In our second of hopefully many interviews to come, we were able to borrow some time from Mitch Gitelman, the studio head at HareBrained Schemes. He was nice enough to answer or questions and give us some insights on putting together a computer game, his love for it, and the passion he has for the fans of the Battletech universe. Thank you again for taking the time to answer some questions from one of the fans.
General Battletech questions
- What got you involved with the Battletech and/or Shadowrun franchises? Jordan "hey, I got an idea" Weisman. We'd been flirting with the idea of working together for years and when he got the idea for Crimson Skies, he hired me on as the producer and lead designer. Unfortunately, about 3 months later we shelved the project so that I could take over MechCommander, which was going through a development "reset". So MC1 was my first involvement with the franchise, though I had played the TT version in the 80s. As for Shadowrun, I actually bought the first hardcover from Jordan's own hand at GenCon in 1989.
- What is your role in the development of the Battletech game that’s coming out some time next year? As the studio head, I oversee all HBS' production but on BATTLETECH specifically, I'm working on single-player story development with Andrew McIntosh (my brilliant writing partner on Shadowrun: Dragonfall and Shadowrun: Hong Kong) and Kevin Maloney (who worked on the design team of all three SR games and led development of the HK Extended Edition).
- What’s your favorite Battlemech, and why? What’s your least favorite, and why? In MechWarrior and the BT pods, it's the Catapult. I'm not a run and gun kind of guy and prefer to lay back and lock-on. In MechCommander, it's the Raven because of the combination of ECM, Beagle Active probe, chicken leg,s and SR-71 Blackbird-inspired cockpit. In tabletop, it's the NovaCat because I'm a cheating Clanner on the inside. ;)
- What’s your favorite era of Battletech? 3025! We're right where I want to be. That said, as a game developer and story teller, I'm very interested in the Clan Invasion and hope I get the chance to take a shot at it some day.
- What’s your favorite State in Battletech? What’s your least favorite? The honest answer is that I don't have one.
- If you were going to introduce the Battletech Universe to a new player, what would be the starting point you would use? I did that just last night as I was helping out the cast of the new DEATH FROM ABOVE miniseries, RENEGADES! I start with the high level concept of GAME OF THRONES in space. A throne without a First Lord, the Houses, the idea that MechWarriors are knights with BattleMechs as their combination of armor, horse, and weapons. From there, I talk about technology being in decline - similar to the fall of the Roman Empire - and the idea that older tech is better than newer stuff. That part usually gets people's attention.
Death from Above questions
- When did the idea for Death From Above come together to the point you as a group decided you could showcase it every week? DFA was Jordan's idea. He'd run events at GenCon featuring 'Mechs taking actual damage during play and thought it would make a great element for a great RPG show. His son, Nate, developed the concept with Zac Eubank, HyperRPG's Overlord. They recruited the cast, including me. Nate sold me on the idea by telling me I could actually smoke cigars during the show. (It wasn't a lie but it's definitely caused a wedge between us...)
- What shaped the decision towards building Mason as a MechCommander rather than a more traditional MechWarrior? That was Nate and Zac's idea. The line of b.s. they sold me was that I'd give the mission briefings for each episode. They didn't say anything about tracking 'Mech damage and performing for the entire show. I thought I'd just roll in, talk for half an hour, and go home.
- Why don’t we see Mason pilot his own battlemech more often? I think that at it's heart, DFA is about the lance of MechWarriors and I don't want to muddy my role. Plus, I get to sit in my chair for the whole show while they have to stand.
- What’s the funniest thing that the fans haven’t seen or heard behind the scenes? Zac glaring at us from off-camera when we make fun of him or do something he doesn't like. Messing with Zac is my new hobby.
Hyper RPG Questions (I Love your shows, and wish i could catch them more often, You should always be a guest star on Trivia Hops)
- What prompted the decision to go with a live streaming platform like twitch? Jordan and I got interested in Twitch during the BATTLETECH Kickstarter when we started doing live Q&As and our drunkstream with No Guts No Galaxy. We'd always wanted more ways to interact directly with our audience and that's Twitch in spades. I personally LOVE the feedback loop - while you're performing, you're getting real-time feedback. Then you read what folks are saying on Twitter and the DFA forums on battletechgame.com. Then Tyler and I get together several times to talk about this week's live show where you can make tweaks and changes and experiment with new ideas. It's really ideal to my temperament. I like to go really fast, make adjustments on the fly, and remain in a state of constant improvement and learning.
