For some, invoking the name of the Mutant League series of games brings back fond memories of raining death upon an opposing team in football, or dismembering a hockey player, or possibly even an animated series. For its creator, Michael Mendheim, it's a little bit more and after 20+ years out of the limelight, he intends to bring it back with Mutant Football League. We spoke with Michael about reviving this title and what makes it fun.
Co-Optimus: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us about Mutant Football League! For those who may be unfamiliar with the title (or the original Mutant League Football), could you provide a quick overview of the game, its modes, and features?
Michael Mendheim: Mutant Football League is an arcade-style action sports game where wisecracking Monsters and Mutants take the field to battle it out in the most violent game ever played. The game is a funny but brutal parody of professional football. Think NFL Blitz with mutants, chainsaws, and deaths. This is a single and multiplayer game (2 to 4 players).
There are 20 vicious teams are made up of a variety of fully 3D characters including: Skeletal Deadheads, Sentient BattleDroids, Criminal Aliens, Bio-engineered Super-Humans, and Monstrous Orcs.
I is a game to be played with friends, so we're bringing online and offline multiplayer for 2 to 4 players - competitive and co-op - so you can laugh at your friends while you crush them under your cleats, or team-up and destroy all who dare challenge you. Players can punch, pass, and kick their way through large stadiums packed with crazed and obnoxious weapon-wielding fans cheering their teams on! The playing fields are strewn with diabolical hazards, booby traps, and debris such as land mines, toxic moats, thin ice, and lava flows. No two fields are the same and they’re all deadly!
In the game there are special plays called Dirty Tricks. These are nasty, mean, unfair, and lowdown plays intended to devastate the opposition, and if that doesn’t work, kill them. Each team has its own set of twisted audibles such as the classic "Bribe the Ref" where you payoff the referee to look the other way, or new additions like "Chainsaw Massacre" where your runningback pulls out a league-approved chainsaw and slices and dices the defense into submission, and "Ginormous” where your blitzer grows 5-times his normal size - have fun trying to block him!
Co-Optimus: While the game is remembered fondly by a dedicated fan base, 20 years is still a long time for a title to be out of the spotlight. Why bring it back now? What was the tipping point that convinced you it was the right time?
Michael: This idea all started at MLF’s 20th anniversary back in 2013. At the urging of the MLF community we thought it would be a good idea to bring the game back and tried running a Kickstarter, but that didn’t go so well. We wanted to make a mobile version of the game but we hadn’t started development, so our Kickstarter campaign didn’t have a game demo video (we just showed concept art of what we were planning on making). The campaign failed for a number of different reasons but the community rejected the idea we presented. Once the campaign ended we took some time to rethink everything. While our Kickstarter did fail, we still had raised well over 140k in pledges. The community feedback was blunt and clear, they wanted a new MFL game, but they wanted a console game and not a mobile game. So regardless of our initial failure we decided to give it another go and this time deliver what the community wanted.
I don’t know if this is the right time or not. All I know is that it’s been an uphill battle for us. That being said, we have a burning desire to make this game and with the support of our community we’ve built something really cool. We believe this is a concept which will resonate with die-hard fans of the original game and a new generation of game players who have never even heard of Mutant League Football. What we have now is a really fun game that’s going to make you laugh.
Co-Optimus: With this second go at the title, in a sense, are there some features or ideas you're implementing that didn't make it into the original Mutant League Football?
Michael: The most important difference between the original and this is our online play. Gamers can now play online or with their friends on the living room couch. This game is built for multiplayer (versus or co-op modes). Beyond online play just about everything is new in this game. We have all new teams, fields and players. The game plays much faster than the original. This is true arcade action. The gameplay is more like an NFL Blitz style of game. Yes, players can still die, but the visual FX supporting the deaths are what sets this game apart.
This is the wildest, goriest, most outrageous football game you will ever play! That’s a promise. Players inflict maximum carnage on the opposition with punches, kicks, battle axes, and even chainsaws! Our visual and gore effects include blood splatters, comically horrific deaths, fire effects, exploding body parts, and dismemberment. However the violence isn’t horrific, all our violence is handled like a Looney Tunes Cartoon – so it’s actually funny when characters die in the game – not to the player who just lost their All-Star Quarterback but for the player who killed him. The player who lost their QB is most likely going to be screaming.
