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Q & A with Joe Dever

MT Updated
There Will Be Games
Joe Dever will probably be best known to you all as the author of the immensley popular Lone Wolf series of gamebooks but he has a long and distinguished history of involvement in the UK gaming scene with both hobby and computer games. He's still heavily involved - currently expanding the Lone Wolf series for republishing and a Lone Wolf computer game - and a very busy man so we were lucky he could spare the time to do a Q & A session for us. A few years ago he set an astonishing precedent by granting permission for project aon to republish the bulk of his early material in electronic format - so when you're done reading here, get on over there and check out and/or relive some classic Lone Wolf moments for yourself!

Firstly, thanks for agreeing to do this interview. You are very busy at the moment with the publishing of the new Lone Wolf books from Mongoose, so we really appreciate you taking some time off to answer the questions of your fans. We were sorry to learn than you'd been seriously ill recently - how do you feel now after your illness and operation?

I am very pleased to report that I have made a full recovery following extensive renal operations during the summer of 2005.

You are one of the pioneers of the role-playing scene, born in 1956. Seeing that you belong to a different generation than most of your fans, which things influenced you the most during your childhood and adolescence?

My earliest recollections of being interested in fantasy fiction were when I was seven years old. I was a big fan of a comic strip called: "The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire" which appeared in an ‘edutainment’ (that’s part-education and part entertainment) magazine called ‘Look and Learn’. I built up armies of plastic toy soldiers based on the armies that appeared in the comic strip. These were Roman soldiers and I remember converting their spears to laser rifles. My first proper introduction to fantasy books came when I was in High School. My English tutor was an avid follower of all things Tolkein, and he introduced us to ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’. I was particularly impressed by Tolkein’s hand-drawn maps of Middle Earth, and I spent a lot of time creating my own fantasy maps. This had a lot of influence when later I began creating the maps of my own fantasy world – Magnamund.

My earliest inspirations for Lone Wolf were to be found in English medieval classics such as Beowulf, Ivanhoe, and King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table. During my teenage years I read J.R.R. Tolkien, Michael Moorcock, and Mervyn Peake. I also had a very keen interest in military history and Norse mythology, an interest that I still persue to this day. These influences all contributed to the creation of the Lone Wolf series.

Role-playing games as we know them now did not exist at the time. I recall reading that you are mostly interested in strategy games. Have you had this interest since your childhood?

Yes, strategy games and tabletop wargaming. I still play tabletop wargames quite regularly and I have amassed a large collection of miniature figurines, almost 30,000 at the last count. Many of these are characters and armies of Magnamaund.

What was the appeal of such games to you?

The use of skill and good judgment, rather than pure luck, this is what appeals to me most about these games. Also, the fact that they are often based on real events in military history. These games bring together two of my life-long interests – gaming and military history.

Staying with the topic of strategy games: do you prefer board wargame, or miniature-based games?

I prefer tabletop wargames using miniature figures, although I still play board wargames and appreciate them as well. I like the aesthetic quality of playing with finely painted miniatures on a well-prepared table. This is not surprising as painting and collecting military miniatures has been a lifelong hobby (some would call it an obsession!) of mine.

As far as I know you came across role-playing games in the late seventies, but which games occupied you before then? Were they strategy games or other types of games?

I had been playing mainly historical wargames prior to discovering D&D, particularly Medieval (Hundred Years War & War of the Roses), American Civil War, and the Napoleonic Wars. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, the co-creators of D&D, were historical wargamers as well. In fact, I used their medieval rules (Chainmail) for my medieval battle games. This was how I discovered D&D. I was already aware of Gygax & Arneson from their historical wargames rules.

How was your first contact with role-playing games? Am I right to suppose it was D&D? 

I had introduced some basic role-playing into my wargame campaigns of the early 1970’s, but this consisted of hero stats and dueling for army leaders. There were no magic users or rules for magic. The advent of D&D was truly a breakthrough. I can still remember my moment of realization when I first read them. I knew at once that the concept was going to be a huge success and have a positive effect, not only on the tabletop gaming crowd, but on a whole generation of games players. For me, the first edition of D&D was like having a key that could unlock unlimited imagination. It was a very exciting discovery. I am very lucky and immensely grateful to have been there to witness the start of what became a games phenomenon.

