Wil has been involved with a wide range of projects over the last few years, but one of his most successful has been “Tabletop”. Game stores and distributers often quickly sell out of games he features on the board game show, and the crowd-sourcing campaign to fund his third season was so wildly successful they were also able to fund a role playing game spinoff. Wil explained how the show originally came about. Felicia Day and he collaborated on a new YouTube channel called “Geek and Sundry”, to be a part the Google streaming video service’s new initiative. She suggested he do a show to review board games, since he loves them so much, and his immediate response was to say that the best way to review a board game is to play it. The flash of inspiration he had after uttering those words led him to “put together a show that teleports board games into the format of celebrity poker.” Wil brings in friends, actors and online personalities to play multiplayer casual games that fit reasonably into a 40 minute episode. Games must be visually interesting, and have rules he can explain in about five minutes. These criteria may exclude a lot of games, but were necessary to make the show both accessible and entertaining .
“You don’t make a person want to play games by putting them in front of a 4X game that takes twelve hours to play. You make a gamer by putting them in front of Settlers of Catan that takes an hour and a half. And then they play, because they liked Monopoly, so you’ve given them another resource-management [game] “
And while Wil may love a number of two-player games, he said they just didn’t work for the show. Wil demonstrated the problem:
Each player is consumed by the internal decision-making process, and there is no conversation around the table to make it interesting. He may receive some online flak for them, but his criteria have served him well. He has created an entertaining show which has helped spread his love of board gaming. In a decade in which people are increasingly glued to devices, Wil has managed to find a way to bring families together around a table again, and that is no small feat. The overwhelming success of his Indiegogo campaign allowed him the freedom to do something he’s always wanted: Help design a role-playing system that could appeal to anyone, and show an audience that can easily watch a one-off game, “the emotional payoff of taking characters through a whole story, living with their triumphs and through their challenges” . And since he “had the opportunity to create any world” that he wanted, he created a world that combined everything he loves about both science fiction and fantasy.
“One of the things that I loved to death when I was a little boy was a cartoon series called “Thundar the Barbarian”. This was a high-science, high-fantasy world setting, where you would see wizards manifesting laser guns, and dragons being ridden by bandits shooting blaster rifles.”
Like the world of Thundar, Wil said that he created a post-apocalyptic world, in which magic has risen alongside technology, all on top of the ruins of an ancient world. “In Valkana, the name of the world, an ancient evil adversary is rising, and it is falling on four heroes to forge themselves and to rise from the ashes of Valkana.” While he was careful not to reveal too much more of the story, he was more than happy to discuss the system and the players. Disappointed that he wasn’t able to bring us a teaser clip, he was willing to let slip a bit of info on the player characters. The show, “Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana” will use a role-playing system based on Green Ronin’s Adventure Game Engine (AGE), called Fantasy AGE, but it will be tweaked to allow sci-fi elements. Wil introduced his players in a video, and elaborated on their backgrounds in his blog, but dropped the eager Ottawa Comic Con crowd a few tantalizing tidbits about the characters they play.
[please note: indicated names, being spelled phonetically, are subject to change]
Hank Green will play Ankia [sp] who is of the reptilian race called the Sarians [sp].
Alison Haislip will play Keeliel [sp] the diminutive half-elf, half-dwarf who dreams of being tall
Yuri Lowenthal plays Slek [sp], the half-orc, half-Sarian
Laura Bailey plays Lenislee [sp] the human cyborg
The group played for a week straight, and none have been able to let go of it since it ended:
“We have this long, multi-person text message chain that has been going since the game wrapped, about all the things we still want to do together… And I occasionally tell them that they need to make rolls for things. It’s really great!”
When he isn’t making an online TV show about his passion, there is plenty of work to keep Wil’s life full. He hinted at an audiobook he’s been asked to narrate, revealed some behind-the-scenes glimpses from the set of “The Big Bang Theory” and talked excitedly about a show that just wrapped called “Dark Matter”. This show is co-created by the people behind “Stargate Universe”, produced by those behind “Lost Girl”, and will air on (the station formerly known as) SciFi. In the show, as Wil explained, a group of people wake from stasis on a spaceship with no idea who they are or why they are there. As they slowly figure things out, they keep a lot of secrets from each other. For more, check out this entry in Wil’s blogand watch the trailer. Wil absolutely gushed about his recent work on the Firefly Online game: He voiced the male player character in the game, getting the chance to have scenes with Nathan Fillion and Jewel State: “This is one of the great pleasures and privileges of my life”
Certainly, all who meet Wil Wheaton would agree that one of the best things about him is how – despite his myriad successes and the size of his following – how down-to-earth and genuinely humble he is. To one questioner’s praise, he sheepishly replied: “I think it’s adorable you think I’m a superstar. That is the nicest thing in the world.” With that kind of modesty, he truly would make a great Canadian!