Yesterday, I posted a piece on SHOGO: Mobile Armor Division, a 1998 Monolith FPS that pays tribute to classic mecha anime, such as Mobile Suit Gundam, SDF Macross, and Mobile Police Patlabor. It was truly a unique game; one that took the standard late-90s FPS formula and used it to pay homage to the real robot classics of the time. After replaying SHOGO for the article, I managed to get in contact with the lead game and level designer and current Black Powder Games employee Craig Hubbard for five questions on the creation, development, and future of SHOGO: Mobile Armor Division.
TechRaptor: How did SHOGO: Mobile Armor Division's concept come about?
Craig: I wasn't around at the inception, but Jason Hall told me he originally pitched the project as a Robotech FPS. That's not really what it was shaping up to be when he asked me to take over as lead designer, so I watched a ton of anime and dove right in.
TechRaptor: It's clear classic mecha anime played a huge role in the game's aesthetic, but, gun to your head, what single series had the most influence over SHOGO's design?
Craig: For me it was definitely Patlabor, but for others it was Robotech or Gundam. Patlabor was the first mecha-oriented series I watched that felt grounded and plausible. I also liked that the labors weren't gigantic. I wish we'd settled on a similar scale for our MCAs .
TechRaptor: Were there any major challenges you guys faced while developing SHOGO?
Craig: The whole project was characterized by challenges. We had issues with planning, prioritization, ambition, scope, staffing, inexperience (including my own), and just about everything that can go wrong on a project. I think what saved the game was that we realized about six months before our ship date that there was no way we could make the game great, so we just focused on making it fun.
TechRaptor: Looking back, is there anything you'd change about the game?
Craig: I always felt SHOGO ended up as more of a promising prototype than a full-featured product, so there's probably not a lot I would keep the same if I had it to do all over again. The biggest change, as I mentioned above, would be to rethink the scale of the MCAs, ideally so that we could have let players transition in and out of them at any time. I'd also aim for a more relatable setting, since I think the power fantasy of being in a giant robot works best when the environment you're crashing through feels familiar. And I think we should've gone with a story premise that required less exposition, but I was reluctant to throw away the work that had already been done before I joined the team. I'm a lot more pragmatic nowadays.
TechRaptor: Finally, do you have any interest in returning to the world of SHOGO: Mobile Armor Division in the future?
Craig: I would do it in a heartbeat if somebody was willing to fund it, but I don't know that the game I'd want to make would be the one that fans would expect. About ten years ago I actually came up with an idea for a reimagining that I was really excited about, but there was zero interest in either the franchise or the subject matter from the people who would have needed to be on board in order for it to get greenlit. Maybe someday...
TechRaptor: Thank you for your time.