MCV was invited out to Sony's offices recently to play Burning Skies and chat to its Senior Managing Producer Frank Simon.
The game itself, from Nihilistic, is a solid, dual-thumbstick first-person shooter which looks set to be the benchmark it needs to be on the nascent platform, and may prove to other developers that the Vita is a viable platform for the genre.
Tell us a little about your background. What games have you worked on?
I’ve worked on Uncharted: Golden Abyss and now Resistance: Burning Skies. Our studio works closely with Insomniac, Naughty Dog, Sucker Punch and others.
And you've previously worked for Maxis…
Yes, I have! So, you know what kind of an old-school geek you’re dealing with here.
Very different style of game back then to what you’re working on now.
It is, but that’s kind of a cool thing. I started with sports games (which are very different beasts), simulation games at Maxis, the Oddworld games (the first two), so I guess I’m getting old.
I think Nihilistic has done a great job with Burning Skies. It’s a cool franchise to work with because we’ve seen it on the PS3 and PSP, and now we’re seeing it on the Playstation Vita, and you can really look at how the franchise has been built over that time. Insomniac have done a great job of setting up a compelling universe where we can tell all kind of different stories.
So now with the Vita, we’ve got this opportunity to make a great single-player game with a great story and really nails multiplayer. Different development team, but it has to meet the hallmark of the Resistance franchise, which has been fine for us because the Vita has so many different things to offer.
What’s it like working on the Vita? Certainly it’s the first handheld to give you all the control opportunities you need to really get a first-person shooter done right – do you think that’ll lead to a natural tendency for games on the platform to skew towards either (and I hate to be so reductive, but for the sake of brevity) hardcore or casual?
Well, FPS games are about as core as you can get. I think that if you can get an FPS working and people playing it on a touchscreen, you’ve embraced a larger audience. That gives the Vita an opportunity to build games that are not just core. If you think the device is just for that audience and then you see it reach that larger audience, you know that market is bigger.
You see it in games like Little Deviants, and in being able to manipulate both the front and rear touchscreens to impact the environment.
So I don’t think it’s an either-or; I think you’ll see that the touchscreen functionality is just another cool thing which is going to get integrated into what a core gamer expects. At the same time, there’s also opportunity for casual games to do the same thing, maybe by taking advantage of the dual analogue sticks.
There’s definitely something to be said about having both features in one device. People have been playing around with virtual thumbsticks, but having that physical stick under your thumb is a huge difference.
Well, it certainly makes a difference at least in knowing where the edges of a thumbstick lie.
I think virtual buttons are a great thing; it’s just important to be aware that that’s what they are and use them well.
So as contextual devices for interacting with on-screen objects rather than permanent fixtures of a game you need to be constantly manipulating?
Exactly. So in Burning Skies, we can pop up those virtual buttons as they become available. The screen is clear so as to show as much of the game world as humanly possibly unless there’s something you can interact with, be it a door you’re close enough to getting an ‘open’ icon or a grenade button appearing in the top-right corner only when you actually have grenades available.
That not only allows us to have icons for each grenade type, but you can also just touch where on the screen you’d like the grenade to go, and find that it gets thrown precisely there without needing to guess using aiming arcs or anything like that.
I’m curious to see how this evolves. I feel like we’re starting something here, but we’re really only just scratching the surface.
And given the importance of the Resistance franchise in general to Sony, and that Burning Skies is now mirroring that flagship FPS space that Resistance: Fall of Man occupied at the launch of the PS3, that’s precisely what it needs to be. Burning Skies needs to prove that an FPS works on the platform so that the genre carries on a legacy from here with third party developers.
It’s a tough challenge for teams to be working on big franchises, on new devices at the beginning of their life cycle and be expected to set a benchmark.
But I really feel like Nihilistic has really pushed things, we’ve had a lot of support from Insomniac on making sure that things flow and sequence and really feel like Resistance, but at the same time they’ve had to go out on their own and say ‘Well look, this is a brand new device and we’ve really got to knock it out of the park – people aren’t going to be accepting of something that’s just ok at this point’.
Thank you for your time!
To register for the MCV Pacific News Digest, head to the registration page: http://www.mcvpacific.com/user/index/register/journey/register