Mark Tuttle was one of the original Decipher Team that worked on WARS. He wrote several WARS short stories, ran the WARS Radio podcast, and much more. He's had an amazing career working in Radio, and for companies like Sony. Its our honor to speak with him on WARS 10th Anniversary! You can follow him on Twitter: @Radioman1017
How did you first get involved in WARS?
I had been working with/at Decipher for a couple of years. I started doing volunteer list moderation on AOL for the STCCG. They noticed me, and asked me to do work for them. I was working in Radio at the time and didn't want to give up that gig so we negotiated a contract deal. They then brought me on to do design and playtest for the SWGG and, long story short, hired me full time and moved me to Norfolk. A little bit after that, we were told that we had lost the Star Wars license but would retain the game mechanics. Since we were all very close to those mechanics, there was a lot of discussion about what to do with them. WARS came about as a way to somehow retain the name ("wars") and the sci-fi theme. The intention was for this to be a major multimedia property. We dreamed big and there was discussion of movies, TV, toys and the like. (More on that later.)
What was the early development of the Game like? What led to the decision to develop WARS as its own product?
There was another team handling development so I was kind of on the outside of that. I was dealing with The Lord of the RIngs and several other properties that we had running at the time. But I got to go to alot of cool meetings and watch the project come together. I eventually got pulled more into it and got to help a little toward the end of development of the first set. The mechanics were pretty much locked since we were using an existing system. We wanted our SWCCG players to be familiar with the game and be able to pick it up right away so little was changed.
What led to WARS Radio, and what was it like hosting it? Did you have a favorite moment from it?
Wow, WARS Radio. I like to think we were trend setters there. If you look at things like how video gaming is exposed through YouTube and Twitch now, we were really ahead of our time by devoting an audio-only web show to a game. I don't believe anyone else was doing anything of the sort. I remember each week trying to grab different guys to come into the studio to talk about the game. The "studio", by the way, was a broom closet. Seriously, I had to move the mop bucket out of the way to tape. It's hard to pick a favorite moment. It was really just a lot of fun to do all the way around.
You also wrote some WARS fiction. Can you tell us anything about the decision to create that line of short stories?
Well, as I mentioned above, we had dreams of this being a full-fledged property. To do that, you need story and context. With Star Wars, we had that whole universe to expand upon (which we did quite well, I think.) With WARS, we had the roughly 100 characters at the top of the cards to tell some story, but it's just not enough. We needed more and the call went out to any of us that could write. I'm not saying I can write, but I think I did ok.
One of my Favorite (and the most fun) WARS stories is your own "Return to Juno Station". What led to the ideas behind it?
Heh. That was fun to write. I had to go back and re-read it to remind myself of what led to it's creation. Although it didn't happen until the end, I really wanted to tell a story about a Maverick. Jarek starts out as an Earther and through the story changes in a lot of ways. The Earthers were kind of stereotypical and the Quay seemed a little like Klingons, but I wanted to explain why the Mavericks were the way they were. To me, they were the most interesting characters in our setting.
Do you have a favorite WARS faction? If you could live in the WARS Universe, would you? Do you think you'd survive?
Yeah, I like the Mavericks, of course. But when we created this, it was important to make sure none were just bad guys for the sake of having a bad guy. Each side had a point of view and a justification for their actions. Could I live in the WARS Universe? In a way, I sort of do. We all do. What happened is WARS is really just a snapshot of what the world looks like sometime. Every side has an agenda. Some are stronger than others militarily, some are more primitive and savage, some just want to be left alone. I think the real brilliance of WARS was that the space travel was limited to our immediate system. This wasn't Star Trek and there wasn't going to be ships traveling the galaxy. It was very short range (comparatively) so it was grounded. The story of the Mumon Rift and the superior Shi being severely weakened (down to our level) by coming through was brilliant. It brought the Universe to us.
Can you tell us anything about the end of WARS and the decision to put it on Hiatus?
At the end of the day, it's all about sales. Decipher had its own internal issues which have been well publicized and the game just wasn't performing as well without the Star Wars name. In business, you have to make business decisions and that's a shame.
Was there anything planned for WARS and never realized you were excited for you could tell us about?
Well, to this day, I have the next set of cards that few people have ever seen. And no, I can't show them to anyone. I realize that's a terrible thing to dangle out there, but it is what it is. It made me sad because I did a lot to name cards in that set. I had the idea that all of the Earther ships should be named after lost civilizations. We had the Atlantis, the Croatoan, and several others. It was a lot of fun. And if I recall correctly, we worked a lot of the fiction we had written into that set so it made it more "official".
You had the experience (if I'm correct) of being at the Decipher Open in Las Vegas, probably the biggest gathering of WARS fans ever. How did the event go back then?
That was interesting, to say the least. I remember it wasn't as well attended as we'd hoped and there were the usual issues at the last moment. Still, it was a good time and I think the players mostly had fun.
While I understand you might not be able to talk much about it, fans have heard whispers about the WARS Movie that was dreamed of and never occurred. What can you tell us about it? How far along actually was it?
I really wasn't involved. I heard a couple of things but nothing concrete. It was probably pitched but I don't know much beyond that.
WARS does seem like was fairly far ahead in using the internet and multimedia to market their game like you touched on. Do you think it would have done better in our modern internet environment?
Hard to tell. We would certainly have gotten much better reach but we'd also be in a pool of greater competition. So it might have been a wash.
If you had a chance to revisit the WARS Universe in another story, is there any element of the story you'd like to play with you didn't get to?
Not necessarily in terms of story, but I would have preferred stronger branding. "WARS" is not an easy word to brand. It needed a title that it could own. By not having that, it was really hard to make it stand out. On top of that, the game is very complicated. I have done probably a thousand demos of SWCCG and then WARS. It's a complicated game system. TCGs that come out today don't come near it. Consider that this game was location based. Getting kids with short attention spans to wrap their heads around that is very, very hard.
Do you have a message of fans of WARS on this 10th Anniversary?
Just to thank everyone that supported that project. I still think it's an incredible property. When I look at some of the garbage on TV that passes for "intelligent sci-fi" I wonder would have happened if we could have followed through with the larger plans. There have been attempts over the years to move the license forward but I don't think anything has come of it. Would I work on this license again? Yeah, I'd love to. Maybe the fans should start writing stories. Find a central place to store them and start hastagging and Facebooking to them. Build a ground swell of support and introduce new fans to a future where a tear opens in our solar system and we suddenly discover we're not alone after all.