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PlayStation Mobile Developer Interview: brg

Posted by on April 25th, 2013 | 0 Comments | Tags: ,

brg was released this week on PlayStation Mobile among other games, ending the 2 week long drought of content. We had a chance to ask Kay Hermann about the game, publishing your first title, and choosing PSM.

Q: So what can you tell us about brg?

One of the first games I played on a home console was a pong clone called Olympics for the German Interton, with some basic break out modes. Later on Amiga, Arkanoid was one of my favorite games and one of my earliest ideas for a game of my own revolved around making a break out game with realistic reflection physics, which made it necessary to rotate the bat in different angles. Of course the way traditional pong based games handle the reflection is perfectly fine and playable but for me it was a challenge to make it more “realistic”. The round play-field was an idea by a friend and I actually tried to make a game using mouse controls based on these two premises but didn’t get very far because I had no good idea to make the controls work.

A few years ago I returned to that idea and made a browser game called Breaxxor in Javascript. In the end it wasn’t even that hard to make the controls work with a mouse but my goal was to utilize the Wii remote pointer controls to naturally rotate the bat, which is possible thanks to the Wii remote API in Opera for Wii. When PS Suite came out I tried to come up with touch based controls for Breaxxor and this ultimately lead to making brg.

Q: Do the balls have different attributes?

Yes. The reason why I decided to have three different types of balls was because I wanted to streamline the way power ups would work. In break out games you usually have speed ups, length increase items for the bat and even items to enable shooting the blocks. I had some of those in Breaxxor and one that made the bat magnetic. But the magnetism would only kick in once you got the necessary bonus item.

For brg I wanted to have magnetism from the beginning. Also, instead of having items appear randomly from destroyed blocks, with different symbols indicating their effect, I thought how about every block will turn into an item and the player can determine themselves what item it will be? So I had three different colors, each linked to one attribute. Depending on which ball you use you can build different stats and you actually have to plan ahead which stats to build to what degree and in what order, since if you make the balls faster with power/red, you will also want to increase the movement speed of the bat with blue items so you can reach the balls in time.

Then there’s the magnetism that effects the red and blue balls. It can be fun to watch the two chasing each other but it also makes their movement a bit unpredictable which is why the green balls always move straight. But you need to use balls of all colors to build stats evenly and also max out stats to farm bonus lives so even if players will have preferences for a certain ball color it is recommended to not use only one color exclusively.

Q: Was having the background be a zoomed in version of the play-field something you had from the beginning?

This is based on some other ideas I entertained over the years but for brg I wanted the round stage and the balls be identified with each other, to create the impression of the stage being bounced around inside itself. So although I didn’t implement this from the beginning it is definitely something I wanted to do even when I started working with PS Mobile.

It also creates the impression of dynamic movement even though the stage itself doesn’t move and everything is always visible in its entirety. When you turn your attention to the center it is easy to follow the action but you still feel the speed of the balls’ movement thanks to the background animation.

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Q: Is the paddle controlled via touch or with buttons?

I started with giving players both options but playing it both ways it became clear that the stick and button controls couldn’t match the speed and precision of the touch controls. But I knew if players had a choice some would insist on using buttons and ultimately doing themselves a disfavor that way. So I took that away for their own sake. 😉

When you adapt a game that was designed around using buttons for touch controls they often feel inferior and you think, this would play much better the way I’m used to. But for this game touch turned out to be just perfect and I actually had to come up with work-arounds and compromises to make it work with the analogue sticks. Why struggle with an inferior method if you already have perfection? The depth of this game lies in considering distance and positioning the bat where it can intercept the ball paths.

Tap once to make the bat go to exactly where it needs to be. Since the finger doesn’t rest on the screen it doesn’t obstruct the action either. You only keep the finger on the screen if you need to rotate the bat to a certain angle and then you pull away from the bat and the balls, again obstructing nothing you need to see. I really feel I managed to nail the controls in terms of simplicity and elegance.

And even if you don’t bother with angling the bat, which can be seen as an advanced technique, the bat automatically rotates in a way that allows to play it like a traditional pong game. Depending on how the bat is positioned, the ball reflection angle will slightly differ. And you can use pull gestures for that extra precision when you need it.

Q: Is the game purely score attack or is there some sort of level progression?

There is a stage progression but the stages themselves are randomly generated using certain patterns. The amount of blocks and rows increases in the course of the game, as well as added dangers like more openings in the wall and perma-death without continue if you make it really far.

But the focus is on finding out how to rack up really huge scores. There are different approaches to achieve this but players will have to experiment to discover these methods on their own.

Q: What made you want to bring the game to PlayStation Mobile?

I have a Vita and an Xperia smartphone. On the other hand, I don’t have a iPhone/iPod/iPad. And Nintendo doesn’t offer anything comparable to what Apple and Sony do, that is easy to pick up and play around with, and also affordable to actually publish. So basically there was an opportunity on devices I happened to already own.

Q: Anything you would like our readers to know?

This is my first commercial game release and I hope many players will get a chance to try and play it. It is perfectly playable on smartphones but I feel it really shines on the Vita’s bigger screen. I would love to play the game myself on a tablet with an even bigger screen but I guess some of my customers will beat me to experiencing my game that way. You lucky bastards. 😉

So if brg looks to be your kind of game, check it out right now on the PlayStation Mobile store for $3.99.