Q&A with Alyse Knorr, Author of our New Book about the Making of GoldenEye 007 June 27 2022

Cover of the Hardcover Deluxe Edition of GoldenEye 007
Alyse Knorr is the author of the next book in the Boss Fight series, GoldenEye 007, as well as a previous book, Super Mario Bros. 3. The GoldenEye book is currently being funded in a Kickstarter campaign and comes out later this year, first as a paperback and then as a special edition hardcover. I caught up with her today over email, and she graciously answered my questions as one of her editors on the book. - Gabe Durham
What did you learn from writing the Super Mario Bros. 3 book that you then brought into writing about GoldenEye?
So many things! From a research perspective, I learned that writing about games well requires exploring a huge range of sources: interviews with the developers, interviews with super-fans, interviews with cultural critics, research into academic game theory, and research into the contextual history of the era. You need to talk to people, comb through old copies of The New York Times online, stalk old buildings on Google Maps, and simplify then apply complex theoretical ideas from games criticism. Sometimes the most exciting research finds are articles that were written just at the time the game originally came out--comparing the historical criticism alongside today's commentary is so fascinating. 
When it comes to writing, I learned from Super Mario Bros. 3 that my job is to weave together all of these different sources on all of these different topics to tell a clear and compelling story. Anyone can find a cool listicle online called "10 things you didn't know about GoldenEye," but when you tell a story, you have to work things out like narrative arc, scenes, character development, and what's at stake emotionally. Writing Super Mario Bros. 3 taught me that you need a clear throughline for your book--a guiding question, hypothesis, or argument--to bring everything together. That's what makes it a cohesive and satisfying experience for a reader (I hope!)
In a recent video, you do a great job of describing what GoldenEye's multiplayer mode meant to you when the game came out. What other games have you loved playing with others, either local or online?
The three games I played most with friends through high school and college were Mario Kart 64, GoldenEye, and Super Smash Bros. for the N64 and then GameCube. They are such hilarious, silly games. They are designed to create so much emotion--I mean, there's nothing like the anger you feel when your buddy red-shells you just INCHES before you cross the finish line in Mario Kart 64. But it's a hilarious kind of anger. Of course, I also still love playing Super Mario Bros. 3 with family and friends, and I have a lot of memories of growing up and playing it with my dad and brother, which I wrote about in my Boss Fight title on Super Mario 3. I still think it's so fun to introduce that game to little kids--I played some with a 10-year-old the other day and he was shocked at how hard it is. "It's old-school hard!" I told him.
What about the history of GoldenEye surprised you or ran counter to what you had assumed going into your research?
My biggest surprise was just how organically this game was made, through iterative design and a profound trust between each of the developers as well as between the developers and Rare management. Early on, GoldenEye was meant to be an on-the-rails shooter--a fundamentally different type of game than the open 3D world in the final version. The multiplayer was thrown together in six weeks right at the end of development, pretty much just to see if it could be done.
Because almost none of the developers had ever worked on a game before, they didn't know what the rules were, and so they could easily break them all. This, along with the work culture of Rare at the time, allowed unparalleled creativity and freedom. These were such brilliant, adventurous, and ambitious designers, and so it's no wonder that, given the time to experiment and innovate, they came up with something as beautiful as GoldenEye
The year is 1997. You're playing GoldenEye multiplayer with three friends on a big boxy 4:3 TV. You're going to play multiplayer for the next 3 hours, but the twist is: You have to keep the same weapon/play mode specs the whole time! What are they?
Power Weapons, Facility, 10 minutes! I think I've done these very settings for 3 hours, haha.
What's your relationship with the Bond franchise like outside of this particular game? Do you have a favorite Bond actor and a favorite movie?
Like many Millennials, I really didn't care much about Bond until GoldenEye the game, which was really the first meaningful interaction with Bond I ever had. So GoldenEye the movie is my favorite Bond film, and for me, Pierce Brosnan will always be Bond. No offense to Daniel Craig fans, but he's too bulky and sweaty to be my Bond! The women actresses in GoldenEye are also amazing. I really love Judi Dench as M, especially when she calls him a "misogynist dinosaur"! I also love the fact that Famke Janssen (who plays Xenia Onatopp), was so hardcore that she sent an actor to the hospital during filming because she "got carried away," and she herself broke a rib after Brosnan threw her across a room. What a badass!
You're very good at pitching books, and I remember appreciating that you put just as much work into your 2019 GoldenEye proposal as you had the first time around with SMB3, even though we already had a working relationship. But more than that, I remember what a great impression both proposals made on Mike and me. How do you approach a book proposal? What advice would you pass on to people who have a nonfiction book idea that they want to pitch to a press or an agent?
This is such a nice thing to say! Thanks, Gabe. I wanted to give you and Mike just as polished and professional a proposal for GoldenEye as I did for Super Mario Bros. 3 because I respect the hell out of you both, and the work you do for Boss Fight. You deserve only the best. 
I think a book proposal is like a combination of a job interview and a date. It needs to be meticulous, persuasive, and professional, to prove that you are ready to do this job, but it also has to be fun and exciting, and give a sense of your voice. You hope that your proposal will make the editor say "Holy smokes this is so cool! I need to hear this story. And I'm totally confident this is the author to tell it." Editors have to invest a lot of time, money, and trust in their authors, so I believe that we authors owe it to editors (not to mention readers!) to show up and do the job well. 
From a technical standpoint, I try to center my proposal on a clear, concise thesis so that it will stick in the editor's mind all day and be very memorable. I only write the proposal after I've already done a lot of research, seen what's out there, figured out my approach, and written a sample chapter. That way I can really prove to the editor not only that the book itself is worth getting behind, but that I will write it on time and write it well. The pitch is in part saying: listen, I've done my homework already, I've got a plan, and this is why it's a great plan. In this way, writing the proposal is basically like getting started writing the book itself.  
Read more about the book on our Kickstarter page here.

