Pizza Titan Ultra has players making pizza deliveries via giant mechs, fighting other colossal machines, toppling houses, and doing whatever they can to get food to folks in record time.
Siliconera caught up with Mike Keogh of Breakfall, developers of Pizza Titan Ultra (which is available now on Steam and the Humble Store), to learn about why they tied giant mechs to mundane day jobs, the nuances of tying city destruction and robot fights to pizza delivery, and tying it all together with some nineties cartoon inspirations.
What inspired mixing pizza delivery and giant robots?
Mike Keogh of Breakfall, developers of Pizza Titan Ultra – We were working on something maybe less weird, but also harder to relate to. The original game premise involved modular satellite repair in space orbiting the sun. It was cool, but neither easy to relate to, nor quite as fun as we would have liked (keep in mind our previous success was with STARWHAL – a game about neon narwhals fighting in space). So, we were talking about really mundane stuff like taxi driving, newspaper delivery, etc. We wanted something people would know and relate to, and we eventually fused the idea of a big crazy mech sort of game with a pizza delivery game, and everything else evolved from there.
Actually putting the pizzeria in the mech and having it punch right through walls into your living were early jokes that made us laugh, so we used the rule that if we found it that funny, there must be an audience out there who would agree with us!
Pizza Titan Ultra features a goofy story to go along with its silly premise. What kind of narrative just felt right to tie in to your gameplay? Why?
It was really important to me, specifically, and I think I sold the whole team on this, that even if the premise is absurd, the characters still behave like it matters to them. We wanted to make a crew for the mech and restaurant that had heart. So, we wound up working a lot on creating characters that felt like they could come from 90s cartoons or shows or games (Zak and Ace names are inspired by Zack Morris and A.C. Slater from Saved by the Bell), but that I like to think have some heart.
We use a ton of referential humour, but always wanted some of the story and jokes to go deeper than "oh yeah, I remember Captain Planet!". Why does Captain Planet dislike the cheezbots? Which members of the crew think he’s super awesome, and who’s skeptical about the idea of using your mech to destroy houses that use too much air conditioning? There isn’t a really deep story, but there’s a lot of setup for what you do and what all these characters are about. And a big twist ending that we’re quite proud of.
What thoughts went into the game’s bright, colorful look? What do you feel it added to the game?
We just like games that have colour and personality! We also knew we were doing a 90s nostalgia thing, and loud colours was definitely part of that. You’d be surprised how long we could spend debating the colours available to paint your mech. Also, to go back to the narrative, I really have to give a shoutout to Vanni LoRiggio, who is the artist we hired to do all the character portraits. We’d bounce some crazy ideas around, and once we had a character he’d draw these amazing portraits. It was often much easier to write the dialogue when the insane, awesome portrait art came in.
We went loud everywhere, and we’ve literally had people come up to us on show floors at conventions and say "the colours really caught my eye" or "cool, a mech game that isn’t just grimey and grey and dark." So we think the bright colours add a lot to the personality!
Mech customization is an important part of Pizza Titan Ultra. What thoughts went into creating parts for players to customize with, and then tying them in with giant robot pizza delivery concerns?
As mentioned above, the colour customization is cool, just on a quick superficial level, people like to be able to make characters their favourite colours. Then ,the modular parts were a significant effort for us. We’re a small studio and it was a big undertaking to have the player character be able to be pulled apart and have all the art and tech to tint all the textures and all that. In terms of choosing parts, we couldn’t even do all the ideas we had, but we prioritized the ones that represented homages to favourite franchises.
Different people on the team were fans of different giant robots, and we wanted something to cater to most of those. Then, other parts were just themed based on things in the universe – various ideas for the restaurant like patio seating on the shoulder, or a crossover with Hazburger, which is a restaurant you see here and there in the city, and you can wear that mascot head. So, it was a mixture of fan service to other mech stuff and trying to make this feel like a fleshed out world.
Customization parts gif album here: https://imgur.com/a/XbfOPCK
What sorts of different builds can players create using these parts? How can pizza delivery vary from mech to mech?
We spent a lot of time deliberating what sorts of stats and systems we wanted to let players modify, but in the end we wanted to keep the arcade experience fairly pure, and allow players to make cosmetic choices based on cosmetics. So, the parts aren’t directly tied to any gameplay, but then, to give incentives for players to buy them when maybe they didn’t care what they looked like as much, you unlock new ultra abilities. There are only four of these, but they can really effect how a mission plays out. Some people have observed the chest laser or shield are less broadly applicable. That’s true… but if you’re having any trouble in a few missions, maybe give those a second look, because contextually they can save your giant robot butt.
Delivering pizzas can be a chaotic, destructive affair. What do you feel smashing through a city to make deliveries adds to the fun of Pizza Titan Ultra? To the fun of games in general?
The destruction was something we tested out super early. If you’re going to be in a city in a mech, that damage felt super important. But then, we wrestled a lot with how it should play out. It’s fun, but it’s definitely not the goal most of the time, so should we encourage or discourage it? I’m really happy with where we landed, which is leaving it mostly up to players, but then you get speeches from the Mayor if you’re really going crazy. It’s almost a reward, if you read it and find it funny, but I guess sort of a distraction from whatever else you might be doing, and he is asking you to stop.
My ideal is that we make players feel just a little bit bad and sort of get into character and make tiny efforts to not wreck everything. Then, we use it for variety, with some missions hinging explicitly on destroying or not destroying the city. But destruction is fun, just as a given, so we wanted to leverage that fun.
Animated gif of destruction test early on: https://imgur.com/IZz1Prt
Why add other huge enemies and evil mascots to deal with? What did combat bring to the game to tie it all together?
Combat was another tricky one to balance. The game is about getting from place to place quickly, so some players really disliked stopping to engage with enemies. It feels like it’s about being speedy and you have the clock ticking. What we tried to do was balance it so the rewards of dispatching enemies quickly added enough time and money that it was worth smashing them along the way. Then, we escalated the enemies in ways that made them slow you down, so it starts to make more and more sense to stop them from dropping cheese or stunning you or using a tractor beam to drag you back into the fight.
More giant robots was just something early players always wanted. "When do we fight other mechs?" So we scaled up some later enemies to really give a sense of intensity and mech-to-mech fighting. If we had unlimited time and budget we might have taken this even further with boss fights, but given that the goal of pizza delivery is generally primary, I think we landed mostly in the right spot by having engagements with big robots that don’t take you out of what you’re doing for too long.