What have I gotten myself into?

It’s been a while since I officially had an art deadline to meet. I honestly don’t recall the last piece of actual concept art I did for WARMACHINE or HORDES. These days, my art contributions amount to little more than scribbles on the back of napkins as I try to communicate a basic shape or silhouette to the art team at Privateer. In fact, most of the illustration I’ve done over the past year or so has been either storyboards or creature design for my upcoming LEVEL 7 film project and that’s been very much at my own pace. I was setting the deadlines, so if I needed to, I could move them. Not anymore.

The first concept for Eiryss, ever — swaggering'!

As we were reviewing the concept documents for all the new models that will be in the next WARMACHINE book, I started to get the itch to do some drawing again, and I made the mistake of opening my big mouth. It started with an upcoming character for Cryx. It’s something we’ve never seen in that army and I have an image in my head that I need to get out by way of the illustration. I tentatively expressed my interest and thankfully found out the illustration wouldn’t be due until fall. No problem! One character in the next 4-5 months? I can fit that into my schedule. Then Ed Bourelle, Privateer’s Creative Manager got greedy and suggested I tackle some more. “You could feature it on your blog!” chimed in Simon Berman, our Community Manager. They made it sounds so easy.

Fortunately, some of my better judgment won out and I didn’t take everything Ed threw at me, but there was one I couldn’t refuse: the new incarnation of Eiryss, the much loved, much loathed Mage Hunter who now stalks the Iron Kingdoms with the fanatical Retribution of Scyrah.

The second incarnation of Eiryss will kill you with even more style!

Eiryss is one of two mercenary solos in the original WARMACHINE: PRIME book that came out nearly ten years ago, and she’s one of the first characters I ever created and designed for the game. She’s also the first appearance of an Iosan (elf) in WARMACHINE and is for me, one of my all time favorite personalities featured in our fiction. In our next book, we’re reinventing Eiryss once again, and not how you might expect! Instead of going solo, she’s  joining up with some rank and file troopers as a Unit Attachment. That’s right, Eiryss, the original Iosan badass will now be making an entire unit of badasses even more badasser. Who would have ever thought she could be a team player?

See? I got all excited just writing about her. I almost forgot to tell you what the problem is: the due date on the concept is July 16th! Now maybe that sounds like plenty of time to do a simple illustration of one character, but to me, that feels like tomorrow. I’ve got a list of things that have to be done between now and July and heaping concept art responsibilities on top of that is insane. But like the saying goes, no rest for the wicked.

So now I’m going to do something I’ve never done before — I’m going to ask for suggestions on how to design this next incarnation of a very beloved character. NO! Not rules — don’t even think about making a suggestion for her game rules. Jason Soles graduated her out of play testing months ago. We’re just talking about the visuals, here. We’ve seen Eiryss in a dynamic leap, Eiryss stalking from a rooftop, Eiryss walking with a sexy swagger. Now she’s going to be leading a unit of razor-blade-wielding, human-hating, homicidal zealots — where do I take her from here? The only thing written in stone is that she’ll be retaining her signature weapon combination: A sword and a crossbow fixed with a nasty bayonet.

Things I have to think about:

Pose: Action, Heroic, Stealthy?

Costume: More armor? More skin?

Details: Hood up or hood down? Is it time to see Eiryss’ ears? I’m not sure the world is ready for that…

If you’ve got a good idea, let me know what you think. I have a feeling I’m going to need help with this one…

And whatever I do, I’ll show you here — progress to completion, pass or fail! Stay tuned!

 

Many Bothans died to bring us this information.

Okay, maybe these aren’t exactly stolen plans, but you’re not going to find them anywhere else, at least for a while. Through total random happenstance, the assembly diagram for the Stormwall Colossal was included in an email to me this morning from Privateer HQ. The discussion was actually in reference to the manufacturing of the Stormwall legs, which are undergoing some revision in order to make them more efficient to produce to our quality standards, so these specs will be out of date at some point in the near future. But for now, at least I’m back in business putting this thing together!

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…

 

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.

 

Back against the Stormwall

So, I’ve had this box sitting on my desk for weeks. An innocuous brown box about the size of a shoebox, sealed with a single strip of clear packing tape. In the chaos of the past month, I’d almost forgotten about it. I’d even moved it around a few times and it was accumulating paper and other clutter on top of it like some sort of weird office supply stalagmite. (I’ve got more than a few of those around my workspace. The technical term is ‘creative filing’ and if you’re a creative type, you know exactly what I mean.)

Back to the box…

Oh yeah, I kind of spoiled it in the title. It’s a Stormwall — the mighty Cygnaran colossal of Privateer’s WARMACHINE tabletop miniatures battle game, on the off chance that someone reading this doesn’t actually know what I’m referring to.

Tonight, I busted it open. I had a brief fantasy that I’d have this thing assembled and painted before Lock & Load, but that’s not going to happen. I could get it done, but this is something I want to take my sweet time with. It’s been a long time coming to have this beautiful weapon of mass destruction spread out on my desktop, and I want to savor every brush stroke as I make it battlefield ready. I’ve got a couple challenges ahead of me before that can happen, though.

The Cygnar Stormwall —beautifully huge!

Being the owner of a miniatures manufacturer has some fantastic perks. One of them is being able to request advance copies of the latest production pieces months before they’ll be available in stores. The production department graciously sent me one of the first Stormwalls off the line, and for that I thank them very much. However, as a cruel joke, they didn’t include a base, so now I have to go back and grovel for a platform to mount this beauty on top of.

Second, getting stuff early isn’t necessarily as keen as it sounds. I got this thing before the packaging was printed, which means I also got it without assembly instructions. Now you might think that since I designed the damn thing I’d know how to put it together, but in my defense, it’s been something like four years since I drafted this mechanized monster, so by now it’s as new to me as it will be to any of you.

Like I said, it’s been a long time coming. But looking at this thing, even in all these pieces, I gotta say it’s been worth the wait.

'Some assembly required.' No shit!

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!