Six Questions: Keith Baker

Mr. Baker, drop the question marks and step away from your laptop. In honor of your birthday this week,  I’m commandeering this installment of Six Questions and turning this hexa-inquiry on you!

I know a lot of interesting people. In my book, Keith Baker tops the list.  Writer, game designer, maker of decent snickerdoodles, skilled swordsman and exceedingly gracious and kind to boot.  I admit, I may be a tad biased as I’m married to him.  Since I get to ask Keith questions all the time, I got some help from some friends and previous Questioneers – Thanks to Molly Lewis, Andy Looney, and Ehren Vaughn for their input!

– Jennifer Ellis


Keith Baker. You can talk to me. Tell me, what’s really bothering you?

Honestly? That there’s not enough hours in the day. I have so many interesting projects on back burners that I’ve had to buy a new stove. I’ve got half a dozen game ideas I’d like to flesh out, but I just don’t have the time to deal with them all. Over the course of the last month I’ve narrowed my focus & figured out what I really want to get finished in 2013. But I want to do them all.

Also, what’s really bothering me?

Bluestar: Unpolished Gem or Greatest Unfinished Game Ever?

UNFINISHED? What do you mean, “unfinished”? I have the master in a binder downstairs! “Unpublished,” certainly, but not unfinished.

BLUESTAR was a sci-fi computer game that wove together dolphins, artificial intelligence, and the effects of microgravity on the human mind. It featured a tattooed dolphin protagonist and an organic AI who, in a shocking and innovative twist, becomes homicidal and tries to destroy the station. It was my first outing as a lead game designer, after internationally celebrated designers Ken Rolston and Zeb Cook had each taken their turns at the helm and moved on.

Was it the greatest unpublished game ever? Despite featuring the acting talents of Levar Burton and, well, me – no. When it was finished, my coworker Andy Looney asked me if I’d managed to take lemons and make lemonade. I said that I had, but they were crusty dried-up lemons and the water came from someone’s toilet. So technically it was lemonade, but I wouldn’t want to DRINK it.

Of all of the settlements and cities within the worlds you created, which would you most want to live and why?

Hmm. Off the top of my head, I’d have to say one of the traveling communities of Takalas from the Seven Civilizations sourcebook, because they are AWESOME. I’d also be tempted to live in the City in VR-1 Crossroads, one of the many amazing computer games I designed that you’ve never had an opportunity to play. Crossroads was my attempt to take the text-based MUD and do something new with it… and it shows my long-time love for conspiracies and dreams. The game had two levels of play. You begin in the City, a haven for modern-day strangeness and conspiracies that would certainly seem like home to fans of Fringe, Over The Edge, The Twilight Zone, Illuminati, and the like. But when you go to sleep (in game), your spirit travels to the Dreamworld, a surreal fantasy realm. Where the City is driven by intrigue, the Dreamworld is a place of action; it’s up to you to decide how you want to spend your time. While the Endymian inhabitants of the Dreamworld don’t have much in common with the Quori of Eberron, the Dreamworld was certainly an early model for Eberron’s Dal Quor.

If I had to confine my answer to Eberron – since many people may not be familiar with the Crossroads or Seven Civilizations – I think I’d choose Malleon’s Gate in Sharn, just because I’m a die-hard Gargoyle supporter in the Race of Eight Winds.

In your Six Questions series, why is the fourth question always the best?

The first few questions are usually tied up establishing who the subject is and what they’ve been working on recently. So the fourth question is where you get to bring out the really important, hard hitting questions like “If you were kidnapped by animatronic presidents and forced to work at a Disney Park, what would you want your job to be?” or “What’s your favorite Middle-expression?

Let’s borrow Walter Bishop’s transdimensional window from Fringe. What’s the Keith Baker in the alternative universe like and what is he doing?

Following the principle that people on the other side are fundamentally the same but take different paths, I think he’s still a game designer. He got his start professionally designing pen & paper RPGs right out of college, but then quit after six years to become a full-time MMORPG designer. Needless to say, most people know of him from his work on the international hit MMORPG BLUESTAR; even more know him as the voice of Abacus from the BLUESTAR movie trilogy. However, he considers his greatest achievement to be the Gloom MMO—rather than killing rats at low levels, you want the rats to kill you.

Of the projects you’re working on now, what has you the most excited?

The one I can’t talk about, of course! I’m developing a new RPG with a friend, and I’m excited about both the system and setting. I’ll probably be ready to post something about it in two weeks, and I’m planning on running playtests at the upcoming conventions I’m attending (Wizard World Chicago, Gen Con, and Dragon*Con)! So check back in a few weeks for more details!