TWTW – CakeofRage

Cake drew herself for the Scoot Hard DX credits.

Here I interview CakeofRage, who voices Surprise/Asphodel in Scoot Hard DX/Project Absentia, and will be voicing Roshni, an important character in Project Absentia, as well. She also helps with some of the lore, specifically with the Atmosphere family and the mythology of the worlds.

Cake has written fanfictions before, and has helped with some of the lore for the abandoned Daytime Drama 2 – which has since been reincorporated as parts of Project Absentia. She’s dabbled a lot in fandom.

Sanya: First off, yes. We know. We get it. You like the Atmosphere family.

Cake: Shush xD

Sanya: In all seriousness, how did you and I meet? I forget, it was something to do with discourse on Tumblr if memory serves correctly.

Cake: I remember Tumblr and Deviantart, but it sort of blurs together… If I think about it, it makes sense that it was Tumblr first? 2015-2016 was around the time I was trying to change my way of thinking about things… I think the chain of events started with a discourse blog who was friends with Taka, who was friends with you? Wait hold on, I’m pretty sure Danganronpa was somewhere in the process because of the first Daytime Drama game. There are some missing puzzle pieces here and it’s gonna bother me if I think too hard about it…

Monokuma Biting Pear of Salamanca drawn by Cake
Monokuma Biting Pear of Salamanca drawn by Cake

Sanya: We’ll get back to Scoot Hard DX and Project Absentia in a bit… But first, tell us a bit about yourself.

Cake: This is always the hardest question, isn’t it? I like (mostly mainstream) anime and cartoons, plushies, pink, possums, and cats. I think I’m a basic bitch. I have a lot rattling around in my head and I think it shows. I tend to go off on tangents. A lot. And I talk too much. I feel emotions very, very strongly, and most of the time I can’t immediately translate them into words (which is the reason I wish I had expressive body parts, like a tail or wings). Because of this, I’m better at communicating when memes, emojis/emotes, and reaction images are involved. (I’m doing my best to answer these with as little of those as possible, of course!) Also I love love… if my shipping habits didn’t already make that glaringly obvious.

Sanya: What’s the origin of your name “CakeofRage”

Cake: Sometimes my hyperfixations + boredom make a Very Interesting mix. But long story short: found some trivia on an item in the Johto Pokemon games (Rage Candy Bar) about how it could have been localized as a pun on the in-game location, Lake of Rage, as “Cake of Rage.” And here we are. I think it’s kinda funny how one of my first interests stuck with me for so long and shaped my online identity.

Sanya: How did you get into voice acting?

Cake: I’ve had interest in doing vocal stuff in the past (mostly song covers), but I didn’t really think of myself as being good enough to voice a character until you recruited me to be Navy in DD2. I’m gonna be honest… I didn’t enjoy it as much as I do now. My voice for Navy was just my regular voice, and ironically, the sound of my own natural speaking voice makes me cringe so hard. Trying to sound like something else, though? That’s much more tolerable, and much more fun.

Navy from the DD2 Prototype
Navy from the cancelled Daytime Drama 2 prototype.

Sanya: Do you have any hobbies? If so, tell us.

Cake: I draw fanart and design OCs. I write too, just not long projects like I used to do; writing is writing, though, and I’m grateful for the ability to paint a picture with my words! I also sing, for fun and to soothe myself. I’m not exactly the greatest, but I do like seeing what I can do with my voice.

Sanya: Scoot Hard DX (And Project Absentia), like it’s inspiration – is gory, over the top and has themes dealing with fascism, among other things. A lot of people claim this stuff should be heavily regulated – either by the government or at a corporate level. What do you think as a content creator of such things?

Cake: Simply put, humans are biased. Bias dictates decisions, and what’s a government official or head of a corporation going to decide what counts as inappropriate? Besides, stories like this have been told since the beginning of human history. Old fairytales used to be dark and gritty by today’s standards, but they reflected real life situations and consequences. They were stories people could relate to in some ways. Why fix what’s not broken? Why take away from others what you personally don’t like? Why bother engaging in content you don’t like?

Sanya: What do you do for a dayjob?

Cake: I live in the hell known as retail. Send help.

Sanya: What do you want to do for a living?

Cake: Hmmmm. I don’t usually think about that, but honestly? I wouldn’t mind voice acting for a living. I have a lot of fun doing it!

Sanya: Your boyfriend is the voice of Dr. Atmosphere and will sometimes just randomly start talking in his voice. That’s funny to me. What’s it like dating someone with such strong bastard energy?

Cake: I don’t think I can describe this more accurately than this: I’m never bored, because I never know what to expect lol. I remember some advice about having a partner who can make you laugh, and I think I lucked out on that one! Even better: he says the gross/dark humor things I think but can’t say out loud. God I love this bastard so much.

Surprise's sprite
Surprise’s sprite

Sanya: Scoot Hard DX is your first major role in a public WIS project – as the first boss, Surprise Atmosphere. How does it feel being the voice of an insane CFO that’s gender identity is “insane murderous crackhead”.

Cake: God this is so much fun. It’s the “letting out my inner bastard” for me!

Sanya: What’s your process for getting into character?

Cake: I mostly just talk, really! My process is like 90 percent just fucking around to loosen up. Sometimes I even bitch at noisy weather conditions or cars passing by while I’m recording. 

Sasha Kamen, drawn by SanyaWaffles
Sasha Kamen (drawn by SanyaWaffles), an Aysburg soldier and one of Sanya’s friends in the reboot of the Daytime Drama mythos
Sarah Stone, drawn by CakeofRage
Sarah Stone (Drawn by Cake), who’s design was used as the basis for Sasha Kamen

Sanya: Even though you are a voice actress, you have a ton of input on the lore of Project Absentia. Your design for Asphodel (Surprise’s counterpart) was so good. Same with Roshni… You also had a character that we adapted into Sanya’s comrade from Aysburg – Sasha. Have you ever considered becoming a freelance character designer too?

Cake: Until this question, I didn’t really think of it as an option. But that sounds really cool and now I’ll have to think about it!

Sanya: I don’t mean for this to be wordy… but here we go. Scoot Hard DX/Project Absentia has LGBTQ+ themes, but often shows LGBTQ+ characters in shades of grey, rather than what I’d call… “precious smol been uwu”. I feel when I write stuff, it’s more natural and honest to show LGBTQ+ people can be good, bad or downright ugly. I’ve seen some people argue this is bad representation because it shows LGBTQ+ characters as bad. I don’t agree with them, as they’re not bad because they’re part of the alphabet. What do you think about that?

Cake: If the characters have depth and motivation beyond a single trait, it’s good writing. It’s realistic.

To avoid being too wordy, I’m just gonna say this: I’ll take “realistically and respectfully written villains who just happen to be queer” over “no story for this hero, only gay stereotypes” any day.

Sanya: How does it feel being part of a team as diverse as ours – in the truest sense, not in the corporate “safe” sense.

Cake: Certainly interesting!

Image
The origin of “I’m fucken sorry, man” – from shittynewyorkercartooncaptions

Sanya: Waffle Iron Studios has a tendency to have a ton of in-jokes. What’s your favorite in-joke?

Cake: I’m fucken sorry, man

Sanya: One of the things you and I both struggle with is mental health, and this year has not been the best for either of us – from the political climate, to the COVID-19 outbreak, to just stuff in our personal lives. What’s it like?

