Well a fair few months ago now I decided to try and turn my interviews into a semi-regular basis and call them Industry Talk. I'm still not sure I whether I'll be able to turn this into a sort of regular series of articles? Do I know enough people I could harass into doing these interviews? Honestly, I don't rightly know right. But, I've been more than willing to find out. When I first started asking around for potential victims Adam Poots of Kingdom Death fame was one of the first people to respond in the affirmative. For some reason though it has taken us an absolute age to get round to doing this interview, however I hope it was worth the wait...
FLG: Hi Adam, firstly thanks for agreeing to be the first interviewee for my Industry Talk series of articles on my Blog waaaay back now. Why the hell has it taken us so long to actually get round to actually doing the interview do you think?
AP: Life, and putting tons and tons of tiny men into boxes. I think I finally spend more time packing than answering emails!
|Jacques-Alexandre Gillois' fabulous looking Phoenix.|
FLG: Fair enough, I’ll let you off then being as though many of those boxes have ended up in my hands. So my first real question has to be about you, can you let people know who you are and who your company is, and a little bit of history behind all of this?
AP: I am Adam Poots, an avid video and tabletop game enthusiast and the Creator of Kingdom Death. Kingdom Death is a mature nightmare horror game world that is currently represented by a range of boutique resin miniatures. This all kicked off because of my absolute adoration for a gem of game called Warhammer Quest. I recall thinking, how hard could it be to make my own game my friends and I could gather around to play on weekends?
FLG: Thanks; I guess the next question I have to ask is why did you decide to start up Kingdom Death in the first place? And so far has it been worth all the effort and struggle you’ve clearly put into it over the past few years?
AP: It honestly started as a hobby, a little side project to pour my thoughts into while working as a full time graphic designer / user interface specialist / concept director...(my professional roles kept changing as I worked on Kingdom Death on the side) up until the release of the Wet Nurse, and the first real explosion of interest went off. I had made significantly more money then I had with my real job in a single month and I had to seriously consider taking on the project full time.
Was it all worth it? Well... I think so. It’s honestly all such a huge risk since I am venturing out as an individual with no corporate backing, investors or even financial partners. It would of course be ideal to earn a comfortable living and be able to continue producing miniatures and games into the foreseeable future but... who can really say?
FLG: Your resin miniatures have obviously proved highly popular with the painting community within our hobby. If you don’t mind me saying so it’s pretty unusual for somebody to come completely from a standing start, from nowhere in this industry if you will, to suddenly rise straight to the very highest levels as you have. Did you have any help or support from within the industry early doors?
AP: At the very, very beginning, no not at all! It was very hard to break into the community and I spent a long time sending many emails and knocking on tons of metaphorical doors. However, there were three very special people that did eventually answer. That would be Mike McVey, Micheal Bigurd (MIKH) and Raul Garcia Lattore. The three of them must have been able to tell my ambitions were earnest and offered some much needed early advice, and more so... an introduction to a few sculptors. I am extremely grateful for their early emails and encouragement. Haha, I must have sounded like such a loon!
FLG: I guess I have to talk about the miniatures themselves now don’t I? As you know I’ve purchased a fair few of your pieces, and I pretty much love most of the stuff you’ve done to date. Even though I’m not too sure ‘love’ is the right word to use. The question I need to ask though is where do you get your ideas? What are you muses and inspiration? I know you’ve mentioned that Warhammer Quest and the anime Berserk are influences, but are there other things beyond that? Lets face it some of your ideas are… erm… ‘out there’ aren’t they?