Co-Optimus: From a co-op perspective, what can players expect from the game? Will they be able to play against an A.I. controlled team, or is it strictly one team of players against another team of players? Will there be any kind of special co-op plays?
Michael: Gamers can play the game a number of different ways. I’ll focus mainly on Co-op for this answer. You can have 2 to 4 players be on the same team and play against an A.I. Controlled team. You can also play 2 players vs. 2 players or 3 vs. 1. The game can be set up however the player desires. For example let’s say we are playing a 4 player co-op game with all 4 players on the same team against an A.I. Controlled team – here’s how it would work.
In Mutant Football League there are 7 on field players on offense and 7 players on defense.
On offense, Player #1 is going to play the QB. He will also pick the plays and snap the ball once the teams are lined up on the line of scrimmage. Player #2, 3 or 4 can choose to control any other offense player they want (who isn’t already controlled by another player). They can play as a running back, receiver or lineman. Once the play begins they can also switch the player they want to control. On defense the 4 players can choose whatever defense players they want as long as another player is not in control of them. Once the play begins they can also switch the player they want to control.
Through practice players can become very skillful at passing, catching, running and blocking. At some point down the road we hope to have co-op league play. That’s the dream.
Co-Optimus: One of the big features of the title, and I've heard you emphasize this point in another interview, is the multiplayer component; playing with (or against) friends is important. What's been your approach to making that side of things work? How do you balance a game (or not balance it) so that four friends on the same team are all having fun?
Michael: This is a great question. Multiplayer is the most important component of Mutant Football League. Here’s my philosophy on MFL multiplayer:You have to be able to load and get into the game fast. This can’t be a twenty minute technical ordeal to set up the game (like some other games I won’t mention). This is an arcade game. It shouldn’t take more than 2 minutes to start the game, pick teams and kickoff. It has to be fun. People have to laugh and scream while playing it. If Players aren’t laughing, screaming and yelling at each other, the game isn’t working. It has to be accessible for both highly skilled and newbie players (playing at the same time). The different teams have handicapping built in, so even the most novice players can still have fun and compete with their friends. It has to be fun and interesting to watch even if you’re not playing. It has to be a game of skill. Even though this is an arcade game, skill should win the day. And finally, the control needs to be simple enough that you can play this game when you’re severely inebriated. Seriously, it’s a party game!
Co-Optimus: For now, understandably, the main focus is to get a solid working game out the door with at least local co-op in the Exhibition mode, but there's the potential for online co-op in that mode and the Season mode. What's that hurdle (i.e., developing online capability and then integrating it into the game) look like for a small development team?
Michael: Hahah. It’s like looking up and seeing Mount Everest before you, looming high in the clouds and deciding, we’re going to climb this bitch…without oxygen masks! We’re either confident and fearless or really stupid (probably a little of both). We have local multiplayer working and gamers have been playing it at Game Shows. It works well and is really fun. Online multiplayer is the single biggest risk we have left in our development, but we’ve got really smart engineers working on it and and we’ve come this far. There is nothing to do at this point but believe and trust in our engineering team to pull this off. That being said, I’m only going to promise online multiplayer modes (including co-op) for Exhibition modes.
Co-Optimus: I know you've mentioned how much the community has been a part of helping to bring this game about. What's been some of the feedback you've received about the title thus far? Are there features that have been implemented or at least put down as a possibility based on what they've said?
Michael: We’ve had hundreds of fans of the original game play this game at shows like PAX West and GenCon and everyone who has played has given us a pat on the back and a big thumbs up. When I hear people laughing and screaming when playing, it confirms we are on the right track. Our goal is to deliver on the community’s expectations for what this game needs to be. This is their game. They’ve defined the direction, not me. Remember, I’m the guy who screwed everything up on our Kickstarter campaign.
Someone in the MFL community always comes up with a really clever mutant parody name for a player or a team. Between all the players, teams, plays, music, dialog, formations, stadiums, obstacles, and dirty tricks, this is a game that is open to unique and mutated ideas... and the MFL community jumps on it like a Blitzer on a Quarterback.
So if anyone reading this wants to be part of this just sign up to our MFL fanatics club on our website also feel free to like and contribute on our Facebook page and of course you can follow us on Twitter @MutantFootball.
And we’re coming to Steam Early Access this Halloween (last week in October) so look for us there and help us finish the game!
We'd like to thank Michael for taking the time to speak with us about Mutant Football League and answer our questions. Check for the game on Steam Early Access at the end of October.