Long-time readers of TVL will know that we’ve been keeping an eye on DiscStorm for a while, and we caught up with the team at XMPT Games and spoke with them about their upcoming title.
Hello XMPT games, thanks for talking with us! Could you tell us a little bit about your studio and how you got into developing games?
The four of us met whilst working at a large software company and quickly discovered that we shared a mutual love of creating games. We formed XMPT Games so that we could start releasing our creations.
We all continue to work full time jobs as well as running XMPT Games. It can be quite challenging to plan well and make sure that you keep up with those that are developing their games full-time, but we’re all very passionate about what we do and are determined to spend every free moment we can creating games.
You are currently working on DiscStorm. Can you tell us what it’s about?
DiscStorm’s all about fast-paced and furious arena combat with friends, whether in the same room or online. Players get three ricocheting discs each with which to beat their opponents. The win conditions switch up every round too. There are classic deathmatch rounds like first-to-ten, and more unusual match types like Time Bomb, in which players have to get rid of an exploding bomb before the timer hits zero.
We’ve also tried really hard to make all ten arenas in the game feel and play uniquely. For example, the Haunted Mansion contains secret passages hidden behind bookcases and paintings that turn in to teleporting portals. As a player, it’s all about positioning – you can pull off a sneaky shot through a portal or out-position your enemies via the bookcase passageways. Both of these elements give the Haunted Mansion a very strategic feeling, whilst still preserving the hectic nature of DiscStorm.
At the other end of the spectrum is the Pirate Ship: an arena that’s all about chaotic, confined gameplay. As the boat sways up and down on the waves, the hordes of pirates on either side move in and out, changing the shape of the arena. The circular mast in the center of the ship rebounds discs in all directions, so players really need to be fast with their reactions!
In addition to a great multiplayer experience, we also wanted the single player campaign to stand up in it’s own right. There’s a full wave mode for every arena in which you have to battle your way past droves of enemies and take on colossal bosses using both brain and brawn. Each boss is designed with their arena’s unique aspects in mind, so many force the play to take advantage of intractable objects or alter the arena itself in some way.
What was the inspiration behind the game? What games would you say it is best described as a mix of?
Several years ago when we first started game jamming we used to use a random game name generator to come up with the theme. One of our favourite titles was “Tactical Frisbee Espionage”. This name clearly stuck with Rich, as the prototype of DiscStorm was inspired by a combination of this name and Vlambeer’s Super Crate Box, which he’d been playing a lot at the time. Once the rest of us got our hands on it, we knew immediately that we wanted to turn it in to a full release title.
DiscStorm uses the classic aesthetic of Bomberman, fast-paced gameplay of Towerfall and draws on the hectic, ever-changing nature of Wario Ware. We wanted the game to be really easy to pick up – so that there was no barrier to entry for new players – but deep enough that a dedicated player could truly master the combat. Hopefully we’ve pulled this off with the nuanced countering system and tight controls.
The single player mode takes influence from games like Binding of Isaac, Zelda and Shadow Of The Colossus. We try to make each boss test the player both physically and mentally, as they work out how to defeat them whilst dodging their onslaught of attacks.
Is there anything new or exclusive that you can tell us about DiscStorm?
Since we’re on the subject of bosses, let’s talk about some of those! How about the Volcano Lair?
The arena is set inside an active volcano on a platform suspended above a pool of lava. Plumes of flame erupt upwards, stunning any player that touches them, and occasionally solidifying to form destructible basalt pillars. Enemies emerge from a gigantic circular hatch in the arena’s center.
The opening boss of the arena is the Fire Wizard. He conjures a shield of fireballs around him which deflect any discs that they touch, making them harmful to the player. Occasionally he will stop and shoot the fireballs out in all directions, forcing players to hide behind a nearby basalt pillar or adeptly dodge out of the way.
The final boss is a gigantic fire elemental called the Lava Lord: a being comprised entirely of fire and held together by hulking pieces of armour. In his first stage, he forces entire sections of the arena to erupt in flame and leaves behind a trail of burning embers where ever he passes. During the second part of the fight, he fires beams of molten lava out in five directions and becomes invulnerable, summoning several magma bombs which explode upon death. Players must move carefully, avoiding the beams and dispatching the bombs as soon as possible. He also has an enrage stage once he gets low on health, which combines elements of each of the first two stages, making him extra challenging.