AP: Warhammer Quest is THE board game highlight of my childhood. I am not out to copy it, but the cooperative and chaotic experience is certainly a nugget of cement lodged dearly in my heart. Berserk has the best monsters and Gutz is a total badass. He hails from a time where manga characters were manly men, uncomplicated and unforgiving. Geiger is another large influence, and I got to see his Museum last summer. Getting to see a lot of his famous artwork up close was fantastic. But, I think your asking me what is the inspiration beyond the surface level media I’ve indulged in and absorbed. The ideas presented in Kingdom Death are an evolution of a few simple explorations. Man & Monster, Nightmare & Survival. On a personal level I’ve my own share of real life nightmares, but I don’t think those come into play much. When I work on a project creatively, I really focus on the user experience aspect of it; the users in this case being the people playing the game. What would make them uncomfortable? What kinda monster would feel good to just barely triumph over? How to describe in physically sculpted form a monster that is beyond description? I look at a lot of religious art, things that depict Gods and moments that transcend humanity and I try to work elements of them into my own personal sense of horror.
FLG: So how would you describe the design ethic behind Kingdom Death? I know you have the tagline “Boutique Nightmare Horror”… but that somehow seems woefully inadequate in describing the influences and art direction, so could you give us a more detailed answer?
AP: Initially I called Kingdom Death, “dark fantasy”. But... then I realized that people associate, Vampires, Werewolves and things like Game of Thrones with Dark Fantasy. While I was at Salute in England, I recall a passer by looking at some of the early concept artwork and saying... “This is nightmarishly horrific!” That stuck with me and I decided it was a much better tagline.
I think this is a good question, and one that I can answer now. I could not have answered it before as I was still searching myself for what Kingdom Death was to me exactly. I had ideas and glimpses with a few crystalized characters and moments, and through the trial of art directing and working on many, many projects I found myself repeating a few philosophies. Kingdom Death is about making death and the horrific, beautiful. By taking many elements of great beauty and arranging them in different or non-traditional ways, something unsettling and majestic is born. It is still quite honestly hard to describe. But, one thing that is very important to me is that everything feels ‘solid’. In this world of Death, everything must feel very alive. You will not see creatures of decay, or skeletons animated with no muscles or ligaments to secure their bones, nor will you see a zombie behemoth with a partially exposed spine. A creature like that would fall apart if it had to actually live and breathe in a world. Everything is struggling for survival; thusly most things that are surviving are at the top of their game, so to speak.
FLG: I guess part of the ‘charm’ if you will with your range is that you take things that as you say we are pre-disposed by our culture to believe are noble or beautiful and subvert them into something horrid. Often with a very blunt in-your-face effect, or at least that’s how it seems to me. Why did you go down this route?
AP: I personally don’t feel that the horror in this case is very blunt or in your face. I’ve yet to actually explore proper themes of violence and have stuck to majesty, sorrow and “unworldlyness”. This is a hard question to answer because it’s really the design philosophies and expression of the game world that lead to the characters place in the world, description and finally finalized physical piece of art. Nothing is made for the simple shock value of it, though I do find it very interesting and flattering that so many of the miniatures have provoked so much discussion and debate! The art direction and miniatures are simply the result of exploring themes of humanity and the idea of people in world devoid of history and major empires... but filled with complex monsters.
FLG: When I said blunt and in your face I wasn’t necessarily thinking of the more visceral side of horror, but more the uncompromising way you display your brand of horror. You don’t shy away from showing things many others would. So what makes you not pull those visual punches on miniatures like the Wet Nurse?
AP: By design I envision both players and their characters being scared, overwhelmed and uncomfortable while they face down physical horrors. I wanted them to feel real (well as real as a tiny monster that sits on your table can be!) and to present their absurdity with a certain majestic quality. That is the conscious reason why it doesn't seem like punches were pulled, I am so focused on telling the story and capturing the feeling of the piece I do not stop to think about what may or may not seem inappropriate, or too far. I believe the unconscious reason, is that I am extremely desensitized and the visual imagery that sends alarms off in my head is far worse then what I present in KD. Horror Movies, Geiger, South Park, hyper violent anime are all things I grew up with and certainly are bubbling around somewhere in my head. I like to think of KD as “animal planet” in a nightmare world. Really horrific and tragic stuff happens but it’s all real to the world. Like a good mature HBO show, you show everything, the good, the bad and all the very human details that happen in between.
