Creating a new multiplayer FPS title is hard, really hard. Today there are so many established and hugely successful titles from Call Of Duty, Battlefield, Halo, Overwatch, Counter-Strike, Rainbow Six Siege, Apex Legends and many more. All of these offer something slightly different, but the sheer number of them creates a nigh unscalable wall for new titles, so how on earth would they climb over it?
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Some games do successfully find grip thanks to solid gameplay and interesting new ideas, like the portal-hopping Splitgate released earlier this year, but there’s still so many games around that holding your own seems almost impossible.
Yet this is exactly what the recently established Team Kaiju aims to do. A new developer in the TiMi Studio Group, a subsidiary of Tencent, Team Kaiju is a North America studio with a pedigree of developers from some of the titles that make up that list of multiplayer shooters.
I talked to Team Kaiju’s studio lead Scott Warner, who worked on both Battlefield Hardline and Halo 4, and studio director of operations Rosi Zagorcheva, who’s worked on plenty of titles in the Battlefield series at Ripple Effect (which was once DICE LA), about how they plan to bring together their experiences to help get over that wall and make an original and successful multiplayer FPS.
Despite that level of prestige, Team Kaiju does still have a little stage fright, as the studio plans on performing alongside some of the biggest names in the game. Instead of letting this hold the team back though, they’ve channeled it into their identity, making Kaiju more than just a name that sounds cool. “When we learned that the literal translation in English was “strange beast”,” Warner explains, “which was kind of how we felt about ourselves when inside this big company, we thought okay, that’s the name. Good.”
Team Kaiju can’t reveal exactly what it’s making just yet, but the team wants to make something new that steps away from the never-ending trend of sequelisation present in their careers up to this point.
“Creating a new IP is an amazing creative opportunity that is, you know, establishing a whole new world that is appealing to millions of people, that’s an opportunity that’s very difficult to pass up,” Zagorcheva explains.
“As you increase the budgets of your spend on projects,” adds Warner, “the risk aversion ticks up as well, and that leads to sort of unnecessary entrenchment around IP and established franchises.”
Standing out from those established franchises isn’t easy says Warner, especially for smaller indie developers. But it’s Team Kaiju’s position as part of TiMi that allows it to both attempt to step outside of the current multiplayer FPS space and still make something at a “blockbuster scale”.
I asked about how exactly it is that a new multiplayer FPS of a “blockbuster” scale could actually find its feet. Warner pointed me towards the Battle Royale genre, and how it took a simple concept that radically changed how people play multiplayer shooters.
“What Battle Royale really is, is sort of taking inspiration from an entertainment property, but then thinking about how you build a moat around that,” Warner explained. “In that formula, there’s not necessarily anything that’s brand new in terms of low-level gameplay features, but the way that they’re put together and presented to the player around their goals is totally different: it changes the game completely.”
Warner and Zagorcheva want to do something similar, not in so far as making something inspired by an entertainment property, but in how their game will give players something truly original in the genre.
That said, going with something completely unique isn’t the only viable path for new multiplayer FPS titles, or so I’m told. “I think that when you go into these projects you’ve got two different ways you can go,” Warner began to explain. “You can either go and directly compete with an established model, and in that case, you need to be the best of the best in order to make people take notice and stand up, Valorant is a good example of that, where they can sort of bring something new to Counter-Strike.”
“Or, you can go in the route of trying to find new and unexplored territory and fantasies, where you believe there’s an audience and you believe creatively, there’s something really interesting there. That’s the route we’re taking.”
Competing with an established model isn’t better or worse than going with an original idea, Warner and Zagorcheva tell me, it’s just that each comes with a different set of challenges that need to be overcome. For an original idea, the main challenge is how developers even begin to approach “new”.
“Often when people think about games, they think about things in terms of gameplay features,” says Warner. “Another way to look at it is, is there a world or a fantasy we can exist within that is relatively unexplored in games and then use that as sort of the generation for all the gameplay mechanics and the modes and everything else.”
As we got to talking about generating your mechanics around the fantasy, we brought up Halo, and Warner told me about how he always thought Halo 5 really understood how to make the player feel like a superhero in an “800 pound suit of armour”. He says it did this by wrapping up its fantasy into relevant FPS features, and in turn this allowed players to feel even more connected and part of the experience.
Team Kaiju wants to make something truly “ambitious and creative,” and to do so as a new AAA studio. It’s an uphill battle for sure, but the pedigree present from both Warner and Zagorcheva aims to offset some of the inevitable challenges.
Team Kaiju wants to plot a new course on the sea of multiplayer FPS games, so it’s a good job they’ve got people at the helm who’ve been navigating it for decades. But the team is expanding, with more jobs becoming available as the studio slowly expands it’s vision for this new title.
Whatever it is that Team Kaiju has got planned, odds are it’s going to be big.