Italian developers MixedBag Games have already enchanted Vita owners with the addictive and colourful Futuridum EP Deluxe and we spoke to Mauro Fanelli to talk about their next title, Forma.8, and working with the Vita.
Hello MixedBag Games, it’s been a while since we spoke. What have you been up to?
Hello there, lots of stuff really! After launching Futuridium EP Deluxe last year we started working full time again on forma.8, our ‘big game’, while continuing to prototype different ideas (we just can’t do only one project at a time!).
So while working on forma.8 we announced the weird dual stick shooter Gemini_X and the Project Morpheus version of Futuridium, Futuridium VR, was showcased at the PlayStation booth at E3 2015.
We also worked on a tech demo on PSVita using Unity 5, to better understand what could be done using the new Unity rendering engine with PBS on the Sony handheld. We were very surprised by the results.
Tell us a little bit about forma.8. What’s it all about?
forma.8 is the game we founded MixedBag for: while we released Futuridium first, the very first game we started working on was actually forma.8. As the little exploration probe forma.8 you are lost on an alien planet with a very important mission to accomplish (no spoiler on the story for now, but I can assure you it’s weird and mysterious!).
The game is a Metroidvania: you have a huge open world to explore with combat, bosses, puzzles and power ups to collect. The usual stuff? Not so much, since we tried to put a spin on everything, trying to give our own vision of the genre. We wanted to give the game a unique vibe, and we really hope to deliver on it.
forma.8 grew in scope during development and we redid a lot of assets earlier this year to bring the quality up to the (very high) standard of current indie games. That’s why it’s taking so long: we really don’t want to rush it, we’ll take all the time to properly polish it before release.
What made you want to develop it for the Vita?
The PSVita is a perfect match for forma.8: I love the idea of having the Metroid-esque open world of forma.8 in your pocket and the game crisp visual style really benefits from an high resolution screen with great colours. While the game may seem simple at a first glance, it needs beefy hardware to run at 60 frames per second. Everything is physics based, we’re throwing lots of animated characters and particles on screen, and some effects like the lights, the water or the lava simulation are quite complex. You really need the Vita horsepower to pull it off smoothly.
A little anecdote: Vita was the first console platform we were approved to develop for and the first console devkit we got, so it’ll always hold a very special place in our hearts.
Futuridium EP Deluxe was one of the IGC titles for PlayStation Plus. Has the additional exposure helped you at all? What has the reaction been like?
Yes! Futuridium received a huge boost in downloads by being part of IGC. I can’t disclose details on the IGC deal and on the numbers, but I can confirm that, considering all the versions of the game (including the free Futuridium EP for PC/Mac and the iOS edition), Futuridium download numbers are up in the millions right now.
It’s huge and IGC played a big role in it, giving MixedBag and Futuridium a lot of visibility.
The reaction has been positive: we know that Futuridium is a very polarizing game, being so hard and old school, so we feared an onslaught of bad ratings. However, we were pleasantly surprised of the opposite: we got many nice feedbacks via email and Twitter by people who just discovered the game thanks to IGC.
Would you recommend putting your title onto the IGC for other developers? If so, why?
For us it has been a very good experience and small indie devs like us can get an incredible amount of visibility and recognition. Again, I can’t speak about numbers, but it was very, very good for us.
Was there anything about Futuridium EP Deluxe that you weren’t happy with, or had to cut to make the release? Would you revisit it in the future?
Well, let’s say that you can keep working on a game for an infinite amount of time: there’ll always be stuff you want to improve or mechanics you want to add. 🙂
In the end we were happy on how Futuridium turned out as a two people team working on its first console game.
We didn’t cut anything from the game, actually we kept adding new stuff ‘till the very end of the project: I remember one enemy in particular was designed, programmed and put in the game in the last week of development (don’t do it!).
One thing I regret was not balancing the difficulty properly: we did a lot of internal testing but didn’t have enough time to get proper external Q&A. In the end, I think the game would have been better being easier.
We’re working on a patch for Futuridium but it’s taking a lot of time: we’ll rebalance the difficulty a bit without altering the game.
You recently revealed Gemini_X as one of your future titles. What can you tell us about it and would you like to bring it to Vita?
Gemini_X was pitched to us by Andrea Marchi (@Andoresan75, follow him on Twitter!) last year. Andrea is working right now in MixedBag on forma.8. We loved the idea; it’s a very weird mix of a twin stick single player shooter and a puzzle game, with some very interesting game mechanics.
We prototyped it since we were not sure if it could work and… well, it worked. We announced the game but it’s still in very early stages. We would love to do a PSVita version, but we cannot confirm anything for now.
What is it that you love about the Vita, not just as a developer but also as a fan?
I always loved portable gaming systems; I got all of them starting from the very beginning and I have all the weird ones like the various version of the Wonderswan and the Neo-Geo Pocket!
As a gamer, I was always amazed by the possibility of bringing my favourite digital worlds with me. Having something like The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening in your pocket back in the days blew my mind: it’s such a powerful idea. I also think that a handheld still gets you a more intimate experience than a home console.
As a portable system, the Vita has it all: an amazing screen, good battery life, it’s powerful, lightweight, it goes online and the controls are perfect. I think it’s one of the best portable console ever made.
Sony recently revealed that there is now more processing power available to developers on the Vita. Can you shed any light on that?
As you can imagine this is under strict NDAs, but it’s about being able to use more memory for games. The amount of extra memory can be measured in tens of MB and is not small at all. Using it, you can have larger, more complex worlds, more animation clips, better textures, more / better audio and so on.
It can definitely make a difference.
Is there anything upcoming for the Vita that you are most looking forward to?
Tons of stuff! I’m eager to play Severed by DrinkBox, I’ve tried it at GDC and was totally charmed. Then Assault Android Cactus, Volume, Not A Hero, Steamworld Heist, the port of Axiom Verge just to name a few. And I still hope that Galak-Z will come to the platform in the future.
In addition, I really, really hope that Gravity Rush 2 will be released on Vita.
Since this interview was completed, TGS has been an gone and stolen our dreams.
What would be your dream title for the Vita?
Give me a Demon’s Souls-in-your-pocket gritty single player action RPG with online elements. It would be awesome and I think that the Vita would be perfectly capable of handling it.
We want to thank Mauro for his time on this interview. Forma.8 is currently in development and we will bring you more news soon! Are you a fan of Mixed Bag Games, and are you looking forward to Forma.8?
This interview first appeared in issue five of The Vita Lounge Magazine. Stay tuned to the magazine for more exclusive content soon!