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Interview with Mikko Kodisoja of Supercell on Gunshine

Mikko Kodisoja is the Founder & Creative Director of Supercell and he was kind enough to talk to us about his new teams new release, Gunshine. This new browser based MMORPG combines social networking connectivity with modern MMORPG gameplay and attractive, retro influenced visuals. In our preview we loved the nods to classics like UFO and Syndicate, and while the game is still in beta, it shows lots of promise. Here’s what Mikko had to say about the games development, its potential and where it fits in the current, competitive market of MMO’s.

Tom: How does it feel to be nearing completion of a game you must have worked very hard on?

Mikko: After all the hard work that we’ve put into the game it feels great of course! At the same time we feel both excited and nervous, it is always as exciting to see what the users actually think about it.

Tom: How important was it to get the support of big industry names like Phil Harrison and David Gardner?

Mikko: Their support has been incredibly valuable to us, we are very lucky to have them onboard.

Tom: The game uses a unique system of integrating with Facebook. How do you fine tune this to avoid annoying people, but still engage with social media?

Mikko: Well, first of all, we would never post anything to user’s wall without asking them first. (Yes, many apps do that and we hate that too…) In other words, it is always the user who decides to post something, not us.

Also, we decided not to use those annoying pop-ups that interrupt your “flow of fun” which are so common to many Facebook games. We believe that if you have a great game, and it gives users a better experience when played together with friends, people will talk about it and share it to their friends without the need to force this kind of behavior.

What sometimes gets lost in this whole discussion is that Facebook is a fantastic platform that makes playing with friends very easy. Take for example: It works in every web browser so it is accessible for everyone and you can connect it with Facebook which is basically where all your friends are. That can be an incredible powerful combination – and we are seeing the early results of this already. In short, playing with your friends or finding your friends in the game has never been this easy.

Tom: Do you see consider Gunshine to be a more advanced version of Facebook titles like Farmville, or a simpler version of MMORPG’s like World of Warcraft?

Mikko: We do not think there is anything like on the web at the moment. We wanted to design a rich game experience that will satisfy a core gamer, but at the same time make it as easy to access as possible, and make it very simple to play with your friends. Further, we wanted to make sure there is a great game experience for the user no matter how much time they have to spend: be it 15 minutes or 4 hours. And finally, we also designed the game in such a way that even if your friends were not online, there is still social game play value because you can borrow his/her character. And for the core gamers who gather online at the same time there is of course the real time multiplayer option.

We also tried to use Facebook to make playing with friends as easy as possible. For example, in the bottom bar that we call the Gunshine Communicator, the player can check out which of his/her Facebook friends are online and ready to help in those boss battles. So they are just a few clicks away.

Tom: Gunshine has a charming retro visual aesthetic. Is it intentional that it resembles games like Syndicate and Chaos Engine?

Mikko: Well, as gamers ourselves we are of course influenced by other great games out there that we love and the two that you mentioned are not an exception!

Tom: You have revealed an asynchronous multiplayer mode where the AI will emulate your friends playing style. Can you tell us a little more about this?

Mikko: Sure! This game mode came into existence when we started to think about how could we solve one challenge that we as gamers often have: I have a game that I want to play with my friends, but since everyone has so busy family and working life these days, it is sometimes very hard to find a time slot when everyone can play at the same time. So we wanted to figure out a game mode that would be as social as possible without requiring everyone to be online at the same time. And that’s how we came up with this mode.

So how it works is that I can borrow my friend’s character e.g. to defeat a difficult boss or elite mobs I cannot get down on my own. I can do this by using the phone booths in the game world and calling them in to help me. So when I do this, my friend’s character appears, with all the equipment and abilities that he possess. I can give that character some high level commands to guide how he/she fights: be passive, aggressive or defensive. He acts according to his abilities. Also we try to emulate a bit the playing style of the actual owner of the character in terms of how he/she engages in ranged/melee combat. This specific algorithm needs a lot of work still but that’s why we are in Beta. :-) When my friends come online later on, they will get a reward for helping me out in the battle.

Tom: How do you plan to expand the game in the future?

Mikko: We are adding more content like boss fights, missions and new areas on weekly basis. Some of the features which we are going to introduce in the coming times include trading, professions and crafting. What you are seeing today is just the beginning…

Tom: Finally, what’s your personal favourite aspect of the game so far?

Mikko: Definitely working as a doctor in the toughest boss battles, in real time with a group of friends. Doctor class in is kind of a hybrid class with some damage dealing abilities combined with instant heals and HoT (healing over time) abilities. I also like the fact that the doctor class is quite popular in asynchronous mode which means that I usually get some nice rewards when I log into the system.

*Mikko and the rest of the team have been nice enough to offer CalmDownTom a beta code for our first 100 readers to play Gunshine right now. Our last set of codes ran out in no time, so be quick! If you miss out we may have more codes for Gunshine soon so remember to check back.*

*Update: we’ve posted a second beta key for another 100 uses. Be quick!*

Beta key 1: pexm6683faya

Beta key 2: kxyt2386kksp

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