When I first started writing The Ascension Legacy series, even before I had fully worked out the details of the series, when I told people that I was working on a book nearly everybody asked what was the inspiration behind the book. I usually give pretty short answers because nobody wants to hear a long story in the middle of a friendly conversation but the truth is that this story has been brewing in the back of my mind for years and only recently did I take steps to go from my thoughts to something more tangible.
In the late 90's I worked for a video game company that had an office in my hometown. The company itself is now closed and gone but I promise you that if I rattled off some of their major titles that almost everybody, even people who didn't play many video games, would have heard of some of those titles and likely the company behind them. Now, I only worked there for a handful of years before the company's decline had forced our office closed but the seeds for what would later become The Ascension Legacy had been firmly planted within my mind by the time I walked away as the doors closed forever behind me.
While I was there, my job was largely that of a PC support rep. When gamers called in with issues running our games on their computers I would try to assist them in getting it to work. We had others in the office who had similar jobs but were more focused on helping gamers with console games and typically it was less technical issues and more gameplay issues that they helped with.
Yes, I worked in an office were it was our job to tell other people how to play games. We got people unstuck from whatever obstacles they had come to face in our games but had been unable to pass on their own. This was still early in the days of the Internet and things like online walkthroughs and gameplay videos were but a dream waiting to come true.
But the only way for us to complete this job was to be familiar with the games ourselves. This meant that not only did we spend our days talking to other gamers about games but that we also go paid to play games. It was every young gamer's wet dream. Paid to play video games. Free arcade games in the break room. Every console known was practically at our reach complete with a library of games from other companies for us to explore and enjoy. Heck, they would even ask us to play other companies' games and create comparisons between our games.
It was a glorious time for us select few that made that room our home.
That aside, back in the early days of video games there was a concept of selling game ideas to companies. By the late 90's I don't know how or even if that process worked but I'd seen a few game design documents through my time there. One day I decided that I wanted to try my hand at creating a game design doc in the off chance that I might be able to do something with it at some point.
I knew that I wanted to create a Role-Playing Game (RPG) and those usually have rich stories, a party mechanic where you can play as multiple characters or have your character being aided by AI controlled companions, and they usually revolve around some major catastrophe or apocalyptic event that the hero(es) have to race to defeat to save their loved ones. RPGs were pretty boilerplate type games where only the details differed between each but they all followed a very similar pattern usually.
In my free time, I started making notes like game title ideas, character backgrounds, plot lines, environment settings, enemies lists, equipment options, etc.. I had a ring binder with several pages of notes in it after a few days and even a stack of index cards that I had intended to use to write up specific details about certain people, enemies, items, and other things.
Well, our office closed before I could finish my design document and I took a new job out of town that required a pretty lengthy commute. Needless to say that a new job and a daily commute on top of a growing family left virtually no time to spend on my design doc. It sat for years, the pages in my binder grew yellow with age but I never forgot about it. In fact, that ring binder and those index cards followed me for the next several years as I relocated time and time again with each change in my life.
Then, about a decade ago, I made a move and ran across my old ring binder and index cards. The metal rings in the binder were rusted and bent. The index cards were in a little plastic box. I flipped through the pages and cards letting each entry flood my brain with memories of when I last wrote on them and the excitement I had once felt working on those ideas.
By this time I had already become an avid user of OneNote and had started storing a lot of information in their cloud service. As I looked at my faded yellow pages in their rusted ring binder and the pitiful stack of index cards with crude drawings on them I decided that not only did I want to put some effort back into that project if for no other reason than my satisfaction but that it was also time to take it digital.
I created a new notebook in OneNote and started typing in the notes from my ring binder. When I got to the part about the game's plot, I had an epiphany. Instead of a video game, why not make it into a story. I reviewed my notes and decided that the game's plot was too lengthy and grand for a single story. At that moment I chose to take the game's background storyline and set it aside as one story and then take the game's main quest line plot and adjust it to become a standalone story that was no longer dependent on old background.
I already had a map, locations, equipment, and characters partially developed. I figured it would relatively easy to adapt and adjust these old ideas into newer ones that more closely aligned with the restructured story.
From there, I set to work writing. It was almost immediately obvious that the story would need to be a series. The number of plot points and character development lines alone made me think that it would take at least four books to tell to the whole story. Of course, this was right in the middle of the Lord of the Rings movie craze so an epic story that spanned multiple entries was in no way out of the ordinary.
Now, the story does draw heavy influence from authors like J.R.R. Tolkien and R. A. Salvatore but that was also a big influence in the original game design too. In the late 90's I was addicted to playing Everquest, a Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) game, that featured a lot of the same character types and also drew inspiration from those authors and their works. It stands to reason that my experiences reading books from those authors, watching movies based on their books, and playing video games inspired by their words would also factor very heavily in supporting my ideas and creative processes.
For most people I just tell them the story was inspired by my experiences playing video games. To a certain level that is the truth but the real answer is much more than just playing games. It was years of playing games. Multiple years working in the gaming industry and talking with other gamers. Years of reading books that echoed my experiences playing games. It was as if my life was my inspiration. Not because my life in any way mirrors that of the characters in my book but because my life revolved around the very concepts and ideas that I found myself writing about.
The concept of The Ascension Legacy is a reflection of all the things in games, movies, and books that I loved and this was my own little way of keeping those things in my heart and in my life through the constant changes and challenges that were subject to spring up at any give time.