Interview with a Gamer: Alraz.exe October 24 2016

One of our favorite Kickstarter traditions is the "gamer profile tier," in which one of our authors interviews a Kickstarter backer. Today, Alyse Knorr (author of Super Mario Bros. 3) interviews Alraz.exe about his gaming history.

Enjoy! - BFB

Alyse Knorr: What is your favorite game and why?

Alraz: This is a very tough one, but after much consideration, I'll go with Mega Man 3 on the NES. The main reason why it's my favorite game is because it's the Mega Man game I played the most as a kid. Though I never owned the game back then, a friend of mine had it and I used to borrow his copy and play it all day long.

I know is Inafune-san's "least favorite" of the whole franchise because of all of the things that went behind it's development, but as a kid, I was completely unaware of any of that and couldn't care less. The game was awesome. It had very addicting music and a kind of mystic dark mood to it that rather than scare you away, it lures you into it, makes you wonder "what's in there..?"; and my Gosh, you are in for quite a ride! Even to this day, I feel that Mega Man 3 has the best and most nostalgia-inducing credits music.

A few other runner-ups for the title of "top favorite game" would be: Marvel vs Capcom 1 and Diablo 2. Those games stole so many years of my youth ^_^"

What was the first game you fell in love with?

This was definitely Mega Man 2: My first Mega Man game ever. I was like 7 years old when I first played it; was not aware of the first one, but it didn't matter. Mega Man 2 was so different to anything I had played until then, with it's colorful visuals, it's lively music and the fluid and responsive controller. Of course, back in the day I had no clue that those were all elements that were drawing me into the game, all I knew was that, even though I kept dying over and over again, I was really enjoying it.

It was so powerful that it eventually led me into taking a career in computer science because I wanted to know how these games were made. I wanted to make them myself. 

I owe so much to this inspiration: I come from what in my country we would call "a humble background", which is just euphemism for "a poor family", but I liked these game so much that I couldn't stop. I had to learn more. Today, I owe my professional career to the inspiration that Mega Man games in general gave me; I loved them so much as a kid, and that love kept feeding my curiosity and that curiosity eventually led me to learn about computers and programming. Had there been no Mega Man, I would not be talking to you right now about my favorite anything, I would probably be a low level employee at a department store or something like that...

As a homage to that inspiration and that life-changing experience, I have been building the Mega Man collection that I could not afford back when I was a poor kid and I support Inafune-san on everything he does (you may or may not be aware: I'm a voluntary moderator on MN9's forums). I owe them.

Is there anything about Mega Man as a character that you’re drawn to? 

More than the character, the gameplay!

Call me "simple-minded", but to me, simple things work better; and that's one of the many reasons why I always regard the original Mega Man series as the best one: while I acknowledge that other series have other more complex elements that enhance the gameplay experience, classic Mega Man has something that can never be matched: there is charm in its simplicity.

You mentioned that you’re “building the Mega Man collection [you] could not afford back when [you were a kid].” Can you tell me a little about this collection? 

Well, the collection contains a few hundreds of items (mostly merchandising stuff like comics, mangas, toys, etc.)

Keeping up with what I have and what I don't has become such a complex task that I'm working on a website to document the whole thing so that I can have a quick reference before purchasing something that I most likely already have ^_^". The site is still years away from complete, but it's a lot of fun to work on.

