What do you do when aliens invade your planet? Run. Canabalt is the simple tale of one man's escape from destruction and world domination, a dash across roof tops as a city crumbles around him. Obstacles pepper his path, and with well-timed button presses you must avoid them so as to gather speed and get as far away as possible.
With its single button input and addictive, score-beating set up, Adam Atomic's game impressed in both its original Flash form and its iOS release for years. Now Sony fans can find out for themselves just what all the hype is about. Developer Beatshapers has worked with the creator to bring Canabalt to PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable and PlayStation Vita as part of the Minis series. We had a chat with Alexey Menshikov, founder and CEO of Beatshapers, about the company and what attracted them to Canabalt.
Push Square: Hi Alexey! Please could you tell us a little bit about Beatshapers?
Alexey Menshikov: Beatshapers is a video game developer and publisher on consoles. Although our website's been live since 2006, we re-launched as company back in 2009. Our business model is clear – we take interesting titles from other platforms (PC, iOS) and bring them to consoles, as there is surely a demand for good games. Many indie developers just don’t want to port themselves, or don’t have any resources and possibilities.
Sony approached us in 2009 about their upcoming Minis program; we were excited about it and started work on BreakQuest, our first Mini. Currently our licences are BreakQuest, NormalTanks, Enigmo, the Carnivores series, Galcon Labs, Jane's Hotel and StarDrone. We also developed Best Of Solitaire for Cosmigo.
PS: How did the deal to launch Canabalt on PS Minis come together?
AM: In autumn 2011 we finished Carnivores: Ice Age and Galcon Labs and we thought about which games we wanted to bring to the Minis platform. I loaded the [Apple] AppStore, looked at the top charts and spotted Canabalt. I thought it would be a perfect fit for this platform, so I emailed Adam [Atomic]. He responded and we were set. Development-wise it took slightly longer than I expected, but we made it after all.
PS: What was it that attracted Beatshapers to Canabalt?
AM: At Beatshapers, we try to work as a real publisher – our line should fit every gamer. The action/platformer niche was really missing [something] there and Canabalt perfectly fit this missing link.
Canabalt is a very interesting title. I was actually surprised how well it performs with such easy gameplay. It looks like gamers love this game. It's really inspiring to see the platform spread for Canabalt, and it seems to be becoming a real cult game with such amazing things done to it, like being produced on Commodore 64 cartridges and its Winnitron port.
PS: How much was Adam Atomic, the original creator of Canabalt, involved?
AM: To be honest, as the game was already done on Flash and iOS all we needed to do was a technical port, so we didn’t bother Adam too much. We’ve met with Adam in person at the IndieCade 2011 Festival – StarDrone PS3 was a finalist there — discussed a few aspects, and that’s it. We're involving Adam right now on the game's PR; he's a known person, it seems everybody reads his Twitter! (smiles) We're also working on a new trailer with him and Kert Gartner.
PS: Were there any doubts about releasing Canabalt through PS Minis without leaderboards, since Minis don't allow network functionality?
AM: Sure, we had doubts regarding leaderboards and that players would be unable to share their records. We even thought about generating codes that players could enter somewhere on a website, which would then decode to their real results, but it was too complicated. Instead we integrated the best run result into the PSP save data, so players can prove their records if needed.
I was a sound designer in my past so we updated/edited most sounds in the PlayStation Minis version of the game and also added one design feature: a visual warning for the bomb/giant leg stomp. There is a sound warning, but it requires headphones to be worn all the time, otherwise it's quite complicated to play or not convenient in a noisy environment.
PS: Many of Beatshapers' games are PS Minis. How is that process of developing and releasing Minis?
AM: It's half automatic nowadays. With ten titles in the PlayStation Store we have enough experience to fit basically any title to PSP. Sure, there are challenges, but most of the issues are already known. We have made a special internal codex, a set of documents which explains step-by-step what needs to be done in order to submit, prepare for launch, [organise] PR, etc.
PS: Is Beatshapers interested in targeting PS Vita in the near future? We already know that StarDrone Extreme will release later in the year.
AM: Yes, we are switching away from Minis to PS3 and PS Vita. Currently, we have Canabalt and four more [upcoming] PlayStation Minis for the first half of 2012; one of those Minis will be a new Carnivores SKU.
We also have three more PS Vita titles in production – two great licences and one of our own IPs, which is actually made for PS3/PS Vita cross-gameplay. [There's also] one PS3 work-for-hire title which will hopefully be released soon. It will be a busy year for sure.
PS: So finally, what's your Canabalt record?
AM: My own record is about 11,900 meters, made on PlayStation 3. I think it might be a bit easier to play on PS3 because of the big screen and the pixel graphics looking better. I’m also playing on PlayStation Vita. I'm on 8,800 right now – I'm trying to beat my own achievement. (smiles)