Interview with Twilight:2013 creators, part deux

Hello all, again – today we bring you part two of our interviews with the Twilight:2013 creators. We really hope you enjoyed part one. We did, and it gives some great insight into the behind the scenes effort that went into creating this new RPG.

This time we bring you the same questions but new answers from the third creator, Eddie Thomas. His responses were delayed a bit due to being deployed overseas with the Army. We’ll forgive him for the delay 🙂

1 ) Can you tell us something about 93 Games Studio, how it came about, and the people involved?

Eddie Thomas: In all honesty, 93 Games Studio seems like a favorite aunt or uncle that lives across the country from me. It’s something I hold near and dear to my heart, but with my career and being the one designer that is not from Kentucky, I’ve had very little to do with day-to-day decisions. That, and Clayton’s constant “another 8,000 words written this weekend, fingers bloody, going to bed now”-posts throughout the development process.

My interaction with Keith and Clayton came in 2003, I guess, when I purchased my first d20 product, Stargate SG-1 by AEG and joined their forum community. As with any military game, there were a flurry of posts about what the real military would or wouldn’t do, and being the person that I am, I would weigh in. Clayton and I butted heads a couple of times because of it, then I became a moderator on the boards and we butted heads more. After several instances, a pretty good friendship evolved. Keith popped up a time or two and being two Army guys, we hit it off and saw eye-to-eye a lot.

Clayton brought me on as a consultant to a few Spycraft books, US Militaries, World Militaries, and Battlegrounds. I had maybe 1,000 total words between the three that I wrote, but I spoke up a lot, verbalized a lot more than I wrote, and worked fairly well with Clayton and the others.

Clayton asked me to work on this project pretty close to the start. I remember thinking to myself, “Keith’s not going to get the license to this…but I’ll nod my head and smile in case he does.” Then, sure enough, he did and I was grateful for the opportunity.

2 ) Why Twilight: 2013? To add to this, how did you come to acquire the license to develop Twilight: 2013 (Twilight: 2000 3rd edition)? How similar is this 3rd edition to the previous games?

Eddie Thomas: With my budding friendship with Clayton, we had many discussions about Twilight: 2000 and how it was such a huge influence on both of our early gaming experiences. As Keith and I talked, we found we had the same thing in common. They both knew that I had made the T2K setting and genre the subject of many of my games and, of course, my subsequent dissatisfaction with how other systems failed to capture the essence of the real systems. So as I said previously, the two of them conspired to bring my doubting-self on board and now here we are.

Even with my love of the setting and feel of the game, I was no different from Keith and Clayton in feeling that certain aspects were lacking in the earlier versions. My input as to more character-centric play came in early on in discussions before we ever got the ball rolling on the license. So with me being the latecomer to the team due to Army schools, I was pleased to find that they had already set that down as a fundamental trait of our redesign of the game.

3 ) What about the previous editions of Twilight: 2000 did you like, and dislike? How did this affect the ruleset in Twilight: 2013?

Eddie Thomas: What did I like and dislike about the previous editions? All of it! None of it! I never had the chance to play Version 1, so I can’t speak intelligently about it, but 2.0 and 2.2, man, I spent hours and hours playing and running those games. At varying times you could find me alternately cursing and praising every aspect of those books.

If I have to narrow them down though, I would have to say that my favorite part of the 2.0 and 2.2 were the character “classes.” Coming from Palladium games and WEG Star Wars as teeth-cutters, I was astounded to see all of the options for military characters and some of the civilian options combined with different nationalities. I was like, “Yes! I can make an Airborne Ranger SF trooper for real!” Conversely, that also came to be my biggest dislike, when the names were correct, but the skills didn’t accurately model the named occupation or they fell into popular stereotypes.

This is what I brought to the design process with a vengeance. I was the guy that kept yelling at them that they can’t do this or that, Group X doesn’t really have that capability, but Group Y is an expert in it. Clayton and I spent many hours discussing the facts of certain things and how we could write them up to accurately model them in a post-apocalyptic environment.

4 ) Can you tell us the process you went through while developing the game?

Eddie Thomas: The process I went through developing this was a lot of emailing and forum-posting and banging of my head on my keyboard when I felt that I was being ignored. I’m an excitable person and would quickly jump to conclusions before I’d see the working document and realize how much I was being listened to. Case in point, the martial arts rules that Clayton mentioned.

A lot of that came from me being the most distracted member of the design team. The first three months of talking about stuff in 2006 I spent out of touch due to being in a live-in school for the Army. Then I had more schools after that, and in 2007 preparation for deployment to Iraq took up much of my time. So I didn’t have time to really notice the effect I was having. The last year has been even worse being deployed. It prevented me from doing much of the writing that I had initially wanted to do and had to rely on verbalizing things to Keith and Clayton.

5 ) Is the Reflex engine designed from scratch, or a licensed property?

Eddie Thomas: It feels weird to say it publicly but here it is, “It’s our system.” Mine, Keith’s, Clayton’s, Simon’s, Justin’s and all the other people that spent the last two years or more working on this thing. And with the Staging of rules, it’s the player’s system as well as they mix-and-match the parts of the system that they want for their games.

6 ) What were your goals in creating Twilight: 2013, and do you think you realized most of them?

