Long a supporter of the online sphere, but perhaps thus far more cautious with exclusively digitally distributed content, Electronic Arts has announced its first entry into the Xbox Live Arcade arena with the newly announced Boom Boom Rocket.
Designed by EA's casual-game subsidiary Pogo, Boom Boom Rocket marks the first rhythm action title for the Live Arcade service, and is also notable in the company's choice of developer - Geometry Wars creators Bizarre Creations, who seemingly mastered the art of Live Arcade success as quickly as the platform had launched.
In Boom Boom Rocket, players both solo and multiplayer are made to trigger rockets to the rhythm of the game's soundtrack - provided by Batman Returns and Project Gotham Racing 2 game composer Ian Livingstone - as they move through a 3D cityscape.
Different colored rockets are mapped to different buttons of the Xbox 360's controller, with skillful explosions leading to score multipliers, new firework effect unlocks, and a 'psychedelic bonus mode.'
In addition to the main game modes, Boom Boom Rocket will also ship with its own music visualizer mode, with fireworks displays timed to the rhythm of audio files from a player's console.
To learn more about the game, as well as Electronic Arts' first steps into the Live Arcade platform, we talked with Online VP Chip Lange, who also illuminated us on the company's position toward the start-up PlayStation Network, Virtual Console, and more.
Gamasutra: Can you tell us more about how the project began?
Chip Lange: We've been working on a couple of exciting Xbox Live Arcade titles. It's obviously an exciting new innovation and outcrop of the world of a connected console and Xbox Live. We’ve been working on this for a while. The design, once we got a handle on it, really came to life when what the public team had done – which was a world class design and vision document – was combined with the developer of Geometry Wars.
We're all huge Geometry Wars fans here at Electronic Arts, and when Bizarre Creations came in, it was kind of like that classic ‘1+1=3’. We've got a great design, and now we've got a great developer driving it, and I think the outcome speaks for itself, it's going to be something that's going to delight Xbox Live gamers for years to come.
GS: So was Bizarre selected specifically because of Geometry Wars?
CB: Yeah, I think they were. They were selected because there's a lot of us here that are huge fans of their prior work – that's obviously a great way to evaluate development talent – but also because when we walked them through the vision of the game, it felt like they were able to quickly grasp the high concept, and understand and add value to how they would combine their development expertise with the design to bring it to a whole other level.
GS: How long has it been in development?
CB: It's been in development for about a year, maybe closer to 10 months – that tends to be the design cycle for these things.
GS: Who at Pogo was responsible for the original design development?
CB: You know, it's been something that the whole Pogo team has really embraced. We find that the Arcade is a fun way to bring game developers together, and this is something I’ve seen with whole Pogo team – from the head of the Pogo development organization, Andrew Pedersen, on down, those guys have really thrived on bringing this design and this concept to life.
It’s been kind of a labor of love because it's an exciting new brand extension for the Pogo brand as well. I think we've got a design and an execution that's really captivating the gamers around EA. I think it's been kind of a rallying point for the Pogo studio in general.
GS: Can you tell us a bit about Electronic Arts' position with Xbox Live Arcade going forward?
CB: We're excited about the market potential that Arcade brings. It's a fun new category for us to publish games on. Electronic Arts publishes games on every meaningful interactive platform on the planet that makes financial sense. You've seen our recent releases - we've even been putting some games out on the iPod lately.
Obviously the Xbox Live Arcade is a place where there's a lot of personal passion at EA, there's a lot of us that are trying to beat each others' high scores at Geometry Wars or what have you, so there's a lot of personal interest in the business. What you're seeing now is that the business case is justifying the development, so I'd say EA is an enthusiastic participant in the platform.
GS: Will you continue to outsource development on future Arcade titles?
CB: We’ve only got a couple games that we're working on right now. I wouldn't say that that is in any way predictive of our long term development strategy, but we're going to get off the chutes with externally developed titles.
GS: What’s EA’s view of the PlayStation Network?
CB: The PlayStation Network is new, and those guys have got a great vision – it’s well thought out and planned, but the Microsoft guys have been out on the market a little bit longer. We're in active discussions with them about how that community is going to be brought to life.
We think with all of these different platforms, it's the content providers that ultimately are responsible for bringing the features to life, and that's where I think EA really gets in and shines. We've got huge aspirations for our franchises and their ability to benefit off of the PlayStation 3 network, just like we've had great success on the PlayStation 2 online network with some of our games.
GS: Does that include original downloadable games as well?
CB: We don't have any downloadable originals that are ready to announce right now on the PlayStation 3, but what I can tell you is the comment I made earlier, which is we'll publish interactive content on any platform that makes financial sense.
GS: And that presumably goes for Virtual Console as well?
CB: We're evaluating all of that right now, and obviously EA brings to the table a huge line-up of classic retro games. I think the content is there, and now we're just evaluating the business opportunity and the operational specifics on how we take those titles to market – which ones, and how we'd go about doing it.
GS: Is there anything else you can tell us about Boom Boom Rocket?
CB: I think what's going to be real exciting is when you get your hands on this game. I think there's a few games in the Xbox Live world that are so special that you put your hands on them and they just feel good. They're just fun, easy to grasp concepts that have a lot of depth and a great fun center to them, and this game from early on has just been one of those games.
A lot of that I equate to Geometry Wars. That was a game that very similarly had just a very addictive pick up and play feel to it, that just felt good on the platform. I think that Boom Boom Rocket is another major step forward for the Xbox Live Arcade and their overall content scope, and I think it's a great initial launch for Electronic Arts.
It's an original IP – if I'm an Xbox Live Arcade player I'm excited to see EA coming out with original IP - and a new fresh game design, which showcases that we're taking the platform seriously and making some killer content for it.