Microsoft has been throwing around a ton of new intellectual properties in the past six months, not the least of which is Gigantic from Motiga. The Xbox One/Windows 10 cross compatible free to play title comes across as a MOBA (massive online battle arena) but with a fairly unique aesthetic to it. However, there seems to be a fair amount of twitch shooting to it as well, allowing Gigantic to break free from the typical confines of what a MOBA is. And even if the Xbox One doesn’t have the largest catalog of such titles, Gigantic will certainly serve as a unique entry that everyone can take part in.
GamingBolt’s Leonid Meikhov spoke to creative director James Phinney during E3 2015 about the game, including its core mechanics, what separates it from other MOBAs and delivering the game for both consoles and PC while maintaining balance in cross-platform play.
"We want to make a game that has the depth for that, but it’s really not something you can force in terms of eSports. You can throw money at it or whatever, but really what matters is whether players are into it or not."
Leonid Meikhov: Why did you decide to go into the MOBA market first of all?
James Phinney: We didn’t. I mean, I think the game can be categorized as MOBA for sure. But, when we’re asked what term do you put it on it I think we settled on Shooter MOBA. MOBAs are actually just one of many different influences in the game. Influences for us really were much more, things like Team Fortress and other stuff we’ve worked on.
Really what we wanted to do was just to create an awesome competitive game and that meant drawing a lot from action game ideas. Ideas about fighting a console boss monster and shooter/class based kind of thing. But then also there are some really good ideas in MOBAs in terms of making a good competitive game.
Leonid Meikhov: I see. Are you guys targeting eSports or casual players?
James Phinney: You know, we want to make a game that has the depth for that, but it’s really not something you can force in terms of eSports. You can throw money at it or whatever, but really what matters is whether players are into it or not. For us, it is something we look at in terms kind of discipline of how we’re balancing the game and designing the game to make sure its going to have the depth for that. But really we’re looking at just making a fun game that that people are going to enjoy playing.
Leonid Meikhov: You’re kind of saying its more up to the community. If it becomes popular by the community for eSports then..sure why not?
James Phinney: Yeah. I’ve worked on a few competitive games before as Lead Designer on StarCraft and Guild Wars 1. And with StarCraft we set out to make an awesome game and that’s our mindset here. Let us just make something awesome.
Leonid Meikhov: How long has the game been in development for?
James Phinney: About 2 years..
"We’ve got different maps which really can significantly change up how the game plays. But the core of this game and the lot of the tricks we use from a design perspective to make sure we lead into more interesting, more competitive matches really centers around the Guardians."
Leonid Meikhov: And you came up with the idea? How did it happen?
James Phinney: When you get a team there are a lot of different influences and people’s ideas that come into it. We knew early on we wanted to do giant monsters and a competitive PvP experience. For me, drawing on things that I thought worked well in Guild Wars 1 PvP. I saw a way we could take what was there and structure it so it could be cool and then I always wanted to do a shooter and haven’t had the chance in my career to do that.
One of the things I’ve always thought that anything done in a fast paced dynamic way should have a good mix of shooter, melee combat and range combat and then also spell-casting. We’ve got characters in this game that shoot and fire projectiles that feel like shooter projectiles.
Often times when you have that kind of control scheme, when you bring out spell-casting it actually feels like re-skinned guns. You know what I mean? Oh, he shoots fireballs out of his wand and looks suspiciously like an assault rifle. For me, I always wanted to bring all of those things together and give it a try and early prototypes were really promising and we just have been rolling ever since. For us, we play-test the game internally every day and sort of follow the fun.
Imani is probably the most pure shooter character. So, she’s got this crazy cross-bow sniper thing and that’s how she plays. Talking keyboard and mouse controls: left click is going to shoot, that’s the only thing she does to attack. Right click is actually going to zoom in so, now you just got a scope and you’re trying to place precise shoots and just take people out that way.
When you cycle through 3rd Skills/Q Skill special ammo you can get this explosive ammo to launch people or set them on fire, frozen ammo slows them down. So we bring in a little bit of RPG skill design there, but not so much that she doesn’t retain the flavor of being a shooter kind of character. HK2O6 though, the robot that we saw in the there, another character that feels pretty shooter-like. He’s got like a Chaingun, Railgun, Mortar, he can shoot a lot of missiles. The big gimmick is that he has mechanical so he can sort of fortify, lock-down his turret going.
On the Brawler spectrum, you have characters like a Tyto the Swift. He is one of the characters that I think people tend to see in the images about the game. The red cape and sort of this owl mask.
