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Our PS Vita development experience - Latest
by Richard Hill-Whittall on 01/03/13 01:33:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Welcome to my latest post about our PS Vita development and self-publishing experience.

We have now reached a crossroads whereby we have developed our two titles, Pub Games and VTrax to a point, which is somewhere around Alpha. We are out of money now though, so the future is uncertain.

Currently both titles are ‘on-hold’, and at the moment we are doing a couple of smaller titles to dip our toes into the market on a few other systems including iOS, Android and Windows 8. We have also developed two PSM titles, which was good fun. The first of which, Life of Pixel is out on the 9th January.

So, back to Vita…

SCOPE

The Vita is a really nice machine, with potentially superb graphics performance. We really wanted to utilize this as much as possible – with nice shaders, real-time shadows, reflections and so on. We did this – but an issue we hit was that the Vita just isn’t as powerful as say a PS3 or Xbox, so it required a fair few months of code optimisations to get decent performance. It was hard-core for a developer as small as we are, but we were delighted with the results and how nice the games looked on the Vita.

We have now got it to a point where all the effects we wanted (all bar water/liquid) are in there and running at a decent speed. It was the first time I had done art to take advantage of shaders and with nice RT shadows on the environments, so it was a blast – I’d say the most enjoyable 3D work I’ve ever done, buy a long way.

For both titles the core game components are all in and done, including gameplay, game modes, rewards and we just have a few Vita IPA specific tasks left to complete, such as Trophies, DLC, Online support, etc… Oh – and a few more tracks to design in VTrax.

In all honesty, given our budget and manpower we probably bit off a little more than we could chew. Expectations for Vita software are very high, particularly within say the car racing genre, and there are several incredibly good AAA examples on the machine. At times it was a little daunting – for example when I saw Need for Speed – Most Wanted – it really made me think; WOW! That is incredible, Yikes! Then again, we’re only a 2-man team, so you have to try and get a sense of perspective.

We have definitely tried to create two solid, unique titles that would be a good addition to the platform, and I feel given our resources we’ve done a good job. Hopefully we can one day find a way to finish them.

FINANCES

With each passing month so money became tighter and tighter, and our hope for the platform took a few knocks. I have lost count of the number of stories I have read now about what a failure Vita is, how bad sales expectations are and so on. It genuinely makes me sad, not just because I worry about how we’ll do, but because it really is such a GREAT machine.

I have personally funded much of our Vita development by reduced wages or often no wages at all. I have been evicted from my home once, and very nearly (this Christmas 2012 to be exact) a second time. But through all this, I have really enjoyed my time working on Vita.

Possibly, if I took a purely financial view, I should have stopped long ago, but I kept at the development as we had put SO MUCH time, effort, and love (yes LOVE :) ) into both games that to abandon them unfinished seemed unthinkable. Alas we have now reached a point where it is impossible to continue – we just can’t carry on and complete the titles without income.

FUTURE PLANS

In the cold light of day, for us to develop and self-publish two Vita titles without any extra funding was just too large an undertaking. If the option had been there I’d like to think we would have released a couple of smaller Vita titles by now, but when we initially began the Sony IPA requirements were much more severe than they are now so we got a little carried away and promised more than we could realistically deliver.

I would dearly love to continue Vita development and complete our games and see them out there on the PS Store. It is such a nice machine – I love the features like twin sticks and physical buttons; a proper gamer’s machine.

I’ll close with a slideshow with a few screens from Pub Games and VTrax so far. I am really pleased with how they look, especially as only 2 of us worked on the titles. I’d like to think we did the Vita justice. If anyone has any ideas or suggestions on how we might get the funding to complete these games we’d love to hear from you.


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Comments


Chris Hendricks
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It sounds like your article was supposed to have screenshots of some kind. Is this the case?

Another question: in your experience so far, does it seem like Sony cares about the performance of the Vita? One would think, with the number of developers that have reportedly stopped development on it, Sony would have an interest in keeping enthusiastic Vita developers on board. Have you heard anything from them personally (that you're actually allowed to share)?

