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Q&A With Massive Joe Studios

By Andrew Nesvadba, on November 3, 2011

To promote the recent release of Age of Monsters - Rock Paper Scissors by Massive Joe Studios, one of the creative minds behind the project, Jeff Matsuda, recently jumped on social site Reddit to perform an AMA ('Ask Me Anything'). Not only was it a huge success from the viewpoint of Matsuda's fans as they got to request some amazing artwork, it provided a unique way to get the word out there about their iOS title.

Not to miss a beat, AppSpy has managed to grab hold of Mike Su and Jeff Matsuda from Massive Joe Studios to ask them a few questions.

Introductions

Massive Joe is founded by Mike Su and Jeff Matsuda. Mike (me, speaking in third person) was previously VP of Games and VP of Product at Break Media (the online network for guys). Mike's background prior to gaming had been in web product management. Jeff came up through the comic book world, starting at Image and working with Marvel, Darkhorse and more. He then went into television with Jackie Chan Adventures and The Batman. We are both bald Asian dudes (which in and of itself is not funny, until we walk into a meeting together).

What motivated you to move to the mobile market?

The money and the fame and the groupies. Wait, is this on the record? FOR THE RECORD WE'RE JOKING ABOUT THE MONEY PART! I MEAN, THE GROUPIES PART. We're both married with three kids each.

Not as motivating but equally important, as many smartphones as there are out there, I still have friends that are rocking RAZRs, so there's still huge opportunity for the market to still grow in the US and globally. Also with the limited real estate, we felt like our strength in art would play to our advantage. The short development cycles are also very attractive. I've talked to friends in the console business and I think I would die if I had to work on a project for two years that didn't sell a bazillion copies.

What design philosophies did you keep in mind while making Age of Monsters for the iOS?

Jeff spends a lot of time focused on shape theory, and making sure that all the characters have distinct shapes and look as discernable and beautiful up close as they do from afar. This is really important when you're talking about the limited real estate on the phone. Look at Angry Birds, the way each bird has a distinct shape that is consistent with the bird's behavior and personality. We really spend a lot of time focusing on that.

Also, we wanted to make sure that the game is fun even in short play sessions, because people tend to play short sessions, waiting for a meeting to start, going to the bathroom, or doing a press intervie...uh, other things.

How did the partnership with Jeff Matsuda come about? More specifically for Matsuda, have you always had an interest in creating a game and can we expect more concepts in the future?

Jeff and I have known each other for a few years now. The more we talked, the more it felt like there was a great opportunity to combine my experiences from the web world, and Jeff's ridiculous artwork and do some interesting things.

Jeff's worked on and off on a number of games over the years, but it's an area that he is very interested in. Again, with the development cycles being relatively short, it's very attractive for Jeff to be able to get new IP out there quickly compared to the traditional Hollywood development cycles. Definitely expect to see much more from Massive Joe!!

What games personally influence you in the greater sphere of gaming? on iOS in particular?

The list of games we love would go on for quite a while, but as far as influence, I mostly think of the ones that really hooked us early on. Sierra's games like King's Quest on PC were a huge part of my upbringing (dating myself, I know). Mario. Karateka. Mike Tyson's Punch Out. Of course when Doom came out, like everyone else, my mind exploded. It exploded again with GTA. I've gotten in so many arguments and fights with my brother over NHL Hockey '92, Madden '93. Those were some contentious years between the Su brothers. I know Jeff is always raving about Another World and the Zelda games.

On iOS, we are huge fans of Tiny Wings. It so perfectly encapsulates everything that's right about the platform. Pretty much everything the guys at Half Brick produce. Jetpack Joyride has so many great things about it. And of course, hard to talk about iOS games without mentioning the undead, and I thoroughly enjoyed both Zombie Smash and Zombie Highway. (Quick aside - Apple really deserves a lot of credit for ushering in a new age of the undead. Zombies, though perennially popular, have really become front and center now. You can basically take any game, add zombies, and it becomes at least 3.82 times better. Think about it - Angry Birds -> Angry Zombies! Fruit Ninja -> Zombie Ninja!! Fruit Ninja Puss in Boots -> Fruit Ninja Zombie in Boots!! Zit Picker -> Zombie Zit Picker! I'm going to stop now before I give away all my good ideas).

Where do you hope to take the Age of Monsters franchise? Rock, Paper, Scissors is ultimately a simple concept, surely you have grander ideas we'll hear about?

Yes, AoM RPS was a great vehicle for us to get a title out there and establish the Age Of Monsters world. We spent an absurd amount of time (relative to the dev cycle) on characters and animation and making sure they were consistent with the personalities because we want these characters to be portable into different games. We're really excited with the idea of being able to release multiple titles within the same world, and being able to advance character and story arc via different game mechanics. Look for more monsters and more development of our main character, Gizzard, in the coming months!!!

Lastly, I happened to catch the Reddit 'AMA' and really enjoyed the way in which you engaged with the community (in fact I shared one of the images with my friends (the Batman/Honeybadger one). How much of this was calculated PR? Do you see something like this working for you again? or rather, Do you think you can follow up with something just as strong for your next PR campaign?

That Reddit AMA was so much fun. We thought it'd be a great way to promote the game, it far exceeded our expectations. It's hard to say whether that was a one time thing or something that's repeatable. Of course we'd love to do it again, and there were tons of drawings that Jeff didn't get around to doing. I've spent obscene amounts of time on Reddit, and it's such a unique community that we'd love to continue to interact with the community there as there are so few communities on the web like Reddit, so we'll be back so long as people enjoy it and have a good time with it. But as with all creative endeavors, it's hard to say whether something will catch fire or not. All we can do is try to remain creative in how we do things so that we can stand out from the crowd, and the rest is up to the audience!

Thanks again for your time and I look forward to seeing more from Massive Joe Studios :)

Thanks for having us!! Stay tuned, we're really excited for the stuff we have planned and hope that you guys will love it!!

AppSpy will be reviewing Age of Monsters - Rock Paper Scissor's in this week's Friday Wrap-Up (4th Nov.) - keep an eye out for it!

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