Wednesday, 21 May 2014

An interview with Andy Chambers

Andy Chambers: Andy is a veteran writer for the Warhammer 40,000 universe with more than 20 years’ experience creating worlds dominated by giant robots, spaceships and dangerous aliens. He worked at Games Workshop as lead designer of the Warhammer 40,000 miniatures game for three editions and also was responsible for Battlefleet Gothic and Epic! He later moved to the PC gaming market to work on the hit real time strategy game Starcraft2 by Blizzard Entertainment. Andy has written several short stories and two novels for Black Library, Survival Instinct and Path of the Renegade. Andy has also been involved in writing DUST Warfare, The Starship Troopers game and is currently creating rules for Bolt Action and Blood Red Skies.

This is an older piece pulled from the vaults of my email, whew I was lucky enough to get a little of Mr Chambers time. The guys a gaming legend, and may I say a jolly nice chap as well, even if he has a disturbing love for the Soviets in ww2.  It features primarily his time at GW. 
A few more feathers have been added to the cap since then including a game called Dust Warfare, the Soviet book for Warlord Games fabulous Bolt Action, and Fanticide, with  flying poop flinging monkeys. need i say more.  Though the most exciting thing is I hear is he is working on a large  scale space fleet combat again.....

Originally this was posted by me on the forum http://www.astronomican.com/forum.php
I thought it was time to bring it to a wider audience and update it a touch. anyway here goes.....




Skarfang.
During your long period at Games Workshop, you were the undoubted driving force behind much of the Warhammer 40,000 game and universe. Looking back on where you started from, and where you took it too, would you say you're satisfied with what you achieved?

First up I should start by saying there’s a lot of driving forces in any creative environment, it’s easy to be fooled into thinking the loudest ones are the most influential. I’m never satisfied with what I achieve, but I derive a great deal of satisfaction from the fact that 40K has taken off as well as it has. It’s a fascinating universe.

Since you left, 40k has obviously been developed further, with a new edition, and many new concepts and ideas. What is your opinion of the game system's current state of affairs compared to when you left it? Would you say it's been improved, and if so where, or vice versa?

The quality of 40K has gone on from strength to strength, and I’m delighted to see it find other media outlets like the role playing games from Fantasy Flight Games and the PC/Console titles for Relic/THQ. It feels very much like 40K has achieved sort of critical mass now. The 40K tabletop system seems to be getting a little creaky again as the codexes develop, it’s probably time for another round of the kind of revisions that were made from 2nd to 3rd ed.

Why was there such a drop away from the Specialist Games during the early to mid 2000's? Was it simply a business decision because they weren't making a profit, or was it more complex than that?

I can’t really comment on the decisions that were made about Specialist Games as I wasn’t a part of them at the time . Stores certainly seemed to struggle to carry the additional stock necessary and the sales were very dependent on the enthusiasm of the staff (as ever). I still feel as if GW should be pursuing the concept, although as more of the IP is franchised I have more difficulty seeing that happening.

Finally, the Games Workshop you joined at the beginning of the 1990s was a remarkably different company to what it is now, some 20 years later, what do you think of it's current position, and also where can it go in the future with regards to it's game systems and model lines?

Games Workshop has grown massively since the early days and positioned itself as a huge retailing and manufacturing operation for making and selling toy soldiers. It still has a massively talented studio making fantastic books and miniatures, but the crazy old days of ‘anything could happen’ are gone and that makes me a little sad. I think in the future we’ll see an increasing diaspora of 40K themed games and ideas coming from other manufacturers.

Farskit

You've been involved in a few Fantasy Army Books, such as the older Skaven army book. If you were to design or redo an book for the Fantasy game system, which would it be?

Skaven, I love those little furry b*stards. Possibly Orcs and goblins if I could make them mean and less comical, but I think that boat already sailed for WFB. I enjoy Chaos as a concept and it has some amazing imagery but it feels a bit like that has been done to death by now.

Do you think the two game systems should try to have more in common (such as Psychology, which plays a major part in Fantasy and much less in 40k)?

Kinda the opposite really, if I were king of the world I would put a clean break between the two systems, mechanically they really have very little to do with one another anymore. The stat lines are the same, sure, but I don’t know that it’s doing them any favors. Crossover was vaguely cool back in the early 90’s but it’s become an irrelevance now. By putting clear water between the two games statlines they could be revised to be a kickass sci-fi game and a kickass fantasy game instead of a vaguely generic system that sort of covers both but not really.

Heph

A. How is it that you came to be the creative director on Starcraft II from Blizzard? Seems like a very interesting and tough to get job!

Because my life is filled with strange. My wife’s American and she wanted to move back to the US. Casting around for some way to make that happen I sent a resume to Blizzard on the off-chance because they have a good reputation for making games people like. To my abiding surprise they not only knew who I was but were excited enough to give me the opportunity of a lifetime.

B. You were heavily involved in the development of background and rules for various races in the GW catalogue, you've since moved on from those tasks. Do you miss that kind of creative and challenging work?

