The Zeron Show


~ September 2016 ~
My games may not be on Steam, but this interview was! Longtime fan (and sometime
critic), Pedro Santos, grills me on the conflict between PC and mobiles:

Hello MDickie, thank you for accepting this interview for my blog. Before we begin, could you explain a bit about yourself?
Since the turn of 2000, I’ve been making games on my own terms with as little outside involvement as possible. For the first 10 years, they were exclusively for the PC with mixed success – but I branched out into mobiles in 2012 and found my calling with audiences who saw my retro style as a positive instead of a negative.

Developing games can be hard for a one-man team, what's it like playing all roles in game development for each project?
It sounds hard, but it’s actually easier in a lot of ways. Not compromising with anybody makes it more creative, not relying on anybody makes it quicker, not employing anybody makes it cheaper. Plus on a personal level, I get the satisfaction of doing something different from one hour to the next. If I was doing the same thing all day, I suspect it would drag like a normal job!

Despite your preference to work alone, do you recall any situation in which you would be better off with some help?
As much as I’ve enjoyed composing my own themes, music is usually the most harmless area for me to delegate. As far back as 2001, I recruited a university friend to produce the music for a boxing game. And then more recently, I used Sick Logic’s “Broke” track in the Wrestling Revolution franchise and bought in cinematic music for Super City. It was fun to go hunting for the right track instead of putting pressure on myself to produce it out of nowhere. And the results were superior to anything I would have come up with. But music is easy to incorporate because it’s something you tack on to an almost finished product. I’d hate to send out for art and sit there waiting for each frame of animation to come in so that I can start programming with it. I like to keep the creative process as quick as my thought process.

You've been creating games for at least 16 years now, what would you consider your biggest achievement?
Wrestling Revolution 3D is demonstrably my most successful game with over 30 million downloads on Android alone. But it’s also my biggest achievement on a technical level. It’s easy to forget that was the FIRST mobile app I ever made in 3D, so to dive in at the deep end and come out at the other side with a wrestling game on that scale was against the odds. To this day, its content has not been matched by any other mobile developer and I don’t see it happening in the future any time soon. I worked so hard on it that I’m not even sure I could do it again myself!

Out of all the games you've created up until this moment, do you have any personal favorite?
I actually like the more simple arcade concepts like Sure Shot, but nobody shares my enthusiasm for those!

You've made an impressive transition to the mobile market, with your games reaching millions of downloads. What was the biggest obstacle in that transition?
Compiling them to work on all kinds of different devices was – and still is – the biggest obstacle. There are literally 11,000 different Android devices, and then dozens of different types of iPhone or iPad, so to get one file working properly on them all is practically impossible. It’s frustrating when people bring their compatibility issues to you, because oftentimes all you can do is shrug your shoulders and say you’ve tried your best. And then getting an app approved by Apple is a whole other adventure. I still remember marking out when I saw the green tick that said I had successfully uploaded my first app! I had to trick my PC into thinking it was a Mac just to jump through their hoops.

Many PC users (including myself), felt a bit left out for not getting more games from you on this platform, what are the main reasons for the absence of PC games and the increase of mobile exclusives?
PC versions of each game exist, but there’s simply nowhere to distribute them that compares to mobile app stores. Steam have a monopoly on that right now, and both the users and the management have made it clear that they’re not fans of my work. All I could do is give the PC versions away for free on my own website, which would undermine everything I’m trying to achieve with these active commercial properties. My games are already being played by more people than they could ever reach on Steam, so I’m not motivated to fight for the right to be on there.

On what terms would you agree with big digital distributers on PC like Steam and GoG to bring back your games to the PC platform?
As the developer of 9 different franchises that have surpassed a million downloads, I feel I deserve better than the indignity of Steam’s “Greenlight” voting process and will not be submitting my games there until it becomes truly open. Historically, anywhere that somebody gets to pass judgment on my work is not a place that I will thrive! My “independent” outlook extends to how games are marketed as well as how they’re made.

What is your opinion on the growth of indie wrestling games in recent years with projects such as Pro Wrestling X and 5 Star Wrestling?
I’m genuinely pleased that so many other people have taken on the challenge of beating WWE at their own game. I’ve certainly proved there’s a market for independent wrestling games, and there’s more than enough room for other content providers to tap into it. It’s cool that there’s no animosity between the different camps at all. We’re more like a stable that respect and support one another - especially since we’re each on different platforms and have different approaches to the task. In a lot of ways, they’re already transcending anything I could offer. They’ve invested in professional art and animation, and they’ve managed to cultivate relationships with real promotions – such as Dave Horn bringing Action Arcade Wrestling to Chikara. They’re DOING the cross-promotional work that I only ever dreamt about. If I did millions of downloads without that infrastructure, it’s exciting to contemplate how much further they could go.

As a man who always looks into the future, what is next for Mat Dickie?
I’ve still got more ideas than I could ever make in one lifetime, so I’m always looking for the right opportunity to give each project a chance to shine. Modern gamers would have me “updating” the old ones for the rest of my life, but you have to draw the line somewhere. It’s OK to glance in the rear-view mirror, but if you stare at it you’ll crash! As much as I appreciate the support I’ve had, I don’t feel I owe anybody anything after working overtime for 16 years. I’ve been taking it a little easier this year and that’s how I envisage things going forward. That said, I have set myself the challenge of learning a new game engine in Unity – so we’ll see what comes of that.

Copyright © MDickie 2000 - 2016