Which games did you personally play? I have read in elsewhere your favourites were COC, MERP, AD&D. Did you come across any gamebooks?

I started by incorporating basic D&D into my medieval wargames campaign. I didn’t use the D&D monster stats as I preferred to create my own creatures. From D&D, I progressed to AD&D, and then branched out into COC. I’d read all of H.P.Lovecraft’s novels during my teenage years, so I suppose it was inevitable that I’d try role-playing in his world. I also played MERP though not regularly, and Stormbringer (the Moorcock RPG). My friend, Ian Page, with whom I co-wrote the Grey Star series, was a huge Moorcock fan. Other forays into RPG’s included RuneQuest and Bushido (the Samurai RPG). In the late 1970’s / early 1980’s there was a series of solo-roleplaying books around called Tunnels & Trolls.

What was your first impression of these books?

T&T was my first taste of solo gamebooks, but I was not very impressed with them. Frankly, the writing wasn’t very good, although the rule system was OK and the basic concept was strong.

What do you think about simple gamebooks, such asEndless Quest, Which Way, Choose Your Own Adventure?

With total honesty I can say that I have never read any of these books.

As far as I know you are still actively playing games. Would you see yourself rather as a role-player or a strategy-gamer?       
I am split straight down the middle! I’m half a RPG’er and half a tabletop wargamer/strategy game player.

Why did you design gamebooks and not strategy or role-playing games? Is it because working at a gamebook is rather similar to working at a novel, and you see yourself more as an author?

My original plan was to produce Lone Wolf as a RPG system, akin to RuneQuest. I liked the idea of producing it as a very English version of D&D. But then it struck me that, no matter how good it was, it would just be another RPG. This started me thinking about how I could produce Lone Wolf in such a way that it would be a new kind of game. That’s when I hit on the idea of doing is as a solo role-playing campaign. Fighting Fantasy had just come onto the book market and had been very successful, but it was very simplistic in its game system and writing style, and it didn’t allow for character progression from one adventure to the next. So I decided to produce Lone Wolf as a linked series of gamebooks and aim it at the book market rather than the games market. Although I’ve always seen myself primarily as a games designer, I knew, based on all the positive reaction I’d had to the fiction I’d written for my games group, that I had the potential to become a good writer. The early success of Lone Wolf enabled me to devote myself to perfecting my writing style. And, as they say, the rest is history.

To what extent has work as an author influenced your life?

For as far back as I can remember I have always enjoyed writing. Writing was a major part of my education; in so much as I was regularly tasked at school with producing essays and projects, typically three every week. In college, I majored in English, History, Art and Music, so I always had to produce a lot of written work, and to a deadline. This was very good training and discipline for my later career as a professional writer. 

Did you plan to get into gaming as a career, or has everything turned out differently than you imagined?

When I left college, I went into the music business. I started as a musician and then became a recording engineer for Virgin Records. I had no plans or ambition to become a professional writer at this time. It wasn’t until the early 1980’s that I decided to quit the music industry and go into the games business. After working on White Dwarf magazine 1982-83, the opportunity arose for me to develop Lone Wolf as a viable product. Until this point, the world of Magnamund had been the setting for my D&D and AD&D campaigns. I first created Magnamund in 1976, so by 1983 I’d produced a great deal of background information about the world, its history, characters, mythos, and future direction.  

Did you want to become an author in the first place? Did you feel that you had a vocation for it?

I didn’t have an ambition to become a writer, although I’d always had a very favorable response (from my tutors and from my games group) to the fiction I’d produced. Several people had commented that I had a good writing style, so I suppose I did have the confidence and discipline necessary to make the jump to writing professionally when the opportunity appeared, late in 1983.

When was it obvious that you could make a living out of your work, and when did you know for certain that you were an author?

