This blog-series introduces the core Bright Star Studios team so you can learn more about the people behind Ember Sword — and today’s member is Samuel Horton.Samuel Horton (going by “Sam” internally) is a writer at heart with a long history within the games and esports scene. Sam is in charge of writing the lore and quests that come alive in the Ember Sword universe through closely working our Creative Lead, Sage Durain, and the rest of the artist team.
To get you properly introduced to Sam, we figured we’d ask him the 4 most essential questions you can ask a fellow game developer — so tell us, Sam;
What’s your favorite new(‘ish) game?
What’s your favorite game of all time?
What’s your favorite gaming experience/memory?
It was actually one where nobody was playing any video games at all. In 2012, I was invited to the VIP section of Mojang’s “.party()”, where I mingled with game designers and professional esports players. It was euphoric, to sit around a couch and talk about anything and everything with developers of my oldest and favorite titles, as well as the developers of the new biggest hits.
It was almost as if I were living a strange dream where every figure of my life’s passion arranged themselves. Not needing to wake up from said dream was incredibly cathartic.
What’s the game you’ve spent the most hours playing?
Oh, God. World of Warcraft, with no close second place!
And now, over to you, Sam. Take it away 🙂
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By my reckoning, my path of creativity began when I was a toddler who dreamed of becoming an airline pilot, while living in the frigid north of Barrow, Alaska. I’d sacrifice sleep, in favor of recreating the Denver International Airport with my building blocks and airplane models. Considering that this occurred right around the release of the film House of Cards, about a traumatized girl who communicated through building a card tower that her mother needed to replicate, my parents began to wonder if they needed to start building an airport of their own!
I was also introduced to my first video games around this time, with my parents’ copies of Myst, King’s Quest VI, and The 7th Guest.
By the age of seven, I was inspired by my father’s writing exploits, including his published novels A Life on the Line and Original Animals, prompting me to pick up a pencil and notepad and begin my own literary career with Animorphs fanfiction.
I arguably began my path towards creating my own games by producing custom maps for Loderunner, StarCraft and Warcraft III. Furthermore, I established my lifelong mantra of understanding art by knowing the artists at a personal level. Among the creative types I formed relationships with, one of the most influential and long-lasting would be IceFrog, known for being the pseudonymous designer of Dota.
Over the past decade, I’ve been able to discuss game design and the philosophy behind franchising and intellectual property with him, as I’ve watched Dota go from a popular Warcraft III map to Valve’s flagship franchise, making for a highly gratifying Cinderella story. Sam and KuroKy duking it out in closed, pre-beta Dota.
Concurrent with my creative exploits, I became involved with the esports scene in 2008, when I joined the leading World of Warcraft team, Nihilum, as a scene journalist. Working under Mark Laursen, now the CEO of Bright Star Studios, I learned about just how far the dedication of consumers — professional players — could go in the video game arena.
After the Nihilum brand was shuttered, I continued my esports career as a content creator and manager for other premier esports teams, including SK Gaming, Nirvana, MeetYourMakers, Evil Geniuses and Red Bull, with my primary emphasis being StarCraft II and Dota.
I kicked off my professional career as a creator in the entertainment industry in 2012, with my work as a writer on the education program The Solar System — Explore. Designed by my friend Chris Albeluhn, this independent project exploded into the stratosphere — pun intended — in the coming weeks, with articles from preeminent space and gaming magazines.
Looking for more space-themed action, I held discussions with Minecraft’s creator, Markus “Notch” Persson, about his new game, 0x10c. Though the outlook was positive, the collaboration would never come to fruition, as the project was delayed, until it was indefinitely shelved a year later.
I was brought into the film scene a year later, with the production of my short film, Forever, which was shot with little prowess, though written with an inspired screenplay that came to me during a bout of insomnia. Though the finished product was far from my own standards, I expanded my previously singular focus on video games into a two-pronged launch into the film industry.
I wrote a documentary about the CubeSat technology, titled “Cube”, the next year, followed by a controversial short drama called Alastair Tembylton. In April 2017, I signed on with Dramatic Artists Agency, which I have been a proud part of ever since.
In October 2018, as I went through a reminiscent and sentimental spell, I decided to read up on the exploits of my old colleagues. It was at this point that I read about my former manager from Nihilum, Mark, and his work overseeing the ambitious MMORPG, Ember Sword. Recognizing that there had not been a narrative writer involved at that juncture, I reached out to Mark and discussed the possibility of joining Bright Star Studios.
After checking out my work from our ten years of lost contact, Mark introduced me to the team and placed me as the Head of Story & Franchise Development, which has me working in tight conjunction with Creative Lead, Sage Durain.
I’m a strong believer in giving players complete free will.
The experiences I’ve had throughout my twenty-eight years of playing, writing and designing, is now directly influencing my work on Ember Sword, where I’m a strong believer in giving players complete free will.
As a former avid World of Warcraft player, I saw that the game was strongest during its early days, from Vanilla to The Burning Crusade. With the release of Wrath of the Lich King, Blizzard focused increasingly more on linear storytelling and cinematics, arguably corralling players.
I’d contend that this was an unnecessary and detrimental direction, as the original days of World of Warcraft maintained a firmly congruent world, yet players never felt tethered to the beaten path.
As head of Story & Franchise Development, I am rekindling this concept through Ember Sword — to provide players with a structurally strong narrative that may be approached from any direction and told in any order.
Though there will be plenty of opportunities for players to follow sequential quest structures it will always be at their own volition for how the story may be formulated; at the end of the day, players are their own storytellers, and your experiences within Ember Sword is what writes your story.
Why We’re Building Ember Sword
With Ember Sword, we’re building the next generation Free to Play MMORPG player experience — a re-thinking of what an MMORPG is and can be.
We want to forge an alternative path for games, moving away from predatory monetization and loot box gambling, towards a future where players have a permanent stake in their game world.
We believe that players should be free to trade their in-game cosmetic items, even on secondary marketplaces, and we believe in game design that creates a fair and thriving no-pay-to-win gameplay environment.
We believe in empowering artists to monetize their work, we believe in true ownership over digital items, and we believe in a persistent digital universe built by the players, with ultimate freedom and no borders.
And above all, we know that a great MMORPG starts with an excited community finally in control! We couldn’t be more excited about the future, and we hope you’ll join us on this journey!