Interview: Boolat On Topatoi

Topatoi, Boolat’s PSN exclusive, was released a couple of weeks back. The game was released without build-up or fanfare and rather than the project get lost amidst everything else available on the Store, we thought we’d catch up with Boolat’s Alexander Chigorin to find out a little bit more about the company and their quirky platformer.

TSA: What inspired you to make the leap to PS3 development from your earlier PC and Mobile work?

Alexander Chigorin, Boolat: Boolat Games is a game development company formed in 2001. We started our development by aiming at hardcore PC games. Since our racing/shooting arcade game “Lagsters” was released in far 2004 we were interested in game development for consoles. We even started a PlayStation 2 hardcore game, but that’s another story.

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TSA: So why move to a more ‘casual’ game like Topatoi?

Boolat: With time and experience our interests changed and we started to work on games for a wider target audience and hardcore games were left behind. We released some PC casual games and found the casual area very interesting for us as a mid-sized team. It was a great opportunity for us when we received news from Sony that it was possible to develop and publish games for PlayStation 3 on PS Store. Thanks to our previous experience and a hot team we learned this platform quickly enough and our new game Topatoi is accessible for players around the world.

TSA: Onto Topatoi then, was there a conscious decision to make the game look so pretty at the expense of the storytelling mechanic? We thought the visuals were lovely, but the pop-up boxes for exposition were a little low-budget and forced.

Boolat: At the very beginning Topatoi didn’t have any characters or storyline. But we eventually came to a decision to tell a story in this game. We thought it should be more interesting than a lifeless whirligig journey through a virtual world. We wanted to do more than just controlling an inanimate thing and in our opinion it was more pleasant for each player.

It was natural to us that during the development of the game we didn’t follow the standards of mainstream AAA projects where long cinematic cutscenes with realistic animation and sound are of great importance. We considered possible ways to describe the story and chose the suitable storytelling method, which is used very often and is intentionally understated in Topatoi.

TSA: How long does it generally take to localise a game for each region, and what’s involved? Are there any plans to get the game out in America?

Boolat: It took us about a month to localise this game. As you may notice the game does not include voices and lip-synced cutscenes so localisation was not too difficult, thanks to our partners from T57 Localisation Studio. Of course we have plans to get the game out in US, but we still have no exact release date at the moment. Certainly we will announce the specific release date as soon as we get it.

TSA: Who determined the pricing for Topatoi?

Boolat: The price is determined by us and it is the result of survey of available games on PS Store, and our pricing strategy for the further episodes and addons for Topatoi.

TSA: Further episodes?

Boolat: Yes, The second episode is in development and our prime interest is Topatoi and the continuation of the story of Raph and his friends.

TSA: Were you happy with the way your game was promoted by SCEE with regards to blog coverage, press releases and PlayStation Store presence?

Boolat: Well, I would like to mention that SCEE is not the publisher of the game. So the lack of website promotion and the fact that there is no gameplay video in PlayStation Store is our fault.

TSA: But what about the presence of the game on the Store?

Boolat: We are quite satisfied with the representation on the PlayStation Store and grateful to SCEE for all support we received on our game. We are pleased to work with such a partner.

TSA: TheSixthAxis and PushSquare both scored Topatoi in the ‘average’ bracket. How do you feel about these scores?

Boolat: We respect any subjective opinion, which is what reviews on all game resources are. Certainly, there is some inside disagreement, but no more that. We’ve seen that our storyline and storyline levels moved Topatoi a little closer to mainstream games with their standards.

TSA: And what about reader comments?

Boolat: It is pleasant to see players comments which express their opinions, and it is remarkable that they all are very open and ready to share their experiences and sensations. We appreciate all your opinions and comments, they should make our next episodes and games much more pleasant and interesting.

TSA: Why does the arcade mode look so different, with the hyper-styled graphics and minimal backgrounds? Which came first, and do you think the game would have sold (and reviewed) better if it was just the arcade mode, or if promotional materials focused on the arcade mode?

Boolat: Initially the game was planned as the story of Raph in a mysterious world, and we dedicated much time to the story mode development. But after we had seen how many interesting game tasks which didn’t find any application in the main storyline that could be presented to the player, we made arcade mode.

TSA: It’s like an totally different style, why?

Boolat: It is made in an alternative visual style and thus is not connected with a plot. It simply gives the player a pleasant diversion alone, or with friends on split screen. We think that arcade mode is attractive and fun in Topatoi and we have great plans as for it.

TSA: How has the game sold so far?

Boolat: I think it’s too early to judge sales.

TSA: But you’re happy with developing on the PS3?

Boolat: Of course, we plan to make further developments on PS3.

We thank Alexander Chigorin and all the team at Boolat for their time in answering our questions, and we wish them all the best with the game and any further projects. Topatoi [review] is out now on the European PSN Store.

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