In part 2, our exclusive interview with the men in charge of Heavy Gear somehow gets even better, as they discuss the role of battle armor in real-world warfare and building an RPG world from the foundation of a wargame. Plus, they pitch a hypothetical Heavy Gear TV series, and to top it all off, we’ve got full-size desktop wallpaper versions of the two header images used for this interview.
First, a quick reminder of who does what at DP9 HQ: Dream Pod 9 President Robert Dubois, Line Developer Jason Dickerson, Marketing Director John Nguyen, and Art Director Greg Perkins.
Robot Viking: I’d like to hear your pitch for Heavy Gear: The Movie. Big-budget, any A-list star you want. What era of the game’s history would you set it in, what characters would you focus on and who would you cast?
Robert Dubois: I would see a movie following a squad of young Gear pilots and their commander very much like Band of Brothers. The first movie would take place at the start of the Interpolar War between the North and South on Terra Nova, and include flash backs to the commander’s battle experiences in the War of the Alliance where the North and South were allied against the Earth forces trying to conquer Terra Nova. The first movie would end with a big battle between the North and South with hundreds of Gears and landships fighting it out and the young Gear pilots saving the day.
Jason Dickerson: I think more-so than a movie, I see Heavy Gear being a perfect place to set a TV series. You look at things like Battle Star Galactica and the complex dynamics between characters in a vibrant world filled to the brim with details and I could easily see our setting providing the backdrop for a drama like that. Even though the game is called Heavy Gear, the books really reflect the mentality that the setting is more important than the giant robots. Marc Vezina and Pierre Ouelliette did a fantastic job of really fleshing out the world and putting identifiable characters into the setting for players to relate to. Don’t get me wrong, the Gears really give the game its signature look and people really tend to play the game for the giant mecha.
If we did do a movie, I think a good trilogy covering three different time periods with characters from the North and the South would be interesting. In the first movie, I would have two protagonists each from either side of the poles caught up in the War of the Alliance. They end up having to do a crucial mission to escort Nicosa Renault, the famed information broker and spy, to organize the meeting and eventual alliance between the two polar powers that would eventually lead to the defeat of the invading Earth forces. Earth forces would be the main antagonists chasing the characters throughout the Badlands.
The second movie would flip the protagonists against each other. I would set it in the early stages of the Interpolar War, where the North and the South’s good will is extinguished and they throw themselves into a frenzied war against each other. The characters struggle with the idea of fighting their old allies and eventually do what a good number of soldiers did in the Interpolar War. They both go AWOL into the Badlands to start a new life and have to flee from forces trying to capture them and bring them back for trial.
The third movie could be about the protagonists getting pushed into the Black Talon program after the loss of friends and possibly family members when Peace River is destroyed.
As far as actors and actresses, I kind of like the idea of new actors and actresses being in any movies done with Heavy Gear. Having unknowns really helps the suspension of disbelief for me.
John Nguyen: A Band of Brothers inspired mini-series following the story of a Gear Section from the Northern Guard during the Interpolar War. This format would allow the producers to develop characters as well as flesh out the intricacies of the Heavy Gear Universe.
Of course we would have to do a spin off series featuring a band of misfit ex-convict MILICIA pilots in the same war. They fight, They cry, They laugh and die.
RV: I love the way Operation: Drop Bears Dive builds on the game by fleshing out the history of the game’s universe, then adding useful rules that are logical extensions of that world building. Do you have other expansion books planned of a similar nature? Are there other directions you think new sourcebooks could push the game?
Jason Dickerson: I’ve got a whole list of books to help flesh out the world even more. The next Blitz book, Perfect Storm, is actually going to be a hybrid RPG/wargaming book similar to Drop Bears. I like the idea of giving the players a healthy dose of fluff to go with the crunch. Part of the reason I’m pushing for this is that I think it’s important to spark the imagination of the reader and give the players a sense of ownership in their armies. I think people look at the whole package when they decide which games they want to invest their hard earned money, and I want to make sure that the player feels like they’re getting their money’s worth when they choose our game. Part of that involves giving the player a robust background. Besides the writing, Mariko and Greg’s artwork really brings the written background material to life, and Daniel Hinds-Bond, our extremely talented layout and graphic designer, ties together our work into a beautifully presented format.
On the subject of future projects, I want to do one Regiment of Note book for each of the factions. Ideally we’d like to do two per year, but realistically it’ll be more like one per year. We have quite a few books planned for the next few years. I think I have a tentative schedule set for at least the next three years.
