I have always been into movies in a borderline obsessional way, staying up late watching TV, renting VHS, and eventually amassing a frankly silly DVD collection. About fifteen years ago I wanted to better understand exactly why the films of great directors – like Kurosawa, Kubrick and Hitchcock – were critically revered, and so I started to actively educate myself in cinema. I watched all the extra features, read magazines, joined forums, and bought university ‘Film Studies’ textbooks. I started to understand themes, narrative arcs, mise-en-scene, and the building blocks that went into every movie.
This understanding of the components that contribute to that nebulous ‘magical’ quality has given me an appreciation for some film-makers that I hadn’t previously understood and now I see every film in a new light (although I don’t care what the critics say: I still hate Bresson). I find myself constantly noticing clever editing tricks or lazy directorial choices and exposition. I don’t enjoy films more now that I know more about them, but I do tend to have stronger extreme feelings, so I really hate bad films and really love well made ones.
This has been on my mind recently for the first time in a decade as I am now viewing lots of things through a new ‘educated eye’. Going through the process of starting a business from scratch means that every area of my hobby is torn down to its constituent parts, evaluated and costed.
Every website I look at I am thinking about the quality of the design, every rulebook I read has me counting up the number of original art pieces and calculating in my head the cost, and with every model I handle I am evaluating the sculpt quality and the way the cuts are designed and hidden. Like with films, I find myself being drawn to the extremes: the clunky art direction and bad font choices at one end, and the delicately detailed paint jobs and cleanly and consistently designed pages of the best books at the other.
It would be nice to win the lottery and start a business without compromise; have renowned artists producing dozens of concepts, veteran sculptors sending multiple designs to be mass-produced in injection-moulded plastic, and a rulebook with original art on every expensively-designed page. But that is the end goal, not where we are now.
We have been lucky to work with some truly talented artists and sculptors, and seeing Simon’s and my ideas come to life through them has been inspiring. But now we have to make some difficult decisions about when to compromise and when to go for broke, and that is difficult for two guys who have exceptionally high standards and can’t help looking at everything through a hyper-critical eye.
The hard part isn’t producing a game, rulebook, and range of miniatures that are really good on a finite budget – I can see how we could do that if we were prepared to constantly compromise. The hard part is producing a game, rulebook, and range of miniatures on a finite budget that look like we had to make no compromises and had millions to spend.