Elliott Serrano, for Redeye
9:37 PM CDT, October 8, 2013
When I last spoke with Michael Mendheim, he was promoting his newest graphic novel "The Four Horsemen", a story that he had adapted from a proposed video game and published under the Heavy Metal imprint. Since then, he's returned to producing video games with his sights set on bringing back an all-time classic!
With a Kickstarter campaign running to fund the game, Mendheim took some time from his busy schedule to talk about the challenges of reviving "Mutant Football League":
Michael Mendheim: Hi Elliott! Thanks so much for the interview. It’s always special when I’m doing press for my hometown.
Geek To Me: For those who don't know you, tell us about yourself: how long have you lived in the area?
MM: My name is Michael Mendheim and I develop and produce videogames. I’ve lived and worked in Los Angeles and San Francisco for key parts of my life but am very happy to be back working in my hometown of Chicago with my wonderful wife and son who I love more than the world.
My primary work and focus is in the video game industry but I’ve also gotten my toes wet in the
comic industry as well. Some of the products I’ve worked on include: Mutant League Football & Hockey (Sega Genesis), BattleTanx (N64), Army Men: Sarge’s Heroes (N64), Def Jam: Icon (XBox / PS3), Robocalypse (NDS) and CrimeCraft (PC). Last year my first graphic novel was released, a 3 book trilogy called, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which won the 2012 Ghastly award for best original horror novel and currently run a casual game company called, Digital Dreams Entertainment LLC. We’re about to release our first title called, Hip Hop Trivia starring the rapper, Murs.
G2M: Why did you think now was the time to bring back Mutant Football League?
MM: For those who don’t know, Mutant Football League is a game of brutal football, played by wise-cracking mutants and monsters. These mutants parody real NFL Players, which is where the game gets its wicked sense of humor. Gameplayers can win the traditional way, by scoring more points than the opposition or by annihilating their opposition so they can no longer field a team. The original game was a #1 hit, spawned a sequel (Mutant League Hockey) and even a Saturday morning cartoon show.
Fans of the original game have kept the idea alive through blogs, reviews, articles and online surveys (the original game was released in 1993). After enough prodding and realizing it was the 20th Anniversary of the original game, the timing felt right. We chose to put the game on Kickstarter to try and raise funds to develop the game. By going through Kickstarter, the game will stay independent, which allows us to have full creative control over the original storyline and characters we're designing.
G2M: Tell me about the challenge in bringing it back. What obstacles have you guys encountered?
MM: Initially, just getting the trademark and going through the legal hurdles to make sure we’re not doing anything that is going to be a problem for Electronic Arts (they were the publisher of the original titles but have since abandoned the trademark). Figuring out the technology was also critical for us, so we’ve recently teamed-up with Run Games Development Studio to source their engine for Football Heroes (a very fun football game for iOS mobile phones and tablets) to use in Mutant Football League. By working with Run Games and using their tech as our starting point for our game we will substantially reduce our development risk. Instead of building everything from scratch we can build on top of an existing game, which is already a fun game and has all the core elements already in place (Dynamic Camera, User Interface, smooth and intuitive controls, consistent frame rates, Online play, AI, Power-ups, RPG Elements (ratings and stats), Audio, Physics and Collisions, etc. etc. etc.). The Art Direction on Mutant Football League will look completely different than Football Heroes. Mutant Football will be a much grittier art style.This technology allows us to get our game to market faster, which is huge for us since this whole endeavor will be funded through Kickstarter providing we can hit our goal.
G2M: How will MFL be different from it's previous incarnation, if at all?
MM: Absolutely – we’re going to change a lot from the original game but retain its’ heart and soul. Our backers and fans can help shape the direction of the game. They will have input on character & stadium design, team & player names, weapons and hazards among other features.
We know we’re going to change the camera views; it’s a safe bet to say the entire visual presentation from the original game will be different. We want to try and capture a television angle view, something in line with a Tecmo Bowl style point of view.
We’d also like to add more weapons for sure and things called Enforcers. Mutants are big, mean, ugly SOB's... so what do you do to keep them in line? You get bigger, meaner, even uglier brutes to monster the bejeesus out of them. And that's exactly what Enforcers are; they don't catch, they don't throw... they just go after the opposing teams stars like a wrecking ball in a glassware shop.
Another feature we want to develop is, digital Player Card Packs. These are in game rewards that are earned in-game (and not purchased). When you open the pack, you receive a set of player cards with funny facts and player bios. Rare and uncommon cards include unlockables like a unique animation, a secret team or stadium, etc. Our crack team of scientists haven't quite figured out how to package stale gum in with these yet, but rest assured: we're trying.
G2M: If I wanna get in on this revival, what do I need to do?
MM: If you’re a fan of Mutant League and want to see the game get made, please spread the word, share it on your facebook page, tweet it, shout it out!
There’s still time left to turn this thing around!
Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC