Interview: Inferno Pool

We spoke with Rob Hewson from Dark Energy Digital this morning about their new (and exclusive) PS3 title, Inferno Pool, which is coming to the PSN Store later today.  Rather than just talk to him and then keep everything to ourselves, we thought we’d put it up on the site, because then lots of other people can hear what he has to say.  It’s going to catch on, this.

TheSixthAxis: Hi Rob.  So, first things first: the title “Inferno Pool” suggests this is not your average game of pool.  Please tell us what it is that makes this different from a normal game of pool, and is it a re-invention for the sport of drunken kings?

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Rob Hewson: Hi.  Well, Inferno Pool is a complete re-invention of the classic game, though we do find that being drunk still enhances the experience. Our main objective was to make a kick ass, high intensity, 4 player online battle game, so that’s at the core of the game. You’ve also got a single player time-attack Endurance mode, and we’ve thrown in classic Pool modes as well.

TSA: Wasn’t the game originally an iPhone title developed by Blade interactive?

RH: Actually Blade’s iPhone version was really a spin off of the main concept, you could only play against the clock or against AI opponents.

TSA: So what has been added to take advantage of the extra power and space the PS3 has to offer?

RH: For PS3 we’ve got 1-4 player multiplayer local or online, you can also play against AI opponents, we’ve got an enhanced Endurance mode, classic 8 ball and 9 ball Pool for 1-2 local or online players, leaderboards and trophies. The power of the PS3 also allows us have the game running at a constant 60fps even in four player split screen, and the ball physics on PS3 are the best you’ll find in any Pool game.

TSA: Watching the first trailer it becomes apparent that one minute you may be leading and looking to win, but at any point your opponents can turn the table against you and undo all your hard work.  Are we to expect a high level of tense and infuriating competition?  Can the game shift in such a way that any player could finish top despite a very bad start?

RH: It is possible to win despite a bad start, if for example you pull off a couple of great skill shots to unleash Inferno mode and mount a comeback. If you’re winning your opponents might decide to gang up on you, but it won’t do all that much damage if they haven’t potted many balls. Then again, if you’re in 4th and you agree with the others to target the guy in 1st, you might be tempted to double cross them and get yourself up to 2nd if you’re more concerned about the long game – because the points add up between games. Like any classic multiplayer game there are infinite possibilities, plenty of chances to pull off some fluky wins, but at the end of the day it’s the most skilful or tactically devious player that wins through.

TSA:  What game modes are available in Inferno Pool?  Can a player play and practice against AI opponents?

RH: Absolutely. You can practice against AI players and even fill slots in a multiplayer match with AI opponents, and you can adjust the AI difficulty. There’s also Endurance Mode for 1 player and classic Pool modes where you can play against AI or human opponents or just practice alone.

TSA:  With the ability to perform jump shots, bank shots, kick shots and rack up multipliers – Is it easy to just pick up and play?  Will there be a learning curve that once mastered will give you the tools to annihilate your opponents?

RH: It’s very easy to pick up and play – left stick to aim, right stick to shoot. The difficulty of the skill shots depends on circumstance, for example a combo  where the balls are close together in front of a pocket is easy to pull off, but will get you less points than one over distance at more difficult angles. Then the hardest skill shots such as the jump shot take a lot of practice to master and time to set up, but they land you a tonne of points. Still, you can ignore the risk of skill shots altogether and just concentrate on potting every shot to build up your multiplier, once you’re on a high ball streak even a simple combo is worth as much as a jump shot.

TSA:  Is this game strictly arcade mayhem? Or is there an element of simulation present too?  What tech was implemented to ensure it still feels like pool?

RH: There are the classic 8 ball and 9 ball modes are a great simulation of proper Pool – the best you’ll find on PS3 by far. In general we have cut out anything which gets in the way of smooth gameplay, for example you can start lining up your next shot as soon as you’ve taken your last, even when the balls are still moving.

TSA:  What is your proudest achievement or accomplishment in relation to the development of the game?

RH: It’s a great looking game, running at 60fps, but more than anything we think we’ve nailed that classic, highly intense, hugely addictive arcade gameplay with a great multiplayer system, and we’ve done it with a completely new concept.

TSA: About Dark Energy Digital, your website states you are a “pioneer of digital distribution”.  Can you tell us your views on the increase and success of digital distribution and the advantages it offers to developers and consumers alike?  Do you see digital distribution becoming the main method of purchasing games in the future?

RH: It’s the future of our industry. That doesn’t mean retail will disappear, but certainly we’re already seeing downloads take off, and because of the reduced costs people are willing to take more risks with innovative products that might not otherwise see the light of day. Dark Energy has been set up explicitly to deliver on that vision, we’ve put a lot of time into developing technology which allows AAA retail quality games to be delivered digitally.

TSA:  We are all excited about Inferno Pool, and look forward to getting our hands on the title later today.  Can you tell us any news regarding your next title or where your resources are going now?

RH: Our resources are very much on a little game called Hydrophobia… but there’s not much I’m allowed to say about that.

We thank Rob for his time, and wish him all the best for Inferno Pool when it releases today.  Do all let us know what you think of the game, please, and we’ll get our review up as soon as possible.

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