FLG: I’ve got to ask considering I generated a bit of a hubbub a few months back now with an article I wrote about misogyny and our industry. Now just to be clear I’m not against sexy, or even sexually explicit miniatures, as long as they’re dealt with in a mature way, and their purpose is clearly labeled. I actually stuck up for your product, because you call some of your miniatures Pinups and are clear about there purpose. Do you think the industry has a bit of maturing to do with regards how it portrays females?
AP: Thank you for sticking up for Kingdom Death! I like to think the tabletop games and miniatures are going through a bit of a renaissance right now and it’s resulting in this amazing flood of new ideas and artwork. When this happens in any niche, there are always arguments and debates that arise in regards to the art, its form and finally its function.
On a personal level it has always baffled me (especially in the states) that hyper violence and gore is appropriate for broadcast television but nudity is not. I still can’t quite seem to reason why seeing someone’s inner organs is ok, but a nipple is taboo? Isn’t this in a way... part of the larger issue? Anyway...
My hope is that the industry continues to mature, immature and generally explore what it is, and what it means to its fans. For the sake of art I do not feel there is a certain way to portray or not portray anything.
However, to specifically answer your question, I am not sure it’s just our niche industry that needs maturing, I think its well... everything. Equality and how men create fantastical women for media is a deep and complicated issue. What it basically boils down to is awareness, and in our case character awareness. There is nothing wrong with a piece of pinup artwork, but there is something wrong about an unaware pinup grade schooler.
Sex is, and will continue to be used to sell products and I feel that it is our responsibility as an industry to label things appropriately.
FLG: Good answer, I too agree it’s a wider issue than our industry alone, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to get our own house in order first. Lets be honest here, some of your pieces, like the Wet Nurse, Grandmother etc. are particularly disturbing, and graphic in their displays of the female form, and indeed the warping of feminine beauty for ‘shock’ value. What’s your take on the article I wrote? Do I have a point, and as a company do you feel you need to be careful about what you produce and how you present it?
AP: I feel very strongly that art should be created without restriction of any sort, but once it’s complete everyone is entitled to their opinion and feelings. I am sure some people do make art for purely shock value, but that isn’t my intent at all actually! While working on Kingdom Death, I reflect upon my life, experiences and the imagery that seems to have made a lasting impression on me. I am pursuing the idea of ‘nightmare horror’ and sharing my vision with talented artists whom help bring the ideas, the creatures, places in the world and the feeling I am trying to impart unto them reality. From a business stand point; I admit I do feel that I am taking a risk by being so ‘raw’ with the ideas presented. But, the creative side of me needs the freedom to explore and feel my way through the process without restriction.
I know this must all sound a bit ridiculous considering the pinup range, and the monsters I work on... but, the world is mature one and I need to face these difficult issues head on instead of tucking them under a rug or pretending the horrors of war don’t exist in a wargame.
FLG: Over the last three years you’ve developed a fairly large range of miniatures. Do you have any miniatures that made you think “whoa, that’s a bit too risqué”, I mean obviously we wouldn’t have seen them, but have there been things that have made you go “hmm, we’re not releasing this on grounds of taste and decency”?
AP: Honestly... not really... sorry! I am extremely tunnel visioned during the creative process focusing only on the feeling I want to impart or who / what the character is. In my head, everything fits into place and the nightmare horror theme so decency, or taste, are not the thoughts that bubble up to the top of my brain. However, once it’s time for something’s release I get EXTREMELY anxious! Will people like it? Will people buy the amount I need in order for me to cover costs? This is not limited to just monsters, I feel this way about everything!
FLG: Talking on some of your miniatures, and trying to sound not like too much of a fan boy, I’m a HUGE fan of your Flower Knight miniature. So far it has to rank as possibly my favourite of the bunch you’ve produced, which considering there are so many awesome miniatures in your range is no mean feat. Do you have any favourites, and if so why?