Cake:

“Depressing” is much too simple an answer, and doesn’t really describe what it’s like. It’s sometimes a black hole, sucking me in but also leeching into other parts of my life like a poison. I worry I might poison others with it. It’s so hard not to get caught in a spiral of hopelessness, wondering if anything will ever get better, and fearing the future. Even right now I’m finding this hard to answer, because I want to be candid, but I also don’t want to bring down the mood. I need to be that person who lightens the mood, but realistically, that’s just a lot of pressure to put on myself. I have a lot of work to do, learning how to just… exist.

Some advice: bottling up your feelings and avoiding them aren’t healthy; they always find a way out. You’re human… it’s human to feel. It’s okay to feel hurt, and scared, and tired sometimes.

Sanya: I think you’re awesome, despite the challenges you face, to give it all you got. Don’t let other people tell you otherwise.

Cake: Thank you so much! Likewise! 💜

Sanya: It was through you I found Monaka – who has a voice for a character that hasn’t been properly introduced yet in the Project Absentia mythos. She’s also the voice for Dominika, Sanya’s arch-nemesis in a potential future Daytime Drama sequel/reboot. She’s also a cool friend. How did you two meet?

Cake: The magic of the Tumblr Danganronpa fandom!

Roshni's dark form, designed by CakeofRage
Roshni’s dark form, designed by CakeOfRage

Sanya: Most of Blitz/Roshni was your idea. There’s no analog to MLP or Rainbow Factory for this character at all. In fact I believe Roshni was mostly your design. And now she’s becoming a major character with an arc of her own. What was your thought process for coming up with her?

Cake:

I like making fankids. It makes me happy.Arnok

…In all seriousness, that’s almost always my main starting point, but this time I was waiting for you to suggest it because I thought I was going overboard 😂. I have a lot of fankids for ships I like (including another character who ended up being adapted into the Daytime Drama lore)!

For Blitz specifically, I originally had the idea of a character similar to Sally from Black Clover, but somewhere along the way that changed, probably around the time we realized “wait, if we killed her parents… what happens to her?” That’s super tragic. So all that grief eventually turns to anger and a need for revenge; she has someone to blame for losing everything. And while we never actually got to do this before shifting gears to Project Absentia, there was supposed to be a side story about Blitz and a possible redemption arc. And I thought, what if when it was all over, she was just tired of spending a huge chunk of her life angry? She felt like she didn’t deserve to be a pegasus and needed to earn back her wings, so she became a human who was Tired™️ and had a habit of forgetting she was bipedal. (It was at this point I realized a recurring theme with my characters and their need to work to feel worthy again… Oops, all vent characters! /j)

As for where this all translates into Roshni, it’s sort of the same deal; I just needed to adapt her into an angel, so the design was the main focus. I designed what she looks like as a boss first, and it’s drastically different from how she is as a humanized pony. First, I was thinking of what type of wings she had… Basically, I was like “Asphodel’s wings are based on a raven!! Do more corvids!!”

The dark transformation scene during one of the musical numbers in Descendants 3 just hit all the right buttons, so I ended up with “Queen of Mean” on loop for the next week or so while designing Roshni. Her wings ended up being a magpie (a corvid) with the idea of “what if her wings reflected her corruption, like the white feathers being replaced with black?” Magpies have really cool wings. The dress I gave her was based on a gown I’d come across online while looking for inspiration. 

This is a lot wordier than originally planned… can’t say I’m feeling too apologetic about it, though.

Tl;dr Ma’am, this is a Wendy’s.

Sanya: You used to do Sims stuff a great deal until you stopped recently. What draws you to that game?

Cake: I used to like watching dramas and soap operas and stuff when I was younger, but after some point I started getting… annoyed, I guess, with the writing, and a lot of the daytime soaps I’d actually enjoyed went off the air years ago. I’d started playing The Sims 2 when I was 12-13, with the dreams of one day making machinimas like the ones on YouTube at the time. I never finished any, obviously, but I still played with a story in my head. Of course, there’s the question of “why not just write it then?” but the answer is simple: coming up with plot is hard, but describing actions and feelings is easy (for me, at least). Why not have the characters act it out themselves?

All of it was just a sweet little bit of escapism for me, acting out my own drama or a fanfic (There’s a reason people used to call it “OTP Puppet Theatre”). I could turn off my brain for a bit and immerse myself in a world of my own. I do miss it a lot, sometimes, especially the sims I made and the stories I’ve gotten attached to. I have to stop myself here or else I’ll go on forever lol.

Sanya: As a developer, game modding is important and a civil liberty we shouldn’t take for granted. It’s one reason I chose GZDoom – the engine itself is very moddable. How do you feel about modding and its effects for content creators?

Cake: You’re talking to the bitch who downloaded a bunch of Sims mods to the point of “my computer is on fire.” I feel like that kind of answers itself lol.

Sanya: I want to state that you’re like a sister to me. You have done a great deal for me. Not just on the project, but over the years as I grow and deal with the world around me. I know shit isn’t the best at times, but you are awesome and have stuck by me through thick and thin. I appreciate you being a part of all this.

Cake: Ahhh stop, you’re making me blush! I’m happy to be a part of all this! I’m so happy I met you. Thank you for showing me just what I’m capable of, thanks for helping me find a purpose in life, and just, thank you in general for being such a wonderful person.

Sanya: Anything else you want to add?

Cake: I keep designing attractive characters. This is the opposite of a problem. I’m not fucken sorry, man

You can find the adorable, very fascinating Cake on Twitter.

@CakeOfRage

Is it about my cube?

TWTW – AuroraDawn

AuroraDawn’s ponysona

Here I interview AuroraDawn – author of the infamous My Little Pony fanfic Rainbow Factory. Based on the grimdark song by Wooden Toaster, the tale of the fascist weather production company is one well known in the Brony fandom.

Rainbow Factory has spawned a trilogy of fanfics, with a cult following for almost a decade. Rainbow Factory serves as the inspiration for Scoot Hard DX: Daytime Drama Zero as well as the upcoming commercial version, Project Absentia.

I sit down with AuroraDawn and ask some questions.

Rainbow Factory by WoodenToaster/Glaze

Sanya: First off – gotta get this out of the way. Your fic is infamous, and one of the first grimdark My Little Pony fics I ever read. It’s gut churning. It’s sad… and definitely not for kids. What inspired you to do such a thing?

Aurora: Well, the song did. I had just gotten into ponies (Like… just. Like a week basically) when I found Glaze’s Rainbow Factory. I was deathly ill at the time with flu, was running a dangerously high fever and on various cold medications and… it just sort of popped into my head. I had to get it out onto paper, and so I wrote it in a night, listening to the song on loop.

Sanya: Rainbow Factory has been pretty divisive for its fascist imagery, gruesome violence, and generally being grimdark… among other things. What kind of research goes into such, if any.

Aurora: There’s not too much research I do for the dark stuff. I’ve got an adequate understanding of anatomy and basically I write what I find is disturbing or would be painful or grotesque. I will do some research when writing any story, usually wikipedia articles or niche blogs, but basically it’s -heh- gut feeling

Sanya: Alot of people think such content should be harshly regulated, either by corporations or by the government. I know people do that all the time with the medium I’m in, video games.

Aurora: They do, but I’ve always been a proponent of thorough labelling and warnings, combined with self-policing. Tag your shit, and then block what you don’t want to see instead of demanding it be removed or banned.

Rainbow Factory's page on FimFiction, clearly showing the tags involved and a rating of M for mature
Rainbow Factory’s page on FimFiction, clearly showing the tags involved and a rating of M for mature.

