Introducing Chronovolt, a steampunk platformer for PS Vita
Our aim with Chronovolt was to bring a challenging platform adventure to PS Vita, whilst making use of its unique touch interfaces and gyroscopic controls.
From the start, we had a steampunk theme in our heads that could allow us to create worlds and characters with strange machines and futuristic sources of energy. HG Wells’ classic sci-fi novel, The Time Machine, was a definite source of inspiration. A time manipulation concept not only allowed us to jump between very different settings, but was also a perfect fit for the Vita’s touch controls, allowing players to manipulate time with their fingers.
On a technical level, we’d also been developing a ‘rolling ball’ engine to exploit the gyroscopic controls. It seemed a lot more fun than driving Wells’ ‘time sled’ around and, besides, the Daleks had the whole coaster-based-time-travel area sewn up already!
As the PS Vita is capable of so many methods of interactions, we were faced with a number of control options. We always wanted Chronovolt to have a fast play style and a dramatic storyline so we decided to move more control to the analogue sticks, use the rear screen to control the camera and the front screen for quick intermittent challenges.
This decision would form the basis for the main time controls where the player can immediately use the screen to stop and rewind time, target nearby or distant objects, and ‘attack’ enemies using time.
We based our story around the discovery of Chronovolts – the energy that powers time – and the use of Chronospheres, created by our two mad inventors, Dr Chase and Scabious Claw. We also wanted to have a young female hero in the form of Jessica Chase who takes up the challenge and through whom you play the game, as you set off after Scabious on your grand adventure.
Our art director Filip was responsible for developing the visual style of our protagonists. They needed to be universally understood, drawing influence from the steampunk idea, while still being fun and appealing. The characters wear Victorian-style clothing with all the added gadgets, goggles, buckles and alterations that define the steampunk theme.
Seeing the character concepts really helped spark our imagination in producing an overarching storyline that could allow the player to journey between the different exotic locations. Without giving the game away, everyone loves an end-of-the-world scenario and the fight for Chronovolts is central to it.
Meanwhile, the aim for the environments was to create three distinct worlds which our time travelling characters could lead the player through. These ended up as a lush Mayan world, a snow-covered Chinese world and the Future world.
As the game was our first full Vita title, we had to create our 3D and shader engine from scratch. It was an exciting process, with a steep learning curve but one we’ve achieved, albeit slightly delayed from our initial release date. Now we have an excellent footing from which to produce our next title. We’re already developing a new concept and can hopefully talk about that soon.
For now though, we hope you all enjoy Chronovolt when it launches next Wednesday. Feel free to ask any questions below!