Mobile Frame Zero's Creative Contributors
There are several people who are making Mobile Frame Zero: Rapid Attack a success. Vincent Baker, of course, is one. His roleplaying games, the supernatural and morally challenging Western Dogs in the Vineyard, the desperate post-apocalyptic RPG Apocalypse World, and the hopeless horror of Murderous Ghosts are his better-known roleplaying games. I'm best known for my literary SF-inspired Shock:Social Science Fiction and the anthropological black ops Shock:Human Contact.
Then there's you guys. From Tresi Arvizo, the guy I play with at our local JiffyCon who was the first backer, to Luke Crane of The Burning Wheel and Tycho from Penny Arcade, you're making it possible for us to invest our time in stuff that we love to do.
But Soren brings something particularly unique to this game: his mastery of the LEGO® medium. He's also my primary filter when it comes to science fiction in general and giant robot anime in particular. He's a man of extraordinary skill and taste. So what's his deal?
We sat still for a few minutes this afternoon and chatted about his deal. This is what we said!
Joshua: What is it about LEGO that speaks to you as a medium?
Soren: It's like sketching with physical objects. f you're willing to accept the limitations (color, part shapes, psychologically unstable fan community), it's one of the best ways to make pretty good models in almost no time.
And after a while, the restrictions turn into a game - "can I do this? How about this?"
Joshua: How did you get to that point?
Soren: I'm completely horrible at 3D modelling. Clay isn't so good for inorganic forms, and traditional plastic modeling is too time-consuming and heavily chemical. Also, I already had the stuff on hand.
Joshua: So you've been doing this for a while. When did you get your first LEGO?
Soren: I've got no idea. Early. It's been more than two decades.
Joshua: Do you still have those parts from your first days of building?
Soren: Probably? I have no idea. You probably have a lot of them by now, since I tend to give away messed-up parts.
Joshua: I do! A bunch of those have worked their way into my cover for MFØ. So at what point did you start building mecha?
Soren: Once I realized that it was easy.
Joshua: For you, maybe!
Soren: Less flippantly, I figured out that what I wanted to do wasn't something anyone else was doing at the time, and my first few experiments turned out well, so I stuck with it. I made a lot of awful crap, and gradually figured out how not to make awful crap.
Joshua: When was that?
Soren: maybe... eight years ago? Possibly earlier, if you're charitable.
Joshua: What's your proudest piece?
Soren: Hard to say. I mean, scale back a bit and it's all a little ridiculous. None of this stuff is sitting on my coffee table to impress the guests. The carrier is, I think, the biggest thing I've ever made that I actually thought was good. Spaceships, in general, are really relaxing.
Joshua: So what are your biggest aesthetic influences?
Soren: I'm a huge fan of all the guys affiliated with Studio Nue - Shoji Kawamori, Kazutaka Miyatake, Naoyuki Kato. I love Junji Ohkubo (Industrial Divinities was a must-buy for me) and Mamoru Nagano (I own the complete English run of Five Star Stories). I also read a lot of French and Belgian comics that were just bursting with visual novelty - I cried when I heard that Moebius had died.
Joshua: I did, too. The same week as Ralph McQuarrie. It was the end of an age. If I were Joe Johnston or Syd Mead, I'd be really concerned.
Soren: Also big formative influences. Actually, I have this book I got when I was a kid, about the inner workings of ILM. Super influential.
Joshua: Oh, the big black book?
Joshua: My aunt gave me that. I love it.
Joshua: So what is it that you draw from Nue?
Soren: The emphasis on simplicity. Nue was doing a lot of science fiction animé at a time when it was all done by hand, so there were these brutal pressures to eliminate everything that didn't tell the story, because you were drawing stuff that might be onscreen for eight frames in the whole show. It's a tribute to how much they loved the medium and believed in it, that those guys designed such beautiful stuff anyway.
Joshua: Yeah. And I know you're as much a Kunio Okawara fan as I am. It was a big day when I realized that so many of my favorite, hard-to-find images were all drawn by the same guy.
Soren: Yeah, he's kind of gone downhill in recent years, but the stuff he did between First Gundam and about 1990 is all, even the awful mistakes, pretty vibrant.
