John Master Lee is a guy that’s been in the video game world for going on twenty years, having worked for former powerhouses such as Hudson and Sega, he’s seen a lot. Eventually he decided to leave the corporate world and start doing his own thing. Fast forward a few years and he’s heading a small team out of the Bay Area called Wicked Loot while they put together what could be the next big thing. Spark Rising is a unique looking strategy game where players build units Lego style, or download them from a vast marketplace, then fight. It’s basically bring every kid’s pretend play to life. The title looks so promising that it was one of only 4 projects backed in our latest installment of Budget Backer.
John was kind enough to take some time out of his Spark Rising Kickstarter schedule to answer a few questions about the game, history, real estate, and he even had time to wax poetic for us.
Cliqist : Who are you and what do you do?
John Master Lee : I’m the head of an indie game development studio called Wicked Loot. I spend half my time making sure the lights stay on for the team and I, and the other half pursuing my passion in designing games.
Cliqist : Based on what I read from, and about, you online it seems like you know something about almost everything. Why are you an indie, and not a bigwig at a massive studio doing television interviews and giving keynote speeches at GDC?
John Master Lee : Well, my wife calls me a know-it-all, so I guess you are on target. So I’ve been that gaming exec who did the GDC speeches, and TV interviews, launching some great games over the years. But I broke into the industry as a game designer. And I designed zero games since then. My career went down the path as a gaming exec so I spent much of my time setting up teams, working on business deals, marketing campaigns, and just about everything on the publishing side. After some tragic events in my life a few years back, I knew I had to shift gears. I cared less about being a bigwig than about creating memorable experiences for gamers and myself.
John Master Lee : Oh lord, you guys actually dug up Quest 4000? That was a fun experiment, were I would force myself to do something memorable can capture that experience to share. The goal was to do 4000 “quests” over a lifetime. I have to admit, I haven’t updated that site with new quests in a while. Not that I stopped doing things that aren’t noteworthy. For instance, I moved my whole team out to work in Hawaii for three months early this year because I wanted the change of pace! I haven’t updated Quest 4000 in a while because it takes so long to write up a post!
But don’t fret, we might bring something like that back with Wicked Loot since we’ll be doing much more updates about our game development efforts going forward!
Cliqist : What’s the sales pitch for Spark Rising?
John Master Lee : Spark Rising is a strategy infused action game where you build fantastical fortresses, creatures, and such, then set them into massive battles.
Buy a copy, please?
John Master Lee : So we did come into this framing the game like Minecraft, but it’s definitely evolved past that quite a bit. There isn’t any mining in our game. Nor is there any crafting. Our game is all about battles. The reason you create stuff, whether fortresses, creatures, or weapons is ultimately make the battle experience more fun.
What we share with Minecraft is the use of a voxel game engine. And if you think about it there are tons of pixel-based games out there, tons of polygon-based games out there, and there should be tons of voxel-based games out there… though there isn’t. Minecraft pretty much brought voxels back to life, so you gotta give them credit for at least opening up the possibilities of even making games using this tech, which we’re happy to do.
John Master Lee : Spark Rising will evolve past my expectations. I’m not only sure of it, I’m looking forward to it. I founded Wicked Loot Studios because I believe that user generated content will dramatically change the way we play games and make games. If I limit the game scope to my designer eye, then that means gamers will never dream beyond that. I want them to create something even I didn’t expect was possible, and we’re committing to create an experience that allows for that.
Cliqist : In this, the twilight of the Spark Rising Kickstarter campaign, is there anything you would do differently? Do you feel you were well prepared?
John Master Lee : One thing we learned is that we would be much further ahead had we built a following before you even launch on Kickstarter. We used Kickstarter as the way to announce our game, a coming out party of sorts, and that meant we had to build a following very quickly just to hit our goal, which is stressful. Taking that lesson with us, we’ll continue to actively engage with our fans after Kickstarter, because for an indie, it’s always about making sure you have the financial runway to make a game, and the fans make that possible. We always have to be actively engaged.
Cliqist : The update you posted recently about selling your home in support of your dream was touching. Not just for the story of your late friend, but for the dedication you’re showing to your craft. Two followup questions though.
- What was your wife’s reaction when you told her?
- What’s it like having the ultimate passive aggressive battle card to use against the rest of the Wicked Loot team?
John Master Lee : My wife has already seen how I was affected by recent events in my life, and it pained her to see me this way. Knowing that I wasn’t living the life I should have, and having the regrets about not taking action sooner. It was a natural evolution to thinking about what would it take to make this work, so I didn’t just surprise her with a FOR SALE sign out front of our home. She’s a special woman, and her support is unconditional. Which pretty much means, I owe her BIG TIME.
As for the ultimate passive aggressive battle card… wow, I never thought of it like that. But I can see what you mean. You know, I’m going to have a talk about that with the team, because I want to make sure that it doesn’t affect team dynamics. My hope is that they view it as me believing in them enough to support them during this early formative stage, but I can see how it can add a lot of high pressure expectations if it’s not addressed properly. So… thanks for bringing this up!
Cliqist : Any final words to anyone that’s on the fence about backing Spark Rising? Any particular backer rewards worth calling out?
John Master Lee : Unlike many games, where you get access to a beta, and play the final version of the game with very little input, our game development philosophy is to include our fans in the creative process. Coming on board as a backer will get you alpha access starting this year. Your feedback will shape the game.
And if you are feeling devious, the $5000 Mastermind tier ensures your reign will be remembered as you become the ultimate villain in the game!
Cliqist : Can you close us out with a Spark Rising inspired haiku?
John Master Lee :
Bring forth your armies
Pew pew pew with cubes cubes cubes
The Spark Bot shall reign
Thanks to John Master Lee for taking the time to answer our questions. Take a moment to check out the Spark Rising Kickstarter campaign, which is running until Wednesday, October 30th.