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State of Decay dev's latest project is like the online Pokémon game you've always wanted

With Moonrise, a new free-to-play online mobile multiplayer game, State of Decay developer Undead Labs is looking to fill a void in the gaming space.

Specifically, one inspired by a mix of popular franchises such as Pokémon and Magic the Gathering, game designer Richard Foge told Polygon at PAX Prime.

"One of the things that led to [Moonrise] existing — our founder has a thing that we go through when we're pitching new game ideas," Foge said. "He calls it the obviousness test: 'Is this a thing that people want?'

"And everybody wants a Pokémon MMO. It certainly was a source of the inspiration, but this is not a Pokémon clone."

Moonrise, announced earlier this month, is a role-playing game in which players catch and battle creatures. It's a concept immediately familiar to anyone who's ever picked up a Pokémon game. In Pokémon, players begin their journey by selecting a companion with either fire, water or grass-based skills. They explore the game's world with up to six Pokémon on their belt, who gain new skills and even evolve as they level up.

In Moonrise, it's very similar. During a demo of the game, I quickly customized my character — known as a Warden — and selected a fire-type companion from one of the three options. I was quickly thrown into a battle tutorial. By sliding my finger across the creature's portrait, I could summon it into the fight. The game allows you to bring up to two creatures into battle and even attack with your Warden. You can also retract fighters at any time with another finger swipe.


Battles move quickly in Moonrise and all attacks happen in real time. According to Foge, mastering the game's combat requires you to figure out the best way to manage rotating your attacks and cool downs. Each creature has four moves it can use against the opponent. Some deal normal damage, while others are elemental-based moves. Specific elements are weak to others — water wins over fire, for example, and plant-types dominate stone-types. If the elemental weaknesses and strengths sound familiar, it's not an accident.

"We went with convention for a lot of them," Foge said. "For something like stone, we went for natural analogues. Water erodes stone, or plants will grow up through a rock and split rock. Sometimes you don't have a good natural analogue, so you have to make decisions based on the balance."

Catching new creatures was an easy process for me. The game is named for a cyclical event that takes place in the game's world, which infects creatures you can catch. Part of your mission is to subdue and then cleanse them through battle; occasionally, they'll stick around and you can recruit them.

"We felt there was this void."

Moonrise is expected to launch in 2015 for Android, iOS and Kindle Fire. Although the game is very much inspired by other titles, Foge said, it has enough of a personality to stand on its own.

"We have enough differences from other games in the genre that I'm not worried about it being misconstrued as a clone to what it truly is: inspiration from a lot of different sources," he said.

"We felt there was this void. There's a game we wanted to play that we couldn't play yet, so we wanted to make this game."

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