During one of many events with Gigantic and the Motiga team, I was given a chance to interview the Character Art Lead Joe Pikop. From the moment we sat down the excitement Joe had when talking about Gigantic was infectious, though I needed no help being excited after just having finished my first match.
It seems like you have a pretty incredible team here with you. Tell us more about Motiga and the process bulding Gigantic.
Joe Pikop: We try to hire people who are the best at what they do. Well, not just the BEST at what they do but, they KNOW what it’s like to get screwed by the development process. And not like, basically, playing until you figure it out, playing until it’s good. So with that in mind, we’ve been play testing this everyday for years. We’ve play test at four o’clock everyday for at least an hour sometimes maybe two.
Two or three or four.
There are definitely days where we get excited enough where somebody gets turnt up and we are like, screaming at each other like…. well, that happens everyday… where it’s like “No, I want another game! I’m not quitting like that! We’re doing this again!” But, if we weren’t building a game in a way that let us continually have those play tests… it would be a different conversation about what you can do, what you can play. What things work and what things are fun. We’re always trying to make it fun, from start to finish.
When you said “screwed over by the development process,” are you all from multiple different places and you all just came together?
Oh yeah. There’s a good number of people from a bunch of studios, like, local studios in Seattle. A lot of us are friends, there’s a lot of that. There’s A LOT of experience there. The first 30 or 40 people we hired had 10-15 years of experience, they know their shit. They know what is not fun to deal with.
So you wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a more relaxed environment it’s just a more understanding environment on the creative process.
I think it’s both. It is relaxed but… it’s the difference between working with someone where you feel like you don’t necessarily trust that there’s the discipline to do the best, where it doesn’t feel like you’re affecting everything. It’s relaxed because you can trust that everyone you’re working with knows what the hell they’re doing.
By discipline you mean someone that’s doing the artwork vs someone who is doing the programming?
Yeah. Like I do character art and I trust the animators. I don’t have to think about whether or not the animation is going to look good in the end. I know they’re going to kill it, it’s going to be the best looking animations I’ve seen. I know that. I don’t have to think about it.
It gives you peace of mind so you can focus on your work.
Exactly. Not worrying about what other disciplines might do wrong. There’s confidence that they’re going to sort themselves out.
So, reeling it back since it felt like we started in the middle of an interview to a degree: How did it begin? Was there a smaller group that started this?
The company was formerly a mobile game company with a bunch of people that actually were not mobile game developers but PC game developers.
That’s just how they got their start…
Well, they started their own thing, like, the CEO started his company to be a mobile game company and it wasn’t picking up. Lighting wasn’t striking. We did a couple of games and pivoted to say “the thing that we all do is pc games”. We created the company, hired a few people and we created a pc game. It was a different game, it was 5 on 5 pvp with big boss monsters. I was a character artist. It started pretty small. For the greenlight build we did it was like 14-15 people total and a lot of those were there at the very end. We did our pitch process and in about 3-4 months we put together a game and started really small that way. That’s not a lot of people to do a game. Some things were polished some weren’t but we could feel it, feel where it was. So THIS game is maybe two years of proper production time from when we said “the game we were making we’re not making now we’re making this other thing.”
“We have a full direction”
Right. We’re doing THIS thing. Here’s the game mode. Here’s the plan. Guardians. Heroes. So we pivoted again from what we started.
So the greenlight title is not the one you’re making? It’s not the same title?
No. That came way later.
It shifted but it shifted for the right reasons; finding the fun, “What is good about this game? Why is it good? If there are problems can we solve them?” One really awesome business practice that we put in is no feature planning really happens. It’s actually more a case that we built systems where like, we only had this number of heroes and released the game, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. That’s not what we’re going to do but cutting content is easy, it’s easy to say, we’ll do a few less heroes and take a little time off the end. But because the game is small it’s a very simple, small box to work in. You’re not building out an entire world. You’re building out maps that feel like the world but you can slice off content that isn’t serving the right purpose very easily. We’re really good about saying “No, that’s not necessary.”
It doesn’t fit.
It doesn’t fit, it’s not doing justice to the game mode itself, or the characters, cut it. It’s done. It’s out.
So with this game mode, and not to say it’s not a very robust experience itself, are you conceptualizing more additional game modes?
Not game modes. THIS is the game mode.
So from here it’s the characters and maps?
Yes, the maps are actually enormous. The map you played is actually not very big, that’s a small map. There’s a lot of opportunity inside of the maps to really change how the game plays. The map that was played at PAX Prime, Mistforge, was much bigger and it lets you be at the wrong place, if that makes sense. You understanding what’s happening on the map and understanding where you need to be and how you can get from point A to point B is super important. It’s a little confusion for new players so this map is the same exact rules, there’s nothing different about how the game’s rules function, but because we funnel you very tightly you’re always in a fight, you’re always in a team fight which is what we want people to do. We want people to play together, work together, to win the fight. And if you don’t win the fight… it’s probably because you weren’t working together. It’s more risk vs reward in the larger map.
