Club Penguin creator Lance Priebe chats about Mech Mice and awkward childhoods
It’s not often I see a free-to-play, browser-based game and get excited about it, but the upcoming Mech Mice has managed to win me over. From the awesome premise — mice that pilot mechs in a hex-based strategy game — to the phenomenally captivating concept art and trailer videos, this game just hits my heart in a place that few other games can reach.
I was so excited, in fact, that I chased down Lance Priebe, the game’s creator, to have a chat about the wonderful thing that is Mech Mice.
Of course, as a longtime fan of all things mouse-related, I wanted to figure out what influenced such a fantastic premise. Here’s what he told me:
“I actually know Brian Jacques with Redwall. Personally, I’m actually doing a couple projects with the family... I’m very familiar with Redwall itself. Can’t get into those at this time.”
Woah. Priebe actually knows Brian Jacques, the man behind the Redwall books? That series comes close to DuckTales on a list of the things that most influenced my childhood. So let’s just say my mind was blown. We could have just ended the interview there and I would have wept the tears of my inner childhood all day long. Priebe still had more to say, so I politely listened.
“I was obsessed with Mouseguard. Have you read that comic? I love Mouseguard. I love Redwall. [The] very interesting about mice [is that they are] the ultimate underdog, [and when they're] equipped to battle and fight back… it’s just an interesting story. That’s why Redwall and everything works, because you can relate to that super underdog. The lowest of the low of all the creatures, yet it does the most stuff.”
However, mousey things weren't all that influenced Mech Mice. Priebe is a huge fan of strategy games too. “I love XCOM as well. So I wanted an XCOM game that kids could play. I didn’t want the standard – you know how there’s just the screen and you select the units and move? Like your Final Fantasy Tactics or your Hero Academy? All those tend to just have a single screen, a single map. I wanted XCOM, which had the story as you move through a map. I used to play a lot of Jagged Alliance and those styles of games, so the influence of [that and] the Fallout tactics as well. A lot of that influenced my design decisions.”
All of this makes so much sense that I kind of had to wonder how no one had thought of it before. Of course, it was the kids on Twitter who ultimately put the hard-battling mice into the science fiction trappings of Mech Mice.
“Originally, back in 2011 when I started this concept for the game, I actually just tweeted it. I asked all my personal fans, ‘I’m going to do a game with mice. It’s going to be a tactical strategy game… Do you want science fiction or medieval?’ It was a loaded question because if they would have said medieval, I was going to talk to my friends at Redwall and see if we could make a Redwall game. But they all came back saying, ‘We’re tired of medieval. We want science fiction.’ So I was like, ‘Okay, sure. That works too. So let’s just do Redwall in spaaaaaaaaace!’
“But it worked out great. That was the start of an idea. That was the birth. From there, we dove deep into it, and went, ‘Okay, we need an economy, and we need a backstory, we need a lore, we need technology…’ When you do science fiction, you need to justify all your technology. You have to have reasons and stuff too, so we started working on that.”
And, like all creative projects of this magnitude, the idea continued to evolve. Priebe shared a story about mice feet:
“A year into the project, the mice had boots. They had, like, metal boots. We finally said, ‘It’s not right. It doesn’t look right.’ So maybe if we took away the boots and gave them the feet back. Like in Redwall and everything, they’d have their toes. And that, as a design… we still had to have that juxtaposition, the soft, timid little mouse, but he’s equipped in this heavy, metal armor. The two contrast each other, [which] increases charm. And that’s what we fell in love with.”
Before our conversation was done, I had to ask Priebe if he grew up as a small child. I did, and that could very well have been what kickstarted my own love of mice adventures. I wondered if Priebe, a man with a similar love of mousecapades, would also be a kindred spirit in smallness.
“No, I was always the tallest kid. I was actually six feet when I was thirteen… I was the tallest, but skinniest. Just a gangly [kid], tripping on everything. And [this is] seriously a joke, but straight on you’d see me, but if I turned sideways I’d vanish. It was awkward. It was really awkward. So I can relate to the characters as well. I never related to them as small, but [they’re] the outsiders. They’re the different ones. The underdogs. The ones you don’t expect.”
Mech Mice officially launches today, and you can get started at the official Mech Mice website.