Mat@MDickie.com
The Blitz Interview














 


~ October 2004 ~
After years of being dismissed as a "wrestling obsessive", Popscene finally made me
flavour of the month over at BlitzBasic.com. October was all about MDickie, as my interview
with the team comprised the centrepiece of the Blitz Newsletter...

Like much of your work, Popscene is based on an original concept - what inspired you to create such a game?
Breaking the mould is my sole motivation for being in this business. If it's been done before, I simply don't want to know. Everybody knows that making games is a strain, but it's even harder if you don't believe in what you're doing! I have to reinvent every concept I turn my attention to so that my own enthusiasm stays high. Plus, as independent game designers, we haven't got the luxury of being complacent. We can't compete on a graphical level, so we have to innovate to remain interesting. People have a field-day criticizing my graphics, but you can never criticize my creativity. As long as you've got that one strength, you've got a reason to be in the game...

You claim to have developed Popscene in only two months, with no outside help. How did you manage such a quick development time?
I love the word "claim"; it implies that there's a conspiracy! One popular conspiracy theory is that there are 4 people behind "MDickie", and I'm just the "front man" to give us a "unique selling point". They give me more credit than I deserve - I'm not that devious! There's actually a perfectly reasonable explanation for it all. People assume that working alone is a burden, but it's actually an incredible benefit. Think about it: there's nobody to argue with, nobody to rely on, nobody to explain things to. The result is that I can make anything I want within minutes of dreaming it up - whether it's conceptual, visual, or aural. Testing is a breeze too, because I know how every inch of the game works and can fix any problem within minutes. I'm utterly convinced that this is the best way to develop games. I'm raising creativity and lowering production times. I'm even lowering prices because there's only one person to pay! The only drawback is that things feel distinctly amateurish, but the creativity outweighs that for most players...

Many of your games have been wrestling or fighting games. What is it about that genre that appeals to you so much?
I fell into that quite naturally. I was simply a huge wrestling fan when I got into programming, so that was the first thing I turned my attention to. I've always had a lot of time for fighting games - from Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat to Tekken and the WWF games - so it was a genre I was very comfortable with. It goes back to my thirst for innovation again too. With the wrestling games, in particular, I saw a lot of things that needed to move forward. Fans were getting short-changed with half-hearted commercial games, so I stepped in and got deep. I used my own wishlist to give them what they really wanted. I think I've overdosed on it now though! I've exhausted my imagination in that genre, so now I'm trying to reinvent myself. Popscene marks a departure from fighting games altogether. I feel I've got a lot to offer other genres, and this is my chance to prove it.

The MDickie Show was possibly your most interesting spin on the fighting genre - featuring chat show guests who slug it out with each other, as well containing themes of a sexual nature. What was the general reaction to the game? Did you get many emails of complaint or did people just generally accept it for what it is - a bit of fun?
Anybody who didn't like The MDickie Show voted with their wallets: the game bombed terribly. If it was a real TV show, it would've been cancelled after its first season! I made it during an over-confident phase in my career when I thought I could do anything. Evidently I can't, so we won't be seeing many more games like that in the future. I had fun making it though, and I learned a lot. My most successful game, Wrestling MPire, wouldn't have existed if it wasn't for the breakthroughs made in that game. That's why you can't regret these things. Good or bad, it's all part of your legacy...

Another of your wrestling spin-offs was a game that features Michael Jackson wrestling his accusers in the ongoing court case. How has that one been received - have you had thousands of Jackson fans besieging your site? Did you hear from anyone associated with Jackson himself?
Believe it or not, that's probably the most famous game I've ever made! It went down a storm with Michael Jackson's fans - as it was intended to do. It also did a fine job of reminding kids how ludicrous the accusations are, and how you shouldn't believe everything you read. Some felt I was preaching a little too much with that game, but I think it's a good example of what I'm about. My style of game development is so instinctive that I can even express myself! A lot of people picked up on that over at Blitz Coder, and agreed that it was a positive trend. It speaks volumes about how far the industry has come. All the great art forms take off once they've become so accessible that people get passionate and expressive...

