Lisa Jennings (ermine) played a key role in the development of one of the favourite, and agonisingly hard to obtain, games for furries around the globe, Inherit the Earth. In fact, without her artwork, the game may never have seen the light of day at all. In this interview, she talks about the development of the game, the traps of developer-publisher relationships, and gives advice to prospective furry game writers.
|FVD: Okay, to start off with, would you mind telling a little background information about yourself?|
|Ermine: I've been drawing since I was 3 and I'm a second-generation computer geek,
so it's only natural that I got involved with computer graphics... I've been actively involved in Furry Fandom since 1982.|
|How did you come to be a part of the "Inherit The Earth" game?|
|Err... well, according to Talin and Robert McNally, the creators of the game, I *had* to become a part of it. The concept of the game was inspired when Robert had seen some of my artwork at Talin's house.|
|What was your role in the game's development?|
|I was a conceptual artist, key character designer, story brainstormer, one of the three main animators, and Reality Check. :3|
|What were the game's origins, if any? I mean, in designing the general premise for the game, was there any particular theme, message or style that the developers wanted to stick with?|
|The original concept was to create a family-oriented game, one that wasn't just for children and yet not the usual blood-and-gore stuff that was out on the market. The 'message' was one of intelligence and cooperation will win out.... that the legacy we leave behind will impact the world long after we're gone.|
|How or where did you draw inspiration when designing artwork for the game?|
|*giggle!* Well, I was part of the inspiration... also we thought of how the characters would dress and act in terms of their level of civilization. The less 'civilized' the Morph, the less human affectations they had, like clothes. Considering how feudal the land would be, we favored a medieval flare to what clothing the city Morph had.|
|What did you like best about ITE?|
|I enjoyed working on Rif! :3|
|"Inherit The Earth" is a game that's largely popular with furries. Aside from the fact that it features furry characters, is there any quality or aspect of the game that you feel explains why furries enjoy it?|
|Well, there remains some artifacts of when the game was originally aimed for a broader audience -- examples include the Gypsy Cat at the faire. The environment was richer than a standard edutainment game, and I think that people enjoyed that aspect. I'm sure many furries also liked the foxes, considering some of the comments.|
|Did you enjoy your time with "Inherit the Earth"? Were there any aspects of the game's development process that left you bitter?|
|Oh, I enjoyed my time working with The Dreamers Guild. It was definitely a learning experience as I had never been involved in the gaming industry prior to that. I still regret that the budgetary cutbacks and continuous pressure by the publisher resulted in only 1/5 of the original concept complexity. Whole regions, races, and plot branches were hacked to cut costs and we were told to 'dumb down' or remove many of the puzzles for the sake of the children.|
|Were the publishers/distributors of the game aware of the furry fandom?|
|No, nor do I think they would have cared if they did.|
|Did you have many `conflict of ideas' problems between the developers and the publishers?|
|Our biggest conflict was simple: the developers wanted something that was rather adult in nature. The publishers saw animals and equated it with children, and so forced us at every turn to cater to the 8-12 range, up to and including removing any death scenes to keep a Childrens Rating.|
|Do you know why it's so hard to find a copy of the game these days, aside from the fact it's a few years old? Did the publishers go all out to promote the game?|
Most games, if they don't make it to the Top Ten, vanish quickly. The
Macintosh port of ITE actually made it into the Top Ten Children's Games
for that year, which is why for a while the only version that could be
easily found was for the Mac. The publishers did little marketing or
promotion for this game... they would rather focus their efforts on the
combat games that was their preferred specialty.|
Today a copy can be found on rare occassions from places that purchased a retailer's inventory..... or repackaged in the multi-disk game pack that New World Games created to resell their older games (I believe the pack is called Magic and Steel, but I'm not positive).
|Would you ever consider working on another game? What would it take to persuade you to work on one? :)|
|Maybe.... it would depend a lot on the circumstances of the game, how it is being organized, and if there's a chance of getting paid -- even if it's not necessarily monetary. While ITE made money, I never received a penny in royalties.|
|What advice would you give to any furries wanting to develop their own furry game?|
|Plan out two games: One with everything you want to do in it, and one with the absolute minimum needed to run. You can always add to the later to fill out and enrichen the game if you have time and resources, but guaranteed you'll almost never have all the time and/or resources to do the former and will need to cut out some stuff and not all of it will be fat. Better to plan lean and expand then to plan big and then cripple it when your expectations can't be met.|
|Finally, if people wanted to find or commission more of your artwork, where could they go?|
|I have a business site located at http://www.Dancing-Stoat.com where commission rates and available prints can be found.|
|If you've anything more to say, please say it here. :)|
I often get asked the question "Why did ITE end that way? It looks like a
cliffhanger for a sequel." Well, you're right... originally Inherit The
Earth was to be a trilogy.|
Usually that question is followed with "So when will the sequel come out?" and the answer is "When Hades warms up after the big freeze". Between the facts that The Dreamers Guild died in 1997, the fact that even before then New World was less than professional in their dealings with DGI, refused to allow a sequal to be developed through them, and refused to release the rights of ITE back to the creators, there simply will never be a direct sequel to ITE.
Now, somewhere out there is a very slim chance that time will end New World's ownership of the rights, and the original creators might design a new game based on that milieu... they may even tell me about it if they ever make contact with me again.
For years I asked everyone to send letters to New World asking them to make a sequel, but now I ask folks to let it rest and perhaps another game will come from ITE's origins someday. Those pleas have fallen on deaf ears and it's not worth it to make yourself hoarse trying.
Another question asked of me is regarding an image on my FTP site entitled "ITE & Me", showing little Micole the Ermine surrounded by major characters I worked on for the game, all looking annoyed as Micole says, "I was just an animator... it's not my fault!". That drawing was the result of my frustrations of seeing us create such a rich universe and have it cut down slowly and painfully until it's only a shadow of what could have been. I didn't intend on passign it around, but my boss Allison Hershey asked for a copy and the next thing I know it was hanging over the desks of each of the artists involved on the project. I don't blame Dreamers Guild, as it could only do what it had the money to do.... but what we wanted to do and what we had specified we'd do wasn't what New World wanted so we were hamstrung.
The saddest irony of all was that The Dreamers Guild was orginally organized by people who didn't want to have others tell them what to do, didn't want to 'belong' to stifled corporations and forced to crank out the same mediocre crap, who wanted to let creativity run free and create what it wanted to create. Alas, that can only happen when there's no money worries and so DGI was forced to sell backing for their projects to publishers like New World so that there would be money for the process, and therefore they fell back into the trap that they had been trying to leave. *sigh*