Interview: Tomas Rawlings of Auroch Digital Discusses Dark Future: Blood Red States

Dark Future: Blood Red States Logo

Community Manager Jake Connor of Auroch Digital, Ltd., the company producing Dark Future: Blood Red States, graciously asked if Wheels, Weapons and the Wasteland (WWW) was interested in an interview to discuss Dark Future: Blood Red States and car combat gaming. Auroch Digital, Ltd. Production Director Tomas Rawlings, Ph.D. (TR) kindly answered several questions provided by this blog.


WWW: What was your first experience with Dark Future? How long have you played the game?

TR: I started playing GW games when I was about 12 and I read White Dwarf avidly so came across it then. So this picture is from my own copy of White Dwarf that announced the upcoming game. Then one of my school friends got a copy we used to play game together on weekends and I played it soon after it came out. I loved the art, the setting so really enjoyed playing the game.


WWW: Why did you and Auroch Digital, Ltd. decide to develop an electronic game based on Dark Future, an out of print, car combat miniatures game from 1988, a title no longer supported by Games Workshop?

TR: After doing Chainsaw Warrior: Lords of the Night, we had developed a good relationship with Games Workshop and so talked about a number of possible projects. In was in part because nobody else was doing anything that attracted me to seeing if we could get the Dark Future licence. It meant that we’d get define how that space became digital, which gives us more scope to play with the concepts and the game. Plus; chaos, meets highway warriors meets cyberpunk what’s not to love?


WWW: What are some of the aspects of Dark Future that attracted you to play the miniatures game?

TR: For me it’s the setting. I’m a huge strategy game fan and a game that has momentum as part of the gameplay adds a really cool aspect to how you play I also really like Battlefleet Gothic for similar reasons. The TL; DR would be ‘Speed’.


WWW: What are some of the aspects of Dark Future that attracted you to create an electronic version of the game?

TR: Going back though my copy of the game when we were chatting to Games Workshop I could see that there was so much promise in this game when converted to a digital format. The core problem of any boardgame game with real-world physics modeled in it is; how to make the game give you that feeling of speed, motion and space while not bogging the player down in charts and tables so much they need a degree in physics to play. I saw that we could get the computer to do all the hard things the calculations freeing the player to, well, play.


WWW: How was the name Dark Future: Blood Red States created?

TR: The main setting in the game is the middle bit of this alternative America that has become a wasteland. So I was thinking of this area as being roughly where the ‘Red States’ (a term for the geographic ‘middle’ bit of America) when you think what else is red and fits the theme of Dark Future Blood. Hence the title was born. It has other references in the story too, which players will discover.


WWW: The history of car combat games has demonstrated making a car combat game that is successfully received by gamers is difficult. What are some of the aspects of Dark Future: Blood Red States that will make the title a successful one? What are some of the aspects of Dark Future: Blood Red States that are different from previously published car combat games that will contribute to the game’s success?

TR: Firstly because I’m a fan myself. When I’m designing a game such as this, I’m thinking ‘As a player, what would I want?’ and then I’m taking it from there . . . I think the biggest difference is going to be how we’re using a real-time game model that you interact with in a simultaneous turn-based way. So it has strategy (real-time) and it has speed (real-time).


WWW: Dark Future was unique among car combat games because it had cyberpunk elements, including netrunning and cybernetics. (Although the RPG Shadowrun, published since the late 1980s, combines car combat, cyberpunk, magic, and fantasy, car combat is not a major component of the RPG.)

TR: Yes, and I really like that aspect. It’s not in the boardgame much really but it is in the novels and it will be part of this game. The driver and their skills and implants will play an important role.


WWW: Dark Future was published in 1988. The Internet not widely available to the general public until the second half of the 1990s. Would Dark Future have been more successful, because of its cyberpunk nature, if the game would have been released 10 years later, when the World Wide Web was in widespread use and Internet literacy was becoming commonplace?

TR: Hard to say really as so much of what it is came from when it was written. Given the strong fan response we’ve had I’d say it was a success in that people remembered it and want more!


WWW: Global environmental damage was an important part of the Dark Future game world. Since the publication of Dark Future in 1988, the world has suffered many large-scale natural disasters, and awareness of the accelerating effects of global warming on the planet’s climate has increased. Global environmental damage was a critical part of this year’s movie Mad Max: Fury Road. Because there is more widespread knowledge of climate and environmental issues, will the environmentally damaged game world of Dark Future: Blood Red States interest more gamers than if the game was set in the real world, a post-nuclear world, or a game world that has minimal background on the environment?

