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How narrative-driven puzzler Papers, Please was refitted for today’s PS Vita release

The game's creator details the three year journey to bring the game to the PlayStation handheld

First item, top of the page. This version of Papers, Please was announced over three years ago. That’s a long time brewing for a relatively simple pixel-art game. There’s a few ingredients in the mix for this delay but the main fault lies with me.

I had a great bunch of people to help with this project — all the port programming was handled by James Gray and others, engine support from WayForward, testing by Ratloop Asia, and submission assistance from Coatsink.

My responsibility was gluing it all together and in the long tradition of “one simple job”, the best I could manage was the slow-setting kind of glue that takes forever to dry. Working as a single developer has its advantages but managing multiple projects is not one of them. Unfortunately, it was Papers, Please on PS Vita that suffered the most and I apologise for that.

Papers, Please for PS Vita

The game

Ok, the game is available today so let’s turn this around and segue into what we’ve got here: Papers, Please on PS Vita. The most portable version yet, document inspection and stamping in the supple palms of your capable hands.

Content-wise, this version has all the features of the desktop and tablet versions: all 31 days of single player story mode with branching narratives, 20 endings, “endless” mode with online leaderboards, and stamping – so much stamping.

The squeeze

Even though it’s a low-resolution pixel-art game, Papers, Please was originally designed to be played on a big screen. When I wrote it back in 2013 I’d just come off a mobile-only project and wanted to rebel against the low-density large-touch-target design necessary for mobile. So the game packs a lot of small stuff into a big space. There’s three separate sections of the screen that need to be visible at all times: booth, desk, and checkpoint.

The big challenge in making it work well on PS Vita was fitting everything onto the smaller screen without sacrificing the core document shuffling mechanics. Luckily PS Vita has a great touchscreen and, critically, nearby physical controls. For this version we increased the desk size slightly, floated the booth over the border view only when needed, and added vertical scrolling to shift between the booth+checkpoint and the desk. The analog sticks and directional buttons can be used to quickly scroll up/down and after a small adjustment it feels completely natural to use your left thumb for scrolling and your right fingers for touching (or vice versa, no preference, left=right, all love.)

The tech

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Papers, Please was developed in a programming environment called Haxe/OpenFL. Haxe is the language and OpenFL the engine that enables Flash-like applications to run natively on desktops (PC/Mac/Linux) or mobile devices. When taking a game from desktop to console, it’s not uncommon to just rewrite everything with a more console-friendly engine. I had a few offers for that sort of thing early on but as a hopeless engineer it felt like a waste to ignore Haxe/OpenFL’s inherent multi-platform capabilities.

A few years ago there was no way to build Haxe/OpenFL projects for consoles but with a little time, money, the hard work of James Gray, Lars Doucet from Fortress of Doors, OpenFL’s Joshua Granick, Nilsen Filc, and the generous contribution of WayForward’s engine tech, we were able to create a console target for Haxe/OpenFL. One of our goals with all that extra work is to hopefully benefit other games in a similar situation.

The destination, finally

This version was a long time coming and I appreciate your patience. Thank you to all the fans of the game that have encouraged me over the years and I hope you enