Mat@MDickie.com
Jimi Icon Interview














 


~ August 2006 ~
Here's what happened when independent game observer, Jimi Icon,
hit me with a barrage of quick-fire questions for his website...

How old are you?
I was 18 when I made my first game, and 6 years later I'm now 24...

Where are you from?
I'm from Manchester, England. Although working on a laptop allows me to be wherever I want! For instance, the original Wrestling MPire game was made in Chicago...

Around what age did you get turned on to pro wrestling?
Like a lot of fans, I liked wrestling in 2 stages - once when I was a kid in the late 80's, and again when I was an adult in the late 90's...

Any favorite pro wrestlers?
I hate to sound predictable, but I was always a big supporter of The Rock. He seemed to strike the right balance between being successful and being a good, hard-working guy. Most recently, I've also been pleasantly surprised by Samoa Joe. I like that realistic, hard-hitting Japanese style...

Do you play any games currently? What are they?
I still play games from time to time, but nothing modern. The Nintendo 64 was the last console I owned! I only ever play Civilization 2, the Ages Of Empires series, or a game called Jagged Alliance. I've also found a great little pool game called 3D Live Pool. There it is - the only time you'll ever see me praising a fellow independent release!

What were you favorite games growing up?
My brother and I always dived into the wrestling games pretty hard. We bought and played them all - from Fire Pro to the WWF merchandise. Same thing with soccer, actually. It's always been up there with wrestling as a genre that I knew inside out. There was never a wrestling sim or a soccer sim that I couldn't master, so I had to go ahead and make my own!

What games influenced you the most?
WWF No Mercy (and that whole batch of THQ games on the N64) was a major influence on my wrestling work. I basically tried to recreate that in my own image, and I think I came pretty close. Likewise, my Grass Roots soccer sim was largely based on International Superstar Soccer. I wanted to recreate that effortless playability...

When did you decide to get into game creation?
I'm not sure I did decide! I've always felt that the industry chose me. When I was growing up, making games wasn't a realistic ambition for many kids. People made it out to be some sort of ungodly science like working for NASA. I didn't realize I could do it until I stumbled across programming for myself and gave it a shot. I found simple ways to do sophisticated things, and the rest is history...

What were some of the biggest challenges in creating a game by yourself?
Personally, I don't find making games that hard. No matter what the circumstances, it's just something that I'm built to do. The "challenge" for me is convincing other people to appreciate those achievements. There's a lot of ignorance about this business, so it's a pretty thankless job. I can single-handedly turn in a project like Wrestling Encore or Grass Roots, and people will just shrug their shoulders and say "not as good as THQ, not as good as FIFA". What they don't understand is that it's a miracle that they can even make that comparison! They're lucky they're not playing Pong. The publishing can be tough too. Musicians and filmmakers hand in their work and then wait to see how many millions of people are lured into the marketing machine. With me, nothing happens unless I make it happen...

Do you have a favorite wrestler that you created in one of your games?
When I look back, I'm surprised by how many fictitious wrestlers I managed to churn out off the top of my head! Some of them aren't bad. I've always been quite proud of the Whack Ax look. That came about by accident when I was rendering a wrestler in 3D Studio MAX and the torso came out bright pink instead of flesh. It looked good with the brown hair, black shorts and arm pads, so I ran with it. I also like the Driver 88 character. If Whack Ax is my Bret Hart, then he's my Steve Austin. I'd also like to take credit for Geno White, but that was a fan creation from the 2D games that managed to rise to the top...

What are the pros and cons of creating such unique games?
The pros are that you get to take pride in what you're doing. You get to be a fan of your own work, because you're making the games that you've always wanted to see. The cons are that it's once again a thankless job. Succeed and people think the game has been around forever; fail and people think you were stupid for trying. It's very risky too, because I'm always taking a chance on things that aren't guaranteed to be popular. Half of my games are commercial failures, but that's the price you pay for experimenting. As Einstein said, anybody that's never made a mistake has never tried anything new! I guess I'd rather fail as an innovator than succeed as an imitator...

What is the best sentence to describe your games?
Inspiration for the interactive generation! Come and get inspired by everything - from the way they're made to the way they play...

