I often forget to do these annual round-ups, but I find myself with a bit of time at the end of a hectic year for the first time in ages (I know, right!?).
It’s been a funny old year in the life of a freelancer. As always, I have that mix of projects in progress that I can’t talk about, projects in progress that I can talk about, and things that are actually finished. It’s those last two categories that I’m going to focus on here, as I pick my five highlights for the year in review…
1. Warhammer 40,000: Darktide
I kicked off the year as I ended the previous year: writing for Darktide in preparation for the game’s launch. I’ve lost count of how many lines of dialogue I wrote, and even more so how many bits of UI text and in-game descriptions for weapons, skins, and sundry other items. I’ll be honest, it felt a little strange immersing myself in 40k again after so long away from it, but it was remarkable how quickly it all came flooding back, like pulling on a favourite overcoat, or loading a hotshot power pack into your favourite lasgun. Ahem. Fatshark are an absolute dream to work with, plus it was great to link up with my old friend/partner in crime Mat Ward again, along with a stable of other great writers. I think Darktide is going to go from strength to strength.
2. Teaching Narrative Design
An outlier, this, as it’s not a product at all, but rather a freelance opportunity that turned out to be a true high point of the year. A former colleague in the video games industry got in touch to say that he was now teaching at a game design college in northern Sweden. It took a little logistical planning, but back in April I was finally able to fly out and spend two days teaching narrative design and storytelling in games. I’ve done a bit of teaching before, but never have I found a group of students so enthusiastically engaged with the material, and colleagues so welcoming and friendly. And we got to see the northern lights too!
3. Itza’s Guide to Dragonbonding
I spent a big chunk of the last 12 months working with Draco Studios in Mexico, on a range of projects for their own fantasy universe, Dragonbond. The big one was Itza’s Guide – a 5e-compatible sourcebook that launched via Kickstarter, and was a big success. Written by Sarah Madsen and Brian Suskind, with lore, editing and general interference from me, it turned out to be a huge undertaking – over 350 pages of rules and lore, with bags of options for players and DMs alike. The book is currently at the printers’, and will soon be winging its draconic way to backers. I couldn’t possibly comment on rumours that I’m writing a Dragonbond novel…
4. The Return of the Walking Dead
It’s not often a games designer gets to revisit a discontinued game, especially when that game was made under licence. And yet, in the manner of the walkers central to the storyline, the Walking Dead: All Out War has returned from the grave! Mantic Games and Skybound have rekindled the All Out War line for the comics’ 20th anniversary, and I’ve closed the year by writing a bunch of new characters and scenarios. Short term, the aim is to release those factions and characters that we never got to make last time around, as a big thank you to the community who kept the game alive all this time. Long term, who can say, but I’m really excited about the possibilities!
5. The Last Vigilant
I could hardly finish the review without re-sharing the single biggest bit of news in my writing career to date. Back in October I was finally able to announce The Last Vigilant, an original fantasy mystery novel that’s kicking off a new epic fantasy series. I’ve been working on this book for longer than I care to think about, and I couldn’t be happier that these books have been picked up by Orbit. Unfortunately, the release date for book 1 is early 2025, so I have to try to contain my excitement for a while longer yet!