The first indication I had that I could make a good living out of writing fiction came when I received an offer of publication from a major UK publishing house (Hutchinson) in the autumn of 1983. They offered me an advance that was the equivalent of 5 years wages! This certainly caught my attention and made me realize that switching from games to books was a viable career move. The next milestone in my career came one week after Lone Wolf 1 & 2 were published, back in July 1984. The books each sold more than 100,000 copies in the first week of release, just in the UK, and then the rights were picked up by 12 foreign publishers by the end of August 1984. As you can imagine, this was a hugely exciting time for me. But it wasn’t until I’d finished Lone Wolf 5 – Shadow on the Sand, that I felt my writing had improved and matured into a distinctive personal style. It was after Lone Wolf 5 that I truly began to feel that I was a capable professional author.

Were you afraid of the future?

Oddly enough, no. I felt very comfortable with Lone Wolf right from the start, and had a lot of confidence in its future. I think this was due to the fact that I had spent so many years preparing the world in which it was set, and I had a very clear vision of what I wanted to do with the series. I think that a lot of the other gamebooks that were produced around this time lacked the depth of Lone Wolf because the authors were literally making it up as they went along. I didn’t need to do that. I think this fact shines out in the Kai and Magnakai series (Books 1-12). I believe this why Lone Wolf not only enjoyed a great initial success when it first appeared, but also why it is enjoying such a strong revival currently.

How was it working with your fellow authors and artists?

I’ve had the privilege of working with some great collaborators over the years, especially Brian Williams, Alberto Dal Lago and Peter Jones (artists), and August Hahn (writer). A good friend of mine, the writer Bob (R.A.) Salvatore, said recently that ‘being a writer is the loneliest job in the world’. I can certainly sympathise with his view. But the isolation that is an essential prerequisite of writing is greatly alleviated when you get the chance to work with talented people like Brian, Peter, Alberto and August.

Were they mainly business contacts or did any friendships develop?

It’s probably inevitable that friendships develop when you work with people that are very much on the same mental wavelength as yourself. I worked for many years with Brian Williams and we had an almost telepathic level of communication. Brian was able to visualize what I had written and reproduce it in his drawings with uncanny accuracy. Alberto approached me at an Italian games show (Lucca) a couple of years ago and showed me a portfolio of his work. It was exactly the style I was looking for to use on the covers of the Mongoose collector’s editions. He’s a very talented young artist and I feel he is destined for great things as his career progresses. Peter Jones was recommended to me by my publisher and we got along really well during the 1990’s when he was commissioned to re-do all of the Lone Wolf covers for Red Fox books. And August is a rare breed of writer/games designer. He’s very dedicated to his work, and he writes in a style that is the closest to my own that I’ve ever come across. He was the natural choice when Mongoose and I were deciding who to commission as a writer for the Lone Wolf RPG back in 2003. August has since worked on several Lone Wolf projects, including the new Chronicles of Magnamaund novels. He is also contributing the bonus adventure to the collector edition Lone Wolf 10: Dungeons of Torgar. We communicate almost every day via email.

Did those involved, such as Gary Chalk and Ian Page, influence your work significantly?

I began working on Lone Wolf a few years before I met Gary and Ian, so I think it’s fair to say that neither influenced my work significantly. Gary and I used to play historical wargames, and later we worked at Games Workshop mid-1982 to mid-1983. I liked Gary’s style of art and asked him to collaborate with me on Lone Wolf, which is how we ended up working together on the first eight books in the series. Most of our work was done in isolation. I’d write the manuscript and prepare an art brief, then Gary would work on that while I set about writing the next book in the series. Ian was an old friend and a regular participant in my fantasy wargames campaigns of the late 1970’s. We both shared an interest in Michael Moorcock’s books, especially Elric of Melnibone which was Ian’s particular favorite. He had a successful music career in the early 1980’s and we worked together in that capacity. I later invited Ian to write the Grey Star mini-series as I knew he would do a great job. Not only is he a gifted musician, he’s also a very good writer. 

Are you still in contact with them?

