Atomic Mass Games Interview
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It’s been just under a week since we had the interview back from William Shick, and if you haven’t already checked that out you can find it here. Today we have another interview from Atomic Mass Games staff, and this time it is with Creative Director Dallas Kemp! Most of you will of seen Dallas on AMG streams painting up minis, discussing new models and just talking all things Marvel Crisis Protocol. Once more like Will, Dallas went above and beyond when answering the questions, and there are some great insights into what goes into making a character. All of my questions and comments are in italics and bold, so you can clearly tell the difference between me and Dallas!
Interview with Dallas Kemp
Firstly I just want to say thankyou for taking the time to answer these questions, it’s really great and has created lots of interest around the blog which has been awesome. I had lots and lots of questions that got submitted, and I’ve tried to filter it down to the ones worth asking. If you could answer as many questions as possible I’d really appreciate it – But obviously feel free to not answer any that aren’t appropriate!
It’s only fair we start with the most important question of all – Who is your favourite Marvel character, and why?
I don’t typically pick favourites as I like characters for a depth and a variety of attributes. But, I do love Magik and Logan. Logan has this amazing hidden past story that I fell in love with in the early 90’s and was such a great foil to Scott. Plus he has some fun villains such as Bloodsport and Lady Deathstrike. Magik is just a badass, and has a dope sword. Her current iteration in New Mutants is a lot of fun. Plus she is the Sorceress Supreme of Limbo!
When designing a model, how do you decide what costume or outfit to go for, when every character has so many iconic representations and depictions?
Once a character is chosen, then comes the costume choice. Many times in comics, the costume identifies a shift in personality, attitude, or powers, so this stage is all about which version (or snapshot in time as we like to say) we would like to explore. Once that is decided, then we can start the posing to get the personality or action for the character.
So once you’ve got a costume, how do you decide the pose for the model? We’ve seen some really dynamic poses for different models, and I’d imagine it’s hard to choose the best way to portray the different Heroes and Villains?
Posing is the fun puzzle we deal with daily 😃 There is so much going on with the pose when you take the costume design that has been established in comics, the engineering, and the pieces to manufacture. We start with the personality of the character…like Spider characters should be in motion or coiled like a spring. Then push where we can. Many times we will be standing in the middle of the Studio “trying” to act out the poses to get the feel and direction, which can sometimes lead to some chairs being stood on or tactical trashcans being utilized.
The goal in a line of miniatures is to have a collection of different poses, from the high action of Black Cat to the stoic confidence of Luke Cage. This gives the overall line a dynamic bell curve of action. I like to think of each step of the process like a canvas. What I mean is, that on a canvas, I like to give the viewer a place for the eyes to rest…a breathing point. So each mini is a canvas, each wave is a canvas, and the whole line is a canvas, each get breathing points. That said, from the onset of AMG, we have wanted to push what miniatures can be. Hard plastic grants us some unique opportunities that cannot be found in resin or metal miniatures and lets us really push into some interesting poses and FX for them.
How long does it take to sculpt and design a model, such as your typical man sized Hero like Captain America?
Great question! Every miniature is a unique puzzle to grok. Characters you think will be easy sometimes become the most difficult and the opposite is true as well. Spider characters take a bit because philosophically you want them in motion, where others are much more statuesque. Many characters can take three to six months for the full design process, but we are always making more than one at a time 😃
Do you make different versions of a character, and different sculpts before deciding which one to produce, or do you decide early on in the design process what you’re going to go with?
This starts with where the character fits in the character’s timeline. Doing the current Hickman version of Cyclops would feel off against the 90’s designs of other X-Men. Everything about the character is set in a design concept well before sculpting. The design concept covers which costume, the pose, notes about the pose and references for the sculptors to work from. This concept will also match the Development notes so we can hit the personality chosen for characters in their rules as well. We would love to go back and revisit every character. Picking just one version of some of the characters is hard… you want all of them, but at the end of the day only one can go in the box 😃 Hopefully we get these opportunities in the future though.
In a couple of kits, such as Carnage and Thanos, we’ve had some different build options. Will we get more alternate parts in future kits? Such as different heads and arms?
Optional parts are something I like to approach organically. The option needs to make sense with the pose and have a good cut point to be viable to me. A lot of this comes in the posing stage or early sculpt stage. I would not like to have a character like Silver Sable let’s say, to have a weak blaster rifle pose and a weak blaster pistol pose – just to have the options. We shoot for one strong pose first, and then if the option presents itself and feels right, then we explore it.
Is 65mm the largest size for a base you’re planning on doing? Or are there plans for any larger models? A lot of people are calling for Sentinels, but I want a really big Ant-Man!
I cannot really discuss future plans, but I do love big things! It all comes down to what makes sense for the game, what we feel like we can do correctly, and where the game goes. A bigger base could be tricky, just because of the interactions with terrain, but you never know.
The themed city bases are great – And add a lot of character to the minis. Are there any plans to introduce different variations of the city bases, or even completely differently themed bases, such as space or jungle?
