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PlayStation Mobile Developer Interview: Frisbee Combat League

Posted by on February 17th, 2014 | 1 Comment | Tags: ,

A few weeks ago XMPT Games announced their latest PSM game Frisbee Combat League. Today we’re bringing you an interview with the developer as they share more details about the game as well as some new screenshots to check out.

Q: To start off can you describe Frisbee Combat League and how the idea for the game came about?

Before we started pursuing game development as a company, we used to meet up with lots of other people at work in the evenings and hold game jams.

During the jams, we would pick a topic using a random game name generator (http://videogamena.me/). One of the sillier ones that we ended up not using was ‘Tactical Frisbee Espionage’.

Apparently this topic stuck with our other programmer, Richard. He’d recently been playing a lot of Super Crate Box on Vita, and was inspired by the short, sharp and snappy arcade gameplay that it offered. With Frisbees at the forefront of his mind, he decided to spend some time over Christmas prototyping up a little game that stayed true to the core philosophies of Super Crate Box.

The main thing that we loved about Super Crate Box – and what we wanted to capture in Frisbee Combat League – was its intrinsically enjoyable core mechanics. We wanted to create something that you could pick up in minutes, but that was challenging enough to keep players hooked on it for hours. We also wanted players to be able to get back in to the action as quickly as possible, without feeling like they were being punished for dying.

When it came to creating the artwork for Frisbee Combat League, Ed drew his inspiration from early Gameboy Colour games. The in-game sprites are intentionally reminiscent of things like Pokemon and Zelda. The character portraits and menu screens drew heavily from early fighting games like Street Fighter.

Q: In December you also announced another game – Project Revenant – for PSM. Are both games being developed at once and how difficult is it, being a small developer, with two games in development?

Most of the time, we try to keep our focus on as few projects as possible. At the moment, Richard is the only one working on Frisbee Combat League full time. The rest of us are hard at work on Project Revenant. I would highly recommend to any indie that they see a single project through to completion, rather than juggling multiple games in one go.

We were originally going to focus on getting Project Revenant completed first. However, when we got our hands on Richard’s prototype for Frisbee Combat League, it was immediately clear to all of us that it would be ideal for showing off at upcoming events. This is mainly due to its ‘pick up and play’ design. As such, we decided to get it up to release standard as a priority.

Q: You released two PSM games last year. What kinds of things have you learned from that experience that helps in developing Frisbee Combat League as well as any future games?

One of the biggest lessons that we’ve learnt over the past year, is just how important it is to prototype our ideas quickly and as early on as possible.

We could end up sitting down for hours when attempting to think through exactly how a game idea would play, and why it would be fun. At the end of the day though, you can never really tell until you get to play it. So recently, we’ve taken to prototyping things as quickly as possible, deciding if they’re fun, and either pursuing them or deciding to work on something else.

The other major lesson that we’ve taken from previous projects, is that it’s okay to drop an idea, even if you’ve started work on it. We spoke a little bit about this in our release blog for Project Revenant (http://www.xmptgames.co.uk/blog/?p=487). We put a lot of work in to ensuring that we’re all proud of the games that we release. Because of this, we would prefer to opt to give up on a project after a month, than spend several months trying to mold it in to a game that we enjoy; chances are, if its core concept isn’t fun, the idea probably isn’t worth pursing.

In terms of broader lessons, it became clear to us just how important sound and music are to players. We initially held this as a lower priority than other aspects of development, but the feedback on our last two titles very clearly demonstrated the importance of variety and quality in game sound.

Q: In your blog post on the XMPT Games website you mention experimenting with network play. What might players expect from a potential network gameplay mode?

We’ve been thinking about releasing a multiplayer game for a while now. When we got hold of the prototype for Frisbee Combat League, it was immediately clear that it was an ideal candidate for our first multiplayer game.

We haven’t nailed down exactly which modes we’ll be adding to the game yet, as it really depends on what turns out to be the most fun when we play it. However, we definitely want to add a death-match mode, where players can fight against each other.

We really wanted to create a feeling of nostalgia with Frisbee Combat League. Back when we first started playing console games, we would all go round to our friends’ houses and play games together, in the same room. Therefore, our local multiplayer mode, where two players take control of a single device, is there to encourage players to meet up and play the game together. We are certainly experimenting with networked multiplayer and are planning to at least support LAN play, but it will ultimately be determined by what the platform can support and how stable the network code is.

