October 9, 2023
Games Lift: Pipapo Games get the joke
Pipapo Games know how to make a concerted effort. The team behind "Map Map" reports to the interview in a bright mood, helps each other out on every question and still manages to take their own plans very seriously.
Even the title hides a punch line. “We found it funny that our characters’ speech sounds just like saying “mapmap” over and over,” explains Clara Müller.
“Map Map” is a fitting title in more ways than one. It’s not just a pun, it points to the game’s main theme: “Map Map” is literally a game about maps. Players have to find their way on different islands, measure distances, determine positions. They will have to annotate and design their own maps. At the same time, it’s a cozy adventure story about kids before the dawn of their teenage years, searching for treasure and building tree houses.
Pipapo Games step into the Games Lift Incubator as a team of four: Annika Neumann is the programming lead and responsible for UI design, Lukas Hort designs the game and helps with programming, Laura Hantschel does concept art and art direction, Clara Müller manages the project and is the team’s environment artist. Pipapo found each other at HAW Hamburg’s Games Master course, and they bring a varied set of qualifications with them. Among them are Annika’s experience working on the Games Lift alumni project “Leif's Adventure”, or Lukas shipping the project “Puppet Play” on Steam. In Hamburg, they immediately clicked with each other “because we all wanted to start a business,” Lukas explains. The goals were compatible. So was the sense of humor, apparently.
Cozy game, serious map
“We’ve always been a playful team,” Annika says. It shows in the game’s mood. When the kids in “Map Map” place a house, it should have “at least a slide and maybe a fire pole.” When describing their game, the word “cozy” keeps coming up. The game may require careful thinking and close attention to detail, but at the same time it is meant to remain open and inviting, not to stress players or give them time limits. “Map Map” will invite players into a colorful, beautiful world.
The basic idea: Kids travel to different islands with the most barebones map possible, showing just the outlines of the land mass. It will be the kids’ job to draw in everything else, and to change the landscape while doing so. One example mission describes the perfect location for a house, and the kids have to mark it on the map accordingly. “The map shouldn't just be a means to an end,” Laura explains. Observing closely, navigating and making inferences are essential game mechanisms.
The focus on searching and navigating as core mechanics sounds unusual. Yet there is a big hit that revolves around this very idea. “I've been big on GeoGuessr for years,” says Lukas. By now, the team also likes to guess together cooperatively.
Light mood, concrete plans
But that was just the starting point; Pipapo Games are going in a completely different direction. “Map Map” won’t look anything like Street View’s plain realism. The art style aims to be colorful, cozy and playful, but it is still being worked out. Since “Map Map” is already present on social media (Instagram or X), optics play an outsize role.
Laura explains that, while humor is important to the team, they are pursuing “very concrete plans”. Pipapo’s experience in the Games Lift Incubator is a case in point. The team highlight learnings made in workshops on market analysis or production. Annika lauds the mentors’ take on the decision to self-publish. One person praised it, another one criticized it. But Annika isn’t joking. She actually found the different takes helpful: “Both had important points!”
Pipapo Games are in the Games Lift Incubator with a clear goal: developing a production plan with concrete milestones to keep the project in check and make it financially accountable. Pipapo may put a big emphasis on fun while working. But they know how important a good roadmap can be.