Cabela’s Survival: Shadows of Katmai Interview with Brad Santos

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Writing for a video game is never an easy task.  Writing for a hunting video game has got to be an even bigger one.  We chatted with Cabela's Survival: Shadows of Katmai scribe Brad Santos about the process of writing for the game, and this is what he had to say.

GameZone: Brad, how do you get in the right frame of mind to write a narrative for a Cabela's game?

Brad Santos: I love to read about the exploits of hunters and wilderness explorers from the "golden age" (1850-1950) of big game hunting--both fictional and historical.  Whenever I'm working on a Cabela's project, I pick out a selection of books from authors like Jim Corbett and Wilbur Smith to help set the tone in my creative headspace.  In my opinion, the exploits of (real) legendary hunters like Jim Corbett are even more amazing and entertaining than those of most fictional hunter-heroes.

If you are interested in hunting or hunters, and you have never read The Tigers of Kumaon, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy!

GZ: Do you think hunting games still have a stigma attached to them that they only appeal to a certain demographic?

BS: Not really.  I find that most mass market gamers really enjoy a good hunting game, if you can get them to sit down and play it for a few minutes!  The tricky part is attracting the interest of gamers who have never been exposed to the hunting genre.  In the past, most hunting games played like hunting "simulations"--with slower pacing and no story to speak of.

However, Activision has done a lot to broaden the appeal of Cabela's titles in recent years.  The latest Cabela's games feature a faster, more action-oriented style of gameplay and real storytelling.

I recently saw a forum online where dozens of hardcore gamers were discussing the storyline to Dangerous Hunts 2011.  I took that as a sign that Cabela's games were starting to break out of their traditional niche.

Cabela's Survival: Shadows of Katmai

GZ: What do you have to say about people that say this is "gilding the lily?"  After all, a Cabela's game will sell regardless of a plot?

BS: Nonsense!  (Smiles)  Today's mass-market gaming audience wants to be told a good story when they sit down to play a next-gen console game.  The addition of compelling characters and a strong narrative is an excellent way to attract hunting-game newbies to the Cabela's product line.

Of course, the Cabela's brand has had a large and staunchly loyal fan-base for many years.  These hardcore Cabela's fans might not demand a good story, but they appreciate it, just like everyone else does.

The Cabela's brand is all about quality.  The increased production values we see in recent Cabela's games makes perfect sense for a brand that has always been associated with high-quality products.

GZ: The last Cabela's game told a fairly strong narrative regarding a family and living up to a father's expectations.  How does Shadows of Katmai compare to that?

BS: Shadows of Katmai is a story about a lone hero fighting for survival in a remote and hostile wilderness.  Logan James does encounter other characters in the course of his adventures, but ultimately, Logan's fight to survive is one that he must win--or lose--alone.

In Dangerous Hunts, the hero had to deal with the burden of his father's expectations.  In SoK, the hero must confront the doubts and fears within his own heart.  This hero is not a hardened mountain man.  Logan is a city dweller who finds himself in a frightening and unfamiliar world.  Logan's ordeal reveals hidden capabilities and courage that nobody--especially not Logan--ever knew he possessed.

Cabela's Survival: Shadows of Katmai

GZ: Katmai is a dramatic volcano in Alaska.  How will this fit into the story?

BS: Our story is set on and around a fictional peak in the Katmai range.  Like Katmai itself, our mountain is a dormant volcano with a history deeply rooted in the Alaskan gold rush.  The natural landscape in that part of Alaska is wild, hard, and breathtakingly beautiful.  We tried to capture all of those aspects in our representation of the game world.

GZ: What do you hope gamers will experience by playing Cabela's Survival: Shadows of Katmai?

BS: I hope they will have fun!  when our players finish the game, I hope and expect that they will channel the same feeling of accomplishment that our hero, Logan James, finds waiting for him at the end of his journey. 

And if that player happens to be new to Cabela's line of games, I hope they will come back for more!

 

Thank you to Cabela's Survival: Shadows of Katmai writer Brad Santos for sitting down with us for this exclusive interview.

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Ben PerLee
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