Joshua: What makes the earlier works so much better?
Soren: Fewer extraneous details. Now, you can pretty much find a way to shoehorn whatever you want in, either with CGI or wireframing, so that pressure to make things animatable at design time is gone.
Joshua: So they wind up industrially florid?
Soren: Fandom has also shifted from old-school model otaku to a creepier, more character-obsessive and narrowly-focused set, but you should go ask the guys at Colony Drop about that. Don't wait for them to stop laughing, or you'll be there all day.
Joshua: I'm pretty sure any such conversation will mostly be composed of profanity. Perceptive profanity.
Soren: Okawara has also been tied to Gundam for way too long. I'm actually really heartened by the number and quality of new designers Sunrise has been putting on Gundam projects, but it just ruined him - ironically, it's his original MSV designs that built the market. A long run of Gundam seems to be ruining Hajime Katoki, too. Strong mechanical design just isn't as important to sales as it used to be, so there's a lot of refinement and not much innovation. I love Gundam Unicorn, but it really is top-heavy with nostalgia.
Joshua: When we sat down to start working on the setting of Mobile Frame Zero together, what got you excited about it? What was it that you wanted to make?
Soren: I wanted to make something that actually captured, or at least reflected, the good stuff in the source material. The PTSD and moral ambiguity of a First Gundam or VOTOMs is what makes them resonant and human instead of forgettable. I think the only other Western mecha game that even tried to do that was Bliss Stage, and that's a dirty hippie game so it doesn't count.
Joshua: Bliss Stage's take on Evangelion is certainly not what the FASA guys would have taken away from the series.
Soren: No, but it's probably a lot closer to the emotional core of the story than anything, including Rebuild of Evangelion, has gotten since. (nerdfact: EVA-01 is painted in inverted Gundam colors.)
Joshua: Like the indie game design scene, everyone is responding to each other's art.
Soren: Sometimes with comical incompetence. Mospeada is not any kind of meaningful response to Macross.
Soren: (But I still want a transforming motorcycle.)
Joshua: I'm with you. On both counts. It's not a very good series, but some of those robots are really hot.
Soren: ARTMIC did all these really hilariously bad shows with awesome design. I like the Gall Force OVAs a lot, but not because they're good.
Joshua: It's been a real honor working with you on this project. You've brought a lot do it, both philosophically and aesthetically.
Soren: Aww. I've really enjoyed it.
In related news,
I am now saddled with a Good Problem. The systems I was planning on using for production and fulfillment of Mobile Frame Zero will no longer suffice at this volume. I had backup plans, but as of Monday, Mobile Frame Zero is bigger than the entire rest of my publishing company will be this year.
Furthermore, since before this project started, I've been trying to find a way to produce kits in larger volumes than we're offering now. We're deep in discussions with some enterprising Bricklinkers, but still don't have any promises.
I have to address these logistical challenges, I have to draw a bunch of stuff, and I have to write and rewrite a bunch of chapters. In the interest of completing and sending this game out, I'm going to have to go periscope down for a little while while I concentrate on creating the book and getting it out to you. You'll be able to follow progress on Twitter @JoshuaACNewman.
Thank you all,
pledged of $9,000 goal
seconds to go
Mar 5, 2012 - Apr 11, 2012
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A PDF copy of the game rules! You'll need dice and LEGO or another building toy to play. You'll get the PDF as soon as it's finished!Estimated delivery: May 2012
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The Mobile Frame Zero: Rapid Attack book, printed and glossy, and shipped to your door, plus the PDF as soon as it's finished! We're pricing it as low as we can to make it a kid-friendly price. You'll need dice and LEGO or another building toy to play. (please add $5 for international backers.)Estimated delivery: Jun 2012
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Two copies of the rule book for you and a friend! (Please add $5 for international backers.)Estimated delivery: Jun 2012
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The Mobile Frame Zero: Rapid Attack book & PDF with a sheet of special edition decals for all three factions designed by Joshua A.C. Newman! You'll need dice and LEGO or another building toy to play. (please add $5 for international backers.)Estimated delivery: Jun 2012
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Three copies of the game! You people sure like to play with your friends!Estimated delivery: Jun 2012
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Two copies of the game with decals! You guys sure have a lot of friends! (please add $5 for international backers)Estimated delivery: Jun 2012
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Three hard copies of the game (with PDF, like every other level), plus decals for everyone! (please add $5 for international backers.)Estimated delivery: Jun 2012
Pledge $120 or more
11 backers All gone!
