Developer Interview: Page Chronica
A few weeks back a game popped up on our radar out of no where. Page Chronica was slated for release on the European PlayStation Store and we had never heard of it. Well it turns out that the game was released on accident and was quickly pulled from the store. This gave us some time to figure out exactly what Page Chronica was. I had the chance to ask Dr. Wee Lit Koh, Producer at Red Hare Studios all about Page Chronica and the team’s journey on releasing a game on the PlayStation Network.
Q: Could you please let us know a little bit about Red Hare Studios?
We are a Singapore based games development company with very humble beginnings. Back in 2004, video games development was still in its infancy in Singapore; there were no formal games development courses for both programming and art. Having grew up with Final Fantasy and Warcraft, I had always wanted to develop games that can be appreciated by both the east and the west. Singapore being a cultural melting pot, has definitely aided and influenced our game designs. I started developing game prototypes on a part-time basis while doing my post-graduate degree, and collected a mini-library of books on game development that I bought from Amazon.
By 2008, I have developed a portfolio of game prototypes and accumulated enough experience to impress a game publisher to commission a Facebook game, titled Dynasty Online, with the support of the Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA). That was my first full production game and I hired the company’s first employee. The game was successfully shipped in February 2012. Along the way, we picked up more like minded people and now we have a core team of 9 creative talents, all Singaporeans. This is unusual for game company in Singapore but I insisted on such a core team to fulfil my vision of developing games that are different but yet similar enough to be accepted by players on both sides of the Pacific.
Q: What has it been like working on a game for the PlayStation Network?
Developer support has been directly provided by SCEAsia’s office in Tokyo since there is no SCE Singapore. Being a start-up company, it was not possible to afford the hiring of an experienced PS3 developer and hence a lot of time was spent on experimentation and self-learning. We were given access to SCE’s PS3 Developer’s Network which helped in many ways and we used Phyre Engine so that we can start development without having to understand too much about PS3’s hardware. Nevertheless, it was a daunting task for us because most of my team have never even used a game engine before. However, MDA has been very supportive of this project. In addition to providing development grants for the project itself, they have provided us with training subsidies to help train up the fresh graduates that we have employed.
Our publisher SCEAsia has been extremely supportive of the project as well under their Asia Original Contents Program. They provided us with booth space during Asia Game Show ’10 and ’11 in Hong Kong and helped us collected feedback on the game design. As a result, we made several changes to the fundamental game design which in our opinion made the game better. For example in for our original design of the game, we found that players who did not have English as a first language struggled with the game as compared to players who used English on a daily basis. In particular, such players spend a large part of the time waiting for a particular English letter to appear in order to complete the word that they wanted to form. A good number of such players also gave up on the game before a level was completed. By the time we had another public testing in Dec ’12 Hong Kong, the experience was radically different and most players if not all completed the first level and wanted more.
In summary, development on the PlayStation Network has been challenging but the level of support we have received from SCEAsia is unlike any publisher that we have ever worked with.
Q: How would you explain Page Chronica for someone seeing the game for the first time?
Page Chronica is a unique game combining word puzzle with a classic action platformer. You will need to form English words to gain powers for your heroine Topez while avoiding enemy attacks. There is also a local multiplayer mode where two players can play together in the co-op campaign. The rules in both the single player and multiplayer co-op are slightly different. In particular, Mr. Z which is the name of Topez’s side kick, is “invulnerable” and can be used to block incoming attacks directed at Topez. (like Tails in Sonic 2)
Q: The game has a “spell” mechanic, could you explain how this works?
There are three offensive and five boosting spells in the game, which are gained by the player depending on the length of the word that is formed. The power of Topez’s offensive spells depend upon the complexity of the word formed by the player. Complexity is computed by the strength allocated to each letter captured by the player in forming the word. Overall, these eight spells are used as part of the game’s level design. For example, some secret areas will require players to have all the five boosting spells activated to reach.
Q: How many different kinds of abilities are there? Are they all available from the start?
There are eight abilities which are gradually unlocked as the player progress through the campaign. Two of which will be available from the start.
Q: Did you ever think about using the PlayStation Move to pick out letters for the spells? Or possibility porting the game to the PlayStation Vita?
We experimented with MOVE during the early stages of the development but have ruled it out because the game’s controls felt better with the DualShock rather than with the MOVE’s navigational controller.
However, we are definitely open to porting the game to VITA pending the market’s reaction to our PS3 version.
Q: Is there anything you would like our readers to know about the game?
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Visit our website at www.pagechronica.com
I would like to thank Dr. Wee Lit Koh for letting us know a little bit more about Page Chronica. If everything goes well with QA the game should be released in the next few weeks. Be sure to check back with PSNStores for more updates.