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! 

 

WARMACHINE vs. IRON KINGDOMS [movie]

I had a little fun playing the ‘let’s cast the WARMACHINE movie’ game this week. I always love looking at those threads on the Privateer forums to see if other people imagine the same actors I do when I think about the characters in our games. Naturally, this is something I think about a lot, both because I’m making films of my own now as well as because just from a fan-of-films perspective, I’d love nothing more than to see an amazing WARMACHINE film done with a huge, all-star cast and an amazing director.

WARMACHINE movie = Epic metal on metal action!

Now before I go on, let me stress that there are no concealed hints here, no veiled teases— this is strictly my own daydreaming and theorizing, so join me in the frivolous flight of fancy, if you will…

If we had say, $150 million to blow making a movie, but we only get to make one, what would make a better flick: an epic WARMACHINE battle extravaganza, or a more focused, character oriented quest in the IRON KINGDOMS? The distinction I’d make here is that in the former, we’d be dealing with the political climate and the primary factions we detail in WARMACHINE, while in the latter, we’d explore the Iron Kingdoms with a party of mismatched heroes with no particular ties to the conflict between nations.

Now, I’ve got my own opinion on what I’d rather see if I only had one shot, but as I muse about this stuff, I see challenges and benefits to both approaches.

By its nature, a WARMACHINE film would have to showcase the grand battles between these magnificent and terrifying armies. Assuming we’re focused on at least one warcaster as our hero, there are inherent challenges in choreographing a story that does decent service to your central character. The reason for this is that there almost inevitably end up being a lot of characters in this story! And I know, because I’ve taken a stab at a couple of these WARMACHINE screenplays already. A warcaster is a leader of an army and part of a very big organization that has to be realized during our two hour limit. Because it’s a fantasy world, we don’t have the luxury of shortcutting the exposition because the audience possesses familiarity with the setting or time period. For instance, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN didn’t have to explain who the factions were or why they were fighting, or really even where they were. Spielberg could jump into a battle and count on the fact that most people watching that film would know exactly what was going on and what the greater stakes were. But when you’re crafting a world from whole cloth, you got a lot more ‘splaining to do. And that’s why these big fantasy and sic-fi epics can be so difficult to pull off – you have a limited amount of time and money to tell a story. Moments spent explaining the world or the politics or the science can take away from the time spent getting into your hero’s head or developing the relationships between characters. And in the case of a WARMACHINE film, you’ve got a minimum cast of your warcaster and his or her battle group (they may not talk, but warjacks are characters, too!), plus a reasonable amount of supporting cast that can actually speak words. The cast gets big, quickly.  I’m over simplifying the approach, but you get the idea — to make that film we all see instantly in our head when we look at the tabletop is nothing short of complex.

Not to mention, where do you start? The setting has a clear bias towards who the protagonists are and I think it’d be hard to make a WARMACHINE movie without the inclusion of Cygnaran characters, but where do you go from there? Who’s your main hero and what forces do you pit against each other? Can you tell a story with Haley without including Cryx? How do you give a comprehensive overview of a world as big and complex as the Iron Kingdoms in just two hours? Again, I’ve  spent way too much time thinking about this stuff so I’ve got my own ideas, but it’s not as clear cut as you might think.

The other side of the coin would be an IRON KINGDOMS movie. Here the wars between nations would be little more than a backdrop. We’d focus on a small group of characters, as few as just one, and we’d have more then enough time to spend on characterization. We’d also potentially get to see a greater cross section of the world, exploring cities, ruins, the history and the cultures that populate the setting. And while I’m sure we’d see some steamjacks, I think the thing we’d miss out on would be those huge battles that define WARMACHINE. The things that are truly iconic in the setting might never get touched on in a more quest-style storyline.

IRON KINGDOMS movie = super cool characters with ample time to do a sexy strut

It’d be a tough call! And as an aside, that’s part of the reason I’m so excited for the new Iron Kingdoms RPG to come out — I miss being able to explore those things about this vast world that we can’t fit the WARMACHINE stories into.

The truth is, these two things (WARMACHINE and the IRON KINGDOMS) aren’t really at odds. Many of the stories we tell in the WARMACHINE books are small, intimate moments, and every one of them is very focused on character. But in broad stroke terms, if you were to picture that perfect movie that represented each of them, I think you’d come up with two very different films.

What do you think? What’s your WARMACHINE or IRON KINGDOMS movie fantasy? What would you want to see in it?

Like I said, I’ve got my own ideas. Let’s see if I can make any of them happen!

Wait — what? Did someone in the back row just yell out ‘HORDES‘? Don’t worry, I didn’t forget. HORDES is a different animal altogether and I’m going to save that one for a blog of its own. I’ve got plenty of ideas for that one, too…

 

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.

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* 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!