Super Time Force Ultra was a IGC title for the Vita last month, so we went back in time with Nathan Vella from Capybara Games to find out more.
Hi Nathan, thanks for talking to us! Can you tell us a little bit about Capybara Games and how you got into developing games?
Our history is very much in my mind these days since Capy celebrates its 10 year anniversary this month! We’re a 23 person studio based in Toronto, Canada. We started out making cell phone games (like, pre-smartphone cell phone) but transitioned to making our own original stuff part way through. We’re a tight-knit group of artists, programmers, designers, producers… and one audio guy.
My personal path into game dev came through film & tv. I studied film at Ryerson University in Toronto, where I met two of the four other Capy co-founders. After finishing school, I went into post-production for Canadian television, but really didn’t enjoy it. I always wanted to make videogames, but there were almost no studios in Toronto at the time. That was when a small group of us decided to start making games on the side, sort of like a hobby. From there, we turned ‘making games on the side’ into ‘starting a full time studio’. And the rest is history!
The game looks so interesting. Can you explain what Super Time Force Ultra is all about?
Super Time Force Ultra is a crazy action videogame that is pretty much off the rails at all times. It has the feel and tight controls of old-school platforming action games from the classic era, but then we throw a big ol’ time travelling monkey wrench in the middle of it. Amidst all the jumping, shooting and explosions, we give players the god-like ability to stop time and rewind back through the level, kinda like moving the play bar in a youtube video. Players can look back through what they did and choose when to jump back into the timeline with a new character. They can go back 3 seconds, or 30. When they do, however, it’s not simply a do-over, or a continue, they are actually fighting alongside their previous selves in the past. Everything they did in those previous attempts with other characters, will all happen again, over and over. Players are adding more firepower to the level, new character abilities, strategy know-how and total mayhem. By the end of a level there could be 30 versions of yourself blowing everything to heck at the same time. We call it Single Player Co-op.
Also you blow up robots and dinosaurs and angels and more robots.
What was the inspiration behind the game? What games would you describe it as a mix of?
The sorta obvious inspirations for us were games from our childhood like Contra, Gunstar Heroes and Mega Man. But the actual prototype for the game was born at a 3-day game jam with the theme of: What just happened? That theme informed the idea of a platformer where you could go back and look at what just happened and then literally jump in at that moment and change the outcome. It’s a pretty mind-blowing concept that constantly surprises and reveals depth, and the fact that it’s mixed with a game genre that everyone sorta has a history with makes it very approachable.
The PlayStation versions include many exclusive characters, including WWS President, Shuhei Yoshida. What was the thinking behind these characters?
The thinking was pretty simple, honestly. We knew that the game had come out on other platforms before PS4 & VITA, so we wanted to give PlayStation fans a little something special. Initially we sat down to brainstorm what characters to include, and we were discussing how great it would be to have one ‘curveball’ character to include – someone that wasn’t expected but would be a great nod to all the PlayStation players. I tossed out the idea of including Shuhei Yoshida because I knew how much hardcore PlayStation fans love him – he’s an amazing ambassador for Sony, so much so that he’s part of the brand itself. I reached out to a friend at Santa Monica Studio, and in no time Shuhei had agreed.
From there, we decided to include the traveler from Journey, and Sir Galahad from The Order , and that same friend at Santa Monica Studio helped facilitate once again. It was a super fun, super easy process from start to finish.
All in all, we’re excited about the PlayStation-exclusive characters and we really hope the fans dig them.
As we are talking about characters, does the game play differently when using different characters? Do you have a favourite?
Absolutely it does, yes. There’s 19 different characters, each with their own unique primary and secondary attacks ranging from offensive to defensive to almost ridiculous (one character farts and then can light his farts on fire…) That’s a huge amount of character combinations in a level. But then we have a mechanic where you can save a character from dying by preventing the death from ever occurring. At that point two characters meld and their special abilities stack on top of each other, which presents an almost incalculable amount of variation.We’ve watched youtube videos of speedrunners figuring out character combos in key parts of the game that become totally devastating and we’re still getting surprised by the game.
As for my favourite character, that’s pretty tough! But I guess I’ll say Re-Bot. He’s a chunky robot that shoots missiles and has cool sneakers and wears a backwards baseball cap.
Is there anything you can tell us about the PlayStation version that isn’t already known?
I’m not sure if we’ve mentioned it anywhere else, but Shuhei Yoshida’s social media-based special attack contains tons of different messages, all written by Shuhei himself. We asked him to write a handful, but he came back with TONS. Unfortunately we had to edit some out because it would take up too much space to do them all (he really wrote a lot).
So you can be sure that, even in Super Time Force Ultra, when Shuhei takes to social media, he’s the one writing.
What made you want to bring the game to the Vita?
Two simple facts: the first is the business side. Our partners at SCEA 3rd Party tried to do everything they could to make supporting VITA worthwhile for us. They wanted to make sure we saw that STFU could be a great fit for Sony’s handheld, and they wanted to make sure we had support along the way. They are a great crew and deserve all the love they get, and more.
The second is the passion side. Many of us at the studio, myself included, adore our VITA’s. I probably play more on VITA than any other device – so much so that I put off getting a PS4 for a very long while. It’s a wonderful device with amazing controls and a beautiful screen. Games like STFU pop, and feel great. We wanted to see STFU on VITA really bad, and we knew fans would too.
Are there any obvious differences in terms of content or performance from the Vita version to PS4?
There are some performance differences between VITA and PS4, but we’ve done our best to make sure those are minimized. I will say that the VITA version has been optimized to be playable in the bath, because our creative director Kris Piotrowski takes the most, longest baths of all time.
What challenges, if any, did you have to face with Vita development?
It’s not the most powerful platform, nor the fastest platform. Bringing a game from PS4 to PS VITA is never going to be easy, and of course we had our challenges. That said, none of them were particularly special – it was just a matter of optimizing like crazy, crunching down our work, and coming up with creative solutions to technical problems. A very special shoutout to Capy’s Hubert Wong, who deserves a ton of credit for STFU on PS VITA & PS4.
Are there any games that stand out for you on the system? What are your favourites?
I play a lot of Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 on my VITA. I am a huge fighting game fan. It’s also my portable Spelunky machine. Soundshapes from our buds Queasy Games is an incredible game, but we helped them make it so saying so seems a little weird. Steamworld Dig is another huge time sink for me, and Hohokum is one of my favorite games ever.
What’s next for Capybara Games, and would you want to develop for the Vita again?
We’re cooking on two delicious projects right now – BELOW, and Don’t Starve: Shipwrecked (in collaboration with our friends at Klei). Both are entirely different, but super exciting games.
As for more VITA, who knows? We decide what we’re going to make based on ideas, not platforms. But we do love playing on the platform, so that’s a great start.
We want to thank Nathan for his time with this interview! Did you buy STFU, or pick it up on PS+? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments!
This interview first appeared in issue 6 of The Vita Lounge Magazine. Stay tuned to the magazine for more new and exclusive content soon!