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Interview: Michael Mendheim (Mutant Football League)

Genesis fans have long enjoyed the classic Mutant League games, and there has been hope for a revival of the franchise for decades. We The original creator of the series, Michael Mendheim, tried to revive the franchise via Kickstarter in 2013 but was unsuccessful. Since then, he’s worked hard to make a reboot a reality, and we’re happy to say that our wishes have finally come true! In 2017,  Mendheim was able to launch the game on PC, with Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions following a year later. Now, he’s poised to give his Mutant Football League revival a physical release with new modes and features.

At the 2018 Midwest Gaming Classic, Sega-16 had the chance to check out the game in person, and Mr. Mendheim was kind enough to sit down with us for an interview regarding the game’s release and upcoming expansion. There’s a lot for Mutant League fans to be excited for,  and there seems to be great hope for series.

 

Sega-16: Now that the game has been out for a while, how has the reception from the fanbase been?

Michael Mendheim: They really like it, so we’re really happy with it. We have a 4.5 out of five on Xbox Live and the same on PS4, so they like it a lot.  I would like to urge those that are fans of the old game or of NFL Blitz to go out and purchase it. Our sales have been OK, not great, and for us to continue making these types of games, they have to be successful. So, if you like this style of game, support it and then we can make more.

Sega-16: You said you learned a lot of lessons from the original Kickstarter campaign. Was there anything, within reason, that you think you could have done better with the game’s launch?

Michael Mendheim: Well, launches come down to having enough money to market the game, and we didn’t have enough money to properly market MFL, and that was part of the problem. It’s a problem that’s solved simply by having a lot of money or working together with a major publisher. There’s a lot I would have done differently with the launch, but most of our issues were all money-related.

Sega-16: Were you ever in any discussions with a major publisher?

Michael Mendheim: Yeah, we did, and we’ll be releasing a physical version of the game in the summer. Beyond that – we were done with the game and being done and working out a deal with a publisher when the game’s completed and just splitting up half the profits wasn’t something we felt too good about. We were looking for publishers when the game was pre-alpha, and we had some interest, and we actually had a couple of contracts, but the final deal points in those agreements were typically one-sided. Things that we had agreed upon were changed, so we were reluctant to go into a publishing deal of that kind. I used to do deals all the time at companies like Electronic Arts, so I know it from the publishing side, and I know it from the independent developer side. We’re not going to sign a publishing deal that’s going to hurt us in the long run or hurt the brand. I’ve already done that before, and I don’t want to repeat the same mistakes of the past.

Sega-16: What kind of feedback have you gotten from fans of the original Mutant League games?

Michael Mendheim: Oh, they love it! They’re very happy with the game. If they have one gripe, it’s usually “how come Bones Jackson isn’t in this game?” That’s because Electronic Arts owns the rights to the characters that were in the previous game. I think that the guys that loved Mutant League Football love this even more, so I think we hit a bullseye.

Sega-16: You anticipated co-op play to be a core component of the gameplay. How has that been developing since launch. Has it been a major attraction?

Michael Mendheim: Not so much, really. Most people seem to be playing the game in single-player mode. They do have tournaments, like the guys on Steam have a Discord channel. We try to run other tournaments and have sessions where people can go online on Xbox One and PS4 and play. The online population is fairly thin, which is why I keep stressing to people to go get the product. It’s on both consoles and only $19.99. It’s a great deal. Support indie developers and get a really fun game!

Our analytics show that online play is less than five percent of the population. We’re going to continue improving it because some people like to play co-op, but there’s not a lot of it. It’s mostly head-to-head.

Sega-16: That only accounts for online co-op though. Local co-op must be popular, since this is a game that begs to be played with friends on a couch.

Michael Mendheim: No, it doesn’t account for local play. We have no way to track that experience, so we don’t know. The game is a lot of fun cooperatively. As it evolves, we hope to see people play in teams. They can play a little bit more competitively in tournaments and stuff.

Sega-16: You’re planning on releasing further expansions, correct? What kind of content can fans expect?

Michael Mendheim: Oh yeah. We’re working on a dynasty mode, which will be part of the physical release. It lets players use a franchise mode. It’s not super sim-like; it’s arcade and simple, but you’ll be able to trade players. We have free agents that you can sign to your team. When you play, your guys gain experience. Everybody starts out with a 40% overall rated team, which is terrible because we have 90% rated teams in the game. But the idea is that you take a bunch of rookies in your first season, and you kind of build them up. Dynasty is a multiple season play mode, so every player earns XP when they’re on the field playing. The player can then decide how they want to use the XP in the character ratings – make them faster, tougher, but you’re always managing it.

You also have a salary that you have to pay each member of your team. You have a team budget. It costs money to bring them back to life. If you beat a team, you essentially get their playbooks, so you can customize your own playbook. You also get their dirty tricks. So, you have the dirty tricks that come with your team, but them you can also purchase dirty tricks to use. They cost money, so you’re always balancing how much your guys cost against how much the dirty trick is. You have to manage the team budget as well as the players. The idea is that you want to create a dynasty. After the first season’s over, your guys should be somewhat competitive, and you keep building that team to compete in multiple Mayhem Bowls. If you reach the Mayhem Bowl in your first three seasons, you get signed to an extra year on your contract, so you get an additional year to try and stack Mayhem Bowls. It goes for five years and then you retire. If you don’t do a good job, you could get fired as well.

So, that’s our dynasty mode. We’re also bringing in new species to the game, like werewolves and demons, which were picked by our community. We’ll have new plays and new teams, so, yeah, it’s going to be cool.

Kickstarter backers got this sweet Genesis case, complete with full-color manual and mock cartridge!

Sega-16: If the game proves as successful as you hope, is there a chance we might see other sports genres, perhaps the long-awaited basketball game?

Michael Mendheim: This project was self-funded, and that was really hard to do. If this game is successful, we would love to do hockey and other sports titles, but we need people to go out and support the product. It’s $20, about the same as a round of drinks, and we can guarantee that we’re going to provide everybody out there with way more fun than a round of drinks – although, we strongly recommend that you have a round of drinks before you play the game! You can’t go wrong. If you like action sports games, it’s $20 on Xbox One, PS4, and Steam. We’re confident you’ll feel that the game is well worth your money.

 

Our thanks to Michael Mendheim for taking the time to chat with us. For more information on Mutant Football League, check out the official Facebook page. The game is now available for Steam, Xbox One, and Playstation 4.

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