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Screams from the Cave 2008
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Night of the Living Gamer
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Interviews: Mystic Eye Games

 
Mystic Eye Games has emerged as a force to be reckoned with in the D20 industry. Joe Kushner helps bring Mystic Eye into sharper focus in our interview, below:

Please introduce yourself and your company.

My name is Doug Herring, President and co-founder of Mystic Eye Games (MEG). MEG was started by myself and Andrew Thompson. Our original focus was to recreate the world of Gothos and The Hunt: Rise of Evil. At first we planned to do this using the FUDGE system and really had just thought it would be a fun hobby business. Then d20 came along and we jumped on. At the time, there were only a few bold d20 publishers out there and we really saw a wide open playing field. Of course, all that has changed.

However, d20 has allowed us to get into the market, establish our self and grow.

Currently MEG is comprised of our core product lines plus three imprint partners, Ambient Inc, Natural 20 Press, and Vigilance Press. We have absorbed the line and core team from Thunderhead Games, and have a license with FFG to produce Dragonstar setting adventures. We also have some affiliation with Twin Rose and their Campaign Suite but this is entirely unofficial.

What made you want to be the print partner for Ambient and Natural D20? Were you afraid that Sword & Sorcery Studios would gobble them up too? :-) On a more serious note, did you approach them, they you or? Any other internet only publishers you'd like to print or work with?

Well, actually, I have always believed in emulating the success of others so I looked to those who were creating successes in our market niche segment. There were a few who I looked closely at and SSS was one of them. I came to the realization that if we wanted to truly grow we needed more, proven, solid material. I came up with a win/win opportunity. Take the popular and proven PDF titles to the vastly larger print market and get these folks, who were producing fantastic material, recognized. We all make a little money and MEG gets to expand its shelf presence. So far so good!

In regards to doing more partnering this year, I am always looking but I think our last imprint partner for this year and most of next year is Vigilance Press. The resource pool is only so deep.

With a target of two titles a month in d20 we are already hard pressed to get all our different lines out in a timely fashion without going to three or so titles a month.

With the purchase of Thunderhead Games, many are wondering if consolidation is in the future for the D20 Publishing Market. Your unique take?

Like all booming markets there will be some consolidation. I know there will be more. Who, when, and how is up in the air. Who knows, maybe MEG will be bought. I am certainly not opposed to hearing an offer.

I think there will a lot more d20 publishers that simply fall off the radar. This will be for a number of reasons. Some run out of gas as far as money and man power resources go, some just don't plan well at all. Many think publishing is easy until they try it. Lots are terribly under funded. Like any business, only a small percentage make it past a year, those that do stand a better chance of seeing the next year, and the next.

I am only really referring to print publishers. I think there will be more and more come into the PDF internet market, but the audience is still so small these folks will never make a ton. Other than Monte, that is.

What do you think you're greatest strengths are as a publisher and where do you think you still need to improve?

Our greatest strength is our team without a doubt. I have a ton of practical business experience and I am a 20 + year gaming veteran. Andrew Thompson, also a 20-year gaming vet and is a fantastic writer, Hal is the master of Marketing, Jim is a driving force behind the great products from TG and that is only our core team. When you add all the loyal and solid partners, freelance talent, and associates, we are a pretty strong force. I guess those eight or so EN award nominations lend some credibility to that theory.

Our weaknesses are an easy one, we need better editing ( we are getting that now as we have added several freelance editors), better marketing efforts (Hal will fix that) so as to increase our market share, and more consistent layout. All these things we are in the process of fixing.

Our growth is both a strength and weakness, we are trying to be very careful about overextending too fast. This is one of the reasons for the self imposed two products a month limit. We do not want to dilute our own product lines and want to optimize the sales of what we do put out.

Your campaign setting the Hunt is a bit different than most standard fantasy or even fantasy horror settings around. Where did the idea come from and what type of campaign support can we expect?

Gothos and The Hunt was my world of 1e and 2e with lots of things converted from other games and our own rules. I knew it was unique enough to make it on its own as a d20 setting. Originally, we were going to create it in FUDGE, which is a fine system, but being that it was originally a D&D based world and d20 was going to get the best marketing push of any RPG of the last decade, the choice was easy.

On the support side, We are continuing to write the Gazetteers, which will be web enhancements, as well as other web enhanced stuff and (maybe) a HROE net book. We have HROE products in the plan all the way through the end of next year mapped out (Witch of Loch-Durnan, Guilds & Adventures, The Pantheon & Pagan Faiths next up), and are planning PDF adventures to sell at reasonable prices and give away set in Gothos.

Also, we will be doing a full promo very soon for The Hunt: Rise of Evil graphic novel, titled Dimitri's Journal, which is already underway. It is being illustrated by a fellow who has done work for Marvel, DC, and some independent comic companies. We are looking at a 144 page B&W graphic novel that will be out in November. There will be more on that soon.

With d20 Modern around the corner, there are more than hints that Mystic Eye will be taking an active hand in supporting it. Any details yet, or is the old 8 Ball giving us the "Answer Hazy, Try again Later" deal?

We are very clear on our direction here. We will be doing the post apocalyptic-gothic-fantasy of The Hunt called The Hunt: Fall of Man, and it will be set on an interestingly twisted version of Earth. There is a little story for it on our website. We are waiting for the rest of the d20 Modern rules to come our way to go full blast into it so the details are sketchy. What we have so far is truly awesome in my opinion and I think the gaming public will love this setting. We are trying for some really unique surprises with this as well.

What book are you most proud of and why?

That's easy, The Hunt: Rise of Evil Worldbook. It is our baby and we see a long future with it. Why are we proud of it? It is unique but easily adaptable, it is very, very flexible in how you play the world, and we have given a logical (though mystical) reason for the GM to do just about anything they want and not make it cheesy. It really is a fun world to play in.

One of the things I enjoy about The Hunt is it incorporates Freeport and Bluffside. In an official capacity, are there any other publishers you'd like to collaborate with in the future?

Oh sure, Don't forget Seas of Blood by Mongoose though. We used that for our sea faring rules in The Hunt as well.

There are other publishers I want to work with and in some capacity I am. FFG for instance, I am thrilled we are working with them, even though it is not in Gothos for now, but who knows what the future might bring. I am not hinting at anything, just wishful thinking.

I hope we can do some great work with Bastion Press at some point. We are, and have swapped some OGC already (sounds kinky - hehe). On my wishful thinking list of some day to do's would be a Weird Wars II/ HROE cross over. Weird Wars II is awesome and I think we could make the cross over make sense. I love Pinnacle's stuff and Shane is a great guy.

Where do you see the D20 market in 2 years?

Hmmm. I am not certain. I think we will see less print publishers for d20 and fewer generic products. I think you will see more setting specific stuff bring produced. I say that because, at some point we will have produced as much generic stuff as the market can take and I can see us reaching that before two years is up.

Beyond that, who can say.

Mystic Eye recently came out with its first non-D20 Product. What was the experience like and will you be likely to repeat it with other non-D20 items?

So far, absolutely great. Giant Monster Rampage is being very well received and is doing pretty darn well at this point. We have plans for many more non-d20 products, including expansions of GMR and the Graphic Novel we mentioned that is based on the Hunt setting.

So, where are we going with non-d20 products? Well, where as right now we are 90% d20 and 10% other we plan to get to 20% d20 and 80% other in a few years time. I always viewed d20 as a great launch pad for other cool things. Now that we have the hobby and book trade distribution channel behind us we will use that momentum to produce other great products like GMR.

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