TR: Yes, you read the original rule book and it talks about the impact of climate change this was from 1988 where most people would have been oblivious to it. When I read news articles that suggest conflicts like that in Darfur and Syria has climate as a partial catalyst, it shows how prescient Dark Future was. We’re taking this really seriously in the design and have got some scientists with support from The Wellcome Trust embedded into the game design process, so that the info and ideas they give us feed into the gameplay and story.


WWW: Car combat in electronic games, movies, and other media is usually presented using one of the approaches listed below.

1. The setting is the real world where car combat equipment is limited to law enforcement, military forces, or participants in violent sports (1980s television series Street Hawk, 1982 movie MegaForce, 1986 movie The Delta Force, 2008 movie Death Race, 2010 movie Death Race 2, 2012 movie Death Race 3: Inferno, 1989 computer game Deathtrack, 1996 computer game Death Rally, and video game series Twisted Metal).

2. The setting is a post-apocalyptic world where technology, weaponry, and natural resources are very limited (1979 movie Mad Max, 1981 movie Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, 1982 movie Battletruck / Warlords of the 21st Century, 1986 computer RPG Roadwar 2000, and 1987 computer RPG Roadwar Europa).

3. The setting is a future world, although not post-apocalyptic, has suffered environmental damage, economic damage, and/or large-scale warfare. Unlike a post-apocalyptic world, there are widespread areas where technology, weaponry, and natural resources are still at high levels (1981 boardgame Car Wars, 1985 computer RPG Autoduel, 1988 miniatures game Dark Future, 1997 computer game Interstate ’76, and 1998 computer game Interstate ’76 Nitro Pack).

What are advantages and disadvantages of the type of car combat game world in Dark Future, with civilized and lawless areas, and automotive weaponry of high complexity that is widely available?

TR: That’s a good summary. In the Dark Future, we’re not fully post-apocalyptic but we’re heading there fast! This game focuses on Sanctioned Ops operating in the Red States, so in the Big Empty. It means that we’ve got gang cults and cyberpunk plus military grade hardware. The advantage of this is great material for our team to work with. It means the background is mostly desert, but it looks cool, so I’m happy with that.


WWW: What are some of the reasons you and Auroch Digital, Ltd. decided to create an electronic board game version of Dark Future instead of an action video game?

TR: The board game is a strategy game, we wanted to keep that. I’m a huge strategy game fan myself, so I’m very comfortable working in that genre. For me, for this project, there was never any choice. It has to come from the spirit of the boardgame.


Almost all car combat electronic games have been focused on one character or vehicle directly controlled by the player. Two exceptions were the 1986 computer RPG Roadwar 2000, and the 1987 computer RPG Roadwar Europa.

Dark Future: Blood Red States will have a tactical approach to car combat. The player will control multiple vehicles and characters. What are some of the reasons for you deciding to develop a tactical, group-based game instead of a single-vehicle or single-character game? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of a tactical car combat game over a car combat game with the player controlling only one vehicle or character?

TR: We’re looking to give the player control of up to five vehicles and the Ops within. The advantages is it allows the player to do full-on tactical moves; boxing targets in, ambushes and the like. it also allows differently equipped vehicles to be in the same combat space. The disadvantage is that it makes the controls and cameras more complex from a game development point of view, so we’re spending lots of time on those issues.


WWW: In Dark Future: Blood Red States, players will control Sanctioned Operatives to pursue road gangs and other criminals. Successful missions will result in being rewarded monetary bounties.

In the computer RPGs Wasteland, Fallout, Fallout 2, and Fallout Tactics, one of the most fun activities in those games was the looting of the bodies of defeated opponents, resulting in the discovery of money, weaponry, and equipment. Battlefield salvage is also helpful in the boardgame Car Wars, the boardgame BattleTech, and in the many BattleTech / MechWarrior computer games.

To supplement monetary income from bounties, will there also be opportunities for salvaging weaponry, equipment, and other items from wrecks of your defeated opponents in Dark Future: Blood Red States? Can entire vehicles be salvaged and repaired for use by the player’s Sanctioned Operatives?

TR: We’re not planning that for this version of the game. I want to keep the action moving along. If you need to stop and loot while a mission is ongoing at 100 mph, I worry we’d lose the pacing. But you do earn cash and you will be spending that cash of weapons, cars, upgrades and body augmentations.


