Rebellion is one of the leading independent game developers and comic publishers in the UK. Founded in 1992, they have created games such as Alien vs Predator, Evil Genius, the Zombie Army trilogy and the critically acclaimed and best-selling Sniper Elite series.
With its HQ in Oxford, Rebellion are also working on a new project called Modern History. The show investigates the past by looking at the way we generally understand history – through TV and film – and testing it in real life. The show is presented by Jason Kingsley, who is also the CEO and co-founder of Rebellion, and I had the chance to ask him a few questions –
Please, could you tell us more about your show?
It’s a passion of mine brought to life. I live on a farm when I’m not at the office and I breed and train horses, with a particular emphasis on medieval types such as the warhorse or Destrier. It’s long been my ambition to share my practical skills and knowledge of the medieval period with an audience and, having invested in and launched our Drama and non-scripted production arm recently, I thought it would be good to finally put some things onto the screen.
Where did the idea for Modern History come from?
I do a lot of re-enactment for English heritage and the Historic Royal Palaces as well as being a trustee of Her Majesty’s Royal Armouries, but knights in armour, castles and horses have long been a passion of mine. I also like doing stuff that’s not been done for a long time, and discovering if what is written is plausible or not.
The first episode is around knights – I’ve read some wild things about their actual abilities, their intense training changing bone structures and so on. Do you have a favourite anecdote about knights?
They were as variable as we are today, some were extraordinarily good warriors, others maybe not so much. One German knight wrote a letter of complaint to his armourer that his harness has chafed a bit after he had to swim back across a moat and walk a mile back to his encampment after an attack was repelled.
I have played (and enjoyed) a lot of your games but wasn’t aware that you were also a comic book publisher – could you tell us a bit about how you came to work with 2000 AD?
We publish 2000 AD weekly and that’s been happening since February 1977, alongside the Judge Dredd Megazine (sic) and a library of supporting graphic novels. We recently also purchased a library of classic characters including Roy of the Rovers and a huge number of Girls comics dating back to the 1970’s. we’re busy republishing selected stories under the Treasury of British Comics brand.
As well as making Rogue Trooper and Dredd vs. Death, you also made Alien vs. Predator– which also started life as a comic. Why do you think comics are so influential on culture?
It didn’t start life as a comic as far as we were concerned. Atari approached us when we started Rebellion in 1992 and said they had the rights to both the Aliens and the Predator movies, what could we do? we made a pitch and the rest is history. Comics are arguably the earliest form of genre storytelling and most movies go through a ‘being a comic’ phase in the storyboard, so comics are a natural hybrid between written and visual types of storytelling.
It’s interesting to see how as well as making games, you publish comics and now moving into programmes – with a particular Britishness running throughout – if money wasn’t an issue what would you like to do next?
We’ve just kicked off an invested in rebellion productions, so drama, documentary TV is happening along with some feature development, which, hopefully, we’ll be announcing in more detail in 2018.
Something coming soon is Strange Brigade, a third-person 1930s adventure game. I really like the aesthetic and the Doc Savage-esque feel to it all. Could you go more into how Rebellion are crafting that world?
I’m a big fan of genre stories, action and adventure and exploration. We’ve gone back to the penny dreadful and Saturday matinee cinema for inspiration for Strange Brigade. It’s a family-friendly story set in the period between ww1 and ww2. A motley group of specialists drawn from the globe have to fight against supernatural horrors.
Has the research you’ve been doing for Modern History influenced Strange Brigade? Or vice versa?
Not really, though I always like the equipment and clothing worn by my game characters to be practical as well as look appropriate, so maybe knowing that medieval armour isn’t costume, but expensively tailored safety equipment has had some influence.
Thanks for the interview!
You can watch Modern History on Youtube, with episodes being released every Friday. Click here to be taken to the page and remember to subscribe. To keep up to date on other developments from Rebellion, follow them on Twitter (@Rebellion) or check their website.