Housemarque Interview: “Everything is better with balls”
Housemarque has provided many hours of challenging fun over the years, hailing way back to the Amiga itself with Stardust in 1993 when the company was Bloodhouse. Over twenty years later, the company still manages to entertain and challenge players in inventive ways that. Housemarque Community Manager Tommaso De Benetti spoke with Kyle to answer a few questions about the PlayStation 4's Resogun, community involvement in the game's evolution, and more.
KYLE:How has the legacy of Super Stardust, a game founded in addictive, score-based gameplay, helped influence the evolution of Resogun?
TOMMASO: Coming from Super Stardust we realized that Resogun was gonna be its own game, and not some sort of cylindrical Super Stardust. That said, we wanted to keep some of the things that worked in Super Stardust for both "legacy" and fun-related reasons.
KYLE: What sort of places did you call upon for inspiration in Resogun that we may not have seen in games like Outland, Dead Nation, or the Super Stardust games? Classic arcade title Defender seems to have helped in the process.
TOMMASO: Defender was definitely one. We heard from Eugene Jarvis and he was more than pleased with our work on Resogun. That kind of endorsement was great for us because some of us grew up with his titles. Other games we looked at are DataStorm for Amiga, and of course most of what Treasure and Cave put on the market.
KYLE: Was Resogun always intended to be played in two different ways? You could save all the humans or you could instead just rack up score and stay alive.
TOMMASO: Well, I believe top players would strongly disagree with this statement. If you're going for score you simply can't ignore picking up humans as quickly as possible. On the other hand, if you don't mind about score, you can play Resogun rather casually and just blow things up.
KYLE: How did your relationship with Sony allowed you to create the games you've wanted as a team?
TOMMASO: It's no mystery that working with a publisher like Sony gives us opportunities we might not have otherwise. Starting from simple funding – making games, even small in scope, is far from cheap – to visibility. Resogun was chosen as a launch game for PS4 and it was given away for free for PS+ subscribers in the months after the launch. That alone means that we started with an enormous userbase, composed also by people that might otherwise never pick Resogun up, because let's face it, the shmup genre is not exactly trending. But with the PS+ opportunity, they played it, most of them liked it, and that's positive for the game itself, for all the additional content we are releasing and of course, for our upcoming projects.
KYLE: How much trial and error do you feel you have to do before you nail a "formula" of addictive gameplay?
TOMMASO: We work by continuos iteration, when we are in the middle of development we literally have a new build each day. Most of us are quite excited to play the "release version" because over time we tried a thousand different versions and we just want to settle with one :D
KYLE: How did being a Day One PlayStation Plus goodie really help the success of Resogun?
TOMMASO: For us it was clearly a blessing. Some other game got delayed at launch and all of a sudden the spotlight moved to Resogun. We were quite lucky it went that way.
KYLE: Did you always have DLC planned to expand Resogun or was it just a natural byproduct of the development cycle to where it felt supplementary to the core experience?
TOMMASO: We have a thousand ideas on how Resogun could be expanded, and between the release of the main game and Heroes the team experimented with several modes that might never see the light of day. Even now we are still evaluating what is best for the next expansion, I feel there are easily half a dozen strong options on the plate, but we will probably have to narrow them down if we want to make it in time. So it's definitely a matter of time and resources, with an infinite amount of those I think we could easily keep adding stuff for years.
KYLE: What are some of the most fascinating ship designs you've seen as players have taken to the editor?
TOMMASO: I'm looking right now at a ship shaped like Louis C.K., one like Moonwalker Michael Jackson, then there's the whole Ghostbuster team, ET and Elliott, Doge... really amazing stuff. The community is proving creative beyond our wildest hopes.
KYLE: For Demolition, are you already sick of Miley Cyrus jokes because of the Wrecking Ball function?
TOMMASO: We are not immune from balls jokes. We even made one in the the teasers. At the end of the day, I wish we could have used the tagline "everything is better with balls", but that probably wouldn't fly too well with our publisher :D
KYLE: One of the biggest new features of the new consoles, specifically the PlayStation 4, has been the ability to share and broadcast video. How much of an impact has this had in fostering Resogun's community?
TOMMASO: Streaming from PS4 is great and easy to use, we are also using it from time to time for Q&A with the fans. But what really did it for us is the sharing picture option, with the ships editor being extremely successful (21.000+ ships in four days...), the possibility to share screenshots has contributed a lot Resogun Heroes awarness. We are a small studio with a limited visibility, seeing so much support and sheer joy from the fans is heartwarming.
KYLE: Have you seen any jaw-droppingly excellent gameplay from players thanks to the Share function?
TOMMASO: Sure, they also share gameplay with us when they want clarifications or point out potential exploits. We try to answer to everybody and we definitely pay attention to all feedback, many of the balance changes coming with the recent patch were made because of things players mentioned to us. This is an approach that, within reason and with certain limits, we plan to keep also in the future.
KYLE: In Dead Nation on PS4, observers of a video stream can interact with the game and make things more challenging for the player. Are there any plans for similar audience interaction with the player in future Resogun DLC?
TOMMASO: No, I don't think we are looking at that for Resogun. The game is too fast paced for that kind of interaction. But maybe it could work in one of our next projects. We'll see.
KYLE: Do you feel that a growing involvement from the community allows you to make your games even better than before?
TOMMASO: Generally speaking, yes. There's a lot of sensibilities to take into account, and we don't want to make hasty changes based on emotional feedback rather than rational arguments. On one side you have the super-hardcore to please, on the other a general audience that might not even notice small balance changes. When you need to decide how to invest your next 8 hours at the office these are things you need to keep in mind. What we don't want to do is "design by committee". That's a great idea only if you want to make your game directionless. There's a vision, and we want to keep it at pure as possible.
KYLE: Cheers and thank you so much for your time!
Day 4 | Housemarque