Gary and I split up in May 1986. He went off to pursue some of his own projects and he also did some work with the writer Brian Jacques on his Redwall series. I understand that Gary now lives in Northern France. The French games publisher – Le Grimoire – commissioned him to provide some art for their edition of the Lone Wolf RPG a couple of years ago, but I was not directly involved with the work he did. I’ve not been in contact with Gary since 1986.  Earlier this year I had some email communication with Ian Page following my Italian publisher’s decision to re-launch the Grey Star series in Italy this Christmas (2008). It was great to hear from him again after twenty years! He is still in the music business and touring with his band regularly. I look forward to the chance of a reunion with him sometime next year. We both live and work in different parts of the world, and we have busy work schedules, so although the desire is there, it’s quite tricky to fix up a date when we’re both available at the same time and in the same place.

Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone set some high standards with their Fighting Fantasy series. How was/is your relationship to these authors and their series in general?

The Fighting Fantasy series certainly influenced my decision not to produce Lone Wolf as a boxed RPG, but instead to produce it as a solo role-playing gamebook campaign. Apart from this, the writing style and game content of the Fighting Fantasy books had no influence on Lone Wolf at all. In fact, I made a deliberate decision early on not to read any Fighting Fantasy books because I didn’t want Lone Wolf to be like them. Also, I didn’t want to leave myself open to any unfair criticism that I was copying their formula. I worked with Steve and Ian at Games Workshop during 1983. They knew I had been working on Lone Wolf for several years and they expressed an interest in publishing it. However, the deal they offered me was so poor (a paltry 1% royalty) that it prompted me to resign and work on Lone Wolf in direct competition to them. It turned out to be the best business decision I have ever made.

Were/are they colleagues, friends, or competitors?

We started off in a strictly employer/employee relationship. Ian offered me a job on the White Dwarf editorial team shortly after I won the AD&D Championships in the US in 1982. We always got along very well while I was working at GW. But Ian and Steve are very competitive guys, possibly the most competitive people I have ever met. Let’s just say that our relationship cooled somewhat after Lone Wolf was published, and it became clear to them that they suddenly had a serious rival in the gamesbook market. Subsequently, I’ve met Steve and Ian separately on several occasions, usually at games shows or events. My last meeting was with Ian in Singapore. I have a games development company based in Singapore and I spend a lot of my working year out there. Ian and I were speakers at the Asian Games Show in 2006. After twenty years or so our competitive streaks have mellowed somewhat and we now get along like two old friends. After all, we have very similar career histories and we’ve both been in the games business for a long time.

What are your other interests besides writing and gaming? For example, who is your favourite writer, your favourite movie, and what do you personally think of the Lord of the Rings movie? 

I am doing just fine, thanks. After my serious health scare in 2005 (I was diagnosed with cancer in both kidneys), I survived some major surgery and emerged with enough of one kidney still intact and functional to allow me to live a normal life without dialysis or drugs. I have recently received a cancer ‘all clear’ from my doctor following extensive tests. It’s now 3 years after my surgeries, so this is very good news indeed. Before the operations I was given a 15% chance of survival, so you’ll appreciate that I consider myself to be a very lucky guy.

My other interests, apart from gaming which is by far my biggest interest, include clay target shooting and swimming (which I do almost every day). My favorite writer? Probably Hermann Hesse, which may come as a surprise to some as he’s not a fantasy or sci-fi author. My favorite movie of all time is ‘The Duellists’, Ridley Scott’s Napoleonic drama which was based on a book by Joseph Conrad. And I think that the LOTR movies are absolutely brilliant. Peter Jackson rightly deserved his Oscars for making three films that many people had considered to be ‘un-makeable’.

Your most famous work is without any doubt the LoneWolf series: when was the idea born, and how did you come up with it?

Magnamund was first created in 1976, and the birth of the Kai Lords took place in the summer of 1977 shortly after I discovered D&D. In fact, the Kai was the first D&D character class I invented for my campaigns.

Did you have any direct inspirations for Lone Wolf, or did you deliberately distance yourself from any available sources? Where did you get the idea about the Kai Lords, who are the central figures?