AP: The Flower Knight is amazing and you’re an awesome fan! Is it ok for you to butter me up this much in an interview? (FLG: We’ll see how much abuse I receive for it and then I’ll let you know) It’s really hard for me to pick a favorite. It might actually be the Twilight Knight (not the pinup version), his was the very first piece of concept artwork I had and I can remember just how excited I was when he showed up in my inbox. I felt like a kid on Christmas Morning! He has been sculpted three times; by three different artists before I finally settled on Yannick Hennabo’s amazing interpretation of the concept art. His detail is fine, but not as crazy as the Flower Knight so I can actually paint one myself. He is a hero, a simple guy with a sword that wants to make a difference. It’s uh, much more layered and complicated than that, but that’s what the model says to me. I suspect he is special to me, because he was the first idea I’ve had illustrated, and finally made into a physical sculpture I can hold in my hand. For a former web designer it’s pretty much the most amazing thing ever.
FLG: I’ve often said on my Blog that Kingdom Death manages to occupy a very special niche sector of the market along with few other companies, like Studio McVey, Darklands (formerly BaneLegions) and maybe new kid on the block Ax Faction, amongst others. Between you, you are purveyors of some of the finest and best produced resin miniatures on the market today, I’m sure you are rightly proud of what you’ve achieved. But, if you had to pick one moment or miniature for you out of all the work that summed it up for you, and made it worth it, what would it be?
AP: Mike McVey had invited Anna (my wonderfully supportive life partner) and myself out to Salute (FLG: A trade show in the UK), and then back to his home in Sheffield. At that point, McVey to me was a tiny picture of a man who wrote the book about how to paint miniatures. I spent a good part of my childhood into teenage years, reading its wisdom and ogling the photos. To me he was, without a doubt, the best tiny man painter in the known universe. A childhood hero, which I didn’t realize was a hero until recently.
Once we got to his place, he sat me down in his attic office where all of those amazing figures that grace the book happened to be laying out on desks, as he had taken that display case to the show and everything was unpacked. I got to see the Green Knight up close and personal and it blew my mind. I didn’t even know it would blow my mind, it’s just a painted miniature right? No big deal. Not at all, the photo on the cover of that book does not do justice to how radiant and inspired the layers of paint on that figure are. It was in that moment, that I realized McVey was a childhood hero of mine, a very special artist that has been pioneering a unique and special art form. That’s when he started to ask me about my creative process and how I direct sculptors... Me! Who the hell am I? This guy is Mike McVey why would he want to know about me?!
It was a really memorable almost ethereal moment I just did not expect. It embarrasses me to even recall it let alone accept the validation. Blew my fragile mind.
FLG: Yeah, Mike’s a top guy. One of those people you root for not just because he’s talented, but also because he’s just such an awesomely good person. Like Studio McVey though, one of the biggest complaints that people constantly email me with about your limited edition resin runs, is that they’re too limited. Again this is a topic I’ve touched on with my Blog. Obviously it’s worked for you as a company so far, but do you ever feel like perhaps you should up the output of your miniatures to get closer to meeting the demand there obviously is for your stuff?
AP: I feel that the sense of demand is artificially inflated by fans. I also don’t think even my average customer realizes just how difficult it is to manage an all resin miniature range. Each and every figure needs to be checked and carefully packed. Since I give the artists I work with a lot of freedom, we often end up with miniatures that are many parts, which of course increases the complexity level at every step. I have a very strict production pipeline and not every figure sells at the same rate. Generally the women sell more then the men, but it’s not always the case and it’s very hard to predict. If I made every figure a general resin release it would be a true abomination to manage. It’s a hard crossroad, but I love the resins and I’d rather focus on quality than trying to make everything readily available.
FLG: A few months back now you released a test product of some of your most popular miniatures in PVC plastic. I’m guessing this was a test run for the components you’ll eventually have in the boxed game. How do you think they went?
