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Interview: Veteran Start-Up Motiga Carves A Multiplayer Identity On Mobile

Interview: Veteran Start-Up Motiga Carves A Multiplayer Identity On Mobile Exclusive

October 7, 2011 | By Frank Cifaldi

Motiga is a mobile start-up just getting out of stealth mode, recently founded by former NCSoft West CEO Chris Chung and Gazillion, Sierra and Sony Online technology veteran Rick Lambright.

The Bellevue-based company is set to debut its first game, The Leftovers, a humorous cross-platform multiplayer tower defense game inspired by William Golding's novel The Lord of the Flies planned for iOS.

In this Gamasutra interview, CEO Chris Chung (pictured) and creative director Isaac Barry (formerly of casual game studio GameHouse) talk about the company's roots, its vision for "true" mobile multiplayer, and why building your own social platform might be unnecessary.

Gamasutra: So Chris, you were the CEO of NCSoft West? That was the entire North America and Europe operation, right?

Chris Chung: Yeah. I was CEO of the company from the beginning of 2008 to May of 2009, and left and started working for Trion Worlds as chief strategy officer for about a year. But I really wanted to do this.

Do what?

CC: I've had a lot of interest in the mobile space for a long time, but it didn't make economic sense. In 2008, I saw an opportunity to create a company focused on multiplayer games on mobile, because there really wasn't anybody doing it.

That was certainly true then, but is it true now?

CC: Traditionally where you have a multiplayer game that's peer-to-peer to full client server, you have a very different backend. But with ours, using the same backend, we can actually support a full MMORPG or a game like [The Leftovers], or a game like a first-person shooter.

And is that kind of the core of your company?

CC: Yeah, multiplayer technology. We don't want to be a platform provider, we want to be a developer that puts a lot of premium multiplayer content, different types of content, on that platform.

Isaac Barry: Right now we're using major social networks for all of our logins. So when you create the game, rather than try to push our own platform, we're really asking people to use the social networks that they want to use for their login. Because it's all the same to us, right? What we want is for people to easily be able to play with their friends.

Can you expand a bit on what sets you apart from other iOS publishers focused on multiplayer?

CC: I think the technology enables really small teams to create truly multiplayer games really fast. It takes about two weeks of integration time to integrate our backend.

It takes care of the virtual item catalog, takes care of the monetization. It also has a really nice interface to basically look at all the analytics during the development and post-launch. And there are a couple of features that we're putting in later to help developers monetize their games better.

IB: Motiga stands for Mobile Online Touch Interface Games, so what we wanted to do was take the strengths of the devices and really make games that were specifically for that device, including geo-location. It's kind of become a platform for all games now that are social, so every game that we make is inherently social.

But what we're starting on right now is our first stage, to make sure we have good multiplayer games, then we're going to be revealing a bunch of news about our social features later.

What are Motiga's goals?

IB: Aside from making great multiplayer games for mobile devices... I think that's kind of it. We just want to make good games. We're all gamers, we're really not making casual games. We're not making hardcore games, either. We're making games that we like to play, and it just happens that we're populated by people who like casual games, like hardcore games.

We're in this golden age where suddenly we're able to connect people together in very interesting ways. The problem is that the reality is that schedules are difficult to align, so that kind of dominant approach is to do asynchronous play, which we definitely want to support, but we always want to be doing real-time and asynchronous experiences together.

And free-to-play is the easiest way, as a gamer, to find new experiences and be a part of new things. So it just makes the most sense for us.

It also makes it easier to go across multiple platforms, because we're always going to be connecting our gamers. We're not segmenting them by their platform. So iOS players will be able to play with Android players and with Windows Phone 7 players.

The Leftovers is multiplatform?

IB: The Leftovers is a Unity title, so we've been using the Unity platform. With a more mass-market title we look at doing things with engines that are going to perform better on smartphones over the entire range, especially with all the growth of kind of the lower-end smartphone market.

But for our games that are really targeted at gamers, like this one, we're able to say there's going to be a barrier to entry that gamers are more than willing to cross. So when we develop certain titles we keep that in mind. So with this, really 3GS is our spec for iOS, but the experience is best on iPhone 4 or the iPad...really, the iPad 2. And that's just the nature of 3D running on these processors.

Chris, You left Trion specifically to do this?

CC: Yeah.

What was the sort of gap that you saw?

CC: There were multiplayer game companies on iOS that were either focused on MMORPGs or first-person shooters, but there wasn't anybody that created the technology for truly mobile multiplayer games. And that's the gap that I saw.

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