We briefly got some hands on with the game in March, at EGX Rezzed, and we spoke about the possibility of getting it onto the PSTV. Is this likely to happen?
The emerging trend of consoles like PSTV does seem like a good fit for multiplayer games like DiscStorm. That being said, we can’t make any promises on a PSTV release just yet!
Are there any differences between the characters at all, or is it a level playing field?
The characters and each of their costumes are only different in terms of looks. Due the pick-up-and-play premise behind the game, it was important to us that players could choose the characters they liked the look of the best, without needing to worry about which one was stronger. The changing arenas, match types and power-ups help to keep the game fresh instead. There are also five costumes for each of the five characters, twenty of which are unlocked as you progress through single and multiplayer.
Since you started Disc Storm, the Vita has seen a boost in the amount of resources available to developers. Did you know about this, and have you taken advantage at all?
Sony have been great to work with and they’ve always been very supportive of us as a studio, even way back when we’d only just released our first title, Penguin Party. They’re always available to speak to if we have any issues or requests too.
How is development going? Are you close to that light at the end of the tunnel?
We are extremely close to finishing now the PC version now and the Vita version should be ready relatively soon after that. It has certainly been a lot of hard work, but it’s really fulfilling to see all of the parts come together. It’s mainly just bug fixes and balancing left now, with the odd little extra animation or visual cue thrown in.
Working on a year-long project like DiscStorm has been a massive learning experience for all four of us. When you take in to account all eighteen unique bosses, online multiplayer and everything that comprises the core local multiplayer experience, it’s actually a pretty huge game in terms of scope; particularly for a team of four working only evenings and weekends. As such, we’ve all grown a lot as artists, developers, musicians and designers. Hopefully those new skills will come across in the finished game and in future projects!
What made you want to develop the game for the Vita? Do you plan on porting it to the PS4 at some point?
Essentially, we chose to develop for the Vita because we all love it as gamers, so we want to support it as developers. When DiscStorm goes out, we’ll probably play it on the Vita more than we do PC too!
We have been in talks about porting DiscStorm to PS4 for a release in early 2016. However, nothing is confirmed as of yet.
What games have you enjoyed on the Vita?
Most of us are actually avid JRPG fans, stuff like Danganronpa, Persona and Disgaea – it’s a genre that works particularly well on Vita too. Terraway was a beautiful title too. We also picked up a good number of PlayStation Mobile titles like Haunt The House, Rymdkapsel and Shuttle Quest 2000.
As developers that have experience with PlayStation Mobile, what are or thoughts on Sony shutting it down? Glad you developed DiscStorm for Vita?
PlayStation Mobile played a huge part in our history as a studio and we owe a lot to it. When the company was less than a week old, we applied to the PlayStation Pioneers competition for PlayStation Mobile and made it in to the final. Whilst driving home from that event, we made the decision to create our first title for the platform, Penguin Party. DiscStorm had originally begun as a smaller project on there too.
PlayStation Mobile provided a great way for newer developers to establish themselves within the indie scene. We were able to prove that we could make decent games using it, which gave us a huge leg up when it came to pitching for full Vita titles. There isn’t really anything like it left for fledgling developers now, aside from the PC. In that respect, a fairly vital, if under appreciated, part of the gaming community has been lost.
We’re still very glad that we developed DiscStorm for Vita. There’s also something slightly more rewarding as a developer when you see something you made running on a console as opposed to a PC.
Is there anything else that you are working on for the Vita that you can share with us?
Not right at the moment, although we have recently discussed revamping one of our PlayStation Mobile titles and bringing it to a new platform. We would love to apply everything that we’ve learned during the development of DiscStorm to our older releases, particularly now that PlayStation Mobile has been shut down.
That being said, the Vita is a platform that all of us are very fond of, so there’s a high likelihood that we would try to release whatever our next title is on there, if at all possible.
We will bring you more news on DiscStorm as we have it! Are you looking forward to the game?
This This article first appeared in The Vita Lounge Magazine Issue Three. Look out for more exclusive content in the magazine soon!