Sanya: We’ll get back to your trilogy of works, and their effect on Scoot Hard DX and Project Absentia in a bit… But first, tell us a bit about yourself.

Aurora: Well, I’m a youngish white dude from Canada. I’m a fan of dark and monstrous things. I value Honesty over pretty much anything else. Not sure what else you’d like to know!

Pegasus Device cover
Cover for Pegasus Device, featuring the infamous Cloudsdale Weather Corporation logo

Sanya: You’re known for Rainbow Factory, but you’ve done other fics too. Tell us about those if you’d like.

Aurora: Well, there’s the Pegasus Device novels, and new Rainbow Factory stories like Weather Worker’s Song that have come out. I have other genres I’ve dipped into, as well, such as romance. Heart of Hearing is one I’d like to see get more popular; it’s a love story between two Pegasi, one of which is recently disabled via the loss of his hearing. There’s no dialogue in the story, and it’s first person; very experimental for me, and I’m extremely proud of it.

Sanya: Do you have any hobbies? If so, tell us.

Aurora: Writing is pretty much my main hobby! Asides from that, I play video games and Magic: the Gathering.

Sanya: I know the lockdown has affected all of us – how are you holding up as things slowly reopen?

Aurora: For the most part, lockdown didn’t affect me; I’m very introverted, and my job was not particularly affected insofar as me not working or anything. Lockdown helped me rediscover my love of writing and make a bunch of new friends online. Right now it’s most affecting me because I can’t travel to meet my boyfriend, who I met during this time.

Sanya: How did you come into contact with me and Waffle Iron Studios?

Aurora: Twitter! I check the Rainbow Factory and Pegasus Device tags frequently, and Scoot Hard DX had a promo tweet made a few months back, which got me in contact with the Waffle Iron Studios crew!

Sanya: What was it like finding out that someone made a game based on your story?

Aurora: Absolutely incredible. I was reeling. Every single bit of fan content blows my mind; anything that shows even the slightest bit of proof that something I’ve created has inspired someone else or helped them create… well… it’s indescribable.

Sanya: I was shocked when I found out that you acknowledged and liked Scoot Hard DX. I consider that the highlight of the year for me. I NEVER would have imagined that happening. When Ellie mentioned that to me, I about shat my pants.

Aurora: Hah, that’s cute! I’m glad I could help repay some of the joy I had felt upon finding it :3

Sanya: I know for a while there you went completely absent. I was worried something really bad happened to you.

Aurora: In February of 2014, I went through a major upheaval in my life, a relationship that ended brutally. I had been diagnosed with situational depression in the past, and was living with undiagnosed General Anxiety Disorder. The breakup triggered an episode of Major Depressive Disorder that went undiagnosed for several years and then took even more to manage. It wasn’t until September of 2020 that I finally started feeling like a normal human being again. In that time frame, nothing brought me joy, and I stopped writing, or doing pretty much anything that wasn’t sleeping or going to work. There’s not much to talk about then; I didn’t do anything.

Sanya: I know depression can affect people’s ability to work. It certainly does mine. How do you deal with bad days?

Aurora: These days, with it well managed with therapy and medication, when I have a bad day I allow myself to have the bad day. I take a break from most of my self-imposed expectations and let me feel sad, accepting the day is a write off. In the times before my remission, there was no managing it. Every day was a bad day.

Sanya: One of the VAs, CakeofRage, absolutely adores Dr. Atmosphere in both the canon Rainbow Factory lore and Scoot Hard DX/Project Absentia. How does that make you feel?

Aurora: It’s great! It’s awesome having written a character that someone either connects with or feels some attachment to! Means I did my job well and made them, if not believable, then at least enjoyable or thought-provoking[2:58 PM]I’m gonna have to leave off here for now but I’ll come back to it later

Dr. Hide Atmosphere sprite in Scoot Hard DX
Dr. Hide Atmosphere as he appears in Scoot Hard DX. Unfortunately not a lot of fanart of canon Dr. Atmosphere exists

Sanya: This might seem like an odd question to ask in an interview, but I’m not the only one on the dev team who’s curious. We know that Dr. Atmosphere’s name is “Hide Atmosphere”. Why Hide Atmosphere? Is it a play on words I don’t get?

Aurora: It’s not really any subtle joke. I was looking for a first name for him and Hide sounded A. kinda wise old-guyish and was a pony-like term (Animal hide)

Sanya: I know that Aurora Dawn in the fics isn’t necessarily your persona – at least not that iteration. That confused me. Do a lot of people get confused?

Aurora: So many people get confused. I’m often accused of Aurora in the story being a self insert, which is weird because A. I’m not female, B. She fucking dies brutally, and C. I took my username from her after the story was published.

A dramatic reading of Rainbow Factory by TheLostNarrorator and her friends

Sanya: Scoot Hard DX is not just loosely inspired, but it is a slight satire of Rainbow Factory. One of the reasons the enemies say “BITCH” many times – especially Maimbow – is because Rainbow Dash swore in Rainbow Factory. I’m not even really bothered by that, I just found it funny is all. I lost it when I heard TheLostNarrator say “WELL THEN BITCH…” in her dramatic reading.

Aurora: Neat.

Sanya: Continuing the satirical elements, I feel my AU where it was Lightning Dust controlling the Cloudsdale Weather Corporation… was because I kind of thought in hindsight, Lightning Dust could have been a neat head of the CWC. I wonder what your thoughts on that are.

Aurora: Lightning Dust cares only about herself and not others, and so in the Canon Universe she’d be a terrible fit for the company. Dash is fiercely loyal to the CWC and would do anything for it to succeed. Dust would bail the second she might get caught with any wrong doing. But, I’m all for alternate interpretations! It’s not “Wrong”! It’s how you view the world and the story.

Lightning Dust as she appears canonically in MLP:FIM
Lightning Dust as she appears in the show
A comic depicting the events of Rainbow Factory by Doom1945. Rainbow Dash in panel one was Aurora’s icon on Twitter for the longest time. Rainbow Dash’s depiction, including the grin, influenced Maimbow’s design.
Maimbow Undash, Lightning Dust's new identity
Maimbow Undash, Lightning Dust’s new identity.

Sanya: How do you feel about me turning Lightning Dust into a trans femboy Nazi. For the record, I understand how ludicrous that sounds.

Aurora: All power to you!

Captain Hook The Biker Gorilla as featured by Rainbow Dash Presents – a parody of Rainbow Factory

Sanya: Scoot Hard DX is not the first loving satire of your work. I’ll never be able to top Rainbow Dash Presents Captain Hook The Biker Gorilla… god that title cracks me up. You remember that?

Aurora: I sure do. I quote it almost daily.

Sanya: Even though you aren’t in the day to day operations of Waffle Iron Studios, you are on the dev team – essentially a co-author of Project Absentia, due to you and I brainstorming concepts on how to turn Scoot Hard DX into a commercial project. How does it feel to be a part of that?

Aurora: It’s fun. It’s really quite cool to do something that gets my name in the credits of a game. Game dev is not a field I see myself ever being in, so to be able to show people that is really fun.

Sanya: What do you think has evolved with your stories as you gain more experience?

Aurora: When I write something, I go back over it and figure out whatever it is I’m least happy with, and generally try to work and improve that aspect of my writing in my next project. Generally I’ve been dissatisfied with my descriptive writing, so over many projects I have worked hard to improve it, and that’s been what’s really changed recently.