Leonid Meikhov: Would you like to say he’s the mascot of this game?
James Phinney: (laughs) Yeah, certainly wouldn’t feel too bad about that. I think we want to look at the whole spectrum, but his is a pretty awesome design. He’s very fast, hits hard, but not that tough. Being smart about how you get in and out is a big part of his skill-set, but you know obviously doesn’t typically require the same kind of precise aiming.
"This core game-mode of fighting alongside your Guardian, using it to attack enemy guardian and take him out is our entire focus."
Leonid Meikhov: What about the big brawler guys that are tanky?
James Phinney: So, for tanky characters, there are 16 and there are 2 that are really that sort of fit the bill there. There is The Margrave which is purely that. He has this giant suit of black armor and a demon fist that has replaced his own. He is one of few characters in the game that has no range attack whatsoever, he got a couple of ways to close the distance. He has this ability to create this demonic shield that deflects projectiles and that will allow him to protect not just himself but also his allies. So, there is a character that’s very tough, has twice as many hit points as some of the other squishy characters, a lot of armor and can sort of control the battle by being the front-line for you.
On the other end of the spectrum there are characters like Uncle Sven. Very round jovial gentlemen whose flinging potions and you can build him just purely as a healer and really focus on kind of supporting you’re team. He’s got a really fun ability which is called Elastic Ooze, which you can throw, hit an enemy with it and send him bouncing away. You can also use it to give your allies super jump, there is a lot of verticality in the game to take advantage of the map layout.
You can also upgrade it to do things like: on the one hand – armor allies that go through it. On the other hand, you can use it so that the enemies get hit with the flame attacks, really light’em up. Build him more for offense if you’d like.
Leonid Meikhov: I see. Do you have anything more about your support people?
James Phinney: Yeah, so, I think Sven can play support role. But then there are also characters like Vadasi, she’s another healer character. She doesn’t have as many tricks for control play like Sven does with his Elastic Ooze. But, she’s got like the healing beam that she’ll shoot out of her forehead.
The tough thing with her, she’s one of the characters that we think is based on an RPG design. She’s got more complex skill in her action. The basic being, all of her skills are powered up by creating these orbs which she has to sacrifice her own life to get them. So, for her to be in a state where she’s doing her best healing, she’s actually sacrificing her own health at a pretty good rate.
Leonid Meikhov: The game modes?
James Phinney: It is what it is. We’ve got different maps which really can significantly change up how the game plays. But, the core of this game and a lot of the tricks we use from a design perspective to make sure we lead into more interesting, more competitive matches really centers around the Guardians. The ways that you work to get them powered, the ways that they work to defend you and the kind of map control that you get from the creatures and the choices you make with those. So, this core game-mode of fighting alongside your Guardian, using it to attack enemy guardian and take him out is our entire focus.
"The truth is, when you look at the things that let you transition from closed beta to open beta it’s not about whether you got XYZ done, it’s about is the game good enough, do people like it enough?"
Leonid Meikhov: How are you dealing Cross-play for Xbox and Windows 10, with the PC having mouse and keyboard and the controller sensitivity and aiming… how are you dealing with that?
James Phinney: We have no illusions about that being balanced, I don’t think that it is. There are actually some characters like Margrave (the big tough guy) his play style is sort of slow enough so that it’s not that much of a disadvantage. Some of the guys at the office actually will play Controller vs Keyboard/Mouse. I think in general, it’s a different experience and so our current plan is for that to be opt-in experience. So, people who want to play in an environment with a controller they can. If you want to play in environment where it’s just keyboard/mouse or just controller you can do that.
Leonid Meikhov: Are you guys targeting 1080p/60 fps on the Xbox One?
James Phinney: We’re in alpha right now, we’re seeing what we can do. Obviously, we want it to play as well as possible and look as good as possible.
Leonid Meikhov: Most competitive games, they need that 60fps feel.
James Phinney: Yeah, certainly. We think that 60fps is very important.
Leonid Meikhov: When is the target release date? Sometime this year, next year?
James Phinney: We’re going to go into closed beta in August and then we would love too see it going into open beta. We’d love too see it during Holidays later this year. The truth is, when you look at the things that let you transition from closed beta to open beta, it’s not about whether you got XYZ done, it’s about is the game good enough, do people like it enough? I can’t put a firm schedule on open beta, but I can say closed beta in August and then we’ll see where it goes.
Leonid Meikhov: So early 2016 release?
James Phinney: It’s quite possible.