Released two weeks ago for PlayStation Plus subscribers, today Futurlab’s Velocity becomes available for everyone. The minis title has garnered some incredible critical acclaim from the press, but equally it’s something that gamers have connected with – especially those with a fondness for old school gameplay and graphics.
I asked studio head James Marsden about the PlayStation Plus deal, and what was the incentive for them to give the game away free. “First and foremost,” he said, “it was a way to get the game finished. Our PlayStation Plus deal included a lump sum payment, which enabled us to polish it up, and get people like Joris de Man to bring his skills onboard.”
Joris de Man, as you may know, is the Dutch composer responsible for the Killzone series’ music, and he leant his huge talent to Velocity.[drop]”It’s also a great platform for indie developers as our game gets the visibility and credibility boost that comes from being selected for Plus,” added Marsden. I asked him whether he thought there was any gamble there at all, being that so many people would get it for free, and that many of those might also be the game’s core audience. “No, we don’t see it as a gamble at all because more people will have heard of Velocity than if we’d sneaked it out with our own meagre marketing budget,” he replied with honesty.
Would he take advantage of the same deal again? “Definitely,” he said, “given the opportunity.”
I ask about the reception of the game from those that have already played it, and James says it’s been “wholly positive.”
“In the modern portable market of shallow distract ’em-ups and Trojan pick pockets on iOS at one end, and epic AAA marathons at the other end, Velocity stands out as a compact hardcore experience that we feel is the best of both worlds,” he replied. “Velocity is what core gamers have been asking for from their handheld devices for quite a few years, and they seem very happy that we listened.”
Velocity took around two years from concept to delivery. Did the team have to leave anything out? “Loads,” came the reply. “Bosses for one. I lost sleep over the fact we were making a space shooter with no bosses. I dreaded the complaints about a lack of bosses, but going by the reviews so far, it seems that nobody has even noticed,” Marsden admits.[drop2]Anything else? “Polish, I would have liked to have made everything a lot more polished. Glows on the ship and terrain, better animation on the enemies, stuff like that. And more music tracks.”
With minis, there are inherent space issues that limit what developers can do in terms of file size, but there are other issues too – online leaderboards are technically impossible (and so absent from Velocity) and whilst the game does a fair job at measuring a player’s achievements, there aren’t any ‘official’ trophies.
I ask the obvious question – does he find the format limiting – and the answer’s just as obvious. “Yes,” replies James. So, surely there’s something else in the pipeline, some other way to address the limitations. I ask him what his plans are now, giving a wink towards Sony’s new Vita platform, and whether he’s thinking about any other versions of the game. “All I can say is that whilst we have other things cooking, Velocity is still our main focus at the moment,” is the reply.
At least the platform holder sees that Velocity has been wildly popular so far. “Sony have been very complimentary,” admits Marsden, “which has been nice to hear.”
Velocity is out now for PSP, PS3 and PS Vita from the PlayStation Store. You may need to search for it, but it’s there.