All Star Gaelic Football Q&A With Peadar McMahon

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Many sports have been recreated in the virtual world from sports big and small across the globe. Recently Mojopin Studios announced that they are developing a new Gaelic Football game for consoles and PC. We got to cheat to Mojopin founder Peadar McMahon about his plans for the newly announced All Star Gaelic Football and it’s Kickstarter campaign.

Brian – So Peadar, can you give us a little background on yourself? How did you get into gaming and games
development?

Peadar – I’ve been into gaming, and even game development, from a very early age. I think I was 7 or 8 when I got a Commodore 64 and I loved that thing. Played lots of games on it but it also allowed you to program in BASIC and even came with its own code manual. This had a number of programs to do different things, but even at that age I was tweaking things within them to make brand new things! Since then I’ve always been game obsessed. But it wasn’t until I spent a year down at Microsoft for my university placement that I found game development in a big way. I took to their XNA game platform and got some help and advice from the guys down there and that was the main thing to push me into game development.

B – When did you form Mojopin Studios?

P – That’s a tough question, Mojopin Studios has probably been a thing since university. Just checking my domain registrations and I’ve owned mojopin.co.uk since 2005! Mojopinstudios.com has been active since 2009, so quite a while! The focus has always been to get the Gaelic Football game off the ground but a number of websites and mobile apps have been produced in the meantime. A lot of background work has been going on which makes them timescales seem ridiculous, but that’s what it has taken. We have been a “proper”, registered company for just over a year now.

B – What made you decide to create a new Gaelic Football game with All Star Gaelic Football? Did you play the previous games back in the day on PlayStation 2?

P – It was exactly those games that made me want to create a Gaelic Football game. I was in the middle of university when the first one came out, of course it took over me and my friends time…for about a week. It wasn’t a great game was it? It was easier to score a goal than a point and it was completely ruined by a lot of incidental things that just didn’t make it feel like a Gaelic Football game. After the second one came out, which made slight improvements, no one was interested in it anymore and it was disappointing because that was it. No more Gaelic Football games. So, for my final year project at university I built a prototype of a Gaelic Football game on Xbox 360. It was only one player and a goalkeeper, but anyone that played it already recognised that the shooting mechanics were already better than the game that was released! The goalkeeper was much better than the other game too. So, it was from then that I was determined to make the game happen. But that was 2008!

B – Have you found any barriers in the making of All Star Gaelic Football so far?

P – Funding. Plain and simple. I have been through more funding applications than I would care to mention. The main takeaway was that no one funds games! There was one particular application that I went to a round table discussing with lots of potential applicants, I ended up answering some of the questions that the people hosting the event couldn’t, I’d just been through so many of these, only to be told at the end that I was the only one they couldn’t help! But we’ve been working on a number of different proposals for partners that will hopefully prove fruitful and of course the Kickstarter would help a lot too!

B – What type of game modes are you planning?

P – For the first game, we want to make sure that we have the basics right. So while we are concentrating on the game play side, we will look to include the basics like Exhibition matches and League and Championship format
competitions. These will be local multiplayer but there will also be an online multiplayer element. Again, you will have just one-off Exhibition matches but also a Divisions mode where you play 10 matches a season and try to get promoted up the leagues. We will also have a comprehensive edit mode to allow people to create whatever player or team they want. This is the base level, but dependent on finances, time, resources and licencing, we will look at a lot of other options including an equivalent to FIFA’s Ultimate Team.

B – Gameplay seems to be a priority for you. Gameplay is no doubt an important part of any sports related game. How are you going about creating an authentic feeling experience? (controls, mo-cap etc.)

P – Absolutely gameplay has to be right. We went to the effort of getting county footballers, Mattie Donnelly and Darren Hughes, for a motion capture session to capture they’re moves, that we are implementing into the game. The difference this makes is unbelievable. I have been hand animating some things before this and it looked ok but not exactly natural enough. With the actual motions captured it makes the game feel far more real. There are 2 things that make the gameplay feel more authentic, one is the motion, the other is AI. We have thousands of lines of AI code written in pseudocode that we need to implement into the game. When that comes together it will really start to take shape and people will see the benefits of putting this effort in. Unfortunately, that means that there is not a lot to show in the early stages, but it works out in the end.