WWW: Rules for Dark Future were published in three sources. First, the core rulebook that came with the boxed set of the game. Second, the expansion book White Line Fever. Third, articles presented in the magazines White Dwarf and Challenge. Will Dark Future: Blood Red States use only rules from the core rulebook of Dark Future, or are all published rules for Dark Future being considered for Dark Future: Blood Red States?

TR: We’re looking at all the materials for the game. We’re taking the spirit of the rules, but doing the real-time/simultaneous gameplay, so much of what was written is about simulating the vehicle movement. We’ve got a powerful game engine doing that for us . . .


WWW: A challenge when creating a car combat game is deciding how much the performance of a vehicle comes from a driver’s skills and from a vehicle’s construction. Is the driver’s skill only a modifier to a difficulty roll to check if a vehicle remains in control? Is the difficulty roll based on the driver’s skill, with the construction of the vehicle providing modifiers?

TR: The vehicle brings the base stats; speed, acceleration and the like. The driver’s skill modifies the handling and also allows it to perform more dangerous maneuvers without tipping over. It’s similar to the boardgame in that respect.


WWW: How will Dark Future: Blood Red States address this relationship between character skills and vehicle equipment? How will character modifications, such as cybernetic enhanced vision (mentioned in press releases for Dark Future: Blood Red States) affect vehicle performance?

TR: We’re still working that out in the design at the moment. But the player will be able to use those cyberskills in the game. At the most basic, they might improve the stats of the driver, but they will also bring other skills that can have a wider impact.


WWW: The Dark Future novels were first published by Games Workshop and Boxtree Books in the early 1990s. Black Flame Books reprinted the Demon Download Cycle in the 2000s, and published several new Dark Future novels. The Demon Download Cycle novels by Black Flame have different timelines to include real world events that have occurred since the original printings of the novels in the early 1990s.

If using content from the Demon Download Cycle novels, will Dark Future: Blood Red States use the timeline from the original printings of the novels by Games Workshop and Boxtree Books, or the revised printings by Black Flame Books?

TR: We had this big discussion about this (the date) when we started. On the one hand it’s an alternative future, so things can be different. However I feel it does need to be ‘in the future’ to keep the title’s power. So for me I’m working to the idea that the Dark Future is always just around the corner . . .


WWW: One of the reasons for BattleTech being successful for over 25 years has been a large collection of fiction supporting the game’s universe. Dark Future had several novels that provided details on the world of Dark Future. How important is fiction for a tabletop game or electronic game? If Dark Future: Blood Red States is successful, are there plans for fiction to be published supporting the game?

TR: The game itself is a storytelling device, so it will be presenting original fiction set in the Dark Future.


WWW: The Twitter account DarkFuture ZeeBeeCee has been presenting information about the Dark Future: Blood Red States game world. A Twitter account simulating a news agency, giving reports about events in the Dark Future: Blood Red States universe, is a great idea. How was the idea of the DarkFuture ZeeBeeCee Twitter account created?

TR: We wanted an ‘inworld’ voice to talk about what is going on. This ZeeBeeCee account gives us that means. We’re still exploring how to use it and we’ll be building on it as we get closer to release so follow @DarkFutureNews and RT the end!


WWW: In addition to cyberpunk elements, the Dark Future game world also had horror elements. A demon that existed in cyberspace, presented in the novel Demon Download, was an interesting and unique concept. Will Dark Future: Blood Red States feature the supernatural aspects from the Dark Future game world and Dark Future novels? How large of a role will supernatural forces play in the game?

TR: They are a core part of the ‘DNA’ of the Dark Future universe so will be in it. Can’t reveal how yet . . .


WWW: Will any characters from the background material presented in the Dark Future rulebook, White Line Fever, and Dark Future magazine articles appear in Dark Future: Blood Red States?

TR: We’re drawing from all of it, so probably in one form or another.


WWW: Will the player’s Sanctioned Operatives interact with Sanctioned Operative groups and other organizations from the background material presented in the Dark Future rulebook, White Line Fever, and magazine articles appear in Dark Future: Blood Red States?

TR: Yes, in some ways. Again, I can’t say much more that this point.


WWW: Will any characters from the Dark Future novels appear in Dark Future: Blood Red States?

TR: Sort of, but we’re also creating new things . . .


WWW: Will the player’s Sanctioned Operatives only be fighting criminals, or will there also be opportunities to fight other Sanctioned Operatives?

TR: Ops (as the novels make clear) are only as ‘good’ as the people running them. So yes, you’ll be interacting with more than just gangcults.