Oh, if you liked what you saw in Drop Bears, you should really check out the latest issue of Gear UP. We did quite a few pieces in the issue that will actually make their way into the e-book eventually in an update. That’s actually one of the nice things about e-books, we have the ability to go and add material to the products and update them for the customer. It really gives the customer added value for their purchase that you just can’t do with printed books.
Greg Perkins: Drop Bears was a fantastic way for us to flex our writing and design muscles. The histories and characters possible in the hybrid RPG/wargame books adds a depth that is a  ton of fun to create and really draws the reader into the world of Heavy Gear. I’m really looking forward to doing more of these in the future.
RV: Have you given any thought to offering pre-painted plastic minis?
Robert Dubois: Yes, we have looked into that, but the costs are prohibitive and would require overseas outsourcing. Keeping the production of our miniatures and books in North America gives us greater control over production quality and inventory. Also, looking at other companies in the industry who produce pre-painted plastic miniatures, the demand to cost ratios just doesn’t appear to be sustainable in the long term.
Greg Perkins: My personal stance is that painting is still an important aspect of the wargaming experience. It allows you a degree of customization that you can’t get with pre-painted miniatures. The Heavy Gear universe is a little different for everyone — from the faction you pick, the regiment you choose or create, the setting you place it in, to where they do battle — and painting the minis to your spec is just another way of getting a little closer to that vision. And any Heavy Gear Blitz! player will tell you that customizing the weapons, poses, and insignia on your Gears is half the fun.
RV: The last ten years have seen massive advances in military robotics, and even some pioneering work on soldier exoskeletal armors — it seems at least plausable that something similar to Heavy Gear could actually be developed within 20 years. Do you think Heavy Gears could have a legitimate place on a real-world battlefield?
Jason Dickerson: I think we’re definitely seeing the military shift more and more towards that line of thinking. Realistically, I think we’ll see powered armor first. I was just reading an article that the military is already preparing to utilize robotic exoskeleton frames for its soldiers in the field. It’s not that far of a leap to add a fully armored suit over that and giving the troopers larger weaponry. I think you’ll see technology escalate to things that are increasingly larger and more heavily armed and armored. I think though instead of Gears being piloted by people the more likely scenario will be drone or limited AI operated robotic units supported by power armored soldiers. Of course, Mariko keeps telling me that the Japanese probably already have man operated robotic suits secretly developed. I can’t help but think that she’s probably right.
RV: Does Dream Pod 9 have any major releases or big projects coming up? Any top secret material you’d like to leak?
Robert Dubois: We are working on a new product entitled Heavy Gear Arena, which will be released later in 2010. Arena will be centered around the world of professional dueling in the Heavy Gear universe, where players will manage a team of duelists, and fight battles against other players/managers. We are also planning a lot of new miniature releases for Arena, all of these miniatures will also be usable in Heavy Gear Blitz.
Jason Dickerson: We have two major products in development right now. The first of course is Heavy Gear Arena, which we just previewed in Gear UP issue 2. The game really concentrates on the Gear based sports world. There’s gladiatorial matches, extreme racing, and even competitive sports like football that the people of Terra Nova do that involves their Gears. The core set for the new game concentrates on the gladiatorial aspects of the game, but future supplements will cover additional aspects of competitive Gear sports, including some that are less than legal on the world. The game utilizes the same scale miniatures as our Blitz! line, and gives players additional sculpts of their favorite Gear types in more dynamic poses as well as new units that we will be converting for use in our Blitz! line.
The project we have planned after Arena is Perfect Storm: The New Coalition. As mentioned before this will be our second hybrid RPG/wargame book. This book explores a faction that has been introduced in the world, but has never been properly fleshed out. For Blitz! players this means a whole new army with nearly a dozen new miniatures. For RPG players this gives them a whole new area to delve into. The book concentrates on the Badlands region known as NuCoal and how they have developed from a simple economic alliance to a growing power in the region. While they don’t have the resources or manpower of the Polar leagues, NuCoal is quickly growing to rival Peace River. The vacuum left behind from Peace River’s cycles of rebuilding as well as surprising alliances have given the growing Badlands coalition real teeth. With the second invasion of Earth, NuCoal is mobilizing to keep what they have built out of the invaders‘ hands, and one of their cities will be the site of one of the most crucial battles in securing Terra Nova against Earth’s dreams of conquest. The consequences of the battle will actually affect not just Terra Nova, but the entire setting.
Greg Perkins: For anyone playing the Colonial Expeditionary Forces of Earth, or against them, keep your eyes on the horizon.
John Nguyen: To paraphrase a certain Canadian Prime Minister: “Just watch us!”
Here are two widescreen desktop wallpapers for you to download and enjoy.