Interview: How GALAK-Z: Variant Mobile is an action-RPG with a difference

GALAK-Z: Variant Mobile is a mobile action-RPG with a difference. To explain what makes it unique we were lucky enough to talk to the game’s development team at GungHo Online Entertainment America (GOEA).

We discussed the history of the GALAK-Z series, what makes it different to every other shooter on mobile, and future plans for the title. 

Can you explain a little about the history of GALAK-Z and why the series has now come to mobile? 

GALAK-Z: Variant Mobile was actually initially inspired by a great spaceship shooter on iOS called Space Miner. It was simple to play, but had great physics and a simple fun little package, and I realised that that classic Asteroids style arcade scheme would allow for pretty tight, precise gameplay with the touch interface. It started development on PC, and Sony snatched it up as soon as they saw it so it never came to mobile initially. It’s very fitting that it has come to mobile and Nintendo Switch, and in the F2P format that is much more successful on these platforms.

What is unique about this mobile iteration in the series?

We’ve added so much. The first game was a very straightforward rogue-like shooter, all action. This follow up is a continuation of the story of the first game, but completely re-architected, transforming the game into much more of a long-flow RPG with permanent upgrades, and many more of them.

What does the game offer that no other shooter on mobile does?

We have always been very proud of our unique A.I. co-developed with Cyntient, as well as our physics based propulsion system. The very act of floating around and judging your velocity and trajectory has always felt amazing, and when you add fantastic A.I. to this package, the result is one of the most rewarding to play and master shooting games we know of!

What were your team’s main influences when developing the game?

The aesthetic tone of the game has always been the classic space anime out of Japan from the 70’s and 80’s, such as Battleship Yamato and Macross, as well as classic western sci-fi like Star Wars and the original Battlestar Galactica. This game has always revolved around East meets West.

We decided that the Bots the player would spend a lot of time with powering up during the game needed to be world class characters, so we went straight to the top and contracted Kunio Okawara, the designer of the original Gundam mechs! Working directly with Okawara-san was the experience of a lifetime, what an amazing guy. He took this whole production to the next level.

What challenges did your team face during development, and how did you overcome them?

Our studio is split into two studios, one in Seattle and one in Kyoto, Japan. Added to this game was the GungHo team in Los Angeles, as well as more engineering support from Playerium in Taipei, Taiwan. So keeping everyone synced was certainly a challenge, but we developed our flow and in the end had a fantastic game that we are all very proud of!

Is GALAK-Z: Variant Mobile a game that anyone can pick up and play?

Absolutely. This is what we spent a large chunk of effort tuning and redesigning. Taking a very intense, hardcore Rogue-like shooter and transforming it into something packed into small pieces, meant for a much wider audience. We did a lot of focus testing and just tons of tuning. It was crucial we maintained the excellent essence of the original game, all while making a much more accessible game for new users. Mobile games have much different needs, shorter gameplay sessions, but a much longer core experience.

What specifics tools and techniques did you use to develop the game?

The game was a hybrid of 2D and 3D art elements, while the actual physics and engine was all 3D. We wanted a very specific, hand-drawn anime feel, while still embracing the strengths of the 3D engine, in this case Unity.

Which part of the game are you personally the most proud of and why?

This game has always had the moment to moment gameplay and incredible feeling first and foremost. There is nothing quite like it and this game just has so much to offer.

What tips do you have for people playing GALAK-Z: Variant Mobile for the first time?

Just take your time, enjoy the ride, learn the subtleties of the different weapons and power-ups. We firmly believe this is one of the best shooters available on mobile and Nintendo Switch, please give it a try! It starts off easy but the action definitely ramps up later in the game, providing something for everyone!

Do you have anything planned in terms of future updates for the game, and if so, can you give us any details of what these might include? 

We have many daily and weekly challenges coming online, as well as many new, interesting Bots in the pipeline. Stay tuned!

Do you have any plans to bring the GALAK-Z series to yet more formats in the future?

This is a franchise near and dear to our hearts, you haven’t seen the last of GALAK-Z!

You can check out GALAK-Z: Variant Mobile for yourself on Google Play (and the App Store!) now.


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