In the larger map, your stealth character can sneak around a bit more but they have to be careful.
Oh it’s shenanigans.
That’s what I like to do. I like to play as Tripp and just wreck people’s day. A lot of that is position move, where I decide I’m not in the fight with my group by choice. My job is actually to pull people away, get them to chase me. They won’t catch me and when they get out of position, if they stick their neck out too far, I’ll take it off. To me, that’s a blast. When I start getting two or three dudes, like, less experienced fighters. They are not going to kill me but I’m definitely tying up a good bit of their team. Things like that don’t happen as much on this map because it’s not so far between the middle and the back of the map. If someone says “they’re back on B,” you turn around and five seconds later you’re there.
So the game mode is the game mode. It’s not about lanes versus not lanes, verticality in a map can be a completely different thing. You ever play Quake?
Remember the Quake jump pack maps? It’ll be something like that. Something completely different in the same game mode.
I noticed you have the leap things at the very beginning of the map and I can imagine that can be utilized more often.
There’s a ton of things you can do with that. It’s super fun. We plan on sticking with this. Making it perfect. The map itself is the thing that changes the game. It really does. If you played on the (map name) you’d be shocked at how different it feels. Actually, the dudes you were playing, those guys don’t really like playing Canyon as much because to them it feels like a little bit more death match-y because you’re always in a fight. They can’t pull people around and they can’t talk about objectives as much because you just have to go through the map. That’s a testament to how different it feels.
How is the game going to be released? Is it going to be free to play?
It’s going to be free to play.
Do you classify this as a MOBA? In my mind it’s kind of its own thing.
It really is! We don’t have a name for it. Every time someone asks us that all I can say is “What do you think it is?” All I can think of everytime someone asks us that is “this game is fun.” When you talk to your friends and say “hey you should try this game out,” you wouldn’t just say “it’s a MOBA,” you would say,“ well you do these things.” What I find is that people will play the game enough and say they want to tell their friends about it and then they’ll tell stories about what they did in the game.
I have a general idea that it’ll be classified as a MOBA in the media.
People call it that and then they play it and they go “well, it’s not,” but then they write it anyway because what else do you write?
That’s the closest thing and they need something identifiable.
Right, but if you talk about ‘what is MOBA?’ To me at this point, MOBA could be applied to a lot of shit. Quake 3 is a MOBA. Well is it? Lanes and crates and powers and a giant crystal in the back. That’s really what a MOBA is at this point, right? So I don’t know about all that. We don’t have any of those things. Not one of them.
How often will you release new characters into the game once it’s fully released? Will it be more organic like, if you come up with a cool idea will you release it when it’s finished or will it be like every two weeks?
I don’t know what the schedule will be like. The truth is that we don’t release anything that isn’t done.
Thank you for that because many do not understand that concept.
It needs to be all the things we want it to be before anyone sees it. Yeah, I don’t have a real answer to that. We will release at some cadence that I don’t know. I think that’s mostly because we aren’t quite at the stage where we even know what all the work is necessarily. Like, our animation set isn’t done, none of those characters are finished.
Would you consider yourself in the alpha stage right now?
Yeah. We are at alpha stage. We’re in a closed alpha.
Is there any kind of ETA on an a release date?
Are you going to do an open beta?
Absolutely. You have to. You have no other choice.
But it’s like I said before, that’ll happen when it’s ready to happen. There’s systems that don’t exist yet that have to exist before we try to put it out. Right now we have a closed alpha, most of the guys in there are different.
The community, you all flew them out.
The community has to do the work. Because, they know the game as well or better in some cases, like these guys, than we do.
I have to commend you all for that because having that involved experience for them and bringing them out is incredible.
Those people do what we did for them when we started when we brought them in for the new people. There’s a little handheld right now, there is no tutorial for the game, there’s no learning the custom maps, you can’t just start a game by yourself with your friends. So you throw people into the fire when they get an alpha account. They show up and they play against THOSE jerks and it’s like “I have no idea what happened, I don’t know how you killed me,” and it’s not because we didn’t message well because you’re literally you’re just [he does a visual joke]. So that happens and you can’t really neuter that so an open beta mean that anybody can get in and get beat up by those guys so there better be some information to tell you what happened. We want to put you in the right place. Play against bots or do whatever.
Random question: If you could snatch a character from any franchise and throw them in this game, it can be gaming, film, comics, anything, who would it be?
I think it’s be the Big Lebowski.
Oh yeah. The Dude.
You’d put the dude in the game.
Yea! Actually I’ll take that back. It’ll be Walter Sobchek.
That’s one of the more interesting answers I’ve gotten so far.
He’d have the fatigues on. He’d have the aviators.
What would his ult be?
He’d throw his laundry.
As you can see, Joe and the Motiga team are quite passionate and excited about this very fun game they have put together. Check out my impressions of the game and look out for Open Beta access in the future.