Sanya: I don’t mean for this to be wordy… but here we go. Scoot Hard DX/Project Absentia has LGBTQ+ themes, but often shows LGBTQ+ characters in shades of grey, rather than what I’d call… “precious smol been uwu”. I feel when I write stuff, it’s more natural and honest to show LGBTQ+ people can be good, bad or downright ugly. I’ve seen some people argue this is bad representation because it shows LGBTQ+ characters as bad. I don’t agree with them, as they’re not bad because they’re part of the alphabet. What do you think about that?

Aurora: I agree with it. Inclusivity doesn’t mean LGBT characters must be portrayed as infallible.

Sanya: A common thing I hear from “antis” is how by making highly violent content with fascist themes makes us basically bloodthirsty Nazis, and that we’re trying to convert kids by using “problematic” fan content… yet you are as far from a Nazi as I can tell, and I personally can say I don’t like any government or corporation which tells me what I can do in my own home by myself – lest I face some grave punishment. In your best guess/educated opinion – why do so many people assume creating and engaging with dark content means endorsement?

Aurora: I haven’t the slightest idea why. Some people can’t separate content from creator.

Sanya: The Motherload of In The Keep described us as “very Egalitarian”. For those reading this, this means “everyone is on equal footing”. I agree with him on that, as I strive to make sure everyone at WIS is on equal footing. What do you think of that goal?

Aurora: It has its benefits and drawbacks. Some people work better with supervision and direction, others work better with freedom to do their own thing. Valve I think tries to live by that philosophy and while they’ve had some amazing things come out of it, they have suffered with back end issues like customer support for years because of it.

Sanya: Do you have any tips to say to potential creative people – be it in writing or in video game design?

Aurora: Do what you enjoy and ignore what people have to say about it. Write what you’d want to read. If other people want to read it, even better; but ultimately, if you enjoy doing it, do it for the reason of keeping yourself happy.

Sanya: I’m sad that you and I only got to know each other recently… However, I don’t want to focus on what could have been – I want to focus on what is going on – You are a cool dude and an inspiration to me. Your ideas have helped greatly, but more importantly, your fight with depression is nothing short of inspiring for me to keep going. I love that you took your time to help us out with getting a basic premise set up for Project Absentia… and I can’t overstate how cool I think you are, dude. I’m glad you came back to the fandom, and I’m glad that you’re part of this team.

Aurora: Thanks 🙂

Sanya: Anything you want to say before we wrap this up?

Aurora: I think that about covers it! Stay in drugs, don’t do school, all that fun stuff

AuroraDawn, you are an odd fellow… but I do say, you Factory a good Rainbow.

No seriously, you’re awesome and I’m glad you’re doing okay.

You can find AuroraDawn at Fimfiction and Twitter.

Oh my god, they’re going to grind us into rainbows! EVERYBODY PANIC!

TWTW – EllieJojo

EllieJojo's ponysona, Electric Arc
EllieJojo’s ponysona, Electric Arc as done in PonyTown

You have probably heard me joke about my wife’s girlfriend. That’s not entirely a joke. More than one of my lovely girlfriends, Ellie also helps with sound design, level design and other aspects of development. She is also a fan of Daytime Drama.

I decided to ask Ellie some questions.

Sanya: So, hon, tell everyone how you discovered me and Waffle Iron Studios

Ellie: I first discovered WIS and Sanya via Icarus’ video on Daytime Drama 1. Safe to say I got hooked on the game – to the point where I pushed myself to ‘pro’ it. 100% and on the hidden discourse difficulty. Sometime later I interacted with Sanya via Twatter dot com and the rest is history.

Sanya: Tell us a bit about yourself.

Ellie: Just a bitch out west that’s into gaming, gaymareing, and whatever neat shit she orders online. In her early twenties she just wants to get out and have fun and spread the peace yo, and dem liberman infuriating video games. Blonde, likes big cool things, likes big chaos, that’s pretty much all you need to know.

Sanya: Do you have any hobbies or interests?

Ellie: Like I just said, I like gaming. Pretty much the only thing I have in my area but I also love gmod machinima. Practically grew up on that wackiness and would like to take part in it one day.

Also I have a weird fascination with food science, not like the kinda cancer causing shit in Mcdoonkies but the kinda study that goes into MRE’s and such. No idea why I just find it neat!

Sanya: I’ve been asking everyone this, but how’s lockdown treating you?

Ellie: I’m probably gonna be in the handful that says it’s actually been pretty decent? Like I found my first job (barring the work in WIS of course) and I got to hang with some legit cool peeps.

Daytime Drama 2 Prototype screenshot
Screencap from the abandoned Daytime Drama 2 concept

Sanya: You helped initially with the prototype of Daytime Drama 2 before it got cancelled. I know that probably made you sad, considering you were a big fan of the first project.

Ellie: Not too bothered by it honestly, It was a great way to ease into doing this kind of work. It was a great learning experience all around!

Sanya: I want to assure you some proper followup to Daytime Drama will happen. Sanya’s story isn’t over. In fact, it’s only the beginning.

Sanya: You were – and still are – big on My Little Pony: Friendship is magic. Tell us how you got into the series, and how it’s affected you.

Ellie: Back in early 2012 I came across a little song in the community called ‘Beyond her Garden’, safe to say after that I fell in love with the show and community. Ever since then the show and the friends ive made along with it have helped me through life in many ways. I can’t properly describe it, it’s had that much of an impact on me. Neigh.

Sanya: Let’s talk about Scoot Hard DX – first off, hard to believe this was in development longer than Daytime Drama, and is now infinitely more polished than DD was. I am shocked, so I wonder how you feel about it.

Ellie: SHDX is surely something to be proud of. Watching the whole dynamic change and shift with the team was amazing and the fact we made a pastel horse game that’s actually really fun to play just totally amazes me. Here’s to all our future projects getting better and better!

Sanya: What did you do on Scoot Hard DX specifically?

Ellie: I mainly worked on the weapon sounds and designed some of the levels, most notably the Pegasus Device level. I loved setting up the foundation(s) for that and the set piece for the Device level!

E3M2 – Pegasus Device Overhead. Most of Ellie’s work was the Pegasus Device itself, in the upper-right corner of the map

Sanya: What was it like doing a few levels for Scoot Hard DX?

Ellie: Very interesting. I haven’t really touched Ultimate Doom Builder before working on the project. Enjoyed it very much however!

Sanya: I know it’s been a mixed bag with Project Absentia being a non-pony continuation of Scoot Hard DX with more content and even more polish. How do you feel about that?

Ellie: Honestly, I’m completely fine with it. SHDX is a great pony mod but I do know it sorta limits our reach and capabilities. I’m very excited to see where Absentia and beyond takes us!

Sanya: I know you have connections to Bree and some other pony related content creators. I think that’s cool.

Ellie: Uh… Neigh Neigh Whinny. Whinny Neigh Neigh, Whinny!

Sanya: Speaking of brony content, I know you had an experience being on Brohoof, a brony themed Minecraft server that I believe is now defunct. I also know that’s where you met Jenna if memory serves correctly. What was your involvement there?

Ellie: Brohoof was… definitely a life changing experience for me. By the time I found it I was a miserable little high schooler to say the least. Brohoof helped me break a lot of mental health issues I was experiencing at the time, and basically helped me break out of Social Anxiety and all of that crap.

A recreation of Ponyville on the Brohoof server
A recreation of Ponyville on the Brohoof server, from archives of the world gathered by EllieJojo

Sanya: Name some of your favorite boomer shooters.

