Chris Mirjahangir and Brian Elston interview marketing director Akos Gyorkei of Zen Studios, the developer responsible for the release of the Godzilla vs. Kong-themed pinball game available on consoles and PC.
Please introduce yourself and describe your role on the game (duties, etc.).
I’m Akos Gyorkei, Marketing Director at Zen Studios. My job is to promote and show our games to the most people possible and act as a general pinball ambassador as well.
How did this project get started? Who approached who?
I’m happy to say there was a mutual interest! The team at Legendary Pictures – who we are in primary contact with – are experts at the lore of the Godzilla and Kong franchises and they are familiar with pinball too. It is really a blessing to work with franchise holders who let you be creative and elevate your work.
Are any of you longtime fans of Godzilla and Kong? Are there any favorite Godzilla or Kong movies among your team?
Yeah! Our game designers fought for these IPs, everyone wanted to do them. I myself was always a fan of the 1998 Godzilla, I saw it when I was a kid and it stuck with me. But man, the new movies were monumental too.
Each of the tables feels distinct from the others. How did you approach the design process for each of the tables?
All our tables have a lead designer, and their creative vision is the main driver for how a table will feel. Of course, it is a team effort, and 3D, and 2D artists, QA testers, and coders all give feedback and have their input in the table. We approach each table to really reflect the feel of the material. We knew we had to go big and epic to capture the weight and scale of these monsters. Then, you put all this into the language of pinball – what will be the main thing to shoot? What characters will be represented? And build up from there.
How many versions of each table were there?
Phew, countless. We are always experimenting, tweaking on physics and modes, balancing out the scoring, and iterating the art. Of course, our partners at Legendary and Toho have to sign off on everything, and sometimes they come up with the best ideas.
**Screenshots are from the Xbox Series X version of the game. Click the preview images in the gallery below for larger versions.**
Did you look to past pinball tables for inspiration?
Yes, there is always many things to learn from the great designers of ‘physical’ tables like Pat Lawlor, Steve Richie, John Popadiuk, and more. We always try to stay original though, we usually look more for ‘flow’ inspirations – for example, if there was a table with many ramps in the past that was really fun to just shoot and shoot the ball, we might want to recreate the feel.
You took more liberties with Godzilla’s table, bringing Mechagodzilla out at the Pensacola APEX facility and having the Burning Godzilla transformation. How did you find a balance between adherence to the film and digging deeper into the source material?
It is always a balancing act, but we try to stay true to the material as best we can. Of course, with these movie-based tables, you have a script to stick to, but it is always nice to have a nod to long-time fans.
Were there any other tables that didn’t make the cut, such as a Mechagodzilla-centric table?
Maybe in the ‘idea’ phase. We always gather all table theme ideas up front, and then go with the ones most of us and the partner prefers. It takes around 6-9 months to create a table from start to finish, so we only start work on approved themes.
How did you determine how many tables there would be, and what the focus of each table would be?
It is dependent on our schedule, the preference of the partner or how deep the franchise is. For example, if there is only one movie we might do one table, but a franchise as big as Godzilla and Kong we easily found inspiration for 3 tables. From there, we are bringing our own ideas and our partner also offers up themes.
Could there be future Monsterverse tables, such as a Mechagodzilla table or tables based off of other films, TV series or comics?
We don’t have any immediate news right now on future tables, but we would love to return to the franchise. The players loved the tables, we really enjoyed creating them – and for me personally, I think big monsters and pinball are just a great match.
Are you familiar with the Godzilla tables by Sega or Stern? Is there a possibility of digital recreations of these or other physical tables as you’ve done with several Williams tables?
Of course, we pride ourselves of being familiar with most pinball tables in existence. Both are wild and amazingly fun experiences. The Stern one is especially one of the all-time pinball greats. It would be fantastic if we could do SEGA and Stern tables in the future, currently we do not have a partnership with them.
Are there any other giant monster movies you’d like to turn into a pinball table?
Oh yeah, definitely. As I mentioned before – monsters and pinball are a killer combination. I can only speak for myself here, but I’d love to a bit campy monsters like Eight legged freaks, or do you remember The Blob from 1988? But a Tremors or Clash of the Titans would also be really fun to do.
Does the license only cover the Monsterverse, or could you do tables based on other Godzilla or King Kong films?
That is definitely a discussion for the future, who knows – we might surprise everyone with some cool new tables in the future!
**Screenshots are from the PC version of the game. Click the preview images in the gallery below for larger versions.**
Bio: Starting out in Localization at Electronic Arts, Akos has been with Zen Studios for 8 years, currently leading the marketing department. As an avid pinball fan, he hopes to bring the game to the whole world to enjoy.