If you haven’t heard of BlitWorks before, there’s a good chance you’ve played one of the games they have worked on. We spoke to PR Manager Geraldine Abuliak to find out more.
Thanks for talking to us, Geraldine! Can you tell us a little bit about BlitWorks?
BlitWorks was created right after securing our first business requests, which were porting Sonic CD and Jet Set Radio. It took several years to get in contact with key people at SEGA and find a workable proposition, but it suddenly happened and the easiest way we found was to start as part of Blit Software. This way we skipped most time consuming parts of creating a company (filing paperwork, looking for an office, hiring a team, etc) and went straight to the point.
It seems the hard work on Sonic CD and JSR was worth it, as very soon we started getting console port requests that we couldn’t believe: Spelunky and FEZ. The company was really taking off, so we took the time to officially spin the company off and now BlitWorks is a fully independent company.
How did you end up porting games for other developers?
All BlitWorks founders are software engineers with a strong career in the game industry and a very deep technical background. Always involved in low level stuff, from engines to emulators, it turned out to be the proper knowledge to specialize in porting. No one of us would have correctly predicted we would create a porting company, but seeing all our career paths, it makes sense. Perhaps it has not been a coincidence.
Your team have worked with some of the best reviewed and most well-received Vita indie titles. Do you have a favourite?
This is a tricky question, as it’s hard to compare games. But we’re probably more emotionally attached to Spelunky, our first Indie port, much harder than we expected, and probably one of the best examples of getting the most out of very little. Just two people, with not a super extensive background in programming, but it’s amazing what they did. No wonder a lot of indies followed that trend.
This year you’ve been working on four Vita titles: Badland, Super Meat Boy, Dragon Fin Soup and Bastion. How do you manage working on so many projects?
Well, we’re now about 25-30 people (mostly employees and a few contractors), and since we’re quite specialized in what we do, we can focus on being super efficient. Every port is different, but all of them share a lot of common issues. Actually, properly growing the company has been a much more difficult task than doing a good port. It’s crucial (and not easy at all) that new hires get the company culture right. It’s not enough to hire good people, you need to build a good team.
How is development of Bastion coming along? I know a lot of Vita fans are eager to learn more!
We’ve finally succeeded! It’s been probably the hardest port to date, and it’s been a continuation of our previously hardest port (FEZ), since the technology we’ve used has been an evolution. But we finally got the performance we expected, it’s really smooth. This game really deserved to be played on the Vita, but not at the expense of sacrificing quality, and we’re quite happy with the results.
Editor’s Note: We requested this interview before Bastion was announced for immediate sale at PSX – so go and buy it, as it’s awesome!
What difficulties have you faced porting titles to the Vita?
The number one difficulty is having to deal with the performance of a mobile platform. All the titles we’ve worked with, were developed for much more powerful platforms. When you see the Vita performing like a PS3 or a X360 is because there has been a good deal of work optimizing the performance for the particularities of the Vita. It’s not so powerful unless the code is carefully adapted.
With the ports you have already completed, was there anything you weren’t happy with?
We’re not happy at all with the version that is currently published of Dragon Fin Soup, because we had to port a game that was still in development, so it was terribly difficult. We hope the game ultimately gets to a stable point and we can properly patch it. Anyway, as a work for hire studio, you can only give your opinion, but the ultimate decision is not yours.
What is it that you like most about the Vita?
As developers, we have really incredible tools for debugging and analysing performance. They’re even better than the ones we currently have for PS4 (although they’re quickly catching up). Actually, without those amazing tools it would have been impossible to get so much out of the hardware.
If you could influence one thing about the system, what would it be?
Tricky one. We think the Vita is very well balanced: spectacular screen, decent battery, nice form factor, super great controls. It’s tempting to ask for more performance or memory, but then you’ll hurt the battery or the price. It’s hard to just change one thing, and this is why consoles change a lot of things at once in each generation.
What Vita games from other studios have most impressed you? Is there anything you are looking forward to from the 2016 line up?
There are fortunately a lot of impressive games on the Vita, but if we have to select a few gems it won’t surprise you that we pick these: Shovel Knight, Hotline Miami and Limbo.
Regarding the games we’re waiting for: Hyper Light Drifter and Nuclear Throne, definitely.
After working on titles for other developers, do you have the urge to create something of your own?
We’re working on our own projects in our spare time, but there’s no rush to stop working for other developers. It’s amazing what we learn on every project we work on. Every team solves the problems in a very different way and that makes each port challenging enough to keep us happy.
Are you working on anything for the Vita that we don’t already know about?
We have a few Vita projects on the pipeline, but we can never reveal them. This is something publishers choose the right moment to do. But there are really good games that are still missing on the Vita, and they fit really well in the platform.
We want to thank Geraldine Abuliak from BlitWorks for her time arranging this interview and answering our questions! What is your favourite game that BlitWorks have worked on? Let us know in the comments!
This interview first appeared in Issue 8 of The Vita Lounge Magazine. Stay tuned to the magazine for more exclusive and magazine-first content soon!