The Next Level

If you’ve been following my tweets or Facebook updates over the past year, or have been watching this blog, you may have noticed a few references to a little project called LEVEL 7. For the past couple of years, LEVEL 7 is what has consumed the better portion of my time, but it’s not just one project, it’s several connected and related projects. The biggest undertaking, for me, has been a short film called [WELCOME TO] LEVEL 7. It’s eight minutes of sci-fi-thriller-action-horror and I hope to be able to showing it online very soon.

Another big undertaking has been the LEVEL 7 [ESCAPE] board game that will be released by Privateer Press this summer. The big effort on this project was put in by Privateer’s game development team and helmed by William “Oz” Schoonover. Using a feature length screenplay, a short film script, storyboards, concept art and a world bible that I supplied them, Oz and company turned the story into a very fun, very tense, and very exciting board game that brought all of the creepy, thrilling and dynamic elements of the setting to life.

I’ll have more to say about the short film soon, but in the meantime I’m going to abuse my executive authority to play a little game of my own and give you a shot at getting your hands on a copy of LEVEL 7 [ESCAPE] before it even hits the stores. Here’s how it’s going to work:

First, you have to be following me on Twitter @MattWilsonPrime. All you have to do is hit that link or the button in the margin on the home page of the blog and confirm the follow. Second, watch this blog for my update on [WELCOME TO] LEVEL 7. If you want to be on the front lines, it’d be a good idea to sign up for the updates, which you can also do on the home page of this blog. Then, keep an eye on Twitter. Three times within 72 hours of posting the next LEVEL 7 update on the blog, I’ll tweet a question, the answer to which can be found in the blog post. The first person to reply to the tweet each time will win a copy of LEVEL 7 [ESCAPE] which I’ll ship to you in a few months once they’re in Privateer’s warehouse! So sign up and stay on your toes — there’s more to come!

THE FINE PRINT: This is not an officially endorsed Privateer Press, Inc. contest. It’s being conducted solely by moi. Only one copy per person, so if you’re the first person to answer one of the questions, step aside for others on the following questions. Last, while I’ll ship the game out to you before it hits stores, depending on where in the world you live, I can’t guarantee it’ll get to you before the release, so if you’re not a U.S. resident, keep in mind there will be a longer shipping time. If you are a winner, I’ll send you a message to contact me via email so I can obtain your shipping information — don’t worry, I’ll pay the shipping! 

 

Confessions of a Former Science-Fiction Addict

I have a confession to make. I don’t really read fiction…anymore.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I actually read a lot of fiction, but perhaps not like most people and definitely not like I used to. It’s not for lack of want, and certainly not for lack of availability. There’s an endless supply of amazing and engaging science-fiction and fantasy out there, so much so it can be hard to settle on something if you have to make a choice.

Like many that are probably reading this, I dove into fiction at a very early age. My first exposures to fantasy were C.S. Lewis and Lloyd Alexander. These authors ignited my young imagination and sent me searching for anything unreal that I could get my hands on. Later I discovered true science-fiction with Asimov and Herbert, and I couldn’t get enough. I joined the science-fiction book club — you know, the one where you get twelve books for a penny and then had to buy something like four at full price in the coming year? Ha! It’s amazing I didn’t single-handedly put them out of business. I devoured those books like a Sandworm devours sand plankton, quitting after I had purchased my quota, only to rejoin and harvest my next dozen books for a penny — over and over and over again.

Moorcock, Zealazny, Powers, Wolfe, Eddings — these guys showed me that science-ficiton and fantasy were entirely undefinable and unlimited. It could be heroic and epic, dark and twisted, sexy and cutting edge, brutal and haunting. There were no boundaries. There was no place you couldn’t go. I’d read every night, usually until four in the morning, turning off my light just long enough to grab a few hours of sleep before class the next day, and I had more than my share of agitated teachers wake me in the middle of class when I tried to grab a few more. But I was an addict, I couldn’t stop.

Then somewhere along the way, I did. Sometime after having my mind blown by Gibson, Chrichton, and Stephenson, I found myself creating stories of my own. All the inspiration I’d derived from years of reading these masters came out in the form of comics and then games. Soon, I found myself in limited supply of two very necessary commodities that you need on hand when you’re about to tuck in with a good book: bandwidth and brain space.

I don’t end up with a lot of downtime in my schedule, and when I do have a spare moment, my grey matter usually feels like room-temperature oatmeal made with too much water. And more often than not, my mush brain is actually due to writing and reading copious amounts of fiction.

