Humanity has been forced into shelters by alien invaders, and are using colossal machines to fight back in Mass Builder, a game of deep mecha customization.
Siliconera spoke with Raphiphat Merasanat, Project Lead for Mass Builder, to learn some of the thoughts that went into creating its mecha customization system, what sorts of things it will let players fiddle with, and how you balance a game where a player has so much freedom to create their combat unit.
Mass Builder features deep mecha customization. Why was this an important thing to have in your game of saving the world from a monstrous threat?
Raphiphat Merasanat, Project Lead for Mass Builder – Well, Mass Builder came from an idea of creating an engine that allows us to customize our own mechs. As time passed, the engine became something that we wished a game would form upon, so we started writing stories about it – what do we fight with, how do things work – figuring it out piece by piece until we had the story we have now.
This technology is available to a good number of people on Earth, as we thought there’d be no sole hero to save the world, and people should band together to utilize this technology to fight. We’d like our players to feel that they are one of these heroes that can use the technology, to feel what it’s like to build their own mech and use it to fight, and to watch their awesome creation be truly used in combat. We think that these emotions stir up pride as their own creation saves the world from crisis.
Players can play around with many different elements of their mecha. Besides changing the look, what gameplay effects do many of these alterations have?
There are two separate systems within the game. One is the appearances customization feature that we have shown to you, and the other is what we called "Gears and Engines". We would like people to create their own distinct look, so we said "Let’s shove as many gameplay effects onto the other system as possible" to the customization features, lowering them to almost not affecting anything at all except the weight that determines the movement speed of the M.A.S.S.
The other system, as the name suggests, will involve everything within the M.A.S.S. that involves appearances to only a minimal level. This system will allow players to customize how they want their M.A.S.S. to fare in combat through things like "Boosters Fuel" which gives players more fuel to use boosters, but puts on more weight, or "Light Materials" that shifts weight lower by some amount but also decreases some defenses. Things like that are all in this system, and we hope our players can mix and match them. Maybe we’ll see a really slow moving impenetrable fortress. Who knows?
Players can change things right on down to joint size and limb length. What do you feel this fine tuning of a mecha’s appearance and size adds to the enjoyment of playing Mass Builder? Why do you feel players are drawn to creating a mecha that looks just right? In so thoroughly customizing it?
Even at our studio, each of our developers have differing likes in mechs we create. We feel giving our players the ability to truly mess around to get what they want will make them happy. As we’ve said, we’d like players to feel that it is truly their creation that is saving the world.
Since it’s one of the main features we have built the game upon, we think that some people might be having fun through creation only, and we’d like to give them that ability and sense of fun. We even put in a photograph mode for people who just strive to create what they really like. Maybe they can have fun and use it elsewhere as well, like creating their own models using our functions to get a base look. The possibilities are endless.
What thoughts go into designing interesting pieces and elements for players to equip their mecha with? Into giving players a ton of design options to be creative with?
We usually set a theme with our brainstorming sessions. One developer might just shout "Hey can we make heels?", then the discussion goes on whether we can do it, how do we incorporate that into a single theme, something that looks sleek? Something that has needle heels? What weapon would it wield?
Sometimes, it might just be a few "Hey I like that thing on that robot in that series" and a back and forth of "How do we make it different, yet feel the same?" between our director and our 3D artist. To tell you the truth, we have unique designs and themes, each with a few variations for all of our 38 parts prepared, and that’s a lot.
Weapons can be designed with multiple pieces as well. How will these varied weapon builds affect the player in combat? What abilities will they gain from mixing up weapon parts?
Varying weapons can bring various playstyles into the game for our players. Take melee weapons for example: using a different grip will have players using different stances in combat – some might be fast and some slow. For things like guns, there’s a bullet type that can offer things like extremely high damage or large explosions. Players can also try out different firing methods, be it a slow and steady cannon shots or quick machine gun fire. There’s no need to think about things like "This gun is really cool to shoot, but its damage isn’t high." It’s really up to our player’s choices.
How do you design challenges that suit the player when they have so many different builds they can create? How do you design challenges that the players may be able to overcome by tinkering with their mecha and how it’s built?
We took all of our designs and had each of us think of our "dream M.A.S.S.", then laid it out flat. Then, we talked to each other about how they would fight, and started throwing questions around on what weaknesses each of them might have. We put those things on a list, then we applied it to our enemies, specifically with bosses and mission objectives.
We can’t wait to show you what we have, as we’re sure some would make you go "Oh god, who thought of this?!”. They might try to brute force it through like some of us, but maybe some changes can be applied to their M.A.S.S. to make everything easier, just to find there are more challenges waiting with new methods to fight against.