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Moonrise: How Undead Labs is Taking on Pokémon with Style

William Murphy Posted:
Interviews 0

Moonrise may not seem like the logical next game from State of Decay creator Undead Labs. But UL is a studio filled with gamers that play everything, and mobile games are kind of a big deal so it makes sense to us that while they plug away on their next zombie-themed title, they might try something in that arena. But instead of a craptacular Candy Crush clone, we’re getting what looks to be a fantastically vibrant new RPG based around collecting and fighting monsters.

We got to catch up with Design Director Richard Foge to talk about the name of the game, its design goals, its combat, and how it’s going to be different from the rest of the monster-collecting RPGs out there. Hint: it goes deeper than changing Pikachu from Yellow to Green.

MMORPG.com: Why the title: Moonrise? Besides making for a really cool logo and artwork?  How does it tie into the story?

Richard Foge: The art is pretty amazing, isn’t it? Just wait until you see it in motion.

We could have chosen the name for that alone, but it does actually tie into the story of the world and the player’s role as a Warden. We touch on this on our website moonrise-game.com, but to quickly recap, Moonrise is an event that occurs in our game world that causes the normally peaceful and helpful Solari of the world to become corrupted Lunari and begin wreaking havoc on nearby towns and cities. When the event occurs, Wardens are called on to protect the people from the Lunari and convert the creatures back into their peaceful Solari form.

There’s a lot more to Moonrise than that, but that’s all we’re ready to reveal right now.

MMORPG.com: How much customization will the players have over their character and their monsters?

Richard Foge: You’ll be able to customize your Warden’s appearance as well as their combat skills. You’ll choose the Solari team you go into combat with and have the ability to swap out their combat skills as well.

MMORPG.com: It seems that the monster RPG is making a run of things on mobile, with Nintendo sitting out the iOS and Android world. How do you all think Moonrise can rise above the throng of games coming?

Richard Foge: Right out of the gate our art and production values are incredible, which helps a lot. We are striving to make a console-quality experience on mobile and we have a world-class team pushing these devices to their limits on all fronts. That is going to be invaluable in terms of standing out from the crowd of games that are available on the platforms we are targeting with our initial release.

Beyond that, our core experience is going to feel very different than pretty much everything else out there. Especially our combat. The screenshots we’ve released so far contain hints about the specifics of our combat system, which folks are going to learn a lot more about when they are able to check out the game at PAX. The combat system takes place in real-time and your character plays an important role during combat, which is a huge departure from most (if not all) games in the genre.

We have been very careful to avoid being a clone of existing games. There are a number of touchstones that we have tapped into in the genre that we feel are universally important, but we are not beholden to the specifics of how those games have worked in the past.

MMORPG.com: Can you give us some details on how the combat will work? We gather it’s not your traditional turn-based RPG.

Richard Foge: It’s definitely not traditional. The combat system takes place in real-time and you’re able to summon and swap your active Solari out any time you want (barring special combat effects).

The biggest twist involves the fact that your Warden (the character that represents you in the game) also participates in the combat and there are multiple victory conditions when battling another Warden (whether AI or player-controlled). You can either defeat the opposing Warden’s team of Solari, or you can defeat the Warden directly to win the battle.

This addition to the combat system has opened up a ton of possibility space in the design and has some pretty profound effects on PvP. We’re seeing pretty awesome strategic choices come into play at the meta-level as well as some bold tactics deployed mid-match to turn matches around that really push the combat to the next level. Our internal playtests are a blast, with everyone trying to come up with new builds that try out radically different approaches to win.

MMORPG.com: Kabam is traditionally a F2P publisher of mobile and web games, and while they have admittedly HUGE reach, having them as a partner might have your more core audience wary of their involvement. To what extent does the partnership go?

Richard Foge: Kabam has been a great partner as we move onto mobile platforms. We have many internal developers that have worked on mobile before, but Kabam brings a massive amount of experience and expertise to the table when it comes to the realities of making games for the platforms. We are combining the strengths of the Undead Labs as player-focused console developers and Kabam’s experience as premier publishers of mobile games to create an amazing game.

MMORPG.com: Will Moonrise make use of controllers for the iOS such as Logitech’s Powershell? Please say yes!

Richard Foge: The controls are first and foremost designed for the ideal mobile experience. That said, we definitely plan to support controllers.

MMORPG.com: You mentioned in your announcement blog that the game will retain a lot of what makes Undead Labs games popular. Thinking about State of Decay, I think of world exploration, survival, base building and so forth… what sort of ways is Moonrise going down this path?

Richard Foge: Moonrise has a deep customization and team build system that allows you to create a team that suits your personal style, much in the same way State of Decay allowed you to customize your Survivors to suit your goals and play style. The world of Moonrise is being crafted with the same care and attention to detail that filled State of Decay with interesting characters and possibilities.

We think our love for games and our passion for creating amazing experiences is ultimately what made State of Decay popular and we promise to make each and every game to the utmost of our abilities.


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.