If you had to pick one, what game are you the most proud of?
People always expect me to say Wrestling Encore, but I feel that slowly evolved over a dozen wrestling projects. It's more my "greatest hits" package than a major achievement in its own right. Whereas something like Grass Roots is me tackling a genre for the very first time, and I'm proud with what I emerged with. I single-handedly made a playable 3D soccer sim within 3 months of sitting down to do it. I mastered the AI that has crippled most other independent attempts, and wrapped it all up with an innovative RPG twist. The game hasn't been received particularly well, but I'll be damned if I'm going to apologize for it. I'll always have a soft spot for Sure Shot 3D too. I returned to that recently expecting to see the flaws that everybody else saw (which was true with Wrecked), but I was pleasantly surprised! Apart from the dodgy particle effects, it's exactly what I was trying to make and I think it's a good little arcade concept...

What would you like the future of MDickie games to be?
I'm currently trying to figure out whether there is a future. I'm the closest I've ever been to winding things down (and that's saying something!). A retirement article is sitting on my computer as we speak, and it's just waiting to be deployed if I decide there's nothing to look forward to in 2007. At the moment, I'm working inhumanly hard for very little reward - and at some point you have to ask yourself why you're bothering. I've always had great fans that made it all worthwhile, but they're in the minority now - being replaced by ignorant cynics and unscrupulous pirates. The world has changed a lot in the past 6 years, and nobody seems to have respect for anything anymore. From music to movies, everything is disposable and open to abuse. My humble work certainly can't survive in that environment. I guess everything comes to a natural conclusion, and the time limit is fast approaching on the game I was playing...

What is the funniest story involving one of your games?
When I first hit the scene, people used to dive into my games HARD. They were hanging on my every word and couldn't wait for each release. One kid even told me that he stayed home instead of going on vacation with his parents because he wanted to download the next game the minute it came out. Trouble is it was absolutely appalling! It was only the 2nd game I ever released, and I was just experimenting with a ludicrous concept involving 2 wrestlers having an eating contest. That poor kid missed out on an exotic holiday to play a crappy piece of freeware! And, strangely enough, I never heard from him again. He probably missed out on his wedding to download Grass Roots...

And finally, word associations. I'll give a name or phrase and you give a few words on whatever it brings to mind...

Game development:
The art of trying to be entertaining in an industry full of soul-destroyingly negative people...

Mat Dickie:
Pound for pound, one of the greatest game developers of all time. No one man will ever come close to what flooded the pages of MDickie.com week after week...

Wrestling games in general:
As in real life, the American product is all about spectacle and the Japanese product is all about substance. The only time it paid off for us is when they joined forces for the N64 games...

Bill Gates:
Yet another example of the genius of simplicity. His solutions were so straight forward and accessible that every human being in the civilized world can benefit from them...

The independent game scene's current status:
Struggling to bridge the gap between mainstream expectations and the limitations of the PC platform, but the fact anybody can do it means creativity will soon be more important than technical expertise...

Federation Online:
A retro 2D game that managed to find an audience in the 21st century!

Big BumpZ:
The concept that ignited my career and kept it ticking over for several years. Now rendered redundant by my all-encompassing 3D wrestling simulators...

Grass Roots:
The best 3D soccer gameplay to ever come out of the independent community. Criminally overlooked for being so...

World Wrestling Entertainment:
When they "got the F out", so did I!

Whack Ax:
The most recognizable (and enduring) fictitious character that my games have ever produced...

Whack Oz:
His less inspiring (and even more badly named) brother...

CafePress:
The saviour of MDickie.com. A chance to get boxed products out there without the involvement of a major publisher...

Best game ever (not made by you):
Civilization 2 or Age Of Empires 2 depending on whether you're in an intellectual mood or an action mood...

Garage Games:
Too pre-occupied with their own engine to build a stable of games that truly represents the independent scene...

E3:
Never been. Never intend to go...

MDickie players:
The best game fans in the world, because they've got the integrity to look past the flaws and respect the innovation. They know what really matters and don't judge a book by its cover...

Copyright MDickie 2000 - 2006