Jan “Smejki” Smejkal was born in Prague, in Czech Republic. He had close contact to Daniel Vávra from the beginning at Warhorse Studios and joined the team as a Designer very early. Before the launch of the Kickstarter campaign.
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You can find a Spanish translation of this interview here.
1) How did you hear about Warhorse and how did you join?
tl;dr – If you hire me, you’ll end up on Kickstarter
That’s a rather unusual story.
Being a gaming enthusiast, I obviously knew about Warhorse since their very first announcement of, “Hey y’all, we exist! And we’re cooking something…” That was about 2 years before the KCD Kickstarter. When Wasteland 2 succeeded on Kickstarter way back when, I asked Dan on Twitter if he would ever consider launching a Kickstarter and he replied, “Nah, we got the money that we need now.” That of course happened before KCD eventually got rejected by all publishers due to their, “All is mobile now! Nobody’s gonna buy the next gen consoles” craziness. Let’s fast forward a year when Warhorse was seeking some designer talent (while still pitching Kingdom Come to publishers). I was a contributor for the same gaming site Dan Vávra used to write for during his post-Mafia2/pre-Warhorse intermezzo, so we kinda knew each other. Dan asked me if by some chance I wished to give the design test a try. I said to myself, “Yeah, why not. Let’s try the test just for fun.” As it turned out, I was among 6 lucky chosen ones to design the whole thing. Going from a programmer to a rookie designer wasn’t ideal but it was also tempting, so I didn’t reject the offer. A few weeks later I visited Warhorse to sort everything out and they said, “Could you wait a bit? We’re in trouble and we’re launching a Kickstarter shortly. Don’t tell anyone.” Damn was I hit with a massive flashback with that Kickstarter thing. From time-to-time I kinda feel responsible for it.
Well, long story short we eventually agreed that I would join the team by January and help them with the February campaign.
2) Describe your position. What is it about being a Designer or Scripter?
I spent 2 years in the design team writing quests and generally just doing design work.
I have worked as a scripter for over a year now, which is a bit closer to my technical heart. On one hand, I finally get to bitch about my former design colleagues as I turned into someone who has to implement all the unmakeable crazy shit they’d come up with. On the other hand, I no longer own the quests I wrote which I pity a bit. Some underwent major changes by the hands of former colleagues as the design developed further and some, as usual, ended up being canceled for the time being. So that’s it. Designers write and design stuff while the scripters implement it. I’ve lived both of these lives.
3) Did you ever work on Videogames before?
tl;dr - Praise old Fallouts and you’ll be fine
Before Warhorse, I used to work as an operator system programmer for a certain Swiss producer for some special machines. In the meantime, I was a part of the English-to-Czech official translation team for Fallout New Vegas and later I lead translations for the DLCs. And as I’ve said before, I used to be a contributor for one of the largest Czech gaming sites where I mainly reviewed games. I am also a Fallout universe addict so for about 4 years I co-lead the largest Czecho-Slovak Fallout fansite (people from there ‘recently’ released a Fallout 1.5 Resurrection mod. Try it). I should also add that Fallout 3 and 4 are shit not for me. As I’m writing this I’ve realized that this seems to be a good enough background for becoming a designer since Jan “Bodkin” Němec (who also works for Warhorse as a designer) was also working on the translations, and also used to be a programmer and was also a prominent member of the Fallout fandom. We knew each other for years before Warhorse but believe it or not, we arrived at Warhorse completely independent of one another, just running into each other one day saying, “How the hell did you get in here?”.
4) Which job would you not want to do?
I would never want to script any of my larger quests. They were… complex. I would have a hard time trying to resist the urge to kill the author. Some might end up in our future works so I might eventually get killed by my present colleagues who will be assigned to script them. Wish me luck!
5) What is your favorite team activity?
Hermetically seal myself from others using headphones and just write the hell out of the code. Also our occasional LAN parties.
6) What are you currently working on?
I’ve recently finished implementing the very last quest in the game. I can’t wait for the players to get this far and see it in all its glory along with credits and of course followed by pressing “Start New Game” again.
Now I’m working on another main quest by Jan “Bodkin” Němec. Script-wise, it’s one of the largest in the game.