| THE MOBILE FRAME GARAGE | A kit of LEGO parts hand-selected by Soren, designed to set up players who don't own LEGO to make mobile frames of any faction. Use it to make five fully-equipped frames from the instructions in the book or design your own! Add any LEGO or Mega Bloks set from the store or buy some weapons from Brickarms.com to customize your company! Specially designed for players who don't have LEGO at their disposal, and priced as low as we can afford, so if you've got a big bin of bricks, please leave this limited kit for those who don't have them! Of course, it comes with the rules and decals from above. (please add $10 for international backers.)Estimated delivery: Jun 2012
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37 backers All gone!
| THE MOBILE FRAME GARAGE! | I've been working hard to get them and now my dream is coming true! Thanks to Paul Janssen, I'm able to offer more Garage kits to backers! Of course, comes with a PDF and hardcopy of the rules and a decal set. (please add $10 for international backers.)Estimated delivery: Jun 2012
Pledge $175 or more
58 backers Limited (31 of 89 left)
|THE MOBILE FRAME GARAGE| OK, here's 100 more! The parts list for the Garage is in the FAQ. Please consider ordering parts from Pick-a-Brick or Bricklink if you're concerned about price. I only want happy backers! Because of the extraordinary success of the Garage kits, they'll all come with bits of terrain and/or objectives! Includes the PDF, rules, and decals. (Please add $10 for international backers)Estimated delivery: Jun 2012
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12 backers All gone!
|THE MOBILE FRAME GARAGE| The final level of Mobile Frame Garages! Paul Janssen's working hard to collect parts from all over the world to satisfy demand. It's very unlikely he'll be able to do any more of these at all! As before, includes the PDF, rulebook and decals. (please add $10 for international backers.)Estimated delivery: Jun 2012
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| A SOREN SPECIAL EDITION KIT! | "We die here today for God!" The Ijad company "Armored of God", known by Free Colonists and Legionnaires alike as the White Devils. Led by the scholar Adaj, they use their artillery to great effect against unbelievers. Of course, it comes with rules and decals. (please add $10 for international backers.)Estimated delivery: Jun 2012
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| A SOREN SPECIAL EDITION KIT! | "We're not all going to make it. But we're going to win." The United Mars Foreign Legion company, the Red Shoulders, charges in fast in their ACT-02. They wading into direct fire range and dealing withering fire. Slow but well-armed, they rely on dealing damage rather than speed or hiding out of range. Of course, comes with the rules and decals. (please add $10 for international backers.)Estimated delivery: Jun 2012
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2 backers All gone!
| A SOREN SPECIAL EDITION KIT! | "This machine kills Fascists." The Free Colonies company Haski's Hammer, led by Comrade-Captain Lahus Haski, has converted old labor frames, scavenged mobile frames, and industrial machinery into a fast-moving, close fighting, coordinated machine of liberation. Of course, comes with the rules and decals. (please add $10 for international backers.)Estimated delivery: Jun 2012
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| CUSTOM MOBILE FRAME COMPANY BY JOSHUA| Designed to your specification! You'll talk with him about what faction you want and how you want it to work tactically. Joshua will build and ship your company to you. Includes the rules and decals. (please add $10 for international backers.)Estimated delivery: Jul 2012
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5 backers All gone!
| CUSTOM MOBILE FRAME COMPANY BY SOREN | Designed to your specification! You'll get an interview with Joshua (for tactical advice) and Soren (so he can put his mad skills to work) where you'll tell them what faction you want and discuss how you want it to work tactically. Soren will build and ship your company to you. Includes the rules and decals. (please add $10 for international backers.)Estimated delivery: Jun 2012