Make no mistake, there were some fantastic announcements at Gamescom earlier this month, and I had a great time checking out Murasaki Baby, Helldivers, Resogun et al. However, I’ll admit that my absolute highlight of the week was getting an early look at Velocity 2X, the follow-up to phenomenal PS Vita top-down shoot ‘em up Velocity Ultra.
The engine powering Velocity 2X has been engineered from the ground up to target next-gen hardware, and makes use of post processing effects normally reserved for AAA titles.
FuturLab‘s James Marsden swore me to secrecy, so I can’t reveal too much about how the game’s new platforming sections play. That said, I can confirm that it’s a fantastic, smartly-implemented addition that promises to take the series in a really interesting, expansive direction.
You’ll learn more before too long, but in the meantime, I sat down with James to learn a little bit more about how the sequel has taken shape, from the original release of Velocity on the minis service in May last year, through the release of Velocity Ultra earlier this year, and up to the unveiling of Velocity 2X at Gamescom last week.
In the beginning, there was Velocity…
“A few years back I saw on LinkedIn that Shahid Ahmad from SCEE was looking for games for PlayStation Mobile. He was actually our account manager on Coconut Dodge, so I got in touch and said: “We’ve just released Velocity this weekend – here’s a code, have a go.” He sent me a message later that day – a Sunday – saying ‘I’m a man in my 40s and I’ve just spent four hours of my Sunday afternoon playing a shoot ‘em up! This is not normal!’
“He asked us to come in and pitch something ‘slick and futurlabby’ for PS Mobile, so we went to see him with some ideas, which resulted in Surge, Fuel Tiracas and Beats Slider. That was all pretty exciting for us, but he also said he wanted to see Velocity on PS Vita.”
And then came Velocity 2UP…
“He asked us if we had any ideas for how we might bring it to Vita. I just blurted out, ‘Jump out of the ship and run around! And then get back in your ship and fly on!’ His face lit up! He said something about how he always wondered in Aliens what Bishop got up to in his drop ship whilst Ripley is taking the aliens out.
“So we came up with the idea of Velocity 2UP, which would have had two players. But when we started scoping it up and realised how much it would cost to do multiplayer we figured out we couldn’t quite afford it at that stage. So instead we decided to do a one-player game where you get to control Kai Tana on foot as well as controlling the Quarp Jet.”
“Two weeks later Shahid said that he would like us to bring the original Velocity to PS Vita as well as the sequel, but up-rezzed. We got very excited, because a lot of the fans had asked for a Vita version, so we could tell them that was coming, but keep quiet about the sequel.”
“Even though it was just supposed to be an HD version we put in a lot more effort than was perhaps sensible! We could have just taken the original pixel art and redrawn it all in HD, but we didn’t want to just create an HD version of the original and then come out with a sequel that looked completely different. As a consumer that would annoy me. This shows my age, but it would be like Back to the Future Part 2 coming out with different actors!”
Finally, Velocity 2X is born…
“So, Velocity Ultra has been out a month or so in the US, and now here we are talking about a sequel. There were three of us with Velocity and we’ve scaled up to 10 to do the sequel. We are also working with a few contractors, including Joris de Man who’s doing music and audio again. I have to say that some of the music we have so far has put a lump in my throat, just because I care so much about the music being right. It’s just as important as the visuals.”
And platforming sections are introduced…
“The real strength of Velocity that perhaps isn’t recognised is that you have these different play-styles. You’ll have a level that’s fairly slow-paced – you’re just flying around exploring and finding survivors, which puts you in a certain mindset, and if you stayed in that mindset for an hour, you’d get bored.
Velocity 2X features platforming action alongside the top down shoot ‘em-up gameplay
“But then it changes up and gives you a speed run. It’s very challenging and addictive, and gives you that twitch performance anxiety feeling. And that’s very tiring. If you had a game full of that, your hair would fall out, so then we go back to more casual blasting of aliens. I think that’s the real strength of the game.
“The way we pitched the platforming element to Sony was: ‘If the strength of Velocity is its variety, adding platform sections that re-imagine some of the mechanics will effectively double the amount of variety in the game.’
“It just feels very natural, going from moving a spaceship around in a top down format to moving a character around in a platformer. They’re very similar in lots of ways, but with slight differences and strengths that we can make the most of with level design.”
Velocity 2X is a significantly larger game with various alien locations to visit.
But what about Velocity’s infamous difficulty level?
“I think we’ve got the overall difficulty curve right, in terms of starting out simple and then building and building until players realise they have the skills to do amazing things quickly. But we have had some complaints about some people not being able to get the final few rewards.
“We’ll probably tone it down just a tiny bit. It’s still going to be intense, but we might not string those intense challenges together so fiercely. On level 50 in the first game you’ve really got to be on top of your game for a minute and half. The time between challenges is so condensed that you basically have to be super-human or have played the game for a year before you can do it.
“You have different types of gamers. Some people enjoy playing through a game, seeing the story unfold and experiencing the mechanics. They’ll finish it and say ‘I’ve had an enjoyable experience.’ Then there are gamers who are very competitive and they want to challenge themselves.
“What Velocity allows you to do is set your own goals. If you want to go for all perfect gold medals, you can do that, and if you just want a casual experience, you can have that too. We want as many different types of player to enjoy Velocity as possible.”
Visual upgrades from Velocity Ultra include environment lighting, bloom, light refraction and anamorphic lens flare as well as particle effects.