- With the recent Season Finale (Thank god it wasn’t a series finale) of Death From above, do you have other shows that you see winding down with a season ending? Not that I'm aware of. Lauren and the cast of Corporate SINS are still going strong and Vanquished hasn't been on nearly as long.
- What new shows are you guys working on for the Hyper RPG channel? Spoilers Sweetie.
Video and Computer Game Questions (On a personal note, MechAssault 2 caused me to cry, I was on the second to last level and my battlemech had just defeated the last of the bad guys and promptly stepped on my suit of powered armor, causing me to fail the mission.)
- You have a deep history in the computer and video game industry, what was the first game you worked on? It was a first-wave Playstation 1 title called SENTIENT, a wildly ambitious 3D adventure game set on a space station called the Icarus that was mining a unique element from a yellow dwarf star. The Icarus' orbit was decaying and it was doomed to crash into the star. You played as a mysterious operative sent to find out what was going on and save the station.
- What game that you’ve made has surprised you the most when it comes to the fans? That would HAVE to be MechCommander. I honestly had no idea people liked that game until we announced our Kickstarter for BT. MechCommander came out before the era of social media and there were only one or two fan-sites for it. Sales were good when it came out but not stellar and I didn't realize what it meant to some of the folks in the BT community. When I arrived in the dealers area of GenCon 2015 (where we'd announced the BT Kickstarter the day before), there people waiting to meet me to talk about the game. That was freaky.
- What game are you proudest of? Shadowrun: Dragonfall. Mike McCain's game direction and Andrew McIntosh's writing took the work that Jordan and I had done on Shadowrun Returns to the next level and the story development and writing collaboration that Mike, Andrew, and I found resulted in a tight and resonant experience.
- Which of your games do you wish you’d been able to do more with? All of them. Every damn one.
- Battletech has you tied up for the near future, but what are you thinking is the next Hare Brained Schemes mega hit? If we decide to take on another challenge as big as BattleTech, I think I'd like another chance at Crimson Skies. However, I'm not really after a mega hit (although that would be nice). I think of myself as a craftsman and prefer creating small, tightly-honed gourmet experiences.
- What games would you like to work on? I have no real preference. I've made games in many, many genres and don't really have too strong an opinion of the one I do next, as long as it's a creative challenge. I've always wanted to write a good Wonder Woman story, though.
- In the past you’ve referenced building a game for the Crimson Skies Property, have guys ever kicked around an Aerotech computer game? Never. From a marketing POV, it's not an easy concept but maybe Mr. Weisman and I should give it some thought.
- What’s your favorite board game? Settlers of Catan published by Mayfair Games.
- What’s your favorite role-playing game? Justice Incorporated by Hero Games. It's an out of print pulp hero game and I'm in love with that sort of thing.
- What was your first video game system? Generic Pong in black and white. It also came with handball for solo play.
Personally, I would like to thank Mitch for taking the time out of his extremely busy schedule to answer my questions and to show us fans a little about himself. He’s an extremely passionate developer who’s maximizing the options, features, and gamplay that we are going to get from every finished game he makes. He always wants to do more for us, the fans, and for that, he’s a gem of a human being.
Hyper RPG can be found at
https://twitter.com/Hyper_RPG on twitter
https://www.twitch.tv/hyperrpg on twitch tv
https://www.facebook.com/hyperRPG on facebook
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRDPlyuTAus79rPdFERMS5A on youtube
http://hyperrabbitpowergo.com/ on the plain old internet
Harebrained Schemes can be found at
http://harebrained-schemes.com/ for mothership one
https://twitter.com/WeBeHarebrained on twitter
https://www.facebook.com/HarebrainedSchemes on facebook
http://www.battletechgame.com/ is the home site of the new game Mitch's folks are working on that releases next year
Battletech can be found all over creation, but here's our best avenues
bg.battletech.com is mothership one for battletech and has a ton of interactions
https://www.facebook.com/Catalystgamelabs to catch them on facebook
Mitch himself can be found on Twitter at