PlayStation Mobile Developer Interview: Underline
I had the incredibly fortunate opportunity to chat with Dave Allanson, Co-Founder of Albino Pixel, about his upcoming PSM game, Underline. Allanson tells me what its like to code for PSM and what we can expect from his tetris-like word puzzler.
Q: Who is Albino Pixel? How many people are working on Underline?
Albino Pixel was first established in 2011 when myself and Peter Hinton decided to merge our skills and do a couple of apps in our spare time; the first of which was Shorts or Not on iOS. In January I began working on Albino Pixel stuff full time on a couple of projects and during a period of downtime in April/May started to prototype the concept for Underline, which we had had bouncing around for a while.
Development wise all the code was done by myself and the art by Peter Hinton, we did also get an original track written for the game by Gavin Harrison (http://gavinharrisonsounds.com).
Q: Can you tell us a little about the game?
Underline is a fast-paced, addictive word game bringing elements of a variety of classic games together. As the letters drop from the top of the screen you must find words in the grid making sure to not let a column fill up. You are rewarded during play for speed and skill with a variety of bonuses and multipliers; multipliers also double up as blank letters. There are 4 game modes including Classic, Time Attack, Wordsearch and Pass n Play, which all put a slightly different spin on how you play the game. For when you get stuck we also have an auto hint feature which keeps track of all the words available in the grid at a given time.
Q: There are so many word puzzle games that have come to Android and iOS. Words With Friends, Scrabble, Word Feud are just one kind. What does Underline bring that makes it so unique other than simply being on PSM?
There are a lot of word games out there but we found that a lot of them were based around slower and more methodical mechanics. Due to the constantly increasing pace of Underline, which is based on how many words per minute a given player finds, the game puts a lot more pressure on you and creates a sense of urgency to find the words. The best way of summarising how the game feels is that this is a game with the pace and principals of Tetris, the core mechanics of Boggle and the unlockable weapon mechanics and feel of games like Bejeweled Blitz.
We think that this creates an easy to pick up and play, familiar feeling word game that also feels original and stands out from other word games.
Q: What, if any, design changes have you made to Underline for PlayStation Mobile or the Vita?
The only really design change from the initial iOS prototype is the size of the grid, for Vita/PSM we have added an extra column to the game board. Other than that there is nothing that would directly affect gameplay, most design changes were in terms of how we laid out the UI.
Q: Has Underline been released on any other devices or markets? Where do you hope PSM will take it?
Underline is initially a PlayStation Mobile exclusive but we do hope to bring it to other platforms over the coming months and think that PSM could provide a great launch platform for when we do.
Q: What sort of hurdles have you or other PSM devs you know had to overcome while developing, particularly for the Vita? Did you use a dev kit or just the tools provided within the SDK?
The only device we had available during development was Vita but due to the way the framework is set up, and the fact there are only certain Android devices we needed to support, it was relatively easy to just use the SDK’s simulator to check positioning on other device resolutions. We didn’t find too many hurdles as PSM is built on the Cocos2d framework which is what the initial iOS prototype had been coded in anyway, so the biggest hurdle was probably getting the codebase across to C#.
Q: Are you expecting to release Underline with the launch of the PlayStation Mobile platform?
Yes Underline will be one of the launch titles for PlayStation Mobile, so it will be available on the store from October 3rd.
Q: What improvements are you hoping for in the next PSM SDK scheduled to release in November and beyond?
I think the biggest thing from our point of view will be the PSN integration as we have a lot of achievements in Underline and also for the high scores tables to compete with friends or the rest of the world. It would also be nice to have some kind of inbuilt analytics system, similar to SDK’s like Flurry that are available for other mobile platforms.
Q: Are you working on anything new for PSM?
We have a couple of concepts in various stages of design and prototyping which would suit the platform, so all I can say is watch this space 🙂
PlayStation Mobile officially launches on October 3rd with over 20 original titles. Underline will be available on day one of the platform’s launch. I want to sincerely thank Dave Allanson and Albino Pixel for spending the time to answer our questions, and allowing us all to become a bit more familiar with PSM.
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