hours playing in front of the TV.
I remember¬†having a discussion with my older brother ¬†about my future, when he asked: ¬†“what about games? You always play video games. Can’t you study something so you can be one of those people actually making games?”

I started studying game design at Future Games Academy in 2009, and I’ve been working professionally in the gaming industry since 2011, mainly as a producer/project manager. But when I started out I had a different goal, which was to make up worlds and write stories for games. During my studies I quickly learnt that the chances of that happening was minimal. The writers in the industry (the ones I know) didn’t have any kind of eduction, and it was mostly about being at the right place at the right time.

But here we are now, seven years later, at the start of 2016, and it is with immense happiness that I can officially share my new title of Writer at Starbreeze Studios! My focus will be on the story and characters of PAYDAY 2, and I will give it my all in creating cool and new experiences for all our players around the world!

I have always hated the word ‘impossible’, and have always believed that if you set your mind on something and give it your all, the universe will find ways to back you up. One dream fulfilled, now we go after that book contract ūüėČ

Just Do It  (click it)