Eddie Thomas: My goals for Twilight: 2013? To write the best damned game ever, make a gazillion dollars, retire to a private island stocked with a lifetime’s supply of guns and beer, and maybe my wife if she isn’t harassing me too much about the laundry that day. <grin>
In all seriousness, my goal was to make a game that I would want to play. I’ve tried dozens of systems and never found one that quite fit me exactly. We’ve definitely realized that goal, and at the end of the day, with a labor of love such as this, what else is there that matters?

7 ) What would you do differently if you had to start the whole design process over again?

Eddie Thomas: I’d definitely not start it in my final semester of college, the last time I had before becoming an Infantry officer in the military getting ready to deploy to a combat zone. I’d definitely be more involved if I didn’t have all the items on my plate that I did the first time around. I’d probably be a little more diplomatic than I was the first time as well.

8 ) What is your favorite aspect of the new Twilight: 2013 RPG?

Eddie Thomas: I have to kind of echo Clayton on the modularity of the game. Generally speaking, I like generic systems that allow me to put rules to my stories, such as GURPS 4E. However, Twilight has a certain feel to it that doesn’t work well with “toolkit” systems. The modularity of the Reflex System allows almost the exact same flexibility, but definitely has the flavor and feel of all Hell breaking loose on humanity.
An almost negligible second place goes to the lethality of the system. If you’re not smart, you’re going to be dead. If you think like your character actually would, “Oh crap, they’re shooting at me,” then you’ll survive and continue the story.

9 ) What would you like to see happen with Twilight: 2013 over the next few years?  Are you planning expansions and sourcebooks?

Eddie Thomas: First off, I want to be more involved in the future books. My time in Iraq is ending soon and I’ll have free time for the first time in almost three years. I plan to clear out the cobwebs and get back to some serious writing. Obviously with a slant on Twilight: 2013. Outside of my own goals, I’d love to see this game take off like the originals did. I’d like to see Keith’s company, his sweat and heartache, become a payoff that allows him to finance a new life to this game.
As far as supplements, yeah, I have a few I’d like to pitch to Keith since he’s the boss, but I have to get the time to actually be able to follow through on what I sell him on.

10 ) Can you give us a few quick campaign starter ideas? What have you played in Twilight:2013 that’s really worked well, and what hasn’t worked so well?

Eddie Thomas: Oh man, actually playing a game would be so sweet! That whole time thing has been a major joykill for a while now. After redeployment I have some ideas that I’d like to run with, but I have to find a group to game with first. New towns suck in that regard. Being stationed in Hawaii and stuck on an island, it’s given me some good ideas as to what would have happened on some of the other islands that dot our oceans. How do you deal with a problem when you have no choice but to face it on a regular basis, especially when that problem refuses to see reason?

11 ) 93 Games Studio is an independent publisher. Can you describe the challenges that you face in bringing a game like Twilight: 2013 to market?

Eddie Thomas: “Who?…You did what?…Oh, yeah, I’ve heard of that…really…” Unfortunately there is a stigma with all start-ups, not just in the gaming industry. The bigger, more established guys must have a better product and be more reliable. Of course we have the die-hard T2K fan-base to draw on as a starter, but one of the major concerns we talked about was how to entice a newer generation of gamers that seem to revolve around the ease of certain other systems and the internet domains of MMORPGs. A niche-genre in a niche-market is a difficult thing to try and sell. I think we have the product to do it, now we just have to have the guts to stick it out and take the criticisms and praises and hope the latter outweighs the former.

12 ) What is it about Twilight: 2013 that differentiates it from other post-apocalyptic games? What hope would characters in this world have of not eating rat at the end of the day?

Eddie Thomas: As a man who’s eaten worse than rat and been told it’s a delicacy, eating a rat ain’t so bad. At least you’re eating, right? As a parent and husband, I can tell you that if something like T2K13 were to happen, I’d want more for my kids than just survival. I’d do my best to make their lives as happy as I could. Whether you have the information superhighway, video games, and central heat/air, or are living a foraging existence like our ancestors in furs and animal skins, certain aspects of intelligent, civilized life would drive you. Anyone that really gets into their character should go beyond Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and find some motivations and desires. The seeds are there, now it’s up to the players to take them and grow them into some tulips that glow in the dark.

13 ) What types of games did you grow up with? What was your favorite games growing up (besides the obvious Twilight: 2000)?

Eddie Thomas: Besides the obvious? WEG Star Wars, Rifts and Robotech for the longest time, LUGTrek, I’m really digging on GURPS 4E right now, and I at least tried most systems other than AD&D and then d20. My big draw was story more than mechanics because I always knew that other peoples’ rules never fit what I wanted exactly. GURPS 4E was probably the closest to come to it, and it influenced a lot of my decisions on the Reflex System. I gravitate much more towards Sci-Fi games though than Fantasy, so that was a big factor in games that I played.

14 ) Last but not least: M16, AK-47, G3 or FN-FAL?

Eddie Thomas: A truly prepared survivor wouldn’t have to pick just one, just the one he was carrying that day. All things being equal though, I carry an M4 every day, so I lean toward that, but in an end of the world scenario in a foreign land, I’d have to go with an AK-47. I’ve seen some horrible-looking weapons come out of caches and still be operational. But my heart would always be with Cathy.

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