Microsoft's August 11th Summer of Arcade game is going to be Monday Night Combat from fledgling studio Uber Entertainment. A team-based shooter with some snazzy graphics and interesting ideas, I have a feeling it's going to do pretty well. While we're all still waiting to get our hands on full versions, the good people of Uber were gracious enough to invite me over to their studio for a sneak peek.
Oh, I also asked them a few questions while I was there…
What can you tell us about Uber Entertainment? Who are you? What's your mission?
Uber Entertainment is an independent game developer. We are a small group of very experienced game developers who aim to build games that are polished, fun to play and move the medium forward. We are also big believers in supporting our games and our community.
How big is your team, and how long have you been working on your current project?
Uber is currently 17 full time employees but we have used some outside contractors for our current project. Monday Night Combat has been in progress for about two years and is now shipping on August 11, 2010 as part of the 2010 Xbox LIVE Summer of Arcade. We spent the first 8-12 months just prototyping our game play because we truly believe in the adage of "Find the Fun First". If the game is fun while running around a bunch of white boxes, the game will be fun when it's pretty! After the prototype phase it was getting all the assets in and functional and polishing it as much as we could.
Monday Night Combat. What is it, and why should players give a hoot?
Monday Night Combat is a third person, class and team based shooter set in a world where you battle it out in futuristic arenas for money, fame and endorsements! Monday Night Combat is a very unique blend of a lot of different game mechanics that we at Uber Entertainment are very proud of. We support two game modes. Blitz is our cooperative mode that can be played solo, split screen or up to four people over Xbox LIVE. Crossfire is our six versus six competitive mode over Xbox LIVE. The game also has deep persistence, keeping track of how much lifetime earnings you've acquired, tons of career statistics, any single game highlights you've accomplished, and over 370 unique ProTags associated with those feats that you can show off to your friends or enemies.
Some people have dismissed Monday Night Combat as a TF2 one-off. Why are they wrong?
First, I'll say that's it's really a big compliment to get compared to such a great game. The art style is what's striking about the game and what the fans are usually reacting to. We chose this art style because we wanted the art to convey the humor and light hearted nature of the world. That and we were all a little tired of playing our shooters in brown, bombed out cities. When fans finally get their hands on the game they'll be very quick to see that the game has a ton interesting game mechanics that make it a very unique shooter. Monday Night Combat boasts single player and cooperative modes, a competitive six versus six mode and tons of persistence. All that said, we did borrow mechanics from all kinds of games. Mechanics like running, shooting, jumping, automated turrets, robots and even money!
It's clear that multiplier is a big focus of Monday Night Combat. What kind of experience can a solo player expect?
We built an entire game mode around solo or cooperative play. Blitz mode is a game type that is all about one team defending one money ball against rounds and rounds of robots trying to get to it. The game type supports solo play, two player split screen or up to four players over Xbox LIVE. There are five different challenges at all difficulty levels to test your abilities. The last challenge has infinite rounds and is based on getting to as high of a round as you can. The game really relies on the strategy of turret placement, personal upgrade timing and team make up. It also auto compensates for players coming and going during the game by increasing or decreasing the amount and types of robots spawned. There is great replayability in Blitz because the leaderboards show how much money you earned in the round and what class you did it with so you can challenge your friends, or enemies, to do better.
Why was Live chosen as the service to launch your game, and are there any plans to bring MNC to other competing services?
We chose Live for several reasons. One, Microsoft has been a great partner at bringing our game to the 360. Secondly, we really feel like downloadable games are where we are headed for game delivery and Xbox LIVE Arcade is simply an amazing platform for it. Getting into the Summer of Arcade promotion is just pure gravy. We haven't officially announced any other platforms for Monday Night Combat, we're just focused on our release next week and making sure it goes smoothly… and playing with our fans. We get maybe 24 hours to be better than everyone. Maybe… probably more like 12.
A lot of work has gone into the character design and conceptualization of MNC. Do you have plans to expand the franchise past this initial release?
We do plan on supporting the game and the franchise beyond Monday Night Combat. It's part of our commitment to keeping in touch with our fans and our community. Look for future announcements! There will also be some fun tournaments and purchasable merchandise at PAX Prime this year!
Out of the six available classes, is there any one that your team considers a favorite, for gameplay reasons or otherwise? Were there character types that did not make it into the final build?
Everyone around the office has different favorites. Our cinematics artist loves the Tank's spin move so much that he solely plays that class for that reason. Our animator, AZO, really enjoys playing the Assassin, probably because she pulls off the type of moves he does in his parkour videos. One of our programmers adores the feel of the deployed Gunner with dual miniguns so that's what he does. Uber's test director is so good with the versatility of the Assault that he greatly enjoys going on a tear with him. So, yes, everyone seems to have a favorite, except me. I'm balancing the game so I try really hard not to have a favorite that way I don't inadvertently overpower one class.
There are a great number of weapons and skills that didn't make the final build which are what basically define the classes. The six originally designed classes made the final cut but with many, many iterations.
Now that Monday Night Combat is about to go live, what will Uber be doing? Have you all booked trips to Disneyland for some R&R, or has work begun on your next project?
Everyone around the office is taking some time off, going on little vacations or just relaxing at home. I've even gotten in a couple of extra rounds of golf. Uberites that are back in the office from our R&R have already begun work on our next projects. What those projects are and what the scope of those projects are is all depending on how the fans react to Monday Night Combat. If people like it and play it, we'll make more! Nothing is more satisfying than knowing something you spent two years of your life working on is bringing enjoyment to so many people.
Three non-Uber games you're loving right now: titles and reasons why. Go!
Limbo: Wow. Awesome presentation, tone and game. A must play for anyone who loves games.
StarCraft II: I've worked on a lot of RTS games, StarCraft II makes me remember why I love the genre and makes me wish I worked on it. It's the RTS game I've been waiting for for a long, long, LONG time.
Assassin's Creed 2: Never played Assassin's Creed 1… now wish I would have. Amazing game! Free running rules, they nailed the feeling of being an assassin, and another super polished game.
Infinite thanks to Creative Director John Comes for the interview follow-up, and equal thanks to Art Director Chandana Ekanayake for making it all happen in the first place. I also want to thank the entire Uber team for taking it easy on me for the first 30 seconds of our matches… after which they showed me exactly why it's a bad idea to play against the people who have created the game.
For more information on Monday Night Combat, check out the official website. I also discuss the game on the Episode 38 of the GameCritics.com podcast. If you like what you see (and hear) then keep your eyes peeled for the release of the full game via Xbox Live Arcade Wednesday, August 11th.