I drew my influences from all of the historical literature I read during my teenage years. I think I’m fortunate to have been born in England and at the time I was. English culture and literature is a very rich source for imaginative fiction, and having been immersed in it from an early age, I think it only natural that I should be following on in that great cultural tradition. I think the Kai were born out of an idea I had to create a Northern European type of warrior caste, similar to the Knights Templar, and marry that idea with the code of Bushido and the fighting abilities of the Samurai. The advent of the Kai Disciplines came from my development of the story behind the Kai, especially the struggle for power between Naar (King of the Darkness), and Kai & Ishir (the two major Gods of Good in my universe of Aon).

It is striking that you omit any classic motifs, such as orcs. Did you want to distance yourself from the high fantasy source of Tolkien’s works?

I would not deny that Tolkein had a significant influence on my work, in so far that Middle Earth and Magnamund are both classic Science Fantasy worlds. But I did make a conscious decision not to borrow any creatures from any other fantasy worlds, Middle Earth included. I always wanted for Magnamund to be as original a creation as possible.

Was it merely the classic struggle between Good and Evil, or were there any other ideas that served as inspirations?

One of the principal themes I wanted to develop was the idea that a relatively lowly individual, as Lone Wolf is at the start of the series, can aspire to and achieve greatness through hard work, a belief in oneself, and dedication to a worthy cause. I think this underlying theme struck a chord with a lot of my readers. I was amazed at how many of my readers, in the fan mail I received from all over the world, cited this as a major reason why they enjoyed my books so much. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that my books were being read by teenagers who were at a stage of their personal development where they were beginning to become more confident about who they were, and what they wanted to be. The development of Lone Wolf in the stories mirrored, to some degree, their own progression from childhood to adolescence.

I am very interested in the origin of the names found in the serie: personal, place and monster names. Were any ancient texts consulted, as Tolkien did, or did you come up with them because they sounded right?

Some of the character and place names of Magnamund, especially those in Sommerlund and Durenor, were influenced by Norse mythology. For example, the Sommerswerd. This, when pronounced correctly, has a very Nordic sound to it. Other place names, especially those in the Darklands and its surrounding territories, came out of the Giak language that I’d developed. Having developed a basic language for the Giaks, the place names flowed from it fairly easily. For example – Helgedad. In Giak, ‘Hel’ is Black, and ‘Gedad’ is city. Therefore, Helgedad is ‘Black City’.  Most of the other place names of Magnamund where created once I’d determined what kind of region in which they were to be set. For example, Vassagonia is a desert realm which is very Arabian in style. It therefore followed that I should have Arabian-sounding place names, e.g. Barrakeesh, Bir Rabalou.

On the other hand, most of the character names I created (and still create) were because they sounded right.

Were there any specific characters that were disregarded later?

None that I can recall. But there are several who have not been introduced to the Lone Wolf books, mainly because they live and operate in areas of Magnamund that are not covered by the scope of the gamebook adventures or novels.

Do you have a favourite Lone Wolf book, or a section of the storyline that you are particularly fond of?

I very much enjoyed writing Lone Wolf 5, and experimenting with the format of the book. I also especially enjoyed writing Lone Wolf 15 – The Darke Crusade, and Lone Wolf 18 – Dawn of the Dragons. I am particularly fond of the new battle sections in the Kai Monastery that I wrote for the extended version of Lone Wolf 1 – Flight from the Dark. It was quite an emotional experience for me to revisit the start of the saga and describe the massacre of the Kai in detail, but it’s something I had been wanting to do for many years.

How did work on the Saga develop; was it outlined from the beginning or did it develop gradually?

I had the first 12 books outlined from the very beginning. Books 13-20, the Kai Grand Master series, were developed in the period between the end of Book 5 and the start of Book 6. Broadly speaking, I worked on the outlines for the New Order series while I was writing Lone Wolf books 16 and 17.

Did you expect the success of the Lone Wolf series, or were your expectations surpassed?