I think the current bases work just as well for space or jungle as they do for anything. The intent was that the bases are the starting point to your story. We have done a few livestreams where we go over hobbying up your MCP bases to new locale or decorations. To the hobbyist, all things are possible and it is your Marvel story to tell. Just look at the city bases as blank and let the imagination go!
How often do you spend painting each week? And how many painted models do you actually have for Marvel?
I try to paint every day. Of course, that does not always happen, as life is life. But I do say an hour a day will change your life. Some days I will put in 3-10 hours painting in my own time. As far as what I have painted for MCP…everything released and some unreleased 😉 This includes multiples of many characters. Also, I have painted so many Spider-Men… I lost count 😀
Have you got any advice for people who want to improve their own painting, and any tips or tricks to help people get better results?
1. Paint everyday.
2. Learn to fail…that is where the lesson lies.
3. Ask questions/take classes.
4. Practice good ergonomics (Sit up straight, anchor the arms, etc)
5. Do not compare your current work to others. It’s not fair to you or them. You are just on different points of the same path.
The game has been out for two years now, is it different to how you envisioned it? Have there been any major changes along the way?
I don’t think it is different from what I envisioned. I think we are still growing and pushing and we have so many more ideas and dreams. The biggest changes is the size of us. We started out as four people making the game, and have grown into a bigger team of absolute badasses that just show and share their passion for miniatures everyday with me. That is such an amazing experience. It’s taken so many people and creative minds to make these games, and I get to share this experience with them.
Do you know if there are any plans for official alternate dice and measuring tools? Similar to how Star Wars: Legion has the red gem dice?
Maybe! There were many designs scrapped for the measuring tools that could be dug up. Fun fact: those were actually hand drawn on paper. I think they are still around somewhere… 😀 I never say no, and never say yes… But if the time is right and it makes sense to do some alts, then I think it would happen for sure.
What’s the best game of MCP that you’ve played personally, and your favourite moments from some of your games? Do you have one model you always seem to struggle against?
I played a playtest game with Steve Horvath showing him some new characters. That game was a lot of fun. My favourite moment may have been when I played Dormammu on stream against Shick and Pagani. I really thought I had that game in the bag when I was just blasting Shick’s characters off the table… then in came Ghost rider for the win. I love Ghost Rider.
Over lockdown a lot of people started playing MCP at home. Did you manage to still get some games in, or maybe even convince some family to give it a go?
During lockdown, I mainly only got in playtest games. My partner recently started collecting and painting Spider-Foes, so we may need to throw down soon!
In game, if you could only ever play one affiliation, which one would you pick?
If I had to choose one?! Dark Dimension. Dormmamu is so cool and I love big miniatures 😀. Or Unaffiliated, so I can build my own narrative. Pre lockdown, I played “Team Science” at the FLGS a lot. Just any character that was a cool science person. Iron Man, Doc Ock, Shuri, Ultron. That was fun. Then sometimes I would add in a random character and make up some science based background for them in the middle of the game 😀 Hela happens to know science stuff and does chemistry on the side.
Do you read comics, and if so what’s your favourite comic or comic run? Have you found yourself reading more comics since you started working on Marvel Crisis Protocol?
I do read comics. Started collecting in the very early 90’s and worked at a comic shop. I even owned a game store that sold some comics. I just sorted through my collection during a move, and remembered how much I loved Gen X 😀 Of course Fatal Attractions from Uncanny X-Men tops the list, but my list of “favourites” is always in flux. Like favourite movies… Do you mean favourite comedy or 70’s Euro horror?! It varies. I have a run of Wolverine from 1-300 including the 4 part miniseries. My Uncanny collection goes from 140 -350 with about 18 issues missing… I’ve got to fix that.
It’s been great being able to ask you all these questions – And I’m sure you’re sick of answering them! Lastly I’d just like to say that lots of people asked how you relax, what you do in your spare time, and what your perfect Sunday looks like. Rather than ask all those, I thought we’d finish with just one question – What’s your favourite chocolate?
How do I relax? I paint miniatures, play video games, watch movies, and cook.
Spare time? I relax!
Perfect Sunday? Coffee and donuts or pie. Hang out with my partner. Watch a terrible horror movie. Take a nap. Paint some more minis!
Favourite chocolate? Dark and salty.
We’ve had some great insights into behind the scene character creation here, and a couple of name drops on characters we’re yet to see appear in Marvel Crisis Protocol. Who knows, maybe we will be seeing Bloodsport and Silver Sable at some point in the future! Nevertheless it has been great to get these answers about costume design, character posing and many more interesting things.
I just want to say another huge thankyou to Dallas Kemp for taking the time to answer all of these questions! I can’t wait to see what new models the studio comes up with in the future, and I know they’re in good hands under the watchful eye of Dallas! I’d also like to say a big thankyou to the elusive BK from AMG who has helped me to set these interviews up! Let me know what you think of the interview in the comments below!
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