7) What do you like the most about Kingdom Come: Deliverance?
I am convinced the combination of the theme, genre, and production quality have enormous potential. It would be a shame if somebody used that to create some mediocre boilerplate bullshit.
8) How, when and with what platform or game did you first get acquainted with videogames?
PC. Start to finish. My first games were Warcraft, Sim City, Wolfenstein, Doom, Lemmings, and plenty of others for that era. At the age of 12, my gaming life completely changed when I got my hands on Fallout 2 . This was where I realized that games could be something more than just goals and scores and levels and boss fights and challenges and whatnot. I also realized how pointless the age restriction systems are. Fallout was 18+ and I even played the American version where you could kill kids. IMHO a deep thought-provoking but violent game is more enriching to a child’s mind than some forgettable non-controversial action-y movie tie-in. But I digress. To complete the circle, I finished the new DOOM a few days back. I enjoyed the HELL out of it. I mean it was HELLuva good.
9) What was your most touching video game moment?
I was completely blown away by Spec Ops: The Line but not by what is usually part of the discourse. I have never ever grown to despise a protagonist so much. And that was actually the designers’ goal. Total sync. I enjoyed my hatred. Bigly…
10) Which class, gender, or type do you usually pick?
When a certain group of people finally make the gamedev companies offer a playable old black-maori confined-to-wheelchair, left-eye-missing gender fluid omnisexual, I’m definitely picking that one… as a warrior, of course. Until then I will continue trying to mimic myself and play as a mage if need be.
11) What would a perfect game according to your wishes look like?
The version of Kingdom Come I’m imagining in my head of course. There are still no dragons or magic, but there is a nuclear wasteland.
12) How do you relax after a hard day at work?
That’s an oxymoron! When the day is really hard I catapult myself head first into bed. On a normal day I run about 10km, watch a show/movie, play a game (Witcher 3 currently, Torment is next), play with my dog Ralph or just simply spend some nice time with my wonderful wife.
13) Your favorite movie or book?
- Robert Merle – Malevil
- Stanisław Lem – Solaris
- Children of Men
- 12 Monkeys
14) Your travel tip?
Granada and Ronda, Spain. I’m totally blown away by these places.
Cordóba on the other hand? The former grand mosque was beautiful but the rest of the city was a major letdown.
15) Sport is…
Yes. I totally agree.
16) What’s your guilty pleasure?
Bizzare and facepalm inducing jokes.
17) What was your greatest mistake?
Whatever it was it has been outweighed by what came instead.
18) Do you have a Bucket List?
I guess making a bucket list should be on my bucket list. But I suppose life instead of mere survival is a good thing to have there.
19) What will be your famous last words?
Wait, they’ll be famous?
20) Is it possible to buy you with candy?
Uhm… that’s a strategy I’m using on others! From time-to-time my wife bakes some deliciousness for our department.
21) Who is your favorite historic character?
Can’t decide between Isaac Newton, Leonhard Euler and that no-name guy who introduced Albert Einstein’s parents to each other.
22) Which is your favorite historic event?
a) The destruction of pre-Colombian civilizations by the Spanish. We can only imagine all the things that were lost irretrievably.
b) Doing the same as Kingdom of Bohemia in Europa Universalis.
23) You have to fight in medieval times… who are you? Which weapon do you choose?
I’m using my legs to get the hell outta there.
24) Knights or Samurai?
25) Where are you born?
I was born in Prague and I spent a third of my life near the place where the next part of KCD is to be situated. I can’t wait to see it come to life in a game like ours! It’s truly a place like no other.
26) What was your favorite subject and your most hated one at school?
Despite being a trouble maker I was always a good student. Ironically I’ve always had an A in chemistry despite me hating it. I find it easy but dull and uninspiring. To surprise absolutely nobody… physics, electronics, automation, math, history, and language were my jam.
27) If you could say something to the fans of Kingdom Come: Deliverance, what would it be?
For now you are mainly fanning an idea, partially made up by your own minds. When the final product hits the shelves be fair but definitely judge us. Judge us hard. For that is the only way that we will get better.
Do you have any additional questions regarding Jan “Smejki” Smejkal? Just ask here!