AP: The PVC plastic is indeed what I currently plan on using. I think the test went well and although they do not hold the same quality as resin I am still excited to see how everything turns out. I like the material more then ABS plastic (what GW uses) because it can handle organic shapes a bit better and doesn't suffer from the blurry side syndrome that a lot of plastic models seem to have. It’s a good material and makes the gaming end of it and the price ranges people expect a possibility.
FLG: As a process, how different is it for you to be looking at moving over to producing mass production plastic components for a game, rather than the more boutique like resin production you’ve been doing for a number of years now? How are you gearing up for it, and what are the challenges? Obviously we all know how expensive it is tooling for plastic.
AP: I’ve tried to make the plastic models that will go into the game a little more “solid”. For the resin range there is no limit, figures can be several pieces to capture a specific pose and have many small bits that are not easy to manage. They are the crème of the crop, the highest and most creatively unrestricted projects I can manage. The plastic on the other hand needed to be more grounded. I couldn’t have models split into too many difficult parts, as a new hobbyist might find it far too difficult to manage. I also made the models slightly bigger to take into account the slight shrinkage that is part of the process. I think one of the challenging parts will be making sure everything translates well and parts are not too small once they get to the other end of it.
FLG: As an avid fan of your resin pieces, when you release your boxed game will you still continue to produce your resin pieces as ‘deluxe’ versions or something? Or will you move completely over to just producing the game components in plastic, and of course the boxed game itself, plus expansions?
AP: Thank you! I looove the resin too and for that reason, I can never give it up! My hope is to actually eventually publish the game with Cool Mini or Not and to sell only the resins myself. This will cut down on the warehousing I have to do and let me focus on what I love the most.
FLG: Moving onto the game if I can, or should that be games? Given we now know the Kingdom Death universe will be split into two core products. You’ve always had a game as your end goal. So how close are you to getting there?
AP: The game that is going to be on Kickstarter is nearly finished. Currently it’s playable and going thru the play-testing ringer as more content is added and tweaked. I have a feeling the kickstarter will extend the initial pitch of the game, which will add more content that will need more play-testing and balancing. Then there is another whole side to the physical game making bit... production! The factory needs to prep all the models for plastic, then create the molds, everything needs to be tested, cards, books etc. need to be printed and finally it all gets boxed and shipped to me (or somewhere) where it can be shipped to each individual. It’s all... way bigger then I initially realized! If the game was all resin and limited to say 100-200 copies, I’d say we could have this wrapped up by the end of March. But honestly... it’s looking more like end of the year 2013. I will do all I can to speed it up but, that is the reality I am looking at.
FLG: Well at least we’re doing this interview now I guess, which is fortuitous for you as you’re just about to embark on a Kickstarter for your first game set in the Kingdom Death universe, ‘Kingdom Death - Monster’. So how nervous are you about the campaign? You’ve got a pretty high initial target of $50,000’s (this was changed to $35,000's) are you at all worried?
AP: I AM SUPER NERVOUS!
FLG: I’m sure it’ll be fine, Mike McVey was just as nervous about Sedition Wars. It currently seems that all the cool kids are doing Kickstarter or Indiegogo crowd-funding campaigns lately. Obviously you too are joining the cool kid brigade too! What does crowd-funding offer a company like yours? And why is it so enticing?
AP: The opportunity to raise funds for expensive production that might not have been possible by other means. I still have mixed feelings about it and wonder what sort of position kickstarter will see in the future of our niche but... if there is something that is helping people organically get their creative projects funded then I am all for it!
FLG: How do you make your project stand out amongst all the other projects that are going on, and how do you ensure your campaign isn’t the one that gets swamped or ignored? What tricks have you got up your sleeve?
