For some reason or another, rogue-lite shooters are in. Terrible Posture Games’ Tower of Guns got in on the fad early and delivered a pretty cool first person shooting experience with a strong difficult. With Mothergunship, developed with Grip Digital, it’s now looking at a serious campaign with the same customization and crazy gunplay that made Tower of Guns so much fun.
GamingBolt spoke to game director Joe Mirabello about Mothergunship, how it’s different from the studio’s previous efforts and what players’ expectations should be.
"Each mission is a fight through a (usually) randomly composited ship and is designed to be played in a single session, but there’s an overarching campaign to work through."
Tower of Guns was a very old-school FPS while Mothergunship is more of a bullet hell title with FPS elements. What motivated this shift to SHMUP elements?
Tower of Guns actually had quite a bit of the bullet-hell aspect too. That game was essentially a pure prototype for the cocktail of mobility and firepower that we’re refining for Mothergunship.
How heavy-handed is the campaign in Mothergunship, especially compared to Tower of Guns?
In Tower of Guns the story was randomly selected from a pool of silly stories. Mothergunship does away with that in favor of a single, unified, lore, but Mothergunship is still far from a serious game—it’s over the top and ludicrous and the lore reflects that. This is a game where we let the player build massive guns with 20 laser barrels on them, after all. It wouldn’t make sense to take ourselves too seriously.
What can you tell us about the randomized levels and enemies? Is it unique for each playthrough?
The first thing I should clarify is that Mothergunship isn’t “run based” as much as it’s “mission based”. Each mission is a fight through a (usually) randomly composited ship and is designed to be played in a single session, but there’s an overarching campaign to work through. The player is working their way through these missions in an effort to reach the final ship, the Mothergunship itself. I say “usually” random, because sometimes these missions can be locked with a certain sequence of rooms—the demo/first mission is a perfect example of this, as we introduce various elements to the player.
Anyway, each mission is composited together out of a sequence of handmade shells rooms, with several layers of randomized content over top. The result is something that is surprising and replayable, but avoids the feeling of “algorithmic fatigue” that is common to a lot of randomly generated games.
"It’s very important to me to make sure that Mothergunship limits the amount of times it tells the player “no”."
How many ships will players fight through before ultimately taking on the Mothergunship? Will there be different kinds of challenges to complete for rewards?
The length of the campaign is going to be something we’re tuning all throughout production, but it’s definitely not something designed to be played in a single sitting in its entirety, unlike Tower of Guns. As for challenges, the answer is yes. But we’re not talking too much about those just yet.
What kinds of enemies can we expect? Will there be any bosses that cover the entire screen?
Enemy variety was one of the things people were most critical of in Tower of Guns, so we’re taking great pains to make sure that more kinds of enemies appear more often. That said, quite a few familiar enemies (and friends) will be making appearances in Mothergunship too. Mothergunship is after all, at its heart, a complete iteration on all the things that we learned from building Tower of Guns.
How does the crafting system work in Mothergunship? Will players be running around collecting resources and what ultimately determines the kinds of weapons you can equip?
It’s very important to me to make sure that Mothergunship limits the amount of times it tells the player “no”. So we let them build almost anything, provided they can find the right pieces. However, every time they add another piece to their guns, the gun costs a little more “energy” to fire. They can build a 30 barrel gun if they want, but they might only be able to fire it once before recharging. This is where upgrading your player abilities becomes crucial, as that once-unfeasible gun may become much more reasonable later in the game.
What other abilities can players unlock and utilize in Mothergunship?
We’re not talking (yet) about the other things the players can unlock in Mothergunship, ask again in a few months.
"Exclusives always help sell systems, that’s true. Microsoft knows that, but I’m sure they also have calculated the cost/benefits of this release extensively."
How does co-op change the experience? How will players be able to “participate with the community” for beating the Mothergunship?
Heh, this is also something we’re holding off for a little longer before we talk more about. We’re excited about it though.
Why did you choose Unreal Engine and how has it helped you best realize the game’s vision?
I’ve been using Unreal for almost a decade now, starting with early UE3.0 builds. When you have been using an engine that long, your own abilities evolve around the unique benefits of the engine. Unreal Engine 4 is ridiculously powerful, and no other engine would allow for the look and feel we’re aiming for.
When can we expect Mothergunship to release?
We’re not talking about release dates quite yet. We only just announced a few weeks ago!
The Xbox Scorpio feels like a new gen for Microsoft, despite the company is hell bent on making it mid-gen refresh. There is a massive increment in memory and GPU TFLOPS, do you think the lack of exclusives will hurt the Scorpio given that developers need to maintain parity with the X1?
Exclusives always help sell systems, that’s true. Microsoft knows that, but I’m sure they also have calculated the cost/benefits of this release extensively. The “parity game” isn’t a new one though. Between opposing consoles there are often requirements that games have certain parity—original Xbox developers had to reconcile their gameplay with that on the PS2, PS3 and the 360 had their differences, PS4 and XB1 do as well. The fact that this is intra-brand and mid generation doesn’t mean it isn’t something developers aren’t used to. Additionally, engines allow for a lot more scalability these days, making the logistics of this branching slightly less painful.
"I love Nintendo and would love to see Mothergunship on a Nintendo system, but, quite honestly, I’m not sure yet how much of a fit the Switch is yet."
Sony has gone for a moderate upgrade with the PS4 Pro and instead resorting to methods such as 4K checkerboard rendering. Do you think that Sony should have gone ahead and released a more powerful mid-gen refresh just like the Scorpio?
That’s an interesting question and not one I’m sure I’m qualified to answer…but I will say that “Gone ahead and released” is easier said than done, especially if Sony has placed their eggs more in either the VR basket or is already more invested in “beyond 2017” stuff. Given their position, Sony might not see the need for a major mid-gen refresh the same way Microsoft does. I think the consumers will tell them if that was wise move or not.
There is already some speculation among games analyst and gamers alike about the PS5 and how it will feature more than 10tflops. Regardless of whatever hardware upgrade feature, do you think the next cycle will finally bring us close to photorealism?
Closer? Sure. We’re always moving closer. People thought that we had “hit” photorealism with the 360 generation. And then again with the Xb1 generation. But “photorealism” is a moving target that rushes away from you as fast as you run toward it. We’re not even “there” with offline rendering yet in film. In games, we’re getting environments much closer, and a better GPU helps that tremendously (have a look at Quixel Megascans for some teasers of the future), and we’ve made great strides on faces too (particularly on subsurface skin shading and hair shaders), but now we’re going to start realizing just how limited our animation tools are, and how stiff and unrealistic those faces are. Or how choppy our shadows look or how ghostly the screen space-AO feels in motion. There’s always room for improvement.
What kind of updates will Mothergunship have on Pro? Is 4K/60fps possible?
Not sure yet. 4k/60fps sounds glorious, but it really depends on how crazy we want the situations the player ends up in to get.
Just wanted to close off this interview with a question on Nintendo Switch. Nintendo aren’t going after the PS4 or Xbox One. They apparently already have the biggest game of all time in the form of Breath of the Wild but as a studio that pushes technology, what is your take on its processing hardware…do you think your studio has a future on it? If not, why?
On Switch? I love Nintendo and would love to see Mothergunship on a Nintendo system, but, quite honestly, I’m not sure yet how much of a fit the Switch is yet. That will be something we explore in the future.