I’m very lucky, enough people have heard of me or remember my stuff that it’s still possible for me to find folks that want me to do it. The hobby games business has diversified a lot in the last 20 years, I’m freelancing again now and that diversity is just delicious. Working on Dust Warfare for Fantasy Flight recently has seriously scratched my itch to write tabletop rules, I’d almost forgotten how fun and challenging it can be.
Tallarn
As a driving force behind 3rd and 4th editions of the warhammer 40,000 rule book and the Necromunda gaming system, was the idea of blending kill team play with necromunda experience based gaming in the standard 40k rule book or as a supplement?

See my earlier comments on driving forces. The two games developed quite separately, believe it or not. Once it became apparent that Necromunda kicked ass is was only a matter of time before concepts from it leaked into other places. In many ways Necromunda developed more from Blood Bowl than 40K.

Zorganist

Why, exactly, did a Games Workshop legend and Creative Director for Blizzard Entertainment agree to be interviewed by a relatively insignificant Warhammer forum?

Because you asked and you’re my kind of people

Squats. What do you think?

Could work in a 40K setting, just not as Fantasy Dwarves in spaaaaace. Bad name too.

Luthermax

What would your advice be to those wishing to get into the fantasy / sci-fi wargaming industry?

Write. Write for yourself, write for your friends, invent, argue, revise, throw out, tear down, rebuild. Do it all over again and if you still love doing it you’ll find a way in. In some ways it’s much easier now because you can self-publish online and freelancing is a billion times easier with today’s technology (if that seems a bit old-fashioned sounding bear in mind when I started out we still used physical paste up and bromide cameras – museum pieces no)w. On the other hand its much harder because everyone and their dog can put up blogs and hassle manufacturers for a job so the talent pool is much wider.

Marticus

Whats a normal day for you in the office like? If such a thing exists
I try to keep to routines. Freelancing I work Monday through Friday and take the weekends off (kinda). In the mornings I deal with e-mail and business related stuff, in the afternoons I write. I work to daily word counts and get no dinner until I’ve hit them ( I set them low, 1500 words a day). Working at Blizzard and GW was similar but with a lot more meetings involved.

What do you think about the current stance GW has on its “finecast” models and the “trade embargo”

I find it a little puzzling, but as I mentioned before I think it’s to do with where GW sees itself in the market place, they want to be the Ferrari of tabletop miniatures and command the perceived value that goes with it. I think we have to recall that from a businessman’s perspective selling less products at a higher price is more profitable – it reduces manufacturing and shipping costs y’see. There’s a corollary to that, however, that shrinking the user base for a game system can be detrimental in the long term. One thing I can guarantee is that it’s been thought about pretty hard by people with lots of business experience and direct access to actual sales figures, so don’t expect a roll-back any time soon.

What game systems do you play?

I tend to play what I’m working on, so right now Dust Warfare (which is awesome by the way), Air War (a WW2 fighter combat game of my own invention), Dark Heresy (FFG 40K rpg) and a lot of junk on PC and console.

Battlefleet gothic, amazing! Possibly my fav GW system with mordheim a close second. Do you feel it got enough support?

Thank you! My favorite too, although I think Dust Wafare is vying for that now. It got enough support initially but was a real case in point of GW being fully engaged with 40K, WFB and eventually LOTR so not truly having the bandwidth to support BFG too over the long haul. It was a great game to work on though, and I hope to see its resurrection someday. Firestorm Armada from Spartan Games looks pretty tasty, I’ve not played it but I like the fleets.

Your new book for black library, was it good to dip back into the 40k universe again?

Very good, although I’d already dipped myself writing for Fantasy Flight. No, that’s not big enough. Coming back to the 40K universe after half a decade away from it was a real delight. The development that has been going on for the 40K universe is just fantastic, the FFG guys love, love, love it so much that it’s obvious in every one of their books, the Relic games are the same way. It’s great to see that others have been geeking out so effectively.

What projects have you got up your sleeves with blizzard you can tell us about? Or ones you cant too they are fine

Heh, as I mentioned above I’m freelancing again now so I can’t tell you anything about what Blizzard are up to, I’m afraid. In the last year I’ve written for:
• Rogue Trader (Battlefleet Koronus )
• Black Crusade
• Deathwatch and its supplements
• Three Black library short stories
• One BL novel (Path of the Renegade)
• One tabletop game(Dust Warfare)
• One Facebook game
In the preceding four years at Blizzard I worked on two games:
• Starcraft Ghost (cancelled)
• Starcraft 2
This tells you something about the tempo of Blizzard development.


Why did you leave GW? Go on… tell us the gossip!!

And ruin all those amazing Internet theories? That would be a tragedy.

DO you think the company has lost its focus with so many of the “old guard” not working for them anymore?

I think that GW’s focus is just fine and pretty much where it’s always been. Fresh blood is essential for a creative company going forward, irrational old gits like me don’t necessarily sit well in mature companies.

Have you used any tabletop influences to help with design features for blizzard games?

Electronic games are very different beasts to tabletop games, some broad principles apply to both but the devil, as always, is in the details. My experience with tabletop games was of pretty limited usefulness at Blizzard.