Ellie: The entire Doom series for one, but my all time favorite HAS to be Blood. Blood is good. Blood is eternal. Blood should really have an actual continuation at this point. Atari please give more Blood you useless company.

Sanya: Name some of your favorite non-boomer shooter games.

Ellie: I definitely have a wide variety of tastes for games, but Minecraft and Garry’s Mod are for sure in the top 3. Killing Floor 1 then has to be #3 for me. It is sooooo friggin’ intense and satisfying, and while KF2 is very good, KF1 just hits all the right spots for me. Intense action, Gore aplenty, and Great Co-op play. You have to pay attention or else it’s your head basically! Not to mention it managed to hold it’s own around the time big zombie games like Left 4 Dead 2 and Dead Island were coming out. (Even though, despite popular belief, the specimens/zeds are NOT zombies!!!)

Killing Floor 1 Screenshot
Killing Floor 1 Screenshot

Sanya: how does it feel that there’s a ton of retro themed shooters now, offsetting the AAA game industry and their insistence on microtransactions, in-game ads, and mundane single player. What’s it like to be in a boomer shooter renaissance?

Ellie: Amazing honestly. The amount of talent and unique ideas being tossed around now is just, unique. All the experience from Doom mods and such are finally culminating in a 2nd wave of pure action, no bullshit. My hat is off to everyone who is participating, whether that being developing projects, or purchasing and playing said projects.

Sanya: What’s been your experience at Waffle Iron Studios?

Ellie: Nothing short of amazing. Y’all are so friendly it makes me feel so warm inside haha! I’m just sorry I haven’t been around much recently due to IRL shite.

Surprise going 'Bonjour'
CakeOfRage’s sketch of Surprise going ‘Bonjour’, inked and colored by SanyaWaffles. One of the many injokes at Waffle Iron Studios.

Sanya: Waffle Iron Studios is full of injokes. Name your favorite.

Ellie: Bonjour. Bonjourno.

Sanya: I don’t mean for this to be wordy… but here we go. Scoot Hard DX/Project Absentia has LGBTQ+ themes, but often shows LGBTQ+ characters in shades of grey, rather than what I’d call… “precious smol been uwu”. I feel when I write stuff, it’s more natural and honest to show LGBTQ+ people can be good, bad or downright ugly. I’ve seen some people argue this is bad representation because it shows LGBTQ+ characters as bad. I don’t agree with them, as they’re not bad because they’re part of the alphabet. What do you think about that?

Ellie: Fuck the twitter idiots, Anyone who is anyone can be whoever they dang well please. I just want to be a big blonde with big tits, not some neon haired twitter-physco… this too much?

Sanya: Let’s talk about weapon design as I know you’re into guns, fictional and real – it’s important that a weapon has a nice, unique design that makes it stand out. Is there anything else important for weapon design?

Ellie: Be as creative as you want, but make sure it’s functional from a design standpoint as well. How does it work? What is it’s ammunition source? How does it load? I sometimes even create entire fake guns n such by just mimicking how it’ll work with my hands .w.

Sanya: I want to let you know you changed my life so much. I met you and my other partners because of you. You also showed me that even today, my projects can stand out. You inspired me to keep going. I’m grateful to know you, love. I want to let you know I’ve got your back as long as you’ve got mine.

Ellie: Awww haha, you too Babe ^^

Sanya: Anything else you want to add?

Ellie: Ding Dong Dingle Doo, your mcdongle is now a noodle

EllieJojo is an interesting girl as you can see. I look forward to what our future holds.

…boobs good

TWTW – AndromedaHawking

A depiction of Drom

AndromedaHawking – or known as Andromeda, or Drom for short – is the VA for two important – but currently rarely appearing characters to the Project Absentia/Daytime Drama mythos. She voices the mysterious known as B’hordou, and voices Sanya’s main rival and antagonist – Dominika Dorogayova, who is going to be an antagonist in what will become Daytime Drama 2. Both these characters will be more important and appear as the mythos expands. Andromeda also helps with shaping these characters, showing her understanding of what makes them tick.

I sat down with Andromeda and asked her about her time at Waffle Iron Studios.

Sanya: How did you come into contact with me and Waffle Iron Studios?

Drom: I remember we first got to know each other back in mid-2018 through Eri’s little hangout server on Discord. The three of us got together fairly regularly to chill out and watch Steven Universe on Rabbit, with plenty of cursed memes to go along with it. We talked on and off about the work going on at Waffle Iron Studios, but I didn’t properly join the team as a VA until last February.

Sanya: Tell us a bit about yourself.

Drom: I’m a college-age lass based in northern California. I’m a very creativity-oriented person, from writing to acting to composing, and I have a killer memory for historical trivia and movie quotes. I’m a very big fan of puzzles, connect-the-dots, DIY furniture, and I do all my handwriting in pen. Even math problems. Especially math problems.

Sanya: Where’d you come with the name “AndromedaHawking”?

Drom: That’s actually something I don’t think I’ve ever shared the backstory on with anyone. It dates back to 2016: I took my first stab at writing an original story that summer, a cyberpunk drama set in 2084 where androids are fighting for civil rights (which sounded much more original before Detroit: Become Human came on the scene). The top producers of androids in this story, a company called Hawking/Turing, kickstart the plot when they unveil the first androids designed to be sentient, named Perseus and Andromeda Hawking. When I figured out my gender identity in 2017, I thought “Andromeda Hawking” would be a great screen name to start the transition with. Four years later, it’s serving me well.

Sanya: Do you have any hobbies or interests?

Drom: Oh yes. I’ve gone through several phases over the years, so I’ve got no shortage of niche trinkets and activities. At the moment, I’d say most of my free time is spent doing worldbuilding for my writing, or making election maps. I also compose music from time to time, mostly experimenting with different styles and sounds.

Sanya: I’ve been asking everyone this – but how’s lockdown treating you?

Drom: Lockdown has been exhausting. I’m grateful the worst passed me by, and I don’t regret committing to it, but it is absolutely a warning sign when you begin to get nostalgic about eating by yourself in a crowded school cafeteria. I’m fully vaccinated now, thankfully, so I’m eager to start being around other people again without being worried about anyone catching the ‘rona.

Sanya: What’s your process/equipment for recording?

Drom: I use a Blue Yeti mic and record my lines on Logic Pro. Usually I record in my room, but since I live on a busy intersection my best hours for uninterrupted recording are usually limited to late at night. I read through the lines a couple times to warm up and get into character, so by the time I feel ready to record I can go through the lines in one or two takes. Sometimes I add an EQ to make my voice sound a bit more feminine, but usually I just pass along the unedited WAV to Metal Neon for mixing. I finally found out about Audacity’s awesome room tone filter, so going forward I know how to trim that out.

Old design for B'hordou, rendered by SanyaWaffles
B’hordou in their prototype state – a Steven Universe OC called Bordeaux Pearl
B'hordou concept sketch
Concept art clip for B’hordou as they’re going to appear in Project Absentia

Sanya: So, B’hordou is an important character in the lore despite how she hasn’t shown up much – at least not in name. What’s it like voicing a mysterious figure beyond the depths?

Drom: It’s a lot of fun. I’ve always loved characters who you know very little about at the beginning, but over time you learn just how central to the story they are. Voicing B’hordou and getting to play the shadowy figure is a blast, even though there isn’t much of them early on. It’s so damn exciting to be able to hint at a greater mystery with only a few lines.

Sanya: You shaped a ton of B’hordou lore and character details. Like you going for an androgynous Irish accent based on my request, you came up with some in jokes, like them not being able to say Cool Whip or, when they were a SU fancharacter, White Diamond.

