Interviews: Beatshapers and Orb Games - StarDrone
Posted by Christopher Ingram
Talking beats, bangs, booms and NGP
As Move-enabled shooter/pinball/object-collecting game StarDrone arrived on PlayStation Network in Europe today, we grabbed an in-depth interview with the double team of Orb Games and Beatshapers, who discuss the process in converting the original PC title to Move, the companies' futures on Move and more.
Movemodo: Firstly, can you please introduce yourself and your role on StarDrone?
Andriy Sharanevych: My name is Andriy Sharanevych; I am CEO and owner of Orb Games/TastyPlay.com, creator of the original PC version of StarDrone. We have teamed up with Beatshapers to bring StarDrone to PlayStation 3. They did all the technical work to convert the game and publish it on PlayStation Network, while we were involved in gameplay fine-tuning and overall polishing of the game’s look and feel.
Alexey Menshikov: My name is Alexey Menshikov, I’m founder and CEO of Beatshapers Ltd. We are developing and publishing games digitally on consoles, mainly on PlayStation Network, and we spot interesting PC games and port them across to consoles. At that moment, we’ve published BreakQuest, NormalTanks, Carnivores, Janes' Hotel and Enigmo released on PlayStation stores today. Currently we’re finalising StarDrone 3D patch and working on unannounced PlayStation Minis games. As Andriy mentioned, we did all the technical work to bring StarDrone to PlayStation Network.
MM: StarDrone is a very unique game – how would you describe the game to someone entirely new to it?
Andriy Sharanevych: StarDrone is a multi-genre skill game that combines high speed action and puzzle solving, with elements of pinball, exploration, avoiding obstacles and fighting enemies. The game is indeed unique, so it’s hard to compare it to any other game. In StarDrone you have to guide the always-in-motion drone across multiple levels scattered with control beacons. These beacons are what allow you to control the drone. When you point to a beacon and activate it with your Move controller the drone gets attached to its orbit and rotates until you release it. Then the drone flies in a straight line until you grab another beacon to change the flight direction. You have to accomplish various goals, from collecting all objects to destroying dozens of enemies or simply trying to stay alive. There are over 50 beautifully rendered levels full of challenges and unexpected gameplay twists. The game is actually much easier to play and control than it sounds – in fact you control it with just one button and the movement of your wrist.
MM: The game has been out for a while now on PC. Is the PlayStation version an entirely new game, or does it share content with the PC version?
Andriy Sharanevych: It shares a lot of content with the PC version, but visually it is superior, with enhanced graphics, stunning effects and HDTV support. We’ve also added new music tracks and sound. Later, we’ll release an update with 3D support.
MM: How much of a factor was PlayStation Move in deciding to bring StarDrone to the PlayStation 3?
Andriy Sharanevych: The existence of the Move controller was the paramount factor. We’ve been thinking of bringing the game to consoles since its release on PCs, but it was simply impossible to translate the original control scheme painlessly until now.
Alexey Mensikov: Yes, we was talking about porting StarDrone to consoles a while ago, but the controls were the main concern. The initial idea was to port it to Wii with the Wii Remote, and we were in talks with a publisher but it never happened. When Sony announced the PlayStation Move motion controller, we become one of the early adopters of Move technology and immediately started work on the PSN version.
MM: The StarDrone demo is now readily available on PC for everyone to check out. The mouse controls on PC are a great fit for this unique gameplay style. How does Move compare to the mouse controls on PC?
Andriy Sharanevych: It fits the game just perfectly: very accurate, very responsive and very close to the original mouse control scheme. In fact it’s even better, since it has vibration that we use to give players feedback from various events (e.g. hitting obstacles, taking damage from enemy or collecting necessary power-up).
MM: PlayStation Move is relatively new to the market, as well as the development tools that are available. How easy was it implementing Move in StarDrone?
Alexey Menshikov: We had some issues in the beginning – the Move motion controller has too many sensors so we weren’t sure which worked best, so we tried all of them. After testing several hybrid sensors we found a good scheme, and then Sony released the special Move Kit which helps a lot and gave us various control ideas, so we’ve selected the best one and its just works perfectly.
MM: While in development, how did the team adjust to implementing Move controls?
Alexey Menshikov: The team is 3 people: an engineer, an artist and me, so we didn’t adjust at all. The initial implementation of Move motion controllers took a couple of days, then we tried various methods for another few days. I have experience in DSP as I had an audio software company in the past so we had implemented all those modern filtering methods in order to have the best response. But when Move Kit was released it only took an hour to implement it in the right way!
MM: StarDrone is easy to pick up and play, but very difficult to master. What online features can we expect to be available for those who strive to master StarDrone?
Andriy Sharanevych: The game is all about competition and replayability. We have online leaderboards for every level and an overall leaderboard totalling scores on all levels. In addition, when you select a level to play, you will see your ranking among your friends as well as Top 10 friends list for this particular level. These features motivate players to compete with their friends and against the world at large to get top scores and positions. In order to do so, players will have to experiment with the game’s speed and try to find the shortest route to find a way to finish the level as quickly as possible to get the highest score. Plus, there is an accomplishment system, which also stimulates players to return to the same level again and again. Players get awards for doing certain things and for extraordinary performance (e.g. finishing all levels with gold medals). Finally, we plan to add replay sharing via YouTube as a planned update to the game, so there will be even more competition.
MM: Indie PC titles making the jump over onto Move seems to be a growing trend. Why do you think this is, and do you think it will continue?
Andriy Sharanevych: I think the main reason is not the Move controller itself but the fact that suddenly it became much easier for indie developers to publish games on consoles, thanks to digital distribution. You still need a publisher or a pile of cash to get to retail because it’s quite expensive, but digitally anyone can publish their own game at a reasonable cost. PlayStation Network is no exception and the more open and accessible it gets the more indie developers will jump into it. With Move and other innovative technologies introduced it becomes even more tempting for developers to be a part of this trend and to get their hands on it to experiment with new mechanics and gameplay styles. Apparently, this is a positive trend for everyone, meaning more opportunities for developers and more great games for players.
Alexey Menshikov: We love Move so expect more Move-enabled games from us. We’re already in talks with indie developers about licensing their game to PlayStation 3.
When can we expect StarDrone to land on PlayStation Network?
Andriy Sharanevych: The game is available now in Europe. The price is 7,99€ and half of that for PS Plus subscribers. The US release is just around the corner too.
Alexey Menshikov: We expect a North American release in the first week of April.
MM: Lastly, is there anything else you like to tell our readers while they wait for StarDrone?
Andriy Sharanevych: We’re already working on StarDrone for Sony’s recently announced NGP, so new interesting controls and gameplay mechanics are coming. Stay tuned!
Alexey Menshikov: Yes, we are very proud to be developers on Sony Next Generation Portable platform and bringing on StarDrone for this console, it’s just briliant. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you more about technical things but this will be something really cool, so yes, follow us on Facebook or Twitter for the updates.
Thanks to Alexey and Andriy for their time. We’ll have a full review of StarDrone in the near future.