B – What game engine are you currently using?

P – Why are people always asking this? I feel like it is to cast shade at Unity. Is that your agenda? We are using Unity. I want to add my backing as to why I think Unity is the best engine out there. It gets some, very undeserved, criticism. I was at GDC in San Francisco last month and went to a number of Unity talks showing off what they are doing with their engine. The strides that they are making is seeing it quickly outstrip Unreal in terms of functionality, documentation, rendering, compilation, I could go on…But they are releasing a new HD render pipeline that looks amazing and their new job build system is invaluable for us developers. Unreal by comparison seems very static. But you only need to look at their Adam series of films or their new Book of Darkness demo to see the quality that can be produced with Unity. Rant over!

B – Are you planning on having dynamic systems in the game, be it player interaction, weather effects, varying AI, commentary etc.?

P – As I mentioned before, we are looking to introduce a robust AI system that will take into account a lot different moment to moment decisions. This is heavily stat based, with elements of randomness built in. So if the player is very situationally aware, they will do exactly what you would want them to do, but if they don’t have that intelligence they may end up marking the wrong man, or challenging for a ball that they shouldn’t have. Player interactions will be the same mix of stats and randomness, so if 2 players are challenging for the ball, you’d expect the one with the higher stats to win it, but we need the randomness in there to make it realistic. Sometimes that 5’ 2” guy will win a duel with a 6’ 4” guy. Mightn’t be often, but there’s a chance at least! Commentary is something that we will look to include in the game as well. As can be seen in games with much bigger budgets, it’s not always that easy to implement, but it is something that we have to look at. Weather effects, and the likes, may not make the first game, but everything is reliant on funding!

B – As this game is still in early development, what do you hope to see in the final product?

P – If the Kickstarter campaign succeeds, and we pull together our other partners, we look to get the game out for the end of 2019. But we hope there will be a beta program that will begin, probably Q2 2019, that will give people an early look at the game.

B – You are planning on having both male and female players in the game, as well as having both club and county teams. How will you make gameplay differ between all these players and teams? Will there stamina/strength/skills stats in-game or decrease power metres during gameplay? Will there be a noticeable difference between certain teams, due to the skill level of players involved?

P – Yes, we are looking to have both male and female players in the game. My wife was the chairperson of Armagh Ladies for a while and would probably not forgive me if I didn’t bring the ladies on board! But in reality the ladies are a very important part of the Gaelic Football family and it would be wrong not to include them. Each player with have heir own individual statistics and this will determine how they perform in game. As mentioned before, there will still be an element of randomness to keep it interesting, but the stats will dictate how they play. You should see a discernible difference between playing as Dublin versus playing as Wicklow. It’s not going to be as blatant as the Wicklow lads just not being as quick or them not able to hit the ball as far, we currently have 25 different stats per player which will hopefully make, not just teams but, individual players unique. We are also toying with the idea of a handicap mode, where no matter what team you pick the players’ stats level out so it is a level playing field. So maybe Wicklow can beat Dublin!

B – Will you be going for the more realistic full game simulation, with full game rules or will there be an arcade mode in any way?

P – We are looking at a proper simulation of the game. Arcade mode might be a fun distraction, but not for the first game.

B – Obviously there are a lot of factors that go into sports games other than gameplay, that immerse the player in the experience, with licencing, sponsors, player likenesses, jerseys, branding, commentary, stadia etc. playing a factor in the big sports games. Have you been in contact with the GAA and GPA about getting the rights to some of these things and adding them to the game?

P – I have been in contact with the GAA and GPA. Nothing has been agreed as of yet, but I am hopeful. Having their backing and branding, being able to play as my favourite team or player is exactly what I want from the game. I can’t say when we’d have an announcement to make regarding this, but hopefully we will have one. We are making this game as fans and as fans we want the GAA on board.

