Monday, 18 November 2013

Battle Systems gives Wee Gamers the background scenery

There is a nice wee kickstarter up at the minute from Battle Systems.  Battle Systems is a sci-fi and fantasy system designed to create detailed interiors that can be used with a wide variety of role-playing tabletop game systems.  These designs are downloadable which you construct yourself.

The guys behind Battle Systems have found their line is popular with hobbyists but they decided to make something easier for gamers who don't have time to build their sets from scratch.  So they designed a line of terrain which is easy to assemble with no painting, gluing or cutting required and is ideal for many game systems including Warhammer 40K, Infinity, Mercs, Zone Mortalis, War Path, Star Wars Minis, Deadzone and Pandora. It's also ideal for non-sci-fi systems such as Achtung! Cthulhu :)

Wee Gamers caught up with Wayne and Colin from Battle Systems and tied them to one of their own control panels and tickled them until they spilled the beans.

1- The move from your paper and card self build kits to the Kickstarter punch boards seems to have finally brought you the wider recognition for the quality of your designs,how does it feel to have seen your kickstarter fund in a matter of 4 hours?

Wayne - Amazing of course but I don’t think it’s really sunk in. It probably won’t until the cheque comes in and we’re standing in a factory in China!

Colin: To be honest I was expecting to be funded otherwise we never would have done the KS, however I was hoping we would get funded in the first week so we could get through some stretch goals. I even entertained the thought that we might get funded in the first weekend, however, 4 hours... nope. :o)

2- Now Battle Systems has been on the ground for a while now working away and developing your product, while the KS design is a much different build from the paper kits do you feel the times been wasted or well spent bringing you to where you are today, lost opportunity or refining skills the whole time?

Wayne – the downloadable content line (DLC) taught us a lot. It taught as how to make a product, how to sell it online, how to market it, basically everything. It doesn’t make much money but it is self sustaining. Also, I think the thing it taught us the most is that gamers aren’t necessarily hobbyists and vice versa!

Colin: Personally, I had never used Photoshop before and I asked Wayne to show me the basics. The DLC helped me work faster and with better results. It took me 18 months to draw the DLC; I did the KS product in 7 months. Our Fantasy line... Well it’s half done in 1 month, but getting it all out there is a different matter altogether.

3- Back now into the mists of time, how did Battle systems come together (no pun intended) and has the idea of what you wanted to make changed drastically from the first coffee table chats to where you are.

Wayne – it actually goes back 20 years. We played a lot of Space Crusade and Colin was mental on Space Hulk and 40K. He built his own sets out of card and they looked amazing (or at least that’s how I remember them). Five years ago he asked me to design a website for vinyl terrain he’d designed. After a bit more research he realised it wasn’t that viable and I thought that was the end of it. Then three years later Colin asked me to redesign the site for a new downloadable set he’d been quietly working away on. I was reluctant at first because I knew how much work it would be but the more we talked the more excited I got and eventually I was dragged in full time. After about 6 months we realised that we were never going to make enough money. The DLC line was popular but it was too niche – it was aimed squarely at gamers who enjoyed spending hours building their terrain! Colin started developing the new line and it snowballed from there.

Colin: Yeah, I started with resin mould, then plastic sheets, then card. I wanted something that needed no painting, gluing and minimal set up time. The DLC helped me work out the kinks and the KS product we now have is where it needs to be. So I guess I’m saying it’s changed massively in design, but the principles behind it have stayed the same.

4- Where you ever close to dropping the whole idea? Or did you get any criticism that made you question the wisdom of the terrain making business in this way?

Wayne – I was a struggling designer and Battle Systems was taking up a lot of my time so of course I thought about dropping it – I was starving for art! But I believed that Colin knew what he was doing and gritted my teeth. Criticism was of the nit picking type – people telling us how to run our business and don’t do this but do that. But no one thought we were onto a loser, everyone was very supportive.

Colin: When we submitted the DLC range I was waiting for a backlash of issues. But there were none, not with the product at any rate, only the odd server problem and the like. I was amazed at the kind words. What struck me was the amount of people that wanted it, but did not have the time to make it... Opportunity! I just had to figure out how to do the same again without any modelling skills required by the end user.

5- So can you take us through how an 'idea' becomes a piece of terrain, what steps do you have to go through? And is there a 'ideas' man or more collaborative at the concept stage?

Wayne – Colin is the sole product designer. I have ideas of my own lined up for future projects but for now it’s 100% him. We collaborate on everything else, from logo design to what I write on the blog.

Colin: It’s simple, think of a terrain piece, is it needed by gamers, can it be done in card, can it be manufactured? Build it in my head, build it in card, texture it. Done. I then pass it to Wayne for crit and 99% of the time we both give it the thumbs up. The business side of things is where it gets complicated, tooling set up, logistics, cost, taxes, etc. Lol.

6- How important is public comment on your designs to you, both in refining what you have and developing new pieces?