WWW: Will car combat be limited to highway fights and city battles? Will there be opportunities for combat racing or arena fights?

TR: We’re looking at that at the moment. The highways will be the core those, whatever happens.


WWW: Will Sanctioned Operatives be able to leave their cars and fight using personal weaponry? Will there be pedestrian versus pedestrian battles?

TR: Not in this game; it’s going to be a car combat game.


WWW: Will Sanctioned Operatives be able to use personal weaponry while driving cars?

TR: In this game, not really. The cars will have lots and lots of weapons, so the Ops will be busy controlling them.


WWW: Will there be different terrain types that affect how vehicles drive during missions?

TR: Yes, we’re working that out though.


WWW: Can you describe the movement system in Dark Future: Blood Red States? Does the game use the grid-based system in Dark Future, a modified version of Dark Future’s movement system, or a custom set of mechanics?

TR: We’re using a real-time physics engine as the base, so the movement does not need a grid. They key challenge is communicating to the player how far they can move/accelerate/decelerate. That’s what we’re doing now.


WWW: The 1997 car combat computer game Interstate ’76 focused on a 17-chapter scripted adventure. The game also had stand-alone scenarios. The 1998 car combat computer game Interstate ’76 Nitro Pack had a set of stand-alone scenarios. The 1988 computer RPG Wasteland, 1997 computer RPG Fallout, and 1998 computer RPG Fallout 2 had scripted adventures, but their game worlds permitted open exploration. Will Dark Future: Blood Red States have a scripted adventure mode, an open game world, a set of stand-alone scenarios, or a combination of these game types?

TR: It’s going to be a scripted adventure with more open/generative aspects. We want to tell a story but we also want the player to have control of their agency and the missions it takes.


WWW: After finishing the computer RPGs Autoduel, Wasteland, Fallout, and Fallout 2, the player could continue playing the game with their characters. Will Dark Future: Blood Red States permit players to continue playing after completing the main adventure of the game?

TR: It’s a good idea; we’ll look into it. Depends on if we do follow up releases however.


WWW: If economically feasible, will small expansions for Dark Future: Blood Red States be released, providing new scenarios, vehicles, characters, weapons, and equipment?

TR: Yup. We really hope that this game connects to our fellow gamers and they want to see more and we’ll want to create it.


WWW: Will an editor for Dark Future: Blood Red States be released, permitting the creation of custom scenarios, characters, vehicles, weapons, and game maps? Could such an editor also permit modification of characters, vehicles, and weapons in the standard adventures and scenarios of the game?

TR: We’re adding custom options for your vehicles and Sanctioned Ops, we’ve got no plans as yet for this.


WWW: Would it be possible to publish the gaming mechanics Dark Future: Blood Red States as a rulebook for miniatures gaming?

TR: That is a really cool idea, but we’re a video game developer, so our focus is the on digital not physical.


WWW: Would it be possible to produce 1:64 scale metal or plastic miniatures of the vehicles in Dark Future: Blood Red States?

TR: Also a cool idea! Our focus for now is getting the digital one done . . .

Future Highways Logo

WWW: Francis Greenaway, who I mentioned earlier, created a large Web site for Dark Future called Future Highways several years ago. Could some of the content of Future Highways be presented in expansions for Dark Future: Blood Red States?

TR: Not really thought about it. We’d need to look into it… Is the Future Highways site still being updated? (Hope so . . .)

(Unfortunately, Future Highways has not been updated for several years because of the work and personal schedules of Mr. Greenaway. Perhaps the release of Dark Future: Blood Red States, and interest by Dark Future fans, will inspire Mr. Greenaway to resurrect the Future Highways Web site. – WWW)


WWW: Francis Greenaway also wrote a set of roleplaying system for Dark Future titled Highwayman. The rules were based on Redline, an out of print supplement for d20 Third Edition by Fantasy Flight Games. Would it be possible to publish a tabletop roleplaying game based on Dark Future: Blood Red States, using Highwayman and/or a custom set
of rules?

TR: Again, not something we’d know really.


WWW: Francis Greenaway was the individual who scanned the entire Dark Future rulebook, White Line Fever, and all of the Dark Future articles from White Dwarf into Adobe Acrobat format. This collection of files, the Dark Future Archive, was available on the Games Workshop Web site for several years until it was removed in 2013. When Dark Future: Blood Red States is published, is it possible Games Workshop will make the Dark Future Archive available online again?

TR: I don’t know. We’re keen to grow the Dark Future fansbase back up and if that happens, who knows?


