Doug Herring is the President of Mystic Eye Games and Hal Greenberg enjoys the role of Vice-President and Art Director. Mystic Eye Games’ successes include The Hunt: Rise of Evil, Bluffside (produced first by Thunderhead Games under Hal), Giant Monster Rampage and now team-ups to produce Dragonstar and Armageddon supplements. GameWyrd’s questions appear in strange blue, Doug and Hals answers are in typical black.
1) You guys have just announced that you can provide a range of support for would be publishers. The press release mentioned that you’ll help with illustrations, printing and promotion. What’s going on? Is Mystic Eye becoming something of an “inspiration fulfillment house”? Will you still be publishing your own lines like The Hunt and Bluffside?
Doug: This is a great question all around. First, I want to say we are not a fulfillment house in any way, we are simply a publisher with some services added on to include some imprint partnerships. We have a fulfillment/Sales partner that handles our products. If we make an arrange through C2C to take the product to market then the product, for all intents and purposes, will be an MEG product. Just like we do today with our imprint partners, Ambient Inc, Natural 20 Press, and Vigilance. The only difference is how we handle our current imprints and how we will handle those under the C2C banner. There will be a stiff process of acceptance for product we will produce as imprints in this manner so that we continue to keep the confidence of distributors, retailers, and consumers that we have today. Most of what we are doing with C2C right now revolves around helping with print runs, and some art/ art direction though we do have some interesting possible imprint titles that may come as a result of this arrangement. The way we are structuring C2C will not in any way impact our current line, just maybe add to it. We have tons of resources and we want to keep them all busy as that is how they get paid. If they are in between projects of our own and we have a C2C deal or two for them, they stay busy and making money. Also, we get some discounts for working with these folks in bulk. For our own current product lines there will be no impact at all.
Hal: Our lines that you have been seeing for the last 2 years will not alter one bit-they will be fully supported, as well as Dragonstar by FFG, Arcana Unearthed by Malhavoc Press, and Armageddon 2089 by Mongoose. We also have our first OGL book coming out in December 03 called Fall of Man, it is a post apocalyptic fantasy setting that is so rich in flavor it will be great. That will see a huge amount of support in 2004. The Cover 2 Cover services we are now offering will not impact our lines since it is a separate entity from our MEG lines. We do not consider ourselves a fulfillment house with C2C more of a service provider depending on the publishers needs.
2) Who’s idea was it to start writing Dragonstar adventures? Did Raw Recruits lead to the idea of doing similar work or had the intention been there all along?
Doug: Greg Benage from FFG did! He and Hal spoke first, then Hal got me involved. I am looking forward to doing much more with Dragonstar in the future.
Hal: I was talking to Greg Benage from FFG about it and asked if I could tell Doug from MEG about it as well, well we both wanted to do it and FFG was happy with their choice and bingo after the merge we just stepped up production on the Dragonstar stuff as MEG now does it exclusively.
3) Can you explain how an imprint partnership works for those of us who don’t know? What’s in it for you? What’s in it for the partner? Is a game published as part of an imprint deal a bit like a movie going straight to video?
Doug: Well, we have two types of imprint partners now but it is pretty simple to layout. Imprint type one gives us a finished document, we take it from there, including the burden of costs and we pay a royalty to the imprint partner.
The second type of imprint partner hands us a product ready to go and complete ( though we may have helped with art, layout, etc). The own the burden of production costs. We market it as our own but the partner gets the revenue and we get the royalty instead of the other way around. The open is to open up additional sales opportunities to the selected imprint partner and title by the strength and our brand.
Hal: An imprint basically brings quality material under MEG’s name and the imprinted publisher to the print (not pdf) market because the companies would not be able to get them into the print market without MEG’s time and resources. It is a win-win, they get our help and resources to get them into print and we get a solid book for sale to customers, since we put the financial risk for the layout, printing and art we also get a portion of the profits. That is what MEG gets out of the imprint deals.
4) How do you manage your imprint partners? Do you sit back, wait for the other company to produce a finished product and then push it off to the printers or are you hands on with suggestions, decisions and advice?
Doug: Both, it all depends on how we define the specific relationship. There is always some degree of hands on involvement for us though. We are always available to our partners for advice.
Hal: As far as text goes it is almost all theirs, we do stat check and sometimes edit the book. As far as covers, PR, art and maps etc… all us. That is the advantage of doing business with us we treat all of our products with the greatest care. Wait till you see Necromancer’s Legacy by Ambient and you will see what I mean.
5) How has becoming so involved in the gaming industry affected your own roleplaying? Do you even have time for it any more?
Doug: Roleplaying? Hah, I have so little time these days. I try to play as much as possible and do get to but not like I would like.
Hal: I do not have as much time as I would like, and my recent game has halted but we are getting a Tampa Gameday together on 2/1/03 and hope to get a new group from there. I would not have time to GM at all, but play, always have time to play.
6) What sort of RPGs do you like playing? Do you play in your own settings?
Doug: I love our own setting. I ran Gothos in one form or another for years as a GM. We altered some aspects of it when we decided to bring our setting to the market but we do play in it still. Bluffside is a great city setting that I look forward to expanded on as well. As far as other settings and RPGs; for d20, I love Dragonstar and Spycraft. Lately, I have been reading Second World Sourcebook by Second World Simulations and find that to be a fresh new setting with some twists.
