Monday, 24 September 2012

Wee Gamers Interview ..... Matthew Sprange from Mongoose Publishing

Thus far Wee Gamers has teased the truth from award winners, innovators, and reclusive artists. After having touched minds with someone to whom Cthulhu is a close personal friend, where is there  left to go? 

Well it was obvious when the Judge Dredd Kickstarter for Mongoose came to our attention.  The only thing scarier than a great old one, Old Stoney Face Judge Dredd.  Icon of the British comic 2000AD the lawman has graced it's pages since issue 2. What well adjusted lad of a certain age hasn't read through its pages and dreamed of delivering justice at the barrel of a Lawgiver? 

Well our victim today gets to do that and more.

While Mongoose's delivery of Judge Dredd isn't the first, it's probably fair to say its the most polished and accurate offering to date, staying true (this far) to the canon both in the feel of the rules systems and the quality of miniatures produced. But what's it been like to tackle the mega crimes of the mega city, what's it all about and where's it going to? Let's find out.

SJS: Okay Judge Sprange how come you got the project to bring Mega City One to the table top this time round?

Judge Sprange: Well, we have had the Judge Dredd licence for about ten years now - it was our very first licensed game, back in 2001, with the Judgbe Dredd RPG, using the D20 system. We have maintained a very close relationship with Rebellion (the owners of 2000AD) ever since. In fact, we have recently signed a new 
agreement with them that gives us access to just about every 2000AD property!

SJS: Your a self stated fan boy, what to your mind is special about the game mechanics that help convey the feel of MC1 and the world their in?

Judge Sprange: Well, they are based on the Battlefield Evolution/Starship Troopers mechanics, which in themselves were based on Gangs of Mega-City One. It is a very flexible system that can handle anything from, say, Standard Execution rounds on rapid fire, to Rubber Ricochets. Really, these rules are just great for any small unit actions, and I would say you are likely to see them popping up in other settings.

SJS: Was there anything in terms of the game you feel had to be sacrificed to make it flow/work that in the wee small hours you still lament over? Or are these evolving rules? Apt to be expanded or updated depending on its success and feed back?

Judge Sprange: They are certainly evolving. Because they are free to download PDFs, we can make changes at any time, and we have taken advantage of that by bringing in players and actively asking for their comments. If you make a good suggestion on our forums, you might well find it incorporated into the next version of the rules.

SJS: There have been many writers for JD many artists which have both added to the Dreddverse but are equally different from each other. How did you settle on the 'look' that was right for you and what period of  Dredd do you think this reflects?

Judge Sprange: We don't really make a judgement on that - it is all Mega-City One to us. We try to make the models fairly realistic rather than stylised, but we can work with just about any style of art and writing.

SJS: Kickstarter really seems to be working for this project as many other Wargames/RPG firms seem to be moving to kickstarter for funding, do you think this is the future for the industry? And why do you think it seems to work so well?

Judge Sprange: Early days yet, but people are doing well with it. I think it is a factor of several things coming together. Kickstarter (as I understand it) was designed for avant garde poets and film makers who needed greater access to funding. However, miniatures companies can take the same tools and are effectively using them as a pre-ordering and marketing system. In that role, it is very effective. It also removes a degree of risk from the companies concerned which, in this economy, is no bad thing. If a new game is not going to work, you will find that out before investing huge amounts into it.  This, in turn, can make distribution and retail more solid, as shopkeepers are not left with duff product that looked good but sold badly.

Everyone wins, so it has to be a good thing!

SJS: Now we're in danger of the lore of Dredd over 'shadowing' your own background here, so let's 'alter course' - forgive the bad puns (there all I have btw) but of we would be amiss not to mention Babylon 5 A Call to Arms, Victory at Sea and did I miss anything? Some very exciting games there, and with Dredd some not so small names too. Is working with well known/loved icons a blessing or a curse? Do you feel confined by the concepts already established and what are the rewards for you, beyond the fun of getting to play in a universe you like?

Judge Sprange: You are confined by an existing universe, of course, but that is the nature of the beast and, if you are passionate about that setting, you kind of automatically steer clear of the boundaries anyway. I mean, if you had the Star Wars licence, you would never put phasers and photon torpedoes in it, right?

SJS: some complain that space combat games are navel games with space ships. Is this true for you, and if not what sets them apart?

Judge Sprange: I think that is absolutely true. And I do not see anything wrong with it.

The issue is partly 3D, and partly vector movement - both can be a pain in the rear end to implement in a game and, at the end of the day, if they add 10% more enjoyment but 90% more complexity, they are not worth it. Get rid of them and you have a better game.

SJS: which of the many games you've worked on thus far in your career would you say your most proud of? (and obviously why?)

Judge Sprange: Either A Call to Arms: Babylon 5 or Starship Troopers. Both games were very tight in their own ways, and both have endured with many gamers long since we stopped producing them.

SJS: it's easy to ask someone like yourself, what's the hardest part of the job or the easiest etc, but if the Internet has taught me one thing it's that 'fans' love to bitch, criticise and generally bemoan every detail of anything they don't like the 'look of'. Speaking in general terms, do you ever experience the pointy end of the armchair critics and how do you as a creative person deal with external and internal criticisms?

Judge Sprange: Happens all the time :)  However, you have to remember why people get in your face sometimes. It is because they care about what you do and the games you make. If they did not care, they would not even speak to you. It is about the passion they have for their games and while the way this manifests itself is not always pleasent, it comes from a good place.

At the end of the day, we all like to play and talk about games...

SJS: Hopping back on the dredd wagon, we've seen on Kickstarter the hinted promise of Dark judges (which may by posting time be a reality) as too the Sov Block judges..... Where else can we go? Are we possibly to see playable gangs from all the available cities? Will we see Lunar city judges?  Prisoners from Titan? Or even JUSTICE ONE? And I have to ask this as a personal one, cause years ago I had the corgi toy which was the Cursed Earth tank - will it grace the shelves? Go on tell us we won't tell a single person............

Judge Sprange: Everything you just mentioned is possible, and we'll have to see where the Kickstarter (and the game itself beyond that) takes us.

Except the Cursed Earth tank, however. The Killdozer/Land-Raider is not owned by 2000AD and is off limits.

SJS: what's next on your own sights, or what might you like to get to grips with as your next project? (they might be reading this ;)

Judge Sprange: Well, some day, I would like to do a Star Wars miniatures game - but that can wait.

Victory at Sea is our next big project, both with a revision to the rulebook and a new line of models. Then there is Blue Shift, our game of space fighter mercenary squadrons, Rattenkrieg, a game we are doing in conjunction with On The Lamb Games, and of course I have been whittering away about a possible Rogue Trooper game...

SJS: (the personal interest question lol ) when your not elbow deep in games, what's the off duty Matthew like to do of a day off?

Look after Guinea Pigs (Starbuck and Boomer), and fly radio-controlled aircraft!

SJS: ( question 13 is as we always do, for fun) So your sitting in your conapt when the doors kicked in, it's the Judges on a 59c.....what crimes are they going to find you guilty of citizen? And don't give me your innocent, everyone's got something to hide.

I would have to hold my hand up and say I likely have some pretty dodgy material in my music collection!

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