I split my day between a lot of different activities, but one of the primary tasks is writing, usually in the form of a screenplay these days. Another thing that occupies a lot of my attention is editorial work. At Privateer, I try to stay heavily involved in the fiction of our worlds and participate in initial story-forming as well as providing feedback on early drafts in an effort to foster an overall cohesive vision for the setting. I’m not alone in this effort as we have a dedicated creative staff, and many eyes pass over each piece of work as it goes through development and evolution, but it can be a lot to keep track of, especially when you start hopping worlds.

Jumping from writing a new screenplay, to giving notes on a WARMACHINE novella, to writing background fiction for LEVEL 7 all in one day can make my head swim. I’ve found that over time, my brain can only hold so many worlds in it, tracking the characters, the story arcs and the details of each setting with any sort of accuracy. The thought of cracking into a novel and inviting a new world into my slowly softening skull is almost terrifying.

But I do! It just has to be a special circumstance. These days, if I read fiction that isn’t related to Privateer, it’s usually because I know the person who penned it. Having a personal attachment to the author always makes the read more exciting to me. There’s something more real and intimate and tangible when I can hear that person’s voice in my head as I read the words.

Occasionally, I have had the honor of reading very early drafts of the work of close friends. One such friend is a writer that I’ve mentioned in the past, the magnificently talented Miles Holmes. Like myself, Miles has somewhat of a dual identity. He enjoys a brilliant career with many accolades in the video game industry, having worked as a lead designer on the acclaimed MASS EFFECT franchise as well as the SONIC CHRONICLES, and was also the senior designer of the outrageous car-combat franchise, FULL AUTO — just to name a few. He’s also got game design credits to his name and even contributed to No Quarter Magazine a few years back. And he’s also a brilliant author of fiction.

While I’m truly not worthy of reading his grocery list, much less his unfinished narrative work-in-progress, Miles and I have become, for lack of a better term, writing buddies. I show him mine, and he shows me his. (I’m talking about our writing!) For me, it’s become somewhat of a dependency. There are two people who I rely on heavily for critical feedback on whatever I’m writing — one is Jason Soles, whom those of you from the WARMACHINE and HORDES community will be quite familiar with, and the other is Mr. Holmes.

Currently, Miles Holmes is crafting an incredible universe of some of the most imaginative and progressive science-fiction I’ve had the pleasure of reading. To say that it is epic is an understatement because the amount of time it spans is almost unquantifiable. The scope of his story lines, the way they are interwoven between time periods and distant locations, and the themes that he is fearlessly exploring are both mind bending and utterly engaging.

I have had the undeserved privilege of reading his work in raw form as it develops into the final incarnation that he releases to the world. I also enjoy a rare vantage point in that he’s given me insight as to where he’s headed with this enormous project that readers will be forced to learn of only as he is wiling to measure out his mystery. But this foresight makes his work no less enthralling, in fact quite the opposite, and this has actually caused me a bit of a problem. You see, we bare our still baking work to each other under the pretext of providing constructive criticism in an effort to hone our craft and produce the best product possible. However, I have become so deeply engaged in the universe Miles has created that I now find myself reading for pleasure instead of doing my duty and offering intelligent feedback. I have been transformed from a useful colleague into a rabid fan, eagerly awaiting the next installment of his ever expanding saga.

And as I realize this metamorphosis in my perspective on his work, I am forced to confront another truth: the addict is not dead. He’s alive and well and craves science-fiction and fantasy, hungry to devour them both one world at a time.

Miles has set up a fantastic site at INFINITYGATE.COM where you can check out his short stories with which he’s laying a foundation for a much larger, jaw-dropping effort just past the visible horizon. I urge you to go there now, strap into your seat, and hang on for the ride because this one is gonna be going places and you don’t want to be left behind!

I’m also interested in what you’re reading. What’s at the top of your recommended reading list for people with a limited amount of time? I’ve got a plane ride to Lock & Load in a couple weeks, and I might just take a new world with me. I need to feed the beast.

 

Where in the world is Matthew D. Wilson?

A couple nights ago I had the great opportunity to drop in and say hi to my old friend Tony DiTerlizzi* during his whiz-bang, breakneck A Hero for Wondla book tour. While there, I had the great fortune of running into another friend I hadn’t seen in several years, the fantastically talented Therese Nielsen**. I realized after a few moments that she didn’t know that I didn’t live in the North West anymore. And how could she? I hadn’t really told anyone.

Fifteen years ago I moved from southern California to Seattle to work for Wizards of the Coast as the art director for MAGIC: THE GATHERING. A few years later, I founded Privateer Press with two other partners and spent the next decade primarily focused on creating great gaming products and growing the company. As the company became a stable, self-sufficient entity, I found myself with a little spare time so I filled that time by returning to writing and exploring one of my great passions, filmmaking.

My very first ever Magic: the Gathering painting

In 2010, I completed my first short film, WOLFSBANE. We also optioned MONSTERPOCLAYPSE to Dreamworks that year, so doors started opening and I started spending a lot of time back in Los Angeles. By the end of that year, I was commuting at least twice a month from Seattle to LA, and my wife Sherry (who also runs Privateer) delivered our first child, Gryffin.

