Pasadena developers Funktronic Labs have brought their debut title to the Vita, so we spoke to co-founder Eddie Lee about the game, the experience and the Vita!
Hello Eddie, thanks for talking to us! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, Funktronic Labs and why you decided to make games?
Thanks for having me! I am currently the co-founder of an independent game studio in LA called Funktronic Labs. Our goal is to develop fun games that are easy to pick-up but hard to master. Before starting the studio, I was living in Japan where I was employed as a programmer on the PixelJunk series.
My passion for games started at a very young age, where I grew up playing Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. But as a kid, I’ve never really considered a career in game development because I naively assumed that all games were simply made in Japan and it just wasn’t a feasible life path for me. During college, I started building small games for fun and it was then it is where it sparked my passion. From then on, I couldn’t stop. I just kept making games and it eventually lead me down the path to where I am today.
You have just released Nova-111. What can you tell us about it?
The development of Nova-111 has been quite a journey! This is our studio’s first game and we were quite lucky to have received support from the wonderful folks at IndieFund and to have partnered up with Curve Digital to bring our baby onto consoles. We have been working our butts off on this game for quite a while, and I can’t believe it is actually happening! We will be releasing Nova-111 on August 25th, and it will be available for Cross-Buy on PS4/PS3/PSVita as well other platforms.
How does the game play? What mechanics can gamers expect to experience?
Our core focus for Nova-111 was to provide an innovative mix between turn-based and real-time gameplay. We love the strategic depth of turn-based strategy games but often felt like they lacked a sense-of-urgency that real-time games provide. On the other hand, real-time games are oftentimes too fast-paced and chaotic to allow for any strategic depth. Our mission was to bring out the best of both worlds and distill it into a single game.
And how that plays out in Nova-111 is that the player can move in turns within a grid, but some enemies and environmental hazards can move in real-time. For example, you may be bump-trading against an enemy while spikes are falling in real-time above your head. So you got to stay frosty at all times!
How long will it take to compete the game? And is there a challenge for gamers to continue to play after completion?
On average, we expect the player to take about 4-5 hours to complete the game. But for those who crave replayability, we have tons of NewGame+ features that the player can have fun with. And for those competitive players, we’ve implemented two types of leaderboards in the game — “Time” and “Turns” — so players can compete on speed-runs or optimize their number of turns against other players.
What games inspired you for Nova-111 prior to – and during -development?
As you can tell from the grid-based nature of Nova-111, we were heavily inspired by classic roguelikes such as ADOM and NetHack. We loved the strategic depth that roguelikes provided and the feeling of exploration, progress, and wonder is definitely something we wanted to capture within Nova-111. On the other hand, we also loved the action and exhilaration of real-time strategy games such as Starcraft. Our ambition was to bring both of these genres together.
What made you want to bring the game to the Vita? You are a Vita fan yourself, what do you think of the system and what have been your favourite experiences? Is there anything that you are looking forward to playing?
I am a big fan of the Vita — the hardware is awesome, the screen is beautiful, and the device is simply wonderful to hold in your hands. Also, I feel that Nova-111’s gameplay and accessibility is definitely well-suited for the handheld device. I personally just want to see more games on the Vita and I’m very happy to contribute!
Some games that I’ve particularly enjoyed on the Vita are Guacamelee and Tearaway. But hands-down the best game to play on the device is Spelunky — it is a match made in heaven! As for upcoming releases, definitely looking forward to re-experiencing Super Meat Boy on my Vita device. Loved that game.
You have been working with Curve Digital for the console release, was there a reason your sought them out to help with your game?
We knew about Curve Digital for quite a while before we’ve started working with them. They were bringing high-quality indie games to console platforms and I reached out to them to set up a meeting. We met them at a pub in San Francisco during GDC and we showed them a rough early build of Nova-111. They instantly understood what we were going for and we just clicked. Since then, they’ve done quite an amazing job not only bringing Nova-111 to console platforms but also marketing/publishing, and this has really allowed us to solely focus on the game.
What’s next for Funktronic Labs?
Not sure what the future holds for us! We have tons of ideas that we would love to do, but nothing is set in stone. After Nova-111 is released, we would probably take some time to prototype ideas in order to determine if there is anything promising that we would want to pursue. But who knows? If people like Nova-111 enough, perhaps we can consider doing a DLC or Sequel…
Do you have anything to say to the Vita fans reading this?
It is the passion of the Vita community that makes the Vita truly awesome. And the enthusiasm for this wonderful little device is the reason why we decided to bring Nova-111 on this platform. Our only hope is that we have delivered an experience that the community will appreciate!
This interview first appeared in the fifth issue of The Vita Lounge Magazine. Check out the magazine for more exclusive content soon!