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Interview: Crash Lab's Steve Ellis On Developing For PlayStation Mobile

Posted by Damien McFerran

Former Rare staffer talks about working with Sony on bite-sized games

Sony recently launched its PlayStation Mobile service along with a selection of games that includes Twist Pilot from UK studio Crash Lab, which was founded by former employees of Rare. We spoke to Crash Lab's Managing and Technical Director Steve Ellis about developing for the fledgling platform, as well as the company's plans for the future.

Push Square: Twist Pilot feels a lot like the GBA title Kuru Kuru Kururin - was that an influence? What other influences did you have when designing the game?

Steve Ellis: We're aware of Kuru Kuru Kururin, and people have also mentioned a PlayStation game called Irritating Stick. We don't think that there is a huge overlap though - we're creating games for a very different audience who are more likely to compare it to Operation.

What's your experience been with PlayStation Mobile?

It's an interesting platform - it's nice to be able to write the code once and have it run on a range of platforms without special-case platform-specific hacks to handle the peculiarities of individual devices.

Have you run into any issues when it comes to developing for the service, and supporting multiple devices (tablets, Vita, Xperia Play, etc)

No - it just worked.

Do you think PlayStation Mobile will ever be in a position to compete with the App Store or Google Play market?

It has a long way to go, and really it depends on the quality and quantity of games that Sony are able to bring to the platform. Personally, I'd be very interested in seeing a more limited App Store with a higher average quality of products. It would save time when looking for something new to play.

Do you plan to release Twist Pilot elsewhere?

Yes, Twist Pilot has now been published by Zynga on iOS and Google Play.

Do you think it's fair to say that PlayStation Mobile is going to be of more benefit to Vita users than mobile phone users, as the latter already have a large selection of games to download through either the App Store or Google Play?

Certainly it's beneficial to Vita users. Mobile is less clear, but I understand what they're trying to achieve.

The biggest problem with mobile is discoverability - people can only buy a high quality game if they know about it, but there are a huge number of apps out there and finding the good ones is difficult because the charts tend to be self-reinforcing and hard to break into. As a developer/publisher, I don't know the best way to get my game into the hands of players.

As a consumer, I already own most of the games in the charts and I don't know where to look for more good games. If Sony can crack this problem and provide a means of finding high quality games more easily than in the App Store or Google Play, they may have a success on their hands.

The Vita is currently struggling in terms of sales. Could PlayStation Mobile play a key role in reversing its fortunes?

More games can't hurt.

What has Sony been like to work with?

They've been great. We were obviously developing Twist Pilot for PSM while PSM was in beta, so inevitably there were problems, but the few problems that we had were dealt with very quickly.

Do you have any plans for more PlayStation Mobile titles?

Perhaps. Our next game is based on the upcoming film The Snowman And The Snowdog, and will be released on iOS and Android in December. That's Channel 4's call. After that, however, we haven't decided.

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