An Evening With Annie Carlson

Iron Tower's Vince D. Weller managed to track down former Obsidian Entertainment designer Annie Carlson for a lengthy Q&A about her time at the company and the projects she worked on.
4. 3 months later you are a brand new NWN2 designer. What's the story there?

Good grooming and being awesome but seriously, I think my career development at Obsidian can be marked by a few people having a lot of confidence in me, and giving me opportunities to excel. The first of these is the most awesome Kevin Saunders, who was the lead designer on the console title I started out on at Obsidian (rest its sweet beautiful game-soul), and who took over supervising my work on NWN2. I'd sort of been chucked onto the project haphazardly, and spent my first few weeks playing randomly through areas and giving feedback Kevin gave me direction and a hefty responsibility when he gave me complete control of handling all the items in the game. At first I was kind of poleaxed (hurr hurr get it), but managed to get things in control and organized, and sort through a mess of several thousand items. I figure I did a good enough job there that the Powers That Be went (boy howdy, her head didn't explode! Promote her!) and so it was.

5. When NWN2 OC is out, you are invited to a one year long Alpha Protocol party, during which you've managed to work for 3 months on Mask of the Betrayer. So what did you do on Alpha Protocol, why did you take a break to work on MotB, and what did you do there?

Funny thing, that I didn't ever actually leave Alpha Protocol during that time. I joined the AP team in November 2006, after we finished the first patch to NWN2, and around about in February 2007 Kevin Saunders takes me out for coffee and asks if I wouldn't mind terribly making some items for Mask of the Betrayer in my off-time because I am so good at making items. So of course I said YES.

It was a trick balancing the two games, particularly because my tasks on AP were so demanding, but basically after the standard work hours were done, I worked on MotB stuff, as well as coming in on the weekends. I have to emphasize that nobody made me do this, and actually at one point I had to assure the then-lead designer for AP that my work for MotB wasn't endangering anything else. And it was a really interesting experience, and I'm glad I had a chance to contribute to it and once again I owe props to Kevin Saunders for giving me such an opportunity.

As for Alpha Protocol the second person I owe a lot to is Brian Mitsoda, who was AP's Creative Lead, and took me on as a writing assistant shortly after I joined the team. Even as I started doing my thing with organizing the massive amounts of dialogue and structure that were going to be involved in the game, I started working with him on refining my writing skills. Eventually he gave me the Handler character who had the second most lines in the game aside from the protagonist and we collaborated on writing scenes (very old-school, even: we'd sit at a computer, he'd write a line, and I'd try to think of a follow-up line that was on par with his).

From there, I was also given another major character to write, and began to put together minor scenes by myself. In addition to this, I was working with Brian to structure dialogues, cast parts, attend voice-over sessions, and work with the level designers about what VO they needed for their areas. It was a very insane process, and in any given week I was attending a VO session, writing dialogue, putting written dialogue into templates, casting a part, reviewing a level, and organizing about five different documents. Crazypants.
Thanks, RPG Codex.