I felt confident that the series would do well, but I was amazed at just how well it did, and how quickly the success grew worldwide after the publication of the first two books. It had such a successful launch that it laid very firm foundations for the continuation of the series from that point onwards.

Have you been occupied with other projects and ideas during the last few years, or has Lone Wolf been the central topic of your artistic focus? 

I’ve been involved with a lot of computer games development since 1996, primarily in the role of Lead Designer. Among the several projects I’ve worked on have been ‘In Cold Blood’, ‘Ground Control 2’, and ‘Killzone’.

What were the origins of Mongoose’s republishing?

In November 2002, Mongoose acquired the rights from me to produce a RPG based on Lone Wolf. Most of the management team at Mongoose had got into the hobby via Lone Wolf when they were teenagers in the 1980’s. It had been an ambition of theirs to develop Lone Wolf for the OGL d20 system. After a few years working with them on the RPG, the opportunity arose for them to acquire the Lone Wolf gamebook licenses. Additionally, they asked me to complete the series with books 29-32.

Did you take a lot of persuading?

It took a couple of years, but this was due to the fact that my work diary was fully booked for three years in advance. They were very patient with me, and now I’m delighted to say that their patience is being rewarded.

Can you tell us a little about about the storyline of Lone Wolf books 29-32?

I’m sure you’ll appreciate that this is a question that I’m getting asked a lot these days. I really don’t want to spoil the ending for anyone so I must be a little circumspect in my reply. What I can tell you is that Book 29 is called ‘The Storms of Chai’. The series picks up in the year MS5102, that’s 18 years after the events depicted in Lone Wolf 28 – The Hunger of Sejanoz. The final four books will be closely linked from a timeline point of view, and they will build to a dramatic conclusion in Book 32. I plan to produce 500 sections for the final book. There has been much speculation on the Lone Wolf fan sites about how the series will end and which protagonists will feature in the final adventures.       

A couple of the fans have guessed correctly at about 25% of the conclusion, but nobody has come anywhere close to 100% of what I have in store for them.

Will there be a definite end to the Lone Wolf series after book 32 (the death of Lone Wolf, for example)? Lone Wolf has a solid fan base; are you thinking of starting other projects besides gamebooks?

I intend to deliver an unexpected and, hopefully, very satisfying conclusion to the series, but it will not necessarily result in the death of Lone Wolf himself. There will be an opportunity to revisit Magnamund after the saga is completed in Book 32, but I do not have any plans to do so in the medium term.

Will there be any future products in/for Magnamund (besides the new role-playing game and novels from Mongoose publishing and the computer game)?

Work is already underway on a tabletop battle system for Lone Wolf, with a range of miniatures to support it. However, this is a big project and requires a lot of preparation, so it is unlikely it will be ready for release before 2010. Also, there is a Nintendo DS project underway. I suggest you do a search on Google and also on YouTube. The demos of the DS game have been posted on YT.   

What about the idea of a Lone Wolf movie?

The movie rights to Lone Wolf have been sold on three previous occasions, but the projects were never developed beyond the script treatment stage. There is a company based in Hong Kong that is currently negotiating with me for the animated film rights. If the deal gets done, then there’s a good chance we’ll see Lone Wolf as an animated movie and TV series sometime in 2010.

Would trading cards be an option for a new project? 

Yes, but like everything else, it very much depends on how much time I have available to work on the project. I am completely maxed out with work for the next 12 months, so many new projects – and I get approached by third party companies with new ideas for Lone Wolf all the time - just have to wait in abeyance until their turn comes around.

Besides Lone Wolf you have been involved in other projects (Grey Star, Combat Heroes, Freeway Warrior). Were these things you really wanted to push forward, or were you experimenting with different characters and genres?

I was definitely convinced about the financial viability of all three of these projects before I started them, and so were my publishers. But that is only part of the rationale for my doing them. They also had to satisfy me creatively. Did they help me to progress as a writer/designer? I felt they did, and this is why, ultimately, I got involved in the writing and production of them.

What is the origin of Grey Star?

Grey Star was Ian Page’s principal role-playing character in my early D&D campaigns.