We also really want to further cement this approach by adding co-operative versions of each mode. The idea would be for players to work together to overcome hordes of AI enemies, and possibly even bosses. Furthermore, we would also like to add various mini-games. If any of these work in multiplayer, then we’ll endeavour to extend them to that too.

One of the challenges with designing these multiplayer modes is exactly how the game will control. As we mentioned we opted to use the analogue sticks for the game so the Vita will be the best device to play the game on. Currently we use the left stick to move and the right stick to aim, with the left and right shoulder buttons acting as dodge and fire respectively. This gets a bit trickier when we start thinking about multiplayer.

For networked play, the controls will remain the same, but for co-op on the same device, we have to simplify the control scheme. At the moment each player gets a stick to move around but we then take away the aim controls and introduce auto-aim. Because of this, local games are a lot more chaotic. Network multiplayer will therefore offer the most fidelity, but we still wanted to have an offering if you were restricted to one device. Stay tuned to our website as we plan to talk more about the different multiplayer modes in the coming weeks.

Q: In the screenshots we received I noticed there are six playable characters. Do they each have unique play styles or special abilities?

Our current version of the game comes with the same move set and weapons for each character. There’s a dodge attack where the avatar dashes forward and becomes invulnerable for a split second. There’s also a counter ability that allows you to knock an oncoming Frisbee back at an enemy, temporarily turning it in to one that can damage them instead of you.

That being said, our aim is to give each team a unique feel, using a variety of statistical changes and special abilities. So in the final release of the game, each team of two will come with their own unique play-style.

We would also like to add more than just the three teams that are seen in the screenshot. As with a lot of aspects, the final number will depend a great deal on how they game feels during testing. We want enough variety in unlockables to give players plenty to keep them occupied!

Actually, this is probably the ideal time to do an exclusive reveal on our seventh character for Frisbee Combat League: Curtis the Penguin! You were the very first person to pick up on Penguin Party when it came out. That meant a lot to us, so we wanted a way to say a little ‘thank you’ for you support that we’ve received over the past year, from you and everyone else at PSNStores. Curtis is an easter egg in the game, so we don’t want players to have access to him from the get-go; we want people to feel a sense of achievement when they unlock him and his as-yet-unannounced team member. Because of that, we’re keeping his move set and artwork a secret for now.

Q: I also noticed in another screenshot that the map contained what appear to be breakable pillars. Will there be multiple maps to choose from and what sort of variety in layout can players expect? Are Frisbees the only thing players will need to avoid?

We definitely intend to add a fair number of different arenas. We really want to ensure that each arena retains a unique feel to it. We’re aiming to give each team their own arena, that’s tied to their artwork style.

As part of the new arenas, there will be a variety of obstacles, traps, and power-ups. The main idea with this is to give more options and decisions to make during a fight. Their addition should lead to players placing a greater emphasis on their position in the arena, rather than just having to dodge their opponents’ attacks.

Our intention is that power-ups will add even more depth to the mechanics, by introducing an element of timing. If a player manages to pick up a power-up, then it’s in their opponent’s interest to go on the defensive and try to dodge out of their way until it wears off.

It’s also worth mentioning that, if the game gets enough interest, we would love to keep extending the content by adding more arenas, power-ups and characters. It really depends on how well received it is, as to whether we keep improving Frisbee Combat League, or more on to something new. So, if you really like it, let us know!

Q: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Is there anything else you’d like to say about the game?

Now that we’ve announced Frisbee Combat League publicly, we’ll be looking to post developer talks and in-game footage as we add new features. So, if anyone is interested in the game, you can keep up to date with it on our blog (www.xmptgames.co.uk). Of course, we’ll be back in contact with PSN Stores with any big announcements too though!

We love to hear from people too, so if anyone has any ideas for things that they would like to see added to the game, why not get in contact? Send us a Tweet (@XMPTGames) or drop us a Facebook message (/XMPTGames). We promise to reply, and it may even result in your idea being added to the game!

I’d like to thank XMPT Games for taking the time to do this interview with us. We should have some video footage of the game to post on the site in the near future.