Super Stardust Delta has been one of the best received PlayStation Vita launch games, based on reviews and what you have been telling us here on the blog, so we popped a few questions over to its developer, Housemarque Games, and here is their response.
What’s it like to work on PS Vita?
We found working on PS Vita to be an easier and smoother experience than we might have originally expected for an entirely new platform. Overall the experience of making a PS Vita game is the same as for other current platforms, and in some respects even easier.
One of the most memorable moments was of course when we got our hands on the actual device for the first time, and got to try out some of the first things we worked on.
Also the day when we held our first play test session and weren’t sure if any in the test group could even get past the first planet, but they all managed to do it (one of them even made it to the fourth planet)! And when they still wanted to play it even more we knew we had a good thing going :-)
The main challenge has been ensuring the action and performance go hand-in-hand. From a technical side, getting the game running in full resolution at a solid 60 frames per second, etc.
In addition to technical wizardry, the gameplay demanded special care – we used a lot of time to get the pacing, scoring & reward systems and bosses just right. The scoring system is very deep and we really hope that players will discover new ways to improve their strategy long after they’ve beaten the game.
Which feature are you most excited about?
There are so many cool features we got into the game that it’s hard to pick just one, so here are three of our favorites:
Jere, lead programmer:
New score bonuses and multipliers (like “Super X”, etc.) add a lot of depth for chasing highscores. On a related note, I also like the new boost system’s easy approachability and the scoring mechanics of boosting through multiple points tokens with greatly enhanced precision.
Petsku, game designer:
I can only pick one? Ok the new “Black Hole Bomb” (man, it’s the bomb!). It’s just super cool and something I’ve dreamed of seeing in the series for a long time – finally we got to do it!
I like effects that slow the flow of time, so I naturally love the new boost system in the game’s new “Delta mode”.
Why is SSDelta a great fit for the PS Vita?
PS Vita’s beautiful big screen and versatile controls really complement SSDelta well. SSDelta lets you hop into the action in no time and start having fun. On a short trip you might want to beat your friend’s score on a single planet, or have a quick go at one of the many mini-games or additional DLC modes.
And when you have an hour or more you can blast through the entire new galaxy and see if you’ve got what it takes to top the global leaderboards.
Which part of the game was the most difficult to build?
Well this gets really technical so here’s lead programmer Jere:
“Getting the performance profile smooth and steady at 60fps, which was basically split into two problems – rendering performance on GPU and simulation on CPU.
- For rendering we optimized a lot of shaders to be as light as possible, and came up with quite creative solutions for some effects. The Black Hole effect is embedded in the same pixel shader as the rendering for the “game grid” (planet orbit/playfield), so we utilize the pixel power from the GPU more efficiently, etc.
- For the CPU side, we made a totally new custom gameplay architecture, and all gameplay code now runs multithreaded. It utilizes a fiber based system to switch the active simulation tasks to make sure that all cores are fully utilized. Separating the rendering and gameplay this way, we have most CPU cores calculating the collisions/frame updates for the whole frame duration.”
Phew! All that basically means is that’s how we got so many asteroids, enemies and special effects on the screen for you all out there to marvel and destroy :-)
Any fun things that have happened while working on PS Vita?
Sometimes funny things happen during game development when the game logic and systems aren’t quite there yet.
When we tweaked difficulty levels the speed of asteroids kept increasing, and at first we didn’t have any speed limits so when gravity (which keeps them in planet orbit) wasn’t strong enough, they began shooting and flying off into outer space and at the screen at ridiculous speeds.
The collisions were already working so the resulting galactic fireworks were quite an epic sight to behold…
What’s new in Super Stardust Delta?
Oh boy, there is so much!
First of all, every planet is new, with new enemies, and new end Bosses – and boy are they big! If you play the game in “Delta” mode, the player ship gets equipped with a new boost system that temporarily slows down time at the start of the boost, enabling players to navigate through tight spots with greater accuracy.
Then we have the three new types of smart bombs – Black Hole, Missile Strike, and EMP bomb, activated using PS Vita controls like rear touch, motion control, and touch screen.
Delta also has a bunch of different game modes – more than in any Stardust game to date! Five of those are brand new “mini-games”, built in and exclusive to the PS Vita. The “Advanced Fighter Pack” DLC adds four further modes familiar from Super Stardust HD (“Endless”, “Impact”, etc).
And for the first time in a Stardust game, players will finally be able to actually collect stardust – left behind by destroyed enemies and asteroids – that grants players with new power-ups and score bonuses.
You’re in for a real wild ride through a brand new galaxy full of epic sights and scenes.