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Massively interviews Wild Bill Stealey on his military MMO project

Shawn Schuster

You may have heard the recent news concerning MicroProse co-founder J.W. "Wild Bill" Stealey diving into the MMO business. You may have heard that he plans to get together with some of his old crew, like Fred Schmidt and Jim Bull, to make an action-based military MMO. Yet, did you know that this is simply the tip of the iceberg when to comes to what Wild Bill and his team have in store for us?

To find out more information on this newly announced project, we jumped at the chance to sit down with Wild Bill and get some more intel on his classified operation. If you were ever a big fan of the MicroProse age of military simulation games, or you're just tired of the same old fantasy MMOs, this interview may get your excitement levels up. Wild Bill Stealey has a passion for what he knows best, and it's evident in this interview. Could a massive, persistent, military PvP world be exactly what you've been waiting for? Follow along below for more on what the folks at Thriller New Media have in store for the MMO world.

Massively: What can you tell us about Thriller New Media? What are you folks up to in the MMO space?

Wild Bill Stealey: The people that I'm closest to in the world are those people who went through military training with me. Whether they were in my regiment when I was in the Army, or in my squadron, or my wing when I was in the Air Force, or the guys in the Air Force Academy; those are the kind of people I trust my life to. So those are the kind of people I want to hang out with. I believe that in an MMO world focused on military, action subjects, we can build great squadrons, great regiments, great battalions, great wings, and those people can all compete with one another for the pride of their squadron.

One of the things about most MMOs is they're more roleplaying. Ours is roleplaying too, we all want to be General Patton, but we're just born too late. So I think the whole MMO world is ripe for us to take the kind of organization we had in the military since Sun Tsu and build it into the MMO world. That's basically what we're going to do with Thriller.

Since this information has just been released recently, has production started on it already? Are you still in the concept stage?

We are in all stages, interestingly enough. We've got a couple products that are almost done, but those are not products we developed in-house. Those are people that we've known for awhile and we've been working along with them, and their products are ones that we will license and put in the Thriller game channels. We've got one product that is completely done that we're upgrading significantly. We'll be able to launch that right after we open up the game channels.

We have two other products that are more speculative. Then we have our own development people who will take some of these products from the great authors and actually build an original MMO series. Not one game, but a series of games from each one of these authors. So we've got licensed games, one game we bought, two games we're helping get developed and a series of games which we will start from scratch.

We want to launch with at least three game channels, with two other game channels coming shortly behind. These people have promised me finished products by September, but hey, you know how development goes.

There was a mention in the press release about a social network. Is that going to act as a hub for all of these projects?

We want to build the same kind of networking site as we had with MicroProse where people can show up, they can know everything about our online games, they'll know everything about the real world, because these games will have real world subjects in them. They'll be able to buy books, movies, other people's games, peripherals, and everything that has to do with the kind of subjects that the military, action, espionage kind of world we're going to focus on, with a little bit of military science fiction in there too.

So the social networking site is just a meet-up place -- now let's go kill each other. Buy me a virtual beer at the end and I'll put your score up, I'll give you a hero wall and I'll let you prance around about how good you were when you killed me last time. So the General will want to kill me, and I will want to kill him back.

In the military we'd have the ready rooms, we'd have the squadron break room or we'd have the Officer's Club, and this is like our little Officer's Club to go hang out in.

And that will be across all the games you're working on?

That's correct. All of the games will have doorways into the social networking site. There will be a complete list of them where you'll be able to see who's online. You can go there and find out where your buddies are playing. You can communicate with them or you can set up matches.

Will this be mostly a player versus player game?

It will not be the standard roleplaying game. This will be win battles, win points, win medals and all of those types of things we do in the military. I'm a retired military officer, five of the guys who are associated with this are all Air Force Academy graduates. We're working with two Naval Academy graduates; we have a bunch of shooters from Fort Bragg coming in. It's not going to be your standard roleplaying, except the role you're playing will be that of Sgt. Rock or General Patton or whoever is your favorite military leader, or each one can be the new Lex Luthor of the military organization.

I want you to know that I basically have the game laid out on a piece of paper ready to go. We've got some of our old MicroProse game designers who were great at these products to come in and help me take them from pure simulations to a team event, which turns it into an MMO where you have to compete with other teams and other outside forces. Then it's interesting 24/7, it's persistent and we're having a great time. We will build giant worlds where people will want to capture real estate and resources to be that kind of roleplaying, but it will be very much a tactical, strategic player versus player world.

So you have to build your own world, you have to compete with everyone else. You better get some resources because you can't buy guns or bullets without them.

Back when the industry was a lot smaller, we had twelve military simulations that all sold over three million copies each. At the time it was great. You'd fly with a squadron, except they were all AI. We're not going to fly with that squadron anymore; we're not going to drive with that tank battalion anymore with AI, because we're all going to be in it.

Were not going to compete with World of Warcraft. We're going to take Call of Duty and raise it to a twelfth level, so now you're not just killing 16 people, there will be thousands of these armies covering huge expanses. So somebody could be Hannibal, somebody could be Caesar, somebody could be Alexander the Great and try to build his own empire to the world. We'll build a dictator, great. We'll have great fun.

So in mentioning some of those historical military leaders, this won't be a modern-day type of game?

We're going to do game channels that can go from Civil War through the future. Some people might like to fight the Civil War over and over again. Can you imagine 3,000 guys all at Gettysburg? Do you think people would play Gettysburg over and over again? You bet they will, because they do.

So the whole issue is, you can build scenarios from the past to the future. If you read science fiction, there are great stories about us battling bad guys that don't look like us at all. So why not make a world like that, too? I'm a big fan of Halo, I thought it was terrific. So why not make a campaign like that?

Thank you for your time, sir. We look forward to hearing more from you.

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