B – Like we mentioned, gameplay is key to many games and although licencing isn’t necessary for games to succeed (PES is an example of this theory, as the early PS2 games were some of the top sports games compared to their FIFA counterparts back in the day), would the support of the GAA/GPA be beneficial to you, both in development and post release?

P – From a pure business perspective, I’m not sure how much of a difference it will make to Mojopin Studios. Will we sell more games with the GAA in there, yes, undoubtedly, but to get them in we may need to make some sacrifices and everything may equal out. But as I say, as a fan, I want the GAA on board. It will also open up avenues for modes and features that wouldn’t be possible without them. The Ultimate Team equivalent mentioned earlier can only happen with the GAA support.

B – The GAA is an engrained piece of Irish culture and it’s reaching a more international audience as of late, thanks to coverage on the likes of GAA Go, RTE Player and Sky Sports. Are you surprised it’s taken this long to attempt development of another Gaelic Football game? (The previous games were best sellers in Ireland)

P – I feel the GAA were just a bit burnt by the performance of the sequel. The first was a best seller, the sequel was far from it. I think they probably looked at it and said, we gave it a go and it didn’t work out. That’s fair enough, but it has been 11 years since the last Gaelic Football game and we think it is time for something new. I think one of the things we need to show the GAA is that the demand is there for the game. If they don’t see an audience then they won’t commit, that’s why we see the Kickstarter campaign as more of a proof of market, so if people want to see the game happen they really need to back the Kickstarter. The GAA is a huge organisation and we need to have a really solid argument for them to get them on board. In essence, Gaelic Football is a niche market and nobody has been crazy enough to give it a go yet. We see an opportunity for a sustainable game franchise and are the crazy ones to go for it.

B – With online stores now available and digital downloads for games more readily accessible, compared to the physical release of previous iterations of Gaelic based computer games, will this allow an easier international release or are you only planning to release in certain territories?

P – This is certainly something that we see as a real benefit, certainly over the previous games. If we release on the Xbox or Playstation Stores, it is everywhere. This helps, obviously, to increase our audience but can also expand the audience for the GAA. Someone in South Sudan could see the game on the store and just buy it because it looks fun. There’s a brand new fan of the GAA.

B – As the name suggests, this is a Gaelic Football game. Would you like to expand into the likes of hurling/camogie games and beyond in the future?

P – Yes, certainly. The football game is our first priority and want to get that right, but we would certainly like to get a hurling/camogie game out in the next cycle. Why stop there, we have some good ideas around handball and
rounders too! But our focus is on football for the first game.

B – Is there anything else you want to tell us about All Star Gaelic Football?

P – I just want everyone to know, we are still early in development, everything will change by the time of release. I see comments around how our little teaser trailer looks and a small amount of people seem to think it looks bad! I personally quite like the look of it. But 2 things on that, 1, it won’t affect how the game plays. We are focusing on making the game play extremely well. Graphics falls into the same bracket as licencing for us, yes we would love to have them perfect but if their not it will still be the same game underneath. But, 2, we will be improving everything between now and release! A lot can happen in 18-24 months and the graphics will be upgraded. But people may have unrealistic expectations, we don’t have the budget of a FIFA and that will be reflected in a lot of ways, but we aim to have an extremely good looking game for release.

B – Is there anything you want to say to TheArcade.ie followers

P – For anyone with a passing interest in Gaelic Football, or for those that wants to support an Irish game developer, please back us on Kickstarter. Even just sharing the word to all your family and friends will make the world of difference. Without the fans, we can’t make the game happen.

B – Where can we find out more about you and the game?

P – Everywhere!
Web site – www.mojopinstudios.com
Kickstarter – http://bit.do/ASGKick
Facebook – www.facebook.com/mojopinstudios
Twitter – www.twitter.com/mojopinstudios
Instagram – www.instagram.com/mojopinstudios

B – Thanks so much for your time. We wish you all the success with the project. Great to see some homegrown interactive development and love for our national sports. I for one would love to play a top quality game of Gaelic sports.<‘span>

Be sure to check out the Kickstarter and support this locally produced game. Thanks to Peadar for chatting to us!