Drom: That’s very flattering of you to say. Fleshing out the details on who/what B’hordou is and coming up with memorable quirks like that is one of my favourite parts of character creation. Many of them were spur-of-the-moment ideas or quick jokes, so it makes me happy to see those get incorporated into the character.

Sanya: B’hordou is the oldest original character in the mythos who isn’t Sanya, yet they rarely appear – in Scoot Hard DX they don’t even appear in the main levels, but rather a secret level. We’re going to change that. With that in mind – what would you like to personally see from B’hordou as Project Absentia and the Daytime Drama mythos grows?

Drom: Personally, I’d like to see their effect on the story start to become more apparent. Starting out, you can go light on detail and generate the aura of power and mystery without needing much to back it up, but as the story builds and the lore starts coming together, it’s important to steadily add more information on who they are and what they do. There’s a lot of ways to do that well, and depending on where they make their full entrance, you can continue having limited cameos and have their influence revealed through other characters until it’s time to take the stage.

Dominika Dorogayova render by SanyaWaffles
Dominika Dorogayova, drawn by SanyaWaffles
Dominika drawn by RodScorpion
Dominika Dorogayova, drawn by RodScorpion as part of an art trade

Sanya: So, Dominika Dorogayova… is probably a character that I think you can get into character ever a lot more. She’s kind of like if the Joker had hot hate sex with Vegeta from Dragonball Z, and they had a child, and that child grew up and at puberty fell into a vat of liquefied Spironolactone and somehow got superpowers because of that. She is the embodiment of androgyny and furious anger. What do you think of her?

Drom: Dominika is a very special kind of person. I know that if I ever actually interacted with her, I’d loathe every second of it, but as a character in the story, she’s just so much fun to work with. I think part of that is because compared to most of the antagonists, she’s aggressively out of sync. Instead of leaning into the more suave, galaxy-brain attitude that world domination plans tend to come with, she’s just… ass-blastingly crude and straightforward. She’s not concerned about her image, she’s just here to get what she wants and break as much shit as possible on the way. Seriously. The only reason she’s still not banned at Wendy’s is because she buys so much of their food that it pays for all the property damage and emotional trauma she causes.

Dominika avatar with her pride flags in the background
Dominika avatar with the Intersex and NB flags in the background.

Sanya: How does it feel to voice characters who are canonically non-binary (and one of them being intersex)?

Drom: I really enjoy it! I’m still in the very early stages of my transition, and voicing non-binary/intersex characters means I can use my natural voice without the discomfort of “playing a guy” and also get a chance to work on sounding more feminine. I also really love that there’s so many characters that identify with so many different parts of the LGBTQ+ community. Having nearly everyone as representation means it’s not even necessary to make a big to-do about how ~woke~ it is because there’s a trans person or something—it’s so normal there’s no need to point it out! Getting to be part of that is an awesome feeling.

Sanya: I think my favorite thing about Dominika is the in-jokes we come up with. One you recently did was “They told me Pride Month was a time to celebrate my identity, so I told the Wendy’s cashier I’ve committed thirty war crimes in twenty-two states and still haven’t been brought to justice”. That is peak Dominika. Her gender is literally being a war criminal and a mad bomber.

Drom: Vegans hate her. Cis men fear her. Wendy’s workers… tolerate her…

Sanya: Dominika, like every other character, is some flavor of queer. However, these characters are of various moral gray areas. I’ve seen the argument that LGBTQ+ villains and shady morality is bad for representation. I disagree, as them being bad in most cases has nothing to do with them being LGBTQ+. What do you think of this?

Drom: I’m with you on that. I think it’s important to have LGBTQ+ characters appear in any role, heroic or villainous. It’s demeaning to imply that sexuality or gender are in any way related to morality. Letting both good guys and bad guys be LGBTQ+ means we don’t have to argue about that anymore.

Sanya: On the subject of problematic content – it is often a point of controversy, even if it’s portrayed as something that’s not meant to be emulated. An example of this is the fact in Duke Nukem 3D, the main character – Duke Nukem – can kill unarmed, often sexually provocative, female NPCs in an over the top fashion – but the game doesn’t reward you, it punishes you by spawning more enemies, and sometimes making Duke cringe and go “damn it!”. I personally think it’s stupid to police such things and it harms the creative process. There’s aspects of Dominika that are definitely NOT meant to be emulated, like her tendency to just blow shit up or drop-kick people she doesn’t like. What do you think?

Drom: Problematic content has the same problem as satire: if it’s not written in big bold letters at the top that you made to illustrate why it’s wrong or bad, someone will inevitably miss the subtext and think you’re supporting it. Sometimes creators send the wrong message with their work, but content is a two-way street; it’s not the creator’s fault if you think it’s wrong to portray something no matter what. The world is messy and no two people interact with it the same way. Shit, I’ve written stuff that made me, the person writing it, wildly uncomfortable, because that was the intended reaction. Sometimes I write really dark and ugly scenes to cope with stuff. If you’ve done your part and made your message as clear as you can, you should not be held responsible if someone repeatedly fails pick up on that.

Dominika, Sasha and Sanya in their Aysburg soldier getups
Dominika, Sasha and Sanya in their Aysburg Soldier uniforms. The Aysburgs are based on a Saiyans if you couldn’t tell.

Sanya: One thing I like about Dominika is her ability to swear in Russian. We chose Russian because it’s a language you know a little bit and fits her Eastern European Soviet aesthetic.

Drom: Yep. It may not be super original, but it’s something that adds some personality. Plus, considering her constant, unbridled rage, it only makes sense that she’d look beyond English for ways to tell someone “Go fuck yourself.”

Sanya: What’s your favorite Russian expletive?

Drom: Подонок—“Podonok”, roughly translates to “bastard” in the sense of “you scum”

Sketch of Dominika by Rodscorpion
Sketch of Dominika by RodScorpion. Probably after a vegan harassed her. Or seeing Amogus.

Sanya: Waffle Iron Studios has a tendency to have a ton of in-jokes. What’s your favorite in-joke?

Drom: *(posts pic of white rectangle on red circle)* “get outta my head”

Sanya: So, you’re one of the few friends I know who follows political trends and can somehow not go insane and is fascinated with mapping – be it based on real politics or your own worldbuilding. Without getting into partisan politics, explain to us your fascination with such a thing.

Drom: Making political maps is my emotional support hobby. It’s a great way to take something as complex and divisive as political issues and try to understand how someone’s circumstances influence their beliefs. Plus, you can compare the present with the past and see how things changed, and make predictions about where the future might go. Understanding the background of who supports what, and why, makes it easier to talk about the issues beyond “I’m right and they’re wrong.”

Sanya: Want to share anything specifically you’re working on?

Drom: I’m hoping to get enough material together in the next few months to start a YouTube channel. There are a few people who make great historical map animations (Ollie Bye, Emperortigerstar) and I’d like to try applying that to elections and referenda. The goal would be to find a way to present those maps without the comments section going nuclear on itself.

Sanya: What’s it like being the only Mac user on the team? (not counting Tom, he mains a Linux laptop)

Drom: It’s a little bit of a pain, but since I’m not involved with playtesting or coding it doesn’t affect my ability to do my voice work. It is possible to set up GZDoom and play the beta builds for myself, but boomer shooters aren’t really my kind of game, so I prefer watching others stream it on the dev server. Plus, generally speaking, trying to get primarily PC-based things to work on a Mac can be very tedious, but that’s a limitation that is not specific to WIS stuff.

