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PAX 2014:Hands-on preview - Gigantic brings big ideas to MOBA games

PAX 2014: Developer Motiga is bringing big things to the MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) genre with their forthcoming game Gigantic. And no, it’s not just another League of Legends or DOTA 2 clone. In fact, Gigantic is almost certain to change what we’ve come to think of as a MOBA game.

Gigantic screenshot (PAX 2014)
Gigantic screenshot (PAX 2014)
Gigantic brings big ideas to the MOBA genre

Granted, Gigantic is still a MOBA, and it’s just the easiest way to classify it. But aside from the basic 5v5 PvP battle arena model, Gigantic is an altogether different kind of MOBA.

PvP action platforming

Gigantic doesn’t use RTS (real-time-strategy) controls. Instead, you use W-A-S-D keyboard controls, hence it plays like a 3rd-person action game with an over-the-shoulder camera—similar to Hi-Rez Studios’ MOBA SMITE.

There are no minions, towers, or a base to destroy. Gigantic’s game play is based more upon Capture and Hold with a dash of Escort-style play. And minions and towers in the game are more hybrid of both concepts: summoned creatures with varying abilities that protect control points on the map.

But perhaps one of the biggest additions to the MOBA-style format is extreme verticality. In Gigantic, you can jump, leap, dive, and sneak your way through its complex maps, which consist of multiple levels and can require some platforming-style movement to navigate. You can also sprint (which consumes stamina) by pressing the SHIFT key. (Use your stamina wisely or you may get run down and unceremoniously ganked.)

“The verticality is something we’re really excited about. We’ve played a lot with the amount of verticality. It’s totally incidental. We built a map for the original game that had a small place, like a little village, far up in the corner, way high up. It was like jumping off of a cliff. You’d kind of like, get butterflies when you jumped off—and at one point, we took that out, but quickly realized how much more fun it was to have it in. Then we were like, oh no, we need to have that, we need to have this in.”
Joe Pikop, Lead Character Artist for Gigantic

This was certainly in play at PAX. Every respawn began by leaping from a high platform back into a section of the map -- a giddy, almost butterfly-inducing "weeeeee!" effect.

The goal in Gigantic is to destroy the enemy guardian. Each team’s Guardian is a massive monster, all but impervious to direct attack, even if you’re working as a team. Instead, you need to power up your guardian and steal power from the enemy Guardian.

Maybe defeat is a better choice of words here, because destroy runs a little counter to the game’s colorful and charming art style.

“We have 3 main precepts for the character design behind Gigantic. The first is a bold, colorful personality. The second is to be charming, in a Disney-sense. Even “villainous” Disney characters, for example, still have a certain charm to them. And finally we want them to be focused, distilled down to what they do and represented in a way that reflects that.”

Joe Pikop, Lead Character Artist for Gigantic

Hands on

At PAX 2014 Motiga had us go 5v5 in a media rep throwdown. Each side consisted of 4 media members and 1 Motiga employee to help us out. A few Motiga “coaches” also moved around the room and helped us learn while we played.

The path to victory is to capture points on the map, and then summon creatures to those points to help defend them. The creatures basically act somewhat like ‘towers’ in the MOBA sense, except they don’t all just shoot at enemies. Some, for example, can heal your characters.

After character selection, both teams spend the first few minutes racing frantically to summon creatures and control half of the map they started in. The most efficient means to this was moving as a group from control point to control point so defensive creatures could be summoned as quickly as possible. The first player to the summoning circle gets to pick the creature that is summoned, and the time to summon creatures is reduced for every team member also standing in the circle.

With our initial creatures summoned and positions secured, it was time to brawl—and it was all-out, nonstop war as we fought kill creatures summoned by the enemy and capture their control points, and (of course) kill enemy players too.

All of this serves to help ‘power up’ your Guardian and take power away from the enemy Guardian. The Guardian, in turn, has its own ‘rampaging-monster AI’, so it will move of its own accord through the map. Eventually, it will meet the enemy Guardian in a monster-on-monster mega-brawl (called ‘the Clash’) and all the gloves come off.

When facing the enemy Guardian (hopefully alongside your own guardian), you can attack its ‘heart’ – a visible glowing target. Hit it when it turns gold, and you steal power from it and grant that power to your own Guardian. When the heart is red, you can hit it and actually damage the Guardian. Of course, the enemy team will be trying to do the same—and/or just gank you at the same time.

Gigantic is big fun

Gigantic is extremely fun and frantic, and our total match time was around 30 minutes or less. Respawn times were minimal, and the single map we played (they were only showing 1 at PAX) was large and complex, with multiple elevations, but still fairly easy to navigate.

Joe Pikop, Motiga’s Lead Character Artist for Gigantic, asked me if I would still call Gigantic a MOBA. I said that I would, but only in the strictest technical interpretation. Gigantic may be a MOBA—but it will bring a lot of big ideas to the genre. In a sense, it will be a true “next gen” MOBA in many ways.

Gigantic’s game play is so divergent that it could yield any number of interesting mechanics yet to be explored. For example, characters that add to the platform mechanics by providing jumping platforms could be introduced. Maps consisting of floating islands and lots of jumping platforms are another possibility. This is all pure speculation, but serves to illustrate that the door is wide open for many innovative and interesting mechanics Gigantic has at its disposal.

Motiga is still relatively early in development of Gigantic, and only says that it will be coming to PC in 2015. There’s sure to be a closed/open beta period before the game goes live, so keep an eye out for it. Gigantic could be huge.

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