For at least the past fifteen years I’ve been bellyaching about the lack of a follow-up to Mutant League Football. The ridiculous (and ridiculously violent) Genesis classic was the perfect football game for someone like myself who enjoys video games but could care less about the NFL. And here we are, twenty years later and it looks like that decade-old dream might come true.
Series creator Michael Mendheim recently began a Kickstarter project to try and fund the spiritual successor to MLF, titled Mutant Football League, and it looks phenomenal. However, the project still needs a fair bit of help. Mr. Mendheim was gracious enough to talk to us about the game, the project, and the future of Mutant Football League.
148Apps: After 20 years it’s great to finally see a successor for Mutant League is in the works. Did the success of other similar Kickstarter projects help to influence your decision to start a fund for Mutant Football League, or was it more of an idea whose time had come sort of thing?
Michael Mendheim (MM): Fans have urged me to do this for some time now and it’s also the 20th Anniversary of the original Mutant League Football, so we felt like the timing might be right. We chose Kickstarter because it seemed like it would be our best shot to get the game funded. We launched a couple weeks ago but right now it looks very difficult for us to succeed. So if anyone out there reading this is a fan of the original game, or just wants to play a really fun and violent game of Football where NFL Players are replaced with wise-cracking mutants and monster all-stars, please back us today.
148Apps: Any chance you’d be able to confirm or deny various teams and races that will be making it into the final build?
MM: Kickstarter backers will actually be helping choose what types of mutants and monsters we have in the game. We know we want to have some kind of undead, heavy metal type of skeleton players. We’ll also have a variety of Monster characters and Humanoid Mutants – think Road Warrior-esque type humans. We also want to include Battle Robots for more of the technology driven races. These will be big bruising robots that are good at football and even better at obliterating the opposition.
We’re also introducing a new character called, Enforcers. Generally, 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 really have no talent to speak of... they just go after the opposing team’s stars like a wrecking ball. Eventually these creatures are subdued and taken to the penalty box where they are uhm…eliminated. Each team will be allowed to have up to 3 or 4 different race types on their rosters. It’s too early to talk about teams names yet but we know we’re going to have some fun parodying real team names (example: Pittsburgh Steelers = Blitzburgh Stealers).
148Apps: Kill the ref plays are still going to be in there, right?
MM: Of course, with a few new twists that I’m not going to mention or else I’m going to have to kill you, too.
148Apps: You’ve recently teamed-up with Run Games Development Studio to source their engine for Football Heroes. Aside from the changes that have already been mentioned - making the gameplay more realistic, less casual, and super fun - have there been any other significant tweaks? I really hope you decide to keep the RPG elements.
MM: Run Games provided the game to me, and I spent a lot of time playing and I loved it. I thought it was the perfect stepping stone to create a Mutant League-style game. It’s very easy to play and delivers a lot of fun, but also has layers of depth because of the RPG system that the Run Games integrated into it. We absolutely will be keeping the RPG Elements in the design. We can put these to good use and it will give the game layers of depth for those who want it. More casual gamers can just ignore it and the game will take care of itself underneath the hood. The art direction will look completely different than Football Heroes; Mutant Football League will have a much grittier art style.
By working with Run Games and using their tech as our starting point 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 fun 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.).
148Apps: I noticed that part of the project description mentions that the mobile versions won’t have quite as many features as their console counterparts. Do you have an idea of what will and won’t be making it to iOS at this point?
MM: Not yet. It really comes down to memory consumption and usage. Unique animations and voice really gobble up precious memory. So it’s all going to come down to whatever the system can handle. We want the game running smooth to insure a great user experience.
148Apps: What are your thoughts on the technological leap between the original MLF on Genesis and something like Mutant Football League being able to run on a phone?
MM: It’s really mind-boggling to me. Not only can we build a better-looking game on your phone, it will also play better with a much smoother frame rate. I play games on my mobile phone all the time and would absolutely love to be able to play Mutant Football League on it.
148Apps: You mention a desire to stay away from pay-to-win mechanics at several points. Does this mean that the mobile version of Mutant Football League might be priced at a premium as opposed to the typical free-$0.99 model? Feel free to say “yes” because I’m totally down for that.
MM: Yes, that’s what we’re thinking but just to be clear I’m not saying we won’t ever sell things on mobile because maybe at some point in time we may want to (i.e. stuff that personalizes the game). What I am saying is that you will NOT be able to purchase your way to victory against another player. Victory will always be determined by a Player’s skill and cunning, not the size of their wallet.
148Apps: In the event the gaming community shoots itself in the foot and fails to completely back the project in time, do you have any sort of contingency plan to keep going with the development? Perhaps a second Kickstarter with readjusted goals and reward tiers?
MM: I’m really worried about that happening and in fact, short of a miracle that’s exactly what’s going to happen. My biggest problem with this campaign is the amount of backer population. After 2 weeks out, we’re still under 1000 and we can’t build a game for only a thousand people no matter how awesome they are. I know Mutant League has tens of thousands of fans; it was a #1 hit game, had a popular sequel, Mutant League Hockey, and an animated television show. I don’t know where the majority of our fans are. A few PR people have suggested to me that the press coverage has been too good and is hurting us, they also suggest, the video looks too good, like we spent way too much money on it instead of applying that money to the product and that the talent we’ve brought to the table like Simon Bisley, Dave Elliott, and Jay Lender – so Kickstarter Backers may be thinking, “These guys have money, they don’t need us.”
So here’s the truth. The video cost me almost nothing except for sweat and time. One of my best friends Larry Wotman did me the favor of a lifetime and made the video for me. The writers on the project and I wrote the script. No one charged for anything. We just wanted a funny video that represented the game we were making. The talent I’ve brought to the table have been doing work for free, and if we get funded they will be working at reduced rates for a percentage of the pie. They are contractors and NOT full time employees, kinda like Seal Team 6: they come in, do their job, and then leave until we need them again. This is how we can afford them. The press has been nice to us because they want to see the game made. They’re excited about it. Hell, most of them have backed our project.
Finally, the truth is there is no publisher in the back wings waiting to sign this project. I put this Kickstarter together because I thought the fans wanted the game and they would be there to support it. Granted the 800 or so mega-fans who are there and supporting us are the best, most loyal fans I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. These people are helping us to get the word out. But we need more. Even if it’s a few thousand people only plunking down $2.00 for a mobile version it still lets me know there are people who want the product. There’s still time left to turn this thing around!
We’d like to thank Michael Mendheim for taking the time to answer our questions. As of this writing, Mutant Football League is just over $100K of its $750K goal with only two weeks to go. So get it together and show some support, people! We’re talking about Mutant League here! You can also keep up with the game's progress and related news on the official Facebook page and through the official Twitter account.