Sanya: The Motherload of In The Keep described us as “very Egalitarian”. For those reading this, this means “everyone is on equal footing”. I agree with him on that, as I strive to make sure everyone at WIS is on equal footing. What do you think of that goal?

Drom: I’m very much a fan of it. Working on a project with multiple people is always going to have moments of contention, but it’s much easier to work together when everyone feels like they’re treated with equal respect. It’s not easy to sustain that beyond a certain number of people, but I believe that making the effort to keep the team on equal footing goes a long way towards helping everyone collaborate.

Sanya: Mental health is important to take care of. Many people here, myself included, have been on a road to recovery so to speak. Do you have anything on the subject of mental health you want to share or talk about?

Drom: I’ve recently gotten back on the road to recovery after a pretty miserable 2020, and I’ve been kind of shocked to realise how deeply being that sick can affect you. I knew I was clearly in a bad place, but I didn’t notice how much of that was actually because I was reinforcing those feelings. It’s a hard lesson to teach someone, unfortunately, because there’s no way to convey the change in perspective they need with words. Still, it’s worth trying, so I’ll say it the way I think I might have understood best: You might be stuck in a downward spiral because you’re actually so depressed you’re reinforcing it at every opportunity. Try to catch yourself when you get upset over small things. Recognise that being that upset is actually more of a problem than the actual issue. Learn to notice that behaviour, and consciously choose to defy it, as much as you’re able. Train yourself to stop beating yourself up over the tiniest inconveniences, and over time you’ll realise how much energy you were spending holding yourself back. You deserve better from you.

Sanya: I know we’ve had our rough spots over the years, but you’ve grown a great deal. I’m glad to know you, and I’m glad you can be not just a part of the team, but a cool friend. Thanks for being cool, Andromeda.

Drom: Thank you for being cool too, Sanya. It’s been a pleasure working with you on this and I’m proud of how far we’ve gotten together.

Sanya: Anything else you want to add?

Drom: Wendy’s should still exist in a socialist utopia. Debate me.

We’ll see more of Drom’s voicework as the time goes on and the characters she plays appear. Meanwhile, I wouldn’t dream of revealing that Dominika is Sanya’s sibling… wait.

TWTW – Metal Neon

Metal Neon's icon. It's a purple sillouette of Oregon with the Smash Bros. symbol and the words METAL NEON on it, with a synthwave background.

The music of Scoot Hard DX is definitely something people like. The man behind the music is a very interesting dude, and has integrated well with Waffle Iron Studios, and has become one of my best friends. I sat down with Metal to ask about his experiences, not just at Waffle Iron Studios, but in other aspects of life.

Sanya: Okay, first off, I gotta ask – how does a guy like you end up working on something as crazy as Scoot Hard DX?

Metal: That’s a story in two parts. The first part was me becoming aware of Scoot Hard DX. I was talking with my friend Rod (the composer for Daytime Drama), and streaming a shitty Doom Wad to him, and he told me “I’m working on doom wad too”. I was curious, so I asked if I could try it. When I played it I had a hard time not being embarrassed at what I was playing, but I also pointed out some gameplay flaws at the time, like the weapons looking identical. Rod thought what I had to say was interesting, so he put me on the team initially as a playtester. After a while I had a random bit of creative inspiration for the boss theme for Doctor Atmosphere. I made it, and the team was impressed with what I did that they wanted me to do some of the music. After Rod ended up leaving the dev team for personal reasons, I was basically the full-time composer for Waffle Iron Studios.

Sanya: What have people’s reactions been when you tell them you worked on a game like that?

Metal: The reactions people have are always in this exact order: 1) Either cringing or laughing out loud hysterically. 2) Looking at the gameplay and saying it looks interesting. 3) Saying the music is really good. They’ve been interesting to say the least.

Sanya: We’ll get back to Scoot Hard DX and Project Absentia in a bit… But first, tell us a bit about yourself.

Metal: First and foremost I am a nerd at heart. I am passionate about video games, synthesisers,  computer hardware, and a bunch more. I used to be super involved with the Project M Smash scene, but due to the pandemic I haven’t had a lot to do with it. I always try to push myself into new and unfamiliar projects in an effort to better my skills, so I can become a one-man wrecking crew. In all seriousness I’m one who believes that a person is a culmination of the deeds they do, and thus I look to do those said deeds.

Sanya: What’s life like in Oregon?

Metal: It’s pretty good, assuming you aren’t talking about the state’s response to the pandemic. The landscapes are beautiful, both the pacific northwest, and the high desert to the east. The only hugely negative thing I can say about this state is how we’ve handled the pandemic, which has negatively impacted the mental health of a lot of friends around me. At least we have no sales tax I guess? If anyone is considering moving to Oregon (if pandemic restrictions ever lessen over here), then I’d advise moving to a place like Bend.

Sanya: Have you been musically inclined all your life, or did it take time to develop?

Metal: When I first started out in Middle-School Orchestra, I found out I had perfect pitch. Perfect pitch is a good thing to have when you’re composing music and trying to tune your own instruments, but it’s a horrible thing to have in a Middle-School orchestra, where off-pitch notes was the equivalent to nails on a chalkboard. In High-School I took an absence from music, mostly because the band teacher disliked me initially (we later were cool with one another, but that’s a story for another time). That interest was gone until 2019, when I decided to study music in College, as I want to become a sound engineer for video games. While sound-design is a still that I am still learning, I do think music comes naturally to me.

Sanya: Who’s your favorite composer – doesn’t have to be a video game composer.

Metal: For video game composers, In no order I’d say Alexander Brandon, David Wise, and Marty-O’Donnell. For “Traditional” composers, I like Enya a lot, and Beethoven is a classic.

Sanya: Who do you draw influence from for your music?

Metal: Definitely Alexander Brandon the most. Am a huge fan of his works, and it’s really encouraging when I get comments about my music thinking it’s just music from Unreal.

Sanya: I know personally it’s been rough the past year, with not only the pandemic, but with my mental health crisis at the beginning of the year. What’s your advice for people who are going through stresses like that?

Metal: Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. As a wise man once said “No matter who you are and how smart you are, there is always someone else who is smarter. Which in my case is good, because I need some help.” My one other piece of advice I can give regarding this is to not put your mental health on the backburner, because it will not end well when it catches up to you.

Sanya: We try to have a less corporate, more co-op oriented structure at Waffle Iron Studios. Do you think that’s a better way to do things, and if so, why?

Metal: I can’t say how it compares to corporate environments as I haven’t worked in one personally, but I can say that it does seem to work well for what we’re doing at such a small scale. It remains to be seen how well it will scale if and when more people are added to the team, but for what we have it works.

Sanya: Back to Scoot Hard DX for a bit – before you came into the picture, Scoot Hard DX was struggling, admittedly. It didn’t do very well feedback wise on the ZDoom Forums, probably due to the pony content. What drove you to give feedback on this?

Metal: Mostly it was two things. Firstly was because my friend Rod wanted me to give you guys the feedback that I gave, since I’d like to consider myself at least somewhat familiar with boomer shooters. Secondly was because I saw the potential in this project, as it had some areas with solid level design for the most part, and I felt it needed just a little push to really start to become good.

An Enforcer from Scoot Hard DX. A purple unicorn with dark purple armor and a visor and a red hard light shield.
The Enforcer was Metal’s first enemy.

Sanya: You were brought on initially as a playtester, but now you’re a composer, and a jack of all trades. Tell us what you do aside from music!

