Wyvern Interactive Interview: Jonathan Wine and David Dollard (Pt. 2, Guest Starring Ehren Burns)

Ehren and David.jpg

INTERVIEW-Part 2

This story is a direct continuation of the last interview. We were all talking and as David and Jonathan were wrapping up the story about how Wyvern came into being, Ehren Burns (Lead Producer) walked into the room with a cup of coffee in his hand. We all turned to face him and at Jonathan’s last comment, Ehren gave a quick “mm-hm”, and the conversation pattered out.

JONATHAN: Ummm…

EHREN: Don’t believe a word of it.

Ehren was completely deadpan. The delivery of the joke was 100% straight faced and I must say, I have to applaud him for not breaking.

JONATHAN: Why?

Ehren simply gave Jonathan a blank stare.

JONATHAN: We’re interviewing.

EHREN: Mm.

And just like that, Ehren laid back in a chair and kicked his feet up, all of us being sent into a side-killing fit of laughter as the three person interview now became a four person operation. We didn’t need to have a conversation about it, we all just knew the moment Ehren sat down that that’s what was happening. We all found it hilarious and wordlessly were all on the same page and went with it.

Just to give a little bit of context, Ehren is a really funny, relaxed guy. His sense of humor can range from deadpan sarcasm all the way to telling ridiculously elaborate stories and making funny faces. This was an instance where the more straight-faced humor was coming into play. The moment he sat down and started listening, a grin appeared on his face and he was playing along with the rest of us.

JONATHAN: Going back to David and I- our relationship within the team- it goes back and forth. Just like I can tell him part of a story and immediately he’ll be able to transcribe it in art, he can do the exact same thing for me in terms of art and I’ll be able to come up and work on the exact story he’s thinking of.

DAVID: We’re actually doing that for the project we’re working on right now.

JONATHAN: Yeah! The project that we’re bouncing off of right now is actually more his baby. He really wanted to develop this and of course, I was on board, and I’m letting him have creative control over way more than just art. He came up to me, and I was going to keep my hands off story because my whole team knows that if I get involved in a story, it’s…it’s gonna be EVERYTHING. He said, “I want you to write the story.” So I pitched something, gave it to David, David was like, “Yup. That’s it. There you go!” And that was that. It bounces back and forth, but I think that speaks to the familial aspect of this. We’re all working together and it’s constantly evolving, just like a game should be. It’s always growing, it’s always bouncing off of each other.

NERISSA: Next question!

Ehren was giving me the biggest mischievous grin as he sipped his coffee and I couldn’t just pretend I didn’t see it. Ehren and I had, by this point, become good friends, so we would constantly make ridiculous faces at each other to throw the other person off, just as a fun little game. The face Ehren was giving me was one of THOSE faces, but I didn’t break. Ha. Ha.

NERISSA: And by the way, hi, how are you?

EHREN: H! I’m now in here, so I’m good.

The conversation turned away from Wyvern for a few minutes as Ehren and I talked about one of the shows I’m working on (whose name shall remain nameless for a myriad of reasons), then we reined ourselves in after several jokes were cracked and rants were unleashed.

NERISSA: With the rest of the company members, how many of them worked on the earlier projects before starting the company and who came into the picture later?

EHREN: It was you three first.

DAVID: Yeah, it was Jonathan, Morgan, and me early on; Then, Ehren and Brian came in.

JONATHAN: It was the leads who came in first and it grew from there. And now Ehren exists.

NERISSA: Backtracking for a second, Ehren, what is your official title within the company?

Jonathan, Ehren, and David all said three different things at the same time, so loudly that I couldn’t tell what they were saying, but David and Jonathan were clearly teasing while Ehren was saying his actual title.

JONATHAN: Ehren is the funnel. If David and I are the giant waterfall of ideas, Ehren plugs this little bitty funnel onto the bottom and he says, “This is what we can feasibly do!”

EHREN: When those two get out of hand, it’s my job to reel them in. My job officially is Lead Producer and even before I was producer, you guys came up with the most ridiculous name to try to classify me.

Jonathan and David exchanged a look that showed they knew EXACTLY what he was talking about and were trying to contain themselves.