According to an article on your website, a member of the band D12 emailed you to arrange for you to create a game for them. What happened with this; have you heard from them since?
Yeah, that was the beauty of the Michael Jackson game. It really got out there, reaching all kinds of celebrities from Uri Geller to Eminem - and even the man himself. I didn't hear from him personally, but a "representative" said that it was a "fabulous gesture". A week later, D12 were talking about games on Westwood's Radio One show. I sent a quick e-mail to the studio and Denaun Porter (Kon Artis) got back to me within minutes. I likened my work to their Hip Hop background (being rough around the edges, but relying on personality, etc.) and he seemed to respond to that. We thought about using my quick style to pioneer games as a kind of "music video" for the 21st century. I would make a series of games about various songs/artists, which would then be thrown onto a CD's bonus material. I was up for it, but the powers that be shot it down. I pitched it as a kind of free gift for the fans, but record companies aren't interested in anything that doesn't generate money! It's a shame, because the artists themselves aren't like that...

Your games appear to have quite a cult following. Can you offer any figures as to how many people visit your site, and how many downloads you get?
I consider that to be rather sensitive information. It's like asking a woman her age! That said, I'm willing to bet that Wrestling MPire is the best-selling game ever made in Blitz. My dedication to the wrestling audience has taken me to places that most game developers don't go. From what I can gather, a lot of Blitz developers "keep it in the family" and aim their games at each other. Personally, I know I've got thousands of players all over the world who don't even know what programming is! Some didn't even like games period, and only checked in because of my innovative slant on their favourite sport. Practically every wrestling fan with a computer has heard my name. That sums up my approach to this business. I'm trying to push things so far forward that even the audiences are different. Existing gamers are a given. I want to educate the rest of the world about this industry. A good example is how I just marketed Popscene. The game magazines were the last ones I contacted! I was sending copies to radio DJ's and music journalists before anybody else...

Your self-publishing model varies quite a lot from that of the typical indie. Rather than concentrating solely on offering games that can be bought and downloaded online, you have mainly gone for the route of offering physical CD versions; why have you chosen this route?
I do both, so it's not exactly a split decision. However, I think the reason I favour CD's is mainly a pride thing. It's certainly not the money because I make half as much on CD sales (because of the packaging)! The greatest moment in my career is when I first received a copy of my Federation Booker game in the post. It might not have been pretty, but it was all mine. I was responsible for every fibre of that product - from the game itself to the publishing. For a 21 year old to hook that up, without any support, is a big achievement in anybody's book. It's harder for people to ignore you when your empire is getting physical like that. You're actually a product in somebody's hands...

How much success are you having with your publishing model?
Personally, I couldn't be happier about my role in this business. Making the games AND bringing them to market is a satisfaction the likes of which very few developers experience. I'm in control of my own destiny. However, that's a double-edged sword. The flipside is that nothing happens unless I make it happen, and that can be frustrating. Sometimes I wish it was somebody else's responsibility to sell the games. I'm hitting a brick wall as an independent developer, where the only thing left is to get into the stores - and that's beyond me. I've got to decide whether or not I want to trade in some of my personal success for some more professional success...

What are your future plans for MDickie games?
The pessimist in me says I've gone as far as I can, and that I should swallow my pride and get a job in the mainstream. However, the optimist says I'm going to change the games industry forever! Nobody realizes it yet, but the industry needs independent game development to succeed. It's cheap, it's quick, it's inspiring, and it's a goldmine for creativity. Basically, it's everything that the mainstream isn't! As soon as that becomes a popular trend, the games industry will become as diverse (and as successful) as music and film. I'd like to be there when it happens...

Finally, what made you choose Blitz to program Popscene in?
Exactly what the language was designed for. It takes the edge off programming, so that you've got the time and energy to concentrate on what really matters: the gameplay. Programming is a scientific factor that crushes the spirit, and scares away talented visionaries. The pivotal moment in the life of any art form is when the "scientist" starts losing ground to the "artist". Languages like Blitz are cultivating that moment...

Copyright MDickie 2000 - 2004