I make and implement the game’s Voxels and 3D models. I do some sound design and mixing. I also do level design for some of the levels, as well as coming up with dickish enemy designs.

Metal sitting at a computer desk with the words PC GAMERS in block text in the front and center
A still from a video Metal made long, long ago. Now an in-joke at Waffle Iron Studios due to the ironic cringe factor.

Sanya: What do you use for music? Tell us about your process.

For my DAW I use Reaper, as it’s extremely easy to use, very inexpensive, and platform agnostic. So yes, you can run it on a raspberry pi. As far as synths go I tend to go for synthesizers that sound “retro”, with a mixture of Software VSTs and hardware synths. My favorite software synths are synths like Dexed and the Korg M1 VST, and my favorite hardware synths are the Behringer TD-3, the Korg Minilogue XD, the Roland Sound Canvas (SC55mkII), and the Roland JV-2080. My process for making music usually stems from getting a visualisation of a location, say a mine for instance, and trying to come up with what that location and mood would sound like. I also like applying reverb, probably too much for my own good, but fuck it LOL. Mostly I want the music I make to sound like it could actually come from some game in the 90s, and given the comments comparing some of my tracks to Unreal, it seems to have worked.

Sanya: You have a tendency to find out new features of GZDoom not even I knew of. And sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming… but in the end, the payoff is great to have the game even more polished. What’s it feel like being able to help out like that?

Metal: It’s always interesting how some features work in GZDoom. For instance, me learning how to implement 3D models in GZDoom was something I learned as a form of optimizing how Voxels are rendered. I like pushing myself and my understanding of something more and more.

Sanya: I want to say for the record, some corporations often punish people who go beyond their expected duties. We don’t do that – you obviously are a very self-reliant person, but you also know when to ask for help… and that’s, in my opinion, a very awesome skill to have.

Why thank you. I try to act how I’d like others to act.

Sanya: What was the most frustrating aspect of Scoot Hard DX to work on?

Metal: In regards to things I directly worked on, It was definitely mixing and mastering the sound-effects. As I stated before, sound-engineering is something that I’m still working on, and trying to adjust the levels of the sound so they sound correct ingame can be a pain in the ass.

Sanya: What was the most rewarding aspect of Scoot Hard DX to work on?

Metal: Seeing all the pieces of the puzzle come together to create the experience that we now have with Scoot Hard DX, and knowing that my work paid off in the end.

Sanya: Scoot Hard DX‘s cult following got us thinking about going commercial. How do you feel about Project Absentia becoming that?

Metal: I think Scoot Hard DX going commercial was inevitable. Even before Project Absentia was a thing, we talked about turning Scoot Hard DX into a commercial project if Hasbro ever C&Ded us. I am for it, and am excited for what it can bring.

Sanya: I don’t mean for this to be wordy… but here we go. Scoot Hard DX/Project Absentia has LGBTQ+ themes, but often shows LGBTQ+ characters in shades of grey, rather than what I’d call… “precious smol been uwu”. I feel when I write stuff, it’s more natural and honest to show LGBTQ+ people can be good, bad or downright ugly. I’ve seen some people argue this is bad representation because it shows LGBTQ+ characters as bad. I don’t agree with them, as they’re not bad because they’re part of the alphabet. What do you think about that?

Metal: I think you did a good job with the writing on that front. I’m one who believes that the only way that LGBTQ+ people will be accepted in society is for them to be normalized. IMO this style of writing honestly doesn’t focus too much on those aspects, only making it a passing note to who the characters are, which I think is a good thing overall.

Sanya: You voice many of the characters… a femboy nazi grunt, a brainwashed armored motherfucker, robotic dogs, and an energized wasp with hard light wings… that’s quite a repertoire. What’s it like voicing characters?

Metal: It’s interesting, and sometimes hilarious. When I told a friend that I voiced a dog in a video game and showed them, they couldn’t stop laughing.

One of the Pegapol/Orkanpol spotting the player lines

Sanya: Your voice is even the basis for some of the sounds in the game. I forget which ones though.

Metal: The wind sound that’s used in game, and the plasma rifle shots.

The plasma firing sound from Project Absentia

Sanya: Scoot Hard DX/Project Absentia has more of a focus on a story than the shooters that inspired it. In fact, for a Boomer Shooter, it’s becoming more complex. How important is a story to you?

Metal: The story is the means to drive the gameplay, and the gameplay also drives itself. It’s like adding spices and herbs to pasta sauce. It’s not at all needed, but it helps a lot.

Sanya: For me, lore is important – but minutiae is not. Some people insist upon obsessing over oddly specific details of the game’s story, mechanics and design to the absolute nanounit. Where do you draw the line on what’s important and what is not?

Metal: What’s not important is pointless shit that will not ever appear in the game itself. Stuff like how long it takes for an Orkanpol to take a shit. It’s not important, and you’re weird for obsessing over it.

Sanya: When working on a team like this, it’s important to get along with people. However, some people can be very belligerent. Name some of the challenges and how you overcome those challenges.

Metal: I just stuck to my principles, and used my experiences as a TO for my local Project M scene to guide my decision making process, while doing my best to treat those people with respect.

Sanya: Do you have any hobbies? If so, tell us.

Metal: As stated earlier I am very much into Video Games, Retro-Electronics, Synthesizers, and CRTs of all damn things. I used to be big into the Project M Scene, but have taken a step back since the pandemic. One of my biggest hobbies is creating shit, whether it’s developing Project Absentia, making a fight stick from a box I found at goodwill, or doing reviews of FPS games for my youtube channel. Some of them have been negatively impacted either directly or indirectly by the pandemic, and I have no idea if or when they will recover, but I do my best to be thankful for what I have and what I have done.

Sanya: Waffle Iron Studios has a tendency to have a ton of in-jokes. What’s your favorite in-joke?

Metal: I like Arnok, he makes me happy.

Sanya: The Motherload of In The Keep described us as “very Egalitarian”. For those reading this, this means “everyone is on equal footing”. I agree with him on that, as I strive to make sure everyone at WIS is on equal footing. What do you think of that goal?

Metal: I am very much for Egalitarianism myself. How much respect you have should be determined by how much you put in, as it helps encourage others to do work in a non-forced way.

Sanya: One of your jobs at WIS is being one of the community managers, as well as the Twitter PR guy in essence. What’s it like being the voice of WIS?

Metal: Interesting. Haven’t dealt with much negative stuff yet being a PR manager, but maybe I’ll be put to the test if we ever get canceled or something LOL.

Sanya: For WIS, keeping our creative vision is important. So is retaining the rights to the characters we make. Those are things we want from potential publishers. What are other things you want?

Metal: My big thing is that I have complete ownership of the music that I produce, and that I’m simply allowing the publisher/developer to use the music in their game. To my understanding this is a common practice with indie games, but less so with AAA stuff.

Sanya: I know we’ve had our differences, but I want to state publicly that I appreciate all that you’ve done, not just for the team, but being my best friend through one of the hardest times in my life. Thank you for all that.

Metal: You’re welcome, I do what I’d like others to do for me.

Sanya: Any last things you want to talk about?

Metal: Working at Waffle Iron Studios has changed my life and opened up new opportunities that I would have never expected to have beforehand. Thank you for this opportunity.

Thanks to Metal Neon for doing this interview! You can follow Metal Neon on Twitter, buy a lossless version of the SHDX soundtrack, or check out his YouTube channel.

… only purple was added.