Richard Hill-Whittall
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Yep - sorry about that - should have added it. The link is:

http://www.supericon.co.uk/our-vita-development-experiences/


Sony have actually been really supportive, although I think currently they are looking for quite a specific sort of title from Indies. For example see the recent Futurlab press release (http://www.futurlab.co.uk/futurlab-signs-landmark-deal-with-plays
tation.html) on their recent deal with Sony.

Ironically it seems to be simpler 'bite-sized' titles they are currently keen on from indies.

Jeremy Reaban
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Sony really has some mixed messages with the Vita. At least here in the US, the ad campaign for the Vita is "Console Gaming on the Go", but in reality, it just doesn't have all that many console quality games.

Other than a handful of direct ports like NFS:MW and Sony Smash Bros, all the games are very simple and probably behind a lot of iOS/Android games. The PSP was far more of a console on the go than the Vita has been in practice. (Really wish I had not bought a Vita)

evan c
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"’ll close with a slideshow with a few screens from Pub Games and VTrax so far. I am really pleased with how they look, especially as only 2 of us worked on the titles. I’d like to think we did the Vita justice."

You certainly did. Those games looks really good from a two man team.

Richard Hill-Whittall
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Thanks Evan - that is great to hear.

Richard Hill-Whittall
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@Jeremy - yep, and I think the US and Euro marketing is quite different. Certainly SCEE seem to be looking at smaller 'cooler' projects now - to be honest I think they are a little bit uncertain what to do given the lack of success with Vita so far.

Travis Griggs
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@Jeremy
You think there are iOS/Android games closer to Console quality than Vita games? I'd like to know which ones, because I have seen anything close to Gravity Rush, Uncharted, Resistance, etc on mobile phones.

@Richard
Great screens from a two man team, I hope you guys are able to finish someday. One of my good friends is an independent game developer so I've seen first hand the time you all put into your work.

Ron Dippold
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I'm not sure he's talking technical chops there. To get it out of the way, Gravity Rush is a fantastic game, easily the best thing on the Vita, and a shining example of what a Vita game should be.

But Uncharted and Resistance both feel like cut down console experiences, with Uncharted especially throwing in a lot of gimmicky crap just to force you to notice all the inputs Vita supports. The message I got from both games is that Vita is a compromised console. And Call of Duty is a sledgehammer of sadness that will confirm everyone's worst biases against it.

With iOS, even though the raw power may be less, and certainly input vectors, we get games that are far better suited for the platform and don't feel like crippled console ports. I'll take Punch Quest, Bastion on iOS (yes, I know it's a 'port', but it's not compromised), Rayman Jungle Run, Tiny Wings (Dragon Fly Free for Android), Infinity Blade, Jetpack Joyride, Beat Sneak Bandit, Super Hexagon, and I know I'm forgetting a ton more, over the Vita Uncharted or Resistance games any day. They're definitely a lot more polished and beautiful.

What's Vita got that says it can be a great console in it's own right? Gravity Rush. Up and coming: Tearaway. That's not enough. Anyone: Please remind me of any I'm missing, raise my sprits. But if you say God of War I'm outta here.

Getting back to the main article, these kinds of labors of love are what it really needs.

Joel Bitar
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@ron: LBP vita is pretty cool, and often gets mentioned as better than the ps3 games

Ron Dippold
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@Joel Oh right, LBP - thanks for reminding me. I think I had that mentally lumped under Media Molecule with Tearaway. That's a good counter example of an uncompromised Vita version of a console game.

Joel Nystrom
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Did you approach their Pubfund program? I think you would fit that perfectly, they are really looking for Vita projects right now.

Richard Hill-Whittall
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No - we've only chatted to SCEE. PubFund is a SCEA thing, and from our experiences with SCEA so far we didn't think there was a lot of point.

We did several PSP Minis in the past, and found SCEA to be very unhelpful with promotions - and when we initially put our Vita titles into IPA at the paper concept stage they were very dismissive.

Essentially they wanted way more content than we could deliver, and were brutal about that.


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