Hal: I like D&D, Dragonstar, I can’t wait to see Malhavoc’s Arcana Unearthed and our own Fall of Man. I have played in Bluffside, but am open to any setting.
7) Why are Mystic Eye products better than other games and supplements on the market?
Doug: Better is a matter of opinion I think, and very subjective. What I can say is that I believe MEG has risen to meet, and in some cases exceed the market expectations and the quality of other products. I also believe we continue to produce very creative and different products.
We have a lot going on and a tribute to our current quality is the faith placed in us by FFG, Malhavoc, and Mongoose to produce great products for their intellectual property.
Hal: Better is so subjective. The Hunt setting is so different with the dreams and nightmares it really stands out as a fan favorite. Bluffside setting because it is so detailed but yet has the ability to be plug-n-role played in any setting. We have very good products for good prices that are done with the finest people and care. We do have great products but I will let the customers determine if they are better.
8) If you could take one RPG professional decision back and do things differently what was the choice you actually made and what would the new decision be?
Doug: I would have started the company with more resources and larger budgets. Of course, in hind site, I did not know at the time we would make it in the biz.
Hal: Making Bluffside: City on the Edge only 144 pages, we should have made it 200 and redid the layout.
9) What are your predictions for the roleplaying industry in 2003?
Doug: Well, I think we will see some changes. Many of the small print d20 folks might go away but at the same time there should be more interest in non-d20 based RPGs. I believe we will see an even greater rise in e-publishing for RPGs in general and I think this will become a stronger growing media. As 2003 marches on I believe that, for d20 a few strong publishers will rise up to entirely dominate the market, maybe 10-12 of em, and I hope we are amongst them.
Hal: Predictions….that more people will try and get into the industry and more people will get out. I think we will see 10-15 companies stand out and break away from the rest and become staple in the market while others will struggle.
10) What plans do you have for the future? I hope they’re not all top secret.
Doug: Well, More of the same actually, We have two more Dragonstar books in process right now; Heart of the Machine, will be out soon and DS: Veterans will be the next in our epic Dragonstar adventures to follow up on Raw Recruits. We are in the process of working on our releases for our other licensed products, Arcana Unearthed by Malhavoc and Armageddon 2089-Total War by Mongoose. We have three more books coming for the Hunt: Rise of Evil which are Guilds and Adventurers, Pantheons and Pagan Faiths, and Dark Walkers. For Bluffside we have Dry Lands, Sea of Ishmarak, and the city section book for Bluffside. We are thrilled about our next couple of Arcane Mystery books, Tarot Magic and the Artificer’s Handbook which are sure to be hits. These are great and lets not forget Necromancer’s Legacy by our partner, Ambient Inc,which is just hitting the streets now. With Foul Locales we have Beyond the Walls which coming along with Necromancer’s Legacy to stores now, and Behind the Gates later in the year. The first is locales set in the wilderness and the second are locales set in villages, hamlets, etc.
Another imprint partner release coming soon is Tournaments, Fairs, and Taverns, by Natural 20 Press, the d20 game book for games within the game. Lastly, we have to other great projects. Our first graphic novel set in the world of The Hunt: Rise of Evil and our first pure OGL release Fall of Man (think Aftermath meets D&D, meets Thundar the Barbarian, but more gritty). I am sure there is more and the year has just begun.
Hal: Dragonstar by FFG, Arcana Unearthed by Malhavoc Press, and Armageddon 2089 by Mongoose licensed products. Our own OGL hardbound book Fall of Man. We are getting back to the basics with the Bluffside setting with the city expansions and a product that I have been trying to get done The d20 Player’s Archive should be coming to fruition around GenCon 2003. We have a graphic novel, a soft cover novel for The Hunt: Rise of Evil in 2003-2004 as well as expansions for our non d20 hit Giant Monster Rampage.
(GameWyrd notes – We’re in the Out of the Box section now. A couple of unusual questions for which we expect unusual answers!)
11) You’re trapped in a dimension similar to ours expect that there’s no concept of roleplaying games at all. By magical means you’ve an unlimited supply of core rules and they come to you entirely free. Can you think of a way to use them to make a living? If so, how?
Doug: Yes, since there is no market for RPGs and no education on what they are I would give away the PHB ( I am assuming you meant the three D&D core books) to any and all who are willing to play. After they are hooked I sell the DM’ s Guides and Monster Manuals, then with all that bloody money I make a setting like Forgotten Realms or The Hunt: Rise of Evil and sell them as well. Then I sign movie, book, and other license deals, etc. I then take most my money and invest it safely while keeping a small part in the risky new hobby RPG trade I created.
Hal: I would keep all the core books and charge to use my game room by the hour to play and read the books. Or I would demo for free and sell the core books for $10 after my demos and just travel and play—man that would be cool, a door to door GM :-).
12) Imagine a strangely accented man with oddly coloured eyes thrust a battered and torn scroll at you, explained that it was of utmost importance that you read the words of the scroll from the top of the nearby hill during tomorrow’s dawn and then he then ran off before you could ask him anything else. Would you read the scroll on the hill at dawn?
Doug: Uhm.Duh, of course I do. Who could resist that! I would probably try to read parts of it first to find out what it is but knowing how spell scrolls work I would try not to trigger it early.
Hal: Hell ya, you can’t tell me something like that and expect me not to do it…it sounds to cool to pass up. I would feel bad if I blew up the world though, but I would not have much time to think about it so I would not feel that guilty.