Sources in Europe have informed us that Sony Pictures Family Entertainment is producing a 40-episode animated television series based on the world of the Heavy Gear games. The series, which will be computer animated, will naturally focus on the small yet potent mechs from Dream Pod 9's pen-and-paper role-playing game, Heavy Gear. While not as well known as its rival, FASA's BattleTech system, Heavy Gear has worked as an alternative mech setting for games. After it lost the BattleTech license used in the MechWarrior games, Activision published two Heavy Gear PC games in 1997 and 1999.
To find out the latest developments with Heavy Gear, we talked to Fredrik Malmberg, business development manager at Paradox Entertainment, which owns the Heavy Gear brand. Paradox also has a few new PC game development plans, which we'll bring more news of soon. We have confirmed with Sony Pictures that the Heavy Gear series will in fact arrive in the US this January; however, a Sony representative declined to comment on any future movie plans. Read on for more information on Paradox's game and media plans for Heavy Gear.
GameSpot: We've heard that Sony has started production on a 40-episode animated series based on Heavy Gear. What exactly is this all about and how is Paradox involved?
Fredrik Malmberg: Heavy Gear was originally a story conceived as a paper game in Canada by Dream Pod 9 about a conflict on a world abandoned by its colonizers far in the future. Myself and Nils Gulliksson, our creative director at the time, were stunned by the depth and beauty of the story and tied up the rights to develop the property into other media. Subsequently, we licensed the rights to produce CD-ROM games to Activision and shortly thereafter went into long discussions with several Hollywood studios about filmed entertainment. We eventually signed with Columbia Tristar, which is a division of Sony, to produce 40 half-hour episodes and to develop a screenplay for a feature. In conjunction with this deal, Bandai of America, whom we had talked to previously, decided to initiate work on a line of highly detailed toys, which will arrive at about the same time.
GS: How did the deal come together? Can you tell us when the animated series will start broadcasting in the US?
FM: We negotiated with several of the largest studios and producers for over a year about everything from creative issues to deal points. The actual deal was signed a year ago, but our experience is that with the high costs involved, a lot of these projects never get off the ground. We were very pleased when we saw the conclusion of the script stage and initiation of the production phase, which hopefully means the series will start in the US in the winter.
GS: Do you have any other plans for further development of Heavy Gear, moving into movies or other media?
FM: Currently Chris Lee is involved as a producer for a feature film. He has a deal with Sony for distribution, and his company is putting the last touches to a script. They are very talented people and are working on other game-related properties such as Final Fantasy.
I think Heavy Gear can be huge since it combines the great concept of the Japanese animation tradition with Western storytelling.
GS: What can you tell us about current development of Heavy Gear games? Are there also plans for developing Heavy Gear for next-generation consoles?
FM: Activision went into a soul-searching program this past spring and put the third title in the series (on the PC) on hold. We would certainly like to revive that title somehow, and of course with Sony as partner it is logical to also go into their platforms. This remains to be resolved, however.
GS: Thank you, Fredrik.
While no art from the animated series is currently available, we have secured an image of one of Bandai's toys, linked above.