This whole "collect them all" thing started kinda unintentionally, when, after getting my first professional job, I realized I could buy some of the many games I always wanted to have as a kid. Then I realized there were many other nice Mega Man related things that I was unaware of at the time and new merchandise that Capcom kept releasing... 

I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but I eventually decided that I wanted a more proper, more complete and more coherent collection (at the time, all I had was a few items of this and a few others of that). 

Here is an early picture of Jan 2011 when I was barely starting in this obsession with collecting mega man:

And here are a few more recent pics, which does not include all items, and many of them are a bit outdated by now, but it's a good reference:

Are there any items in your collection that you’re particularly proud of or excited about? 

This one:

The Mega Man face on the right was drawn by Keiji Inafune himself (the so-called "Father of Mega Man").

Best of all: this is NOT some overpriced stuff that I bought from a scalper on ebay. Inafune-san drew it for me, and for me only.

I’m intrigued by what you said about your background growing up. What is your home country, and would you say there’s anything unique about gaming culture there?  

I was born in the north-west-ish part of Mexico. A region dominated by drug dealers, corruption and an antiquated old-world culture.

Back in the day, being a gamer was seen as a weird thing. We were the exception. Technology hadn't caught up there, so, those technology addicted geeks like me had a hard time trying to fit in. It wasn't so hard for me because I have always been an anti-social ^_^". So, all I had to do is keep being myself.

Thankfully, things have been improving over time. Specially with the advent of the internet, things have improved a lot. Mexico in general is now a big marketplace for AAA titles. So much that some big game studios like Microsoft now translate their games to "latin american spanish"; previously, all you would get was European Spanish, which, while perfectly understandable to any latin american, sounds a bit weird due to the marked European accent (imagine all your english subs and dubs being in British English).

Gaming has become so important in Mexico that, in fact, the roles have reversed: now it's harder to find someone who doesn't play any games than someone who does.

Something unique about gaming in Mexico: the video game making industry is almost completely non existent. For such a big market, one would expect everybody to be making games and trying to get a slice of the cake; but nope. We are happy to play games made by everybody else.

It’s so fascinating that you owe your computer programming career to Mega Man. When did you start coding, and did your early coding involve games? 

I started coding at around age 14, when I got my first computer: an IBM PC 80383, with 1 Megabyte of RAM (yes, MEGAbyte, not Gigabyte) and a black and white monitor... Well, more like black and nuclear glowing green... aaah~, those were the days~

I would code in something called Quick Basic, a programming language that, if I recall correctly, was included with MS-DOS, the command line OS that was available on my computer.

And yes, most of my early works were very VERY VEEERY crappy text-only video games. Unfortunately, none of them survive to this day.

While my current job is not related to making games, I still take some of my free time to play around with available video game creation engines like Unreal 4, Unity 5 and so on. So much fun :)

I have a dream of making a more modern and story driven Mega Man game that remains truthful to it's old school NES roots... but that takes way more resources (especially time) than I have available... at least for now... Have not given up yet!

What games are you into today?

Today, I barely have any free time to play, but I'd have to admit I have a soft spot for construction games ^_^. I got very addicted to this game called "Project Highrise", although I think I'm almost cured of the addiction by now... I have also been playing Mega Man Zero on a live stream with a friend, as well as Dragon Ball Z Xenoverse sporadically.

I guess I can summarize my gaming preferences as follows:

1-Mega Man

2-Fighting games (mostly Capcom ones)


4-Everything else. Not too much into AAA titles, but would give them a try if I have the chance.

Is there anything else about you that you think someone would need to know to truly understand your gaming history, and who you are as a gamer?

I'm a very shy guy!

Actually, I've always been a very anti-social, quiet, reserved, introverted person... but once I open up, you'd wish I had stayed that way ^_^"

Upcoming Readings in San Francisco and Los Angeles March 05 2016

We've got two live readings coming up! Both of them are planned around conferences (GDC and AWP) to maximize the number of you who can potentially make it:

1. Spelunky Release Party - San Francisco, CA - March 17 - 7:30 pm - Green Apple Books on the Park - Readings from Derek Yu, Nick Suttner, Anna Anthropy, and Gabe Durham

Facebook event:

2. Heart-Pounding Panic - Los Angeles, CA - April 1 - 7:30pm - Stories Books and Cafe - Readings from Alyse Knorr, Matt Bell, Salvatore Pane, Jarrett Kobek, Nick Suttner, Daniel Lisi, and Gabe Durham

Facebook event:

So if you're around, please join! See some readings, buy some books, get them signed, drink some drinks, meet some authors. It's going to be a couple of great nights.