Elegance and simplicity are two sides of a very heavy coin. It’s difficult to flip the coin the right way up, but when it happens, you end up with the likes of Mighty Games. After the rampant success of Crossy Road, a few of the lads from Hipster Whale decided to branch out and see what else they could do. Turns out that making a name for yourself through simple, satisfying experiences is quite the job, and Ben Britten helped me understand just what goes into making these games.

Who are Mighty Games?

Mighty is a company that’s been going for about 3 years. It was started by myself and a man named Matt Ditton, and then a man named Matt Hall who you might know from Crossy Road. Then we brought in Andy a bit later, and those are the four founders of Mighty Games. We started Mighty game to explore the F2P space and see if we could innovate there. We released Shooty Skies, Charming Keep, Charming Runes, Questy Quest, all a bunch of F2P games that are fun and silly. Our whole shtick is games that are adorable, whimsical, fun games that anyone can play.

So, Crossy road was a huge success…

Well, probably worth noting that Crossy Road is Hipster Whale, which is Matt and Andy. While Mighty and Hipster are very closely related (and share the same founders), Crossy was made for them. We do a lot of them, so we made Disney Crossy Road for them, and we obviously share a lot of tech, we share the same office, but we’re not the same company.

What is Shooty Skies?

Shooty Skies is our first semi-successor to Crossy Road. It came out, it was fun, it had a nice innovative monetisation scheme that people liked, so we thought, “Let’s do that again with a different game.” We liked shmups, so we made Shooty Skies. It’s been out for about two years now, we’ve got a PAX booth this year, we started building the arcade version and it was really fun with the controller, so we figured we’d take Shooty to Steam. We’ve been doing a lot of research for Shooty to take it to Steam, which should be done in about a month-ish. It’ll be a bit wider, bit more zoomed out, a bit more pro, a little faster, feels really nice with the analog sticks. So, that’s where Shooty is at right now.

These are quite rudimentary games with a core mechanic that you work around. How hard is it to come up with games like this?

I’m of the opinion that you can take anything that’s kind of fun and turn it into a game. The secret to a game like Shooty or Crossy is that core mechanic that’s fun to play over and over again. Once you decide on that, you can tailor your design around that core mechanic and polish and polish and polish it up until it’s super shiny and fun so it’s super enjoyable and fun to do that one thing. The core mechanic of Shooty is dodging, don’t get hit. It’s one-hit kill, so the core of the game is dodging and being clever about where you dodge. The shooting is just an extra thing that makes the dodging more interesting.

I think the idea of finding the idea is not hard, but taking a core idea that’s simple and turning it into a compelling game experience is the hard part, and that’s what we do. At Mighty, every other Monday we have a thing called Monday-Monday-Monday, where the whole team takes a day off and builds prototypes, and that’s how we come up with these things. We build up mechanics and start asking, “Is this fun?” and when you sort of know when you’re building these mechanics and you play it for a little while then you play it a little longer, then you know you’re onto a good core mechanic. Although, even then, you can find a core mechanic that’s fun but it’s really hard to build a game around. There’s still that problem, but that’s where we come in.

That replayability, is that an important part of Mighty’s design mentality?

Absolutely. There’s something to a game that’s fun for 3 days, then you’re done with it, those are some nice fun games that are quick. But if you really want a game like Shooty, it’s been around for 2 years, people played it for 500 days straight. That desire to come back to the game is what gives it a long lifetime. Engagement or retention, that’s kind of the buzzwords, trying to build a game that’s highly engaging to the users that’s the hard part.

Making a core mechanic that’s fun, that’s not too hard, but keeping it fun, not having people get tired of it having people say, “I want to play Shooty Skies today” that’s the hard part. Part of it is making the core mechanic being fun and satisfying, updating the game, making sure there’s enough content for people- some people have different characters in Shooty, some people come back because they want to try the new characters, there’s a lot of different avenues to let us explore that core mechanic.

How do you add meaningful content into the game without confounding that core mechanic?

I think some of it is about trusting- like, we released Shooty, it did quite well in the first month or two, and it’s about trusting that the core mechanic is fun. One problem a lot of people have is when you start adding more and more stuff, you might lose sight of the core mechanic a bit. Our strategy is to try and offer things that are outside the core mechanic, the meta game. Recently we’ve added things like missions and ticket systems, and we’ve had the collection mechanic forever.

So, we try to trust that core mechanic is good, we try not to mess it up by adding too many more things. Our goal is to try and add stuff external from the core mechanic that lets you explore the core mechanic in a different ways without changing it. Like, with the mission system, we have things that aren’t just about surviving, like survive and do X, survive and do this, survive and collect things. It’s not changing the core gameplay, it’s just giving you extra things to do, but there’s no different mechanics. It’s a nice little twist.

Would you think about going bigger?

Absolutely. Mighty is about 20 people right now, and we’ve got a diverse team. Everyone in the company has ideas and things they want to build. We aspire to to bigger things, but budget is obviously the big thing. We’ve got a few things coming out next year are a bit broader, a bit deeper. The thing about a Shooty or a Crossy is that there’s a good amount of early-game design, but not a whole lot of mid- or late-game design, and we’ve been exploring that a lot more lately.

Charming Runes, for instance, is our block breaking game. It’s an endless block breaker, again a core mechanic, and people really liked it, but a game that isn’t announced yet takes that same core mechanic and adds more meta-game, like characters, level progression, runes, that kind of stuff. So, we’re trying to take these seeds of mechanics, like Shooty’s about dodging, Runes is about block breaking, and gong, “How can we take this and add some depth to it?” So some of the games we’ll be adding next year will be adding that kind of depth.

Where can people go to check out your games?

Shooty you can get from iTunes store, Google Play, Amazon, and soon Steam!

Here are some other places where you can show your support for Mighty Games:

Website: https://www.mightygamesgroup.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/mighty_games/
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/app/shooty-skies-endless-arcade/id962993853
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mightygamesgroup.shootyskies

Nick Ballantyne

Nick Ballantyne

Managing Editor at GameCloud
Nick lives in that part of Perth where there's nothing to do. You know, that barren hilly area with no identifying features and no internet? Yeah, that part. To compensate, he plays games, writes chiptunes, makes videos, and pokes fun at hentai because he can't take anything seriously.