They came up with a whole list of names, some serious that just didn’t fit and some were completely ridiculous and finally I get a call one day from Jonathan, freaking out because he was so excited. “YOU’RE OUR PRODUCER!!!” “Yeah. I’m, like, two months ahead of you. But thank you for informing me.”

Jonathan and Ehren both burst into laughter and nodded, basically saying, “Yeah, that’s the truth!”

JONATHAN: It was a great moment for me when I figured that out. I was like, “I’M SO HAPPY! I figured it out, Ehren!” And Ehren just looked at me and goes, “Oh, I didn’t tell you…”

EHREN: Hence, I’m officially the Producer, and I bounce around helping wherever it’s needed.

The three of us then started joking around for a bit, with the guys reminiscing about all of the craziness they faced and different hats they had to wear when first starting the company before they expanded to the size we’re at now. Since I was still getting to know the ropes and hadn’t heard all of the best “war stories” yet, they went into one or two of those side stories, with all of us kicking back to relax while telling stories back and forth. Finally, when we all had taken a breath and stopped our sides from bursting, I brought the conversation back.

NERISSA: And so it started with the five…

JONATHAN: Yes. It started with the five, then splayed out and those five are now who our team leads are. So you have Creative Director, Art Director, Lead Producer, you have Morgan who handles the business side of things- but when we’re a bigger company, her goal is to eventually go entirely into world building, and because of how passionate everyone is with storytelling, that world building is going to be great- and then Brian, who is our little Beethoven. He’s our main music composer. The way it worked beyond that, in addition to those five leads, we have thirteen members- so eight in addition to the five leads. Some of our leads have people under them, some do not, but the goal is that we’re trying to pick very very few, but the ones we do pick are the ones that just stand out and we go from there.

DAVID: We consolidated. We used to have twenty six people and that was honestly a pretty high time for Wyvern, where we got to see a lot of what we could do if given the time. It was a really productive period of time for us.

JONATHAN: We did things that no other studio in our university had done.

DAVID: There was a lot of work going on then, but we realized that we wanted to hone in and create a better pipeline.

JONATHAN: We wanted to start small and as the projects grew and the company grew, so would the team size. Big dreams require tiny steps, one at a time.

NERISSA: And now, the question I’ve been wanting to write about for a while…What projects do you have coming up?

Jonathan and David shared a look and after a moment they both took a deep breath in, nodded, and silently agreed to release information about a few of the games. I had heard about all of these games in quite a bit of detail, but they’re all so good that it feels almost criminal to keep it to ourselves for so long. I wanted you guys to be able to hear a little bit of what we have coming up!

DAVID: The project we’re currently working on that should be released by Summer of 2016, the one Jonathan referenced earlier, is called Aiòn. It’s a nice, fun mobile game that’s meant for the casual gamer. Well, casual to not so casual, depending on what difficulty you play on. Another game we’re working on is called Caelestus, which is a game Jonathan and I worked on my Sophomore year when we were still in the determining phases of what Wyvern was. That one is for later, in what we’ve been calling our “Phase Two” of development. We’ve also got a game called “Garth Who Grapples” which was made by Ehren, myself, and two other teammates on Wyvern. That game is going to come out sooner than some. It’s got a lot of functionality to it right now, we just have to expand upon it, but we do have a very solid demo for it.

Before we get to these phase two games, our hope is to release a few smaller projects that are good quality but that are easier to have access to, that way people can enjoy the games while they’re out and we can get our name out there. It also gives us a great playing field to figure out how we all work together and how our process goes as we flesh out the company more and more. Our goals as we go through these development phases are Phase One: Release smaller apps, learn about publishing and marketing these games to get out name out there. Phase Two: Putting a bigger project out there, something we can make more money off of that would be more of a challenge. Phase Three, which is the one we’re really reaching for: Start working on the grand-scale, story based, AAA quality games that we want to be making.

Ever since joining the company, I’ve heard more and more about the projects we have coming up (and I would be lying if I said I didn’t have some project ideas brewing myself) and I have to say, I can’t wait for this game plan to kick into high gear so that we all get a chance to share our stories with the world.

-Jonathan Wine, David Dollard, Ehren Burns, and Nerissa Hart

Written by Nerissa Hart

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