Mar 18

2019

Author Interview: Alice Ripley, “The Superlatives: Shattered Worlds”

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

Conquer assassins and alien invaders in Superlative London! Defend Earth and negotiate interplanetary peace as you race to rescue Queen Victoria in this thrilling sequel to The Superlatives: AetherfallThe Superlatives: Shattered Worlds is a 218,000-word interactive novel by Alice Ripley. You are the Arbiter, a planet-hopping operative assigned to stabilize a peace summit between Mars, Venus, and Earth. But when Queen Victoria is targeted for assassination, you must find her killer, unmask the Mysterious Officer he serves, and stop an otherworldly invasion before it’s too late! I sat down with Alice Ripley for a talk about Shattered Worlds and the challenges of sequel writing. 

The Superlatives: Shattered Worlds is available for pre-order today, March 18th, and will release next Thursday, March 28th.

The Superlatives world is a place I love to spend time, and we’re thrilled to get a sequel to Aetherfall. What are some of the technical and literary challenges of writing a sequel?

It’s a huge undertaking to write a sequel in a branching narrative. There are a lot of hard decisions to make about what decisions to track, and how much weight to give them, striking a balance between making it feel like those decisions mattered and creating such different world-states that it becomes impossible to corral. Especially since almost every secondary character in the first game has the potential to be, well, dead.

Setting aside the branching, one of my primary goals with Shattered Worlds was to open up the world and explore a new aspect of the Superlatives universe—namely, the interplanetary aspect. Mars and Venus have some presence in Aetherfall, especially through Tua and Arturek, but in the sequel I wanted to delve into the alien cultures and politics on a deeper level, and show how one city on one blue planet fits into a much bigger context.

Shattered Worlds works really well as a standalone game as well as a sequel and I think it speaks to the versatility of this world and the characters in it. Tell me a little about what a standalone playthrough as a new character looks like. Who is the Arbiter?

We get a glimpse of the Arbiter in the Aetherfall epilogue. They are the agent of an interplanetary body called the Divergent Conclave, a somewhat mysterious organization dedicated to peace (and anti-colonialism) in the solar system. So a standalone game gives you the interesting opportunity to play an outsider, someone who isn’t part of London Superlative society, and may have a slightly different view of things—whether that means being more reluctant to intervene in certain matters, or being more sympathetic to various alien causes. Playing as the Arbiter means that rather than encountering the Conclave for the first time, as an Aetherfall PC does, you’ve been working with the Conclave—and with your prickly assistant Kesh—for many years. I really enjoyed creating this different context, and a character suited for the interplanetary challenges that form the backbone of Shattered Worlds.

Kesh is probably my favorite new NPC in the Superlatives. How did you come up with her?

Kesh is probably my favorite new NPC as well! She was the first one created for Shattered Worlds, and she is the type of character I always have the most fun writing: passionate, intelligent, and more than a little violent. And, of course, she has a few secrets in her past that the right PC can uncover. Her initial characterization—the secretary who is good with a knife and not so good with paperwork—came easily, but delving beyond the surface meant putting a lot of thought into her background, and how she came to work for the Conclave. Kesh is a Martian who is not of Mars, and thinking about what makes her an alien to both Earth and her “home” culture made her really come alive for me.

There are some cats in this game. Any special kitties and moggies in your life?

I have one wicked and ancient shelter cat, kept from death by pure spite (and prescription cat food). She’s named after a cylon (Boomer), because from the beginning she’s been inclined to sudden betrayal. We also have a doofy golden retriever, Vonnegut, whom she hates deeply and who loves her with his whole being.

This is probably going to be the last Superlatives game from you for a little while. If you did a third, what would you want to explore?

Shattered Worlds is a bit of a departure in focusing on the alien contingent. I think in a third game I would focus more on the human Superlatives themselves again, but branch out beyond London. This is a very international setting, and we haven’t had the chance to explore that much yet. And of course, without going into spoiler territory, the discoveries in Shattered Worlds have far-reaching implications for what other sorts of places might be explored.

Oh, and time travel is fun. And not at all prone to spiraling out of control when you add it to a branching narrative, right?

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