Wayne – Very. For Colin, first port of call is my opinion, if I don’t like it it goes in the bin. Second, we ask the public what they think, if they like it, great, if they don’t we have a re-think. We don’t believe you can sell people something that they don’t want and you shouldn’t even if you could.

Colin: Wayne has it spot on there; the KS is a whole new ball game though. The guys who are backing us have put a massive list of items they would like to see. We check our list and theirs and have actually been producing content from both lists. It’s a crazy thing to manage, but works for both of us. Just means I live on a computer at the moment. I’m assuming my wife and kids are still about. Lol

7- having 'made it' so to speak there can't be to many Highs on on a par currently with that, but what's been the biggest set back or disappointment you've had to cope with since Battle Systems has been going, and how did you deal with it.

Wayne - We went to a show and the DLC didn’t sell - the year before they were flying out of our hands. We were there to promote the card terrain but it was still puzzling particularly as the DLC line still sells consistently online.

Colin: Yeah it was strange that the DLC did not sell, but we had already done the show the year before and I think all were geared up for the new product. Hardest thing for me personally is managing the business and product at the same time, add a KS to that mix and it all gets a bit silly really.

8- Your designs seem to really have no limit to the adding and expanding, but will we see radically different designs down the road now that this first Set is in the bag, and if so what sort of themes do you have in store for us all?

Wayne - We have a really nice dungeon terrain lined up, Steampunk Wild West, Feudal Japan, to name a few and much more sci-fi, if they want it. Time is precious so we won’t pursue anything that we don’t think is wanted, even if we love it ourselves.

Yep, we will go where the demand is for the sake of the business, luckily the demand is from cool gamers and we are cool gamers (well gamers at least) so we think we are going to enjoy the ride.

9- Freeloaders, it often seems there's plenty of people looking something for nothing, we can't help but wonder since you revealed your new way for Battle Systems have you had an increase in 'can you send me a sample' requests for whatever reason? Or have you seen previous indifferent reviews become more interested now the kit build is easier?

Wayne - There’s always been a strong interest in our terrain and plenty of people asking for free stuff, we don’t mind, its part of the business.

Colin: Yeah, every time we give something for free, we just skip a meal. ;O)

10- What conventions of events down the line can guys and girls ,who can't for whatever reason do the kickstarter, get to see you and your kits in the flesh and pick some up once their available.

Wayne – Salute is the obvious one. We’re looking into anything we think is worth us loading a van up and driving to, including local gaming events. We keep people in the loop by our Facebook page and our blog and newsletter.

Travelling to the bigger conventions would be great. At the start though we will need to keep it local, due to shipping costs etc. However, we are looking forward to lots more shows.

11- Now your not alone in making very nice sci if terrain, but in your own opinion what is it sets BS above the rest that should make folk pick you over anything else?and do you have a favourite element in the pieces already made? Why? (Either way lol)

Wayne - The obvious thing is that you don’t have to paint it. It looks good, is easy to build and easy to mod. I think we’re both agreed that the turbine is the current favourite. It’s so damn solid!

Colin: Turbine is cool; however as of writing this I have just completed a set of bunks. These are great as you can kick them over to make cover. I’m all excited about them... give me a few days and it will be something else.

12- What sort of gaming do you folks enjoy yourselves, are their any favourites and in general what's the real world fun stuff you like to do to relax and escape the high pressure fame and excitement of the hobby industry ? ;-)

Wayne - I’m a Necromunda and Space hulk guy myself but i’ve not had the time to play in ages. I like to play video games such as Fallout 3 which has had an influence on the look of Battle Systems, if only when Colin wasn’t looking :)

Colin: Yeah Wayne, get back to work :o) Most of the games I play are mod versions of the original. I do have a fully ruled Star Wars mini game, that’s my fav, but I also like the game Zombicide and I think Deadzone will be a good play.

Now out thirteenth question is normally a bit of fun so here goes

13-The BS team awaken in a seemingly endless maze complex of an abandoned underground's cold......dark and eerie. Who's the ones who holds it together, escape is a matter of time, who loses it totally 'I can't go on, leave me here well never get out'...who is more likely to go 'aliens' and fabricate a makeshift weapon ready for danger around every corner .....and who will be the first to think to check their mobile phone for a signal?

Wayne: I’d be on my mobile like a shot, even if it’s just to use it as a light! Endless games of Hero Quest and Fallout 3 has taught me to search everywhere for anything of the slightest value :) I’d be embarrassed to freak out in front of Colin and he’s not that big on freaking out anyway so we’d be a pair of sensible chaps making their way methodically to the exit!

Colin: Simple, I kill Wayne, take his phone and his supplies to double my own life and chances of getting out. I then find the exit just round the corner and discover the only way to climb out is if someone gives me a bunk up. (runs back to Wayne... 1,2,3,4,5 breathe, 1,2,3,4,5 breathe, 1,2,3,4,5...)

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