Developer: Futurlab (Twitter)
Formats: PlayStation VR
Release Date: June 18th 2019
We got a chance to speak to Toby Adam-Smith from Futurlab about their upcoming virtual reality tabletop battle game Mini-Mech Mayhem. Check it out below:
How would you describe Mini-Mech Mayhem to someone who hasn’t heard of the game?
A virtual-reality, mostly-turn-based, action-strategy table-top game for solo players and up to four players online, which is incredibly funny to play and features fully customisable avatars and mechs. That’s a bit of a mouthful… How about: it’s like that holographic game they play in Star Wars, or like chess but funny!
So I’ve played a fair bit of Mini-Mech Mayhem and found that it offers the perfect balance of tactical play and chaos, with the whole ‘guessing game’ that takes place when trying to figure out what your opponent is going to do making for some ingenious scenarios in-game. What would you say inspired you to create a game like this?
After making toy cars come to life in Tiny Trax, we knew that bringing toys to life in VR was something we wanted to continue doing. Many of us used to paint figurines like Warhammer etc, so bringing little mechs to life was really exciting to us. We also love board games, so we looked at some of our favourites that made use of robots like the cult classic Robo-Rally, and more recently the first version of the Kickstarted VOLT: Robo Battle Arena. VOLT builds on Robo-Rally with some great ideas, and we wanted to take it a step further by giving the player continued participation in the action even if their strategy falls apart, and even after they’re eliminated from the board – obviously when a player’s mech has blown up, they still have their Avatar in VR! So, we came up with the idea of intercept cards to make the game exciting from start to finish, no matter how a strategy plays out, you always have the possibility of winning. An early prototype back in 2016 proved that this feature took the concept to a new, deeply funny level, and so we committed the whole studio to work on it!
There are a lot of different ways to approach the game too, with points earned for vanquishing your opponent’s Mini-Mechs or by landing on the victory square when a turn is over. What do you prefer: out-thinking your opponent in order to get that sweet victory square point or destroying them?
Both approaches require you to outsmart your opponent as you can’t destroy what you can’t predict the position of… 😊
However, for me, claiming a victory square is the most satisfying way to win. Being that it is only awarded to the player who ends the turn on that square, the very last action of any match is seeing that point be awarded and there are so many incredible ways to make sure you’re on it at the last second. My favourite would be when the stars have aligned to have a victory square adjacent to a hazard, so you walk into it, pushing an opposing mech off the square into a hole. That’s two victory points for one move and it feels amazing!
Intercept cards play a big role in the game too, with them used to manipulate your opponent’s actions if used at the right time. My personal favourite card was the ‘+1 Step’ which has seen my opponents accidentally step on trap squares or completely mess up their following actions when used correctly – simple, but satisfying. What’s your favourite Intercept card to play?
+1 step is my favourite as well, so I guess I’ll pick my number two… Rotate move (clockwise or anti-clockwise) so that when another player is moving across the board heading straight for the victory square, rotating that move mid-step (right when they aren’t expecting it!) to drop them into a hole is a great feeling. Doesn’t feel quite so good to be on the receiving end, though…
One thing I’d definitely say is that the implementation of virtual reality makes the whole experience all the more charming, whether it’s seeing the Mini-Mechs go to battle right in front of you or getting to lovingly fist bump your own after a victory. How would you say that virtual reality has changed the team as developers? Do you have plenty more ideas for what you could do with the technology?
VR is amazing technology but it isn’t without its challenges when it comes to development. There are new issues to overcome which people may never have solved before, which is exciting but also terrifying! At first it was somewhat humbling, but now it’s made us much more confident as a team. In terms of other changes for us as developers, I have suspicions that the team may be taking naps during the day while looking like they’re testing something under the headset. It’s really hard to tell though. As for more ideas, absolutely! We’re incredibly lucky to be here developing titles during this new wave of VR and are overflowing with new concepts to wow you with.
A lot of multiplayer focused releases succeed or fail based upon their communities. Do you have any plans in place to ensure players have always got a reason to keep coming back to Mini-Mech Mayhem?
Absolutely! While we have plenty for solo players to enjoy, our team have been working incredibly hard to produce new outfits, items and dances which we’ll be releasing fairly regularly (and for free!) starting very soon after launch. These are earned simply by playing the game (online or offline) to earn XP and level up. In addition, as players develop more and more advanced strategies, we anticipate that the community will have markedly different tactical experiences as time goes on. We’re also very proud of the sense of presence you feel when you’re sat around the board with other players; it is a great social space which we think you’ll want to come back to and see your friends time and again.
Both Mini-Mech Mayhem and your previous release Tiny Trax have been PlayStation VR exclusive releases. Do you expect to bring them to other virtual reality platforms eventually?
As developers, we would love for as many people as possible to experience our games, but we don’t have anything to announce right now.
Between Mini-Mech Mayhem and Tiny Trax, you’ve got two of the most fun and creative titles that I’ve played on PlayStation VR. However, your next title is going to be based on the Peaky Blinders TV show, which is certainly a bit different to your norm. Are you excited to shift over to what will be a completely different style of game?
Thank you! We’re very excited and would absolutely LOVE to talk about it, but we can’t. Yet… 😉
Finally, can you tell us something about Mini-Mech Mayhem that no one outside of the development team knows?
From the planning phase alone (no intercepts) a single round with four players has around 2,107,956,736,530,900,000,000 possible variations of moves. If you want to say it out loud, that’s: two sextillion, one hundred seven quintillion, nine hundred fifty-six quadrillion, seven hundred thirty-six trillion, five hundred thirty billion, nine hundred million. If you could simulate a single round every micro-second, it would take 66,842,869 years to simulate all of them. So, if you started running the simulation at the end of the cretaceous period, around the time that big ol’ meteor wiped out all the dinosaurs, you’d almost be done by now.