WWW: Is there any news you can provide regarding any possibility of a reprint of the Dark Future miniatures game by Games Workshop, either as a reprint of the original edition, or as an edition based on Dark Future: Blood Red States?

TR: We’ve not really talked about any physical stuff. Personally the more Dark Future that happens, the happier I’ll be. However we’re a video games company so it’s a bit outside what I know.


WWW: What have been the advantages and disadvantages of producing Dark Future: Blood Red States for Steam compared to release in other formats such as CD/DVD or non-Steam downloads?

TR: Steam is a really great system for developers and gamers. I started using it as a player; having all my games in one place, Steam dealing with updates and patches automatically plus cloud-saves and other features means it was great to use. It’s got a huge user community and Valve (the creators of Steam) are an innovative company. This I think is why it’s growing as a games platform. We’ll look into non-Steam distribution methods, but they are the clear market leader, so Steam is a must.


WWW: What have been the advantages and disadvantages of producing Dark Future: Blood Red States for tablet and mobile devices compared to only producing a game for standard computers?

TR: We’re looking at tablets as well as Steam. It’s a more complex market as there is a lot of device fragmentation. However it’s also clear that high-end tablets can deliver a really strong gaming experience, so it’s important to be developing there too.


WWW: Will you be able to publish a video demonstrating gameplay before the release of Dark Future: Blood Red States? If so, do you have an estimate when you can release the video?

TR: We will indeed. I’ve got no dates I can give as yet. We’re knee-deep
in gameplay at the moment. We will be putting more info out as we go along, though.


WWW: Is is possible to have Richard Halliwell, the creator of Dark Future, participate in the creation of expansions for Dark Future: Blood Red States?

TR: We’ve got James Swallow (writer of one of the novels and also a well-known games writer) onboard as a narrative consultant. As for expansions; once we get there, we’ll be looking into how best to deliver!


WWW: What are some of your thoughts regarding the future of boardgames, miniatures games, tabletop RPGs, and electronic games over the next five to ten years?

TR: I’m a big tabletop/boardgame fan so it’s great to see such a renaissance of the form. Crowdfunding and the Internet has helped build it up. As a games designer, I always recommend people interested in the craft to look to physical games as a way to practice the art. I think we’ll see more crossovers; boardgames going digital, digital games becoming board games. Then we’ll see both VR and AR really playing with the form. It’s going to be very exciting!


WWW: What are some of your thoughts regarding the future of car combat games, tabletop and electronic, over the next five to ten years?

TR: It’s great that the Mad Max film was so great and did so well as it means Hollywood will be making more of the same. I hope this interest in the genre will then feed more players of car combat games so we’ll grow the area in both the variety of what’s on offer and number of players. It’s also a great opportunity, as Science Fiction is, for us to think about our own futures as a society . . .


WWW: If Dark Future: Blood Red States is successful, what do you see for the future of the game and its universe?

TR: I’d interested in exploring the wider universe created in the books. We’re also looking to some of the other vehicle types in White Line Fever. It’s a huge space, so there is so much can be done. But first we need to get Blood Red States done and amazing!


WWW: Are there any thoughts or comments regarding Dark Future: Blood Red States you want to tell the car combat gaming community?

TR: Just looking forward to connecting with people! We’re on Twitter at @AurochDigital, Facebook and also we have a mailing list. Personally I also welcome ideas and feedback – @TomasRawlings.


WWW: I and many other car combat tabletop gamers look forward to the final release of Dark Future: Blood Red States. I wish you and Auroch Digital, Ltd. continued success. Thank you for your time.

TR: Thank you!


Wheels, Weapons and the Wasteland wants to thank Mr. Connor and Dr. Rawlings for the opportunity of this interview, and the time they spent answering this blog’s questions. Best wishes to Auroch Digital, Ltd. for the development and launch of Dark Future: Blood Red States.


Dark Future: Blood Red States Highway Battle


Dark Future: Blood Red States © Copyright Games Workshop Limited 2015. Dark Future: Blood Red States, Dark Future, the Dark Future logo, GW, Games Workshop, and all associated logos, illustrations, images, locations, weapons and characters, are either ® or TM, and/or © Games Workshop Limited, variably registered around the world, and used under licence. All rights reserved.

One Response to “Interview: Tomas Rawlings of Auroch Digital Discusses Dark Future: Blood Red States”

  1. Tony Says:

    Great interview! Lots of detailed questions with solid answers.

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