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Zombot: former Bungie, Rockstar, Ubi devs bringing AAA to mobile

A team of developers who previously worked at studios like Bungie, Kabam, Rockstar Games, Insomniac and Ubisoft recently announced the formation of a new independent studio, Zombot, which will focus on creating AAA-quality games that are suitable for mobile devices.

Speaking to Polygon, studio co-founders Ben Berens, who has worked on Kabam's God Father mobile title, and Alex Chu, who was a concept artist on titles like Halo Reach, Destiny, Tomb Raider and Dead Space, said their vision for the studio is to make games that find the balance between console-quality and mobile-appropriate gameplay. The developers told Polygon that oftentimes when people try to bring console-quality to mobile, they also try to bring with it a console game's size and scope, which isn't always the best fit.

"One of the key things is you can't really take a console game and push it onto a mobile device and expect to be successful," Berens said. "There has to be a lot of innovation in the way it's designed and the way it plays to make sure it makes sense."

"It's not just how it plays either, but how it's designed for the player," Chu said. "I think the common perception is it's really hard to make AAA-quality games on mobile, and it's true because the console hardware is such a big piece of machine and it's so complex. Mobile is catching up, but it's not there yet. So I think it's about designing games in a smart way so the presentation looks and feels AAA, but it's not necessarily AAA in the amount of content the game has."

According to the developers, one of the growing trends in mobile gaming is longer-session gameplay, with some games requiring the player to be engaged for up to 20 minutes at a time. Both Berens and Chu believe this may not be the best approach, because while players may want a console-quality game on their mobile devices, they simply do not use their mobile devices in the way they use their consoles and PCs. A person looking for a game that they can sink hours into like a League of Legends or a first-person shooter is going to set aside time for that, and if they have a choice, they are likely to choose to experience that kind of in-depth play on their console or desktop.

"If you play League of Legends at home, when you're on the bus, you're not going to be playing League of Legends," Berens said. "But you may be playing another game that has a lot of hardcore mechanics, that has lots of high-quality game design, but has short sessions. That's where mobile gaming comes in."

And that's where Zombot is also hoping to plug the gap. The studio is currently working on a yet-to-be announced mech battle game with the working title Project Galaxy that Berens describes as "a bit like Lego," where players can collect mech parts, customize their mech, take part in PVP and PVE battles and also take part in empire building by upgrading and customizing their ship.

While the developers weren't ready to reveal much about their debut title, which they expect to launch later this year, Berens said it is in full 3D with AAA-quality assets and design, and strategy will be a core focus of the game. Drawing on their experience with mobile and their understanding of how people like to play, game sessions will be kept short.

"For a lot of the gameplay mechanics, we have to pull a lot from the mobile games that are out there and make sure we're twisting those in a way that makes them more exciting and deep, rather than taking a first-person shooter and cramming that into a mobile game," Berens said. "Obviously it's difficult, and there's definitely a challenge getting that there, but that's our approach."

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