Suddenly, we had a lot of reasons to relocate, not the least of which were two Grandmothers who would be essential in maintaining our sanity as Sherry and I plunged into the very frightening, alien realm of parenthood.

In March of 2011, we entrusted the stewardship of the company to our very excellent management team and the talented staff of Privateer, then packed the baby, two dogs and two cats into a pair of trucks and headed for California.

Both Sherry and I are still intricately involved with Privateer as much as we ever have been, but we operate remotely through the magic of email and Skype. Every couple months, I bounce back to Privateer for marathon meeting days and some heavy development work.  In many ways, I think I’m even more involved with Privateer now because I’ve managed to cut down on a lot of travel time, and with the frequent video calls, I often forget I’m not actually present in the office.

About six months after our great migration south, I realized that more than ever, I wanted to find a way to merge these two disparate worlds I was occupying. I had thought that game designer Matt and filmmaker Matt were two different identities that had to be managed separately (apologies for breaking my promise about referring to myself in the third person, it’s such a filthy habit). But what I found myself doing more and more was trying to find a way to make these two paths intersect. With the MONSTERPOCALYPSE option things were already heading in that direction, but being in tune with my control-freakiness, I quickly realized I wanted more. I wanted to control both sides, the horizontal and the vertical, and realize the things in my head in the two mediums I was most passionate about: games and film.

On the set of WELCOME TO LEVEL 7

Cosmic forces willing, I’m within a few weeks of completing my second short film, [WELCOME TO] LEVEL 7***. This will be my first attempt in the grand experiment to see if I can pull off this intersection of disciplines and worlds. Hopefully it’s a well met intersection, and not an apocalyptic collision, but no matter what, it’s been an amazing ride getting to this point and I’m as excited to unveil the film project as I am to release the upcoming LEVEL 7 [ESCAPE] board game that the amazing design team at Privateer has worked so hard to bring to life. It’s going to be one hell of a summer.

So where am I now? Still in LA, bouncing back and forth to Seattle, and up to my ears in my next attempt to create a fantastic intersection between these two mediums I love so much.

*******************************************************************************************************************

* If you don’t know Tony DiTerlizzi, then either a) you aren’t a gamer or b) you’ve been living under a rock for the past twenty years. The dude defined a generation of Dungeons & Dragons art with his artwork for PLANESCAPE and now he’s inspiring a new generation of kids with his incredible picture books and novels. Hit the link to check out his blog.

** Therese Nielsen is one of the most famous and incredible MAGIC: THE GATHERING artists that ever lived. If you don’t know her art, do yourself a favor and check it out!

*** Totally slipped my own little world-wide announcement into this post. Boo-yah! Stay on your toes, folks, there’s more to come!

If a tree falls in the woods…

If a blog is posted to the interweb and no one is around to read it, does it make a…err…sound?

Okay, it’s not a perfect analogy, but you get the idea. A blog is only as interesting as the people reading it. Which is my way of blaming you if anything I write here comes across as dull, uninspired or boring.

So why a blog? I can’t even keep up with my constantly changing FaceBook page and I struggle to find anything exciting enough to tweet in 140 characters or less, so what business do I have plunging into something that is technically way over my head and that by all rights I have no time for? Well, despite my social network inadequacies, I’ve got a lot of stuff going on and I want/need a way to share it.

If I had to distill my entire existence down to one word, it would be ‘creator’. Not as in the almighty CREATOR, but as in ‘a creator of things’; words and pictures mostly, but also ideas, products, events, and the occasional monster costume. I write, I illustrate, I make films, I design games. While I am compelled to do these things because of an internal drive or motivation that seems inherently hardwired into my DNA, the only real purpose of doing them is to share.

My stories, my pictures, my films and my games are only as interesting as the people who read, regard, watch and play them. And the more people reading, regarding, watching and playing, then the more interesting these things must be and the more I know I’m on the right track with whatever particular endeavor I might be engaged in. It’s a numbers game.

So here is where I’m going to do my sharing. I’ll write about the things I’m working on as well as the things I’ve done in the past, the challenges and the victories, the happy accidents, the tragic mistakes and the lessons learned along the way. You can count on some musing, rambling and maybe the occasional rant as well. I don’t promise to be as interesting as that Dos Equis guy, but I’ll do my best to give you a reason to put off real work a little longer and hopefully give you something to look forward to as the various projects I’m involved in slowly inch their way toward the finish line. If that’s not enough, I’ve got a lot of very interesting friends doing very interesting things that I’m excited to share with you as well.

And if you found any part of the above boring, it’s your own damn fault.