Gundam Evolution producer Kazuya Maruyama on widening appeal

Gundam Evolutiona new multiplayer shooter based on the mech-filled anime series, has a surprising amount of broad appeal. Not only is it being talked about by Gundam fans, but it’s also catching the eye of more casual gamers and even hardcore esports ones as well. If you’ve noticed that audiences seem a little more excited here than they have been for previous Gundam games, that’s exactly the response that the Gundam Evolution team is hoping for.

When I found out about the Overwatch-esque title, I had tons some burning questions as a Gundam fan. To answer those questions, I spoke to Gundam Evolution Producer Kazuya Maruyama and Battle Director Ryota Hogaki. The two chatted about their aspirations, inspirations, and decisions that went into the game.

What made the idea of a competitive hero shooter using the Gundam series come to life?

Maruyama: Our aim is to introduce this game as a gateway to the Gundam IP. Of course, while we would love to see Gundam fans play the game, we also hope that a wide range of team shooter gamers, especially young people and people outside of Japan, get to know Gundam more intimately through Gundam Evolution.

A large group of mobile suits fighting in Gundam Evolution.

I noticed a few fan favorites like Zeta and Wing absent so far. I’m very curious about how you selected what Mobile Suits are in the game.

Hogaki: I know this is a rather unusual lineup for a Gundam game. The reason behind this is that we are focusing on what kind of enjoyment we can offer as a shooter. This means that selection standards are not based solely on being the leading units. They each have their own situational uses, such as GM Sniper II for long-range sniping, Assimmar’s mobility through transformation, and Gundam Barbados as a melee fighter.

Are there any specific Gundam series you took inspiration from when creating the look for Gundam Evolution?

Maruyama: We do not refer to a specific Gundam series, but I would say that the more recent the series, the more sophisticated it becomes, like Gunpla. Our aim is to create moderately stylish mobile suits that don’t look old-fashioned but still look relatively natural with the mobile suits from any other work.

Turn A Gundam flying through space in Gundam Evolution.

How many suits will be selectable when the game releases?

Maruyama: The initial number of units available at release will be 12, excluding Gundam Exia and Marasai [UC]which were previously implemented in the PC network test. Gundam Exia and Marasai [UC] will be additional units that can be unlocked using resources collected through continued gameplay or purchased to be unlocked immediately.

Stay tuned for more updates on what the final additional unit lineup will look like at release.

Do you have any esports aspirations or plans for Gundam Evolution?

Maruyama: Many members of the development staff are very familiar with competitive gaming, including former top players of Sudden Attack and Crossfire and former professional league players of Overwatch and PUBG. We have been receiving valuable feedback from a wide range of pro-gamers from a very early stage of our development, so I trust that the game balance is tuned well for everyone.

“We are taking various leading AAA titles from the West.”

So, while we of course have esports in mind, I think the first step to achieve this is to attract as many players as possible. I would love to see communities being formed not only in Japan but also all over the world. Hopefully, we can eventually grow to the point where we could hold world tournaments!

Are there any games you took inspiration from when creating Gundam Evolution?

Maruyama: This genre is very popular in Japan, but compared to the West, Japan is still a latecomer to it. Therefore, we are taking various leading AAA titles from the West, including FPS and battle royale games as references for our titles.

We also want to increase the Japanese demographic for competitive shooters in Japan. We did not want to make this game too difficult for those who are unfamiliar with Gundam. We also have many people involved in the project as development staff, including former pro-gamers from titles such as Crossfire, Sudden Attackand Overwatchwho are close to the competitive scene.

But of course, we have not forgotten about the Gundam aspect of the game. Our goal is to incorporate elements that FPS fans will enjoy while also satisfying people who are playing an FPS game for the first time just because it is a Gundam game. We are constantly striving to create a game that is interesting for both Gundam fans and FPS fans.

Screenshot of Gundam Evolution from Guntank's perspective with "12 player killstreak" text on the hud.

Is there anything you’re looking to tweak so far for the final release after the first beta?

Hogaki: Certainly. Not only the adjustments we have already reported on in our development blog, such as Gundam Barbados, Turn A Gundam and Marasai [UC]but we intend to make continuous and extensive tweaks carefully without any exceptions.

How did you pick what abilities were given to the different mobile suits? For example, Methuss being the healer.

Hogaki: We have tried to avoid drawing clear role classifications in this work as much as possible. This is because if roles are underlined, it would be harder to choose the mobile suits you love. All mobile suits in the game are capable of dealing damage, so there is no single mobile suit that cannot fight against its enemies. The way they deal with damage varies depending on their traits.

There are already more than 1,000 different types of diverse settings in Gundam works, so we try to select units with unique characteristics that would bring not only popularity but also diversity.

RX-78-2 Gundam firing a beam from its gun in Gundam Evolution.

What gameplay philosophies did you put in Evolution to make it accessible to all skill levels of players?

Hogaki: When playing a team shooter, you often have to see what other players are picking to adjust the balance, but if all units can deal damage, it’s a lot less pressure to choose the one you like, and it’s easier to play even if no one is willing to take on the role of healer. That is the kind of game we are aiming for.

Therefore, all units have an auto-repair function that automatically heals if you don’t attack. We wanted to prevent the difficulty of continuing the battle if you win a 1v1 situation and you are badly wounded. Anyone can step back from the front line and get back up before going back to combat.

I think when you have roles, the community tends to standardize team structures more, but we aim to design the game so that this doesn’t happen. With that said, we know we will probably see balance bias as we go along, so we want to do our best to balance units so that we can make sure that the game is competitive and fair.

Gundam Evolution is set to launch this year with a second beta on Xbox and PlayStation starting on June 23, 2022.

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