AP: I wish I had more tricks! All I can do is present what is hopefully a unique product in the way I best know how. My former life as a web / graphic designer gives me a bit of an edge in the presentation department. I do have some stretch goals I am rabidly excited about. My hope is that when presented everyone is excited too and we can make it happen! I should also mention I have a slew of new pinups that will be made available during the course of the campaign. Hopefully these alternative models will be able to serve as cheerleaders and help people back the project.
FLG: I think one of the main reason people get so enamored and caught up with Kickstarter campaigns is all the extra free stuff. Now I’ve just seen your mocked up campaign page (looking very swanky it is too) and I was wandering what you think the sweet spot for your campaign will be?
AP: I hope everyone goes for the deluxe! Though resin is honestly a nightmare and the idea of scaling it into the thousands scares me deeply. I wish I could impart how serious I am being here without sounding morbid. But its a real f***ing challenge! A talented resin caster is a talented artist, a master of his craft and is in no way easy to work with. It’s not about the money, paying it on time, over paying, under paying... It’s about the love of the craft. As far as the sweet spot... I honestly don’t know. I am modeling the campaign after the successful CMON kickstarters with a few of my own twists. So... who can say for sure?
FLG: I often wander though sometimes how these campaigns manage to throw so much extra free stuff in. I feel that there’s sometimes a danger of companies adding too much free stuff and slitting their own throats. How much does this concern you? Especially in the light or Reapers Bones campaign?
AP: A huge amount. I really don’t want to sink my battleship while I am building it up, and I can only hope that backers understand what the limitations actually are.
FLG: From talking to you I know that your first game, Kingdom Death - Monster is significantly different in tone and set up to Warhammer Quest. I know you don’t want to ‘spoil’ the game for us, but could you give us a sense of what we can expect from the game. A menu description if you will as opposed to the meal itself?
AP: The game is designed to be run as a campaign with a group of friends. In a typical play session you’ll, hunt a monster, have a showdown with it, craft gear and do a little settlement management.
AP: I think I’ve learned that you never really stop learning. This particular creative process has become an utter obsession for me and the knowledge that’s out there seems infinite. Unlike most other entertainment that seems to keep evolving based on technology, inherently the experience of a hobby board game remains the same despite advances. You still sit around with friends, roll dice and use game pieces for rules and an extension of your imagination. There is just something so magical about it. Physical games are as old as time itself and there is no set way to describe rules or even play them. As far as what I’ve learned, I guess that would be with sticking true to your vision. I see no point in art for the sake of business and I will always want to explore and attempt to create things that are different. Not saying I am a bastion of originality or anything like that... but I do try to at least bring less popularly explored perspective on very classic themes.
FLG: I guess all that remains for me to say is thanks for answering my questions, and to wish you all the best of luck with your Kingdom Death - Monster Kickstarter. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
AP: Thank you Jody, It has been great to answer your questions and I appreciate you taking the time to start a dialogue with me. I want to ensure everyone (for better or worse), that despite the projects growing size that the core, or the soul of it remains the same. Everything has been very deliberate steps on a explorative journey to bring the best possible cooperative hobby game experience I can muster. I will thank all of your support and kind fan emails by doing exactly what you keep telling to do. To keep at it and to never give up!
FLG: All that's left to say is thanks and wish you the best of luck with your Kickstarter.
As I'm sure you are all aware by now, the Kingdom Death Kickstart campaign has gone live today.And if you want a bargain you'd better hurry because those Black Friday specials are going extremely rapidly. The campaign has smashed its initial target of $35,000's in mere hours and has sailed past its first stretch goal ($50,000's) and now it's second stretch goal ($80,000's). Yep I think it is fair to say that even at this early stage this is likely to be a big one. I'm not quite ready yet to predict it'll out do Sedition Wars, but I wouldn't be surprised if it did!!! As I'm writing this Adam has just posted their third stretch goal at $105,000's, given the campaign has already amassed £85,000's in pledges already and counting, so what odds would I get on that been broken in the next 2 hours before this interview is actually published? Peace out!