Monday 5 December 2011

Early Winter

Winter is a steampunk web series set in the Voidships universe - or rather, it will be a steampunk web series. The third major rewrite is complete and now being analysed by the director and various third parties.

Winter didn't start as a web series though it has always been for the Web. Three years ago, in late 2008, I was offered the opportunity to pitch a new type of web-based interactive drama series for the BBC.

My background as both a writer and a web developer should have put me in a unique position, and I imagine it did, not that it made any difference to the result.

The BBC said they wanted some sort of interactive web something - they said they wanted a something that was new and different. So I did research, I looked at all the successful web series of the time (Lonely Girl 15 for example). And I looked at the so-called interactivity element of some stories, things like web stories that told a story in a traditional way up to a point and then the viewer played a game to get the protagonist to the next stage.

As a result of all my research I came up with something new and different - that allowed the viewer to be an actual part of the story and interact with live actors in real-time without breaking the flow of the story. It would push the bounds of the technology but it could be done. So I wrote it up and popped it over to them.

The BBC didn't like it. In the end they choose a something that was basically the same as what they'd already done. As usual the big players want something that's "the same only different" because if it's been successful once it will be successful again - why risk money on a something that might fail?

Here's part of my pitch for Winter (version 1):

YOU are the protagonist and, though you don’t know it yet, your goal is to stop the broken Prof Joshua Field from releasing a lethal virus he developed for Winter Security Systems into a world he believes cannot be responsible for itself. But unknown to both you and Field is that the most dangerous weapon is a young woman: Talia Winter. 
Talia almost died in a car crash but her distraught father, Dr James Winter, used his company’s cutting-edge technology to save her – his love won’t die, though now she is a violent cyborg with no memory of her former self. Meanwhile, Talia’s boyfriend, Luke Dryden, opposed to Winter’s weapons of destruction, suspects Talia is somewhere inside and breaks in to discover the truth. 
You stumble across the online presence of the high-tech security system of Winter Security Systems, made available on the Web by its dying security guard, and the first thing you see is Luke being shot at. You must intervene to save his life and prevent the terrible consequences. 
Against you are Field, Dr Winter, Talia herself – and your own ignorance. You have limited time to learn how to use the building’s advanced security system, discover that Luke is your ally; and, without the ability to communicate directly with the characters, you must guide the plot to a satisfying conclusion. 
In the end, you can thwart Professor Field’s insane intentions but there is no way you can save Talia Winter who sacrifices herself in a tragedy of love and revenge.
Well, it was three years ago. I've learned a lot since then. You may note the tribute to Babylon 5 (yes, I know the surname is not exactly the same). Through all four versions of Winter, the constant has been Talia, her father and Luke (though his name has changed).

Everything else has changed - in the next entry we'll take a look at the first script.

Part 1: Early Winter (this one)
Part 2: Winter's zenith
Part 3: Next Winter
Part 4: Bad Winter