Were only four Grey Star books planned, and if yes, why?

Yes, we outlined only four adventures. They told a well-rounded story and they were very successful, but we didn’t follow up with a second series, mainly due to Ian’s work commitments elsewhere at the time.
Was it more of a test than a passionate project?

It was more of a passionate project than a test. Grey Star had been well-developed by Ian as a player character during my early D&D campaigns of the late 1970’s, and so had the South-eastern part of Magnamund. The Grey Star series gave us the opportunity to explore that southern part of Magnamund, which is very different to the Northern continent in which most of the Lone Wolf books are set. It also provided a chance to introduce the Shianti and the Moonstone, two very important aspects of Magnamund’s history. 

Will there be a continuation of the Greystar series?

This is unlikely, but it’s not entirely impossible. I can say that the final four books of the Lone Wolf series will feature some of the major characters and places that were established in the Grey Star series.

Your Combat Heroes gamebooks were very unusual: two-player gamebooks consisting almost entirely of illustrations. How did you come up with the idea?

It is worth noting that Combat Heroes was produced in 1987, at a time before first person shooter games were possible, let alone available, on personal computers. Essentially, Combat Heroes is ‘Doom’ in book form. The fact that it came out 5 years before Doom was released is an indication that the concept was somewhat ahead of its time. The idea I had was essentially a visualization of a first person shooter game in book form.

Were your expectations fulfilled?

Yes, very much so. It was very satisfying for me to read several years later that Combat Heroes was influential in the development of the FPS genre for PC games.

Are you a Science Fiction fan? Why did you not attempt any other sci-fi projects besides Freeway Warrior? 

I enjoy sci-fi and I have nothing against it from a writing point of view. Aside from Freeway Warrior, I have not attempted other sci-fi projects simply because I do not have the time to do so. Working on Lone Wolf keeps me very busy indeed.

Do you think that role-playing games will prove to be a one generation phenomenon?

I believe role-playing games are here to stay, if only for the fact that they offer us a way to tap into our boundless imaginations. And, after all, it is our imagination more than anything else that has propelled us to the top of the food chain on this little planet we call Earth. So I say: “Keep on role-playing! The future of Mankind depends on it!”

Do you think role-playing games and gamebooks are as popular as they were ten or twenty years ago?

In terms of how many people actively play RPG’s regularly, then I would say yes. But the definition of RPG’s has broadened widely. It is no longer predominantly games like D&D and books like Lone Wolf. Role-playing now encompasses MMORPG’s like World of Warcraft, and trading card games like MagicTG.

In your opinion, what is the status of fantasy in the 21st century in comparison to the boom of the 80s?

I would say that is has plateaued into an established and well recognized genre since the explosive growth days of the early 1980’s. I feel very privileged to have been part of that boom period – the ‘Golden Age of Role-playing’ as it is often referred to these days – and even more fortunate to be a part of its continued presence and development in the first decade of this new millennium.

Before the RPG boom of the early 1980’s, fantasy was a very small niche market in the UK and elsewhere. Now it is an established mainstream entertainment genre. We’ve come a long way in the past 30 years, and I’m looking forward to the next 30 with a great deal of enthusiasm.

Have all ideas been exhausted?

No way! Just when you think it’s all been done before, something always comes along that shakes up your misconceptions.

Are PC games a big competitor for other hobby games?

They are just another aspect of what is essentially the same genre.

Are you planning any new projects?

I have been working on a new gamebook series for a couple of years now. I am planning for the core series to be 12 books in length. It’s still in the development stage which, for me, can be anything up to six years or so. I don’t expect it will be ready for release before 2010, but when it is, it will have very detailed back story, characterizations, and general world setting. It is a fantasy, but it is not set in Magnamund and it does not feature any of my previous characters.   

Is there anything that you wish for in the future?

Health, wealth, and happiness for all. A long shot, I know, but maybe all that’s needed is a little imagination?
There Will Be Games interview
Matt Thrower (He/Him)
Head Writer

Matt has been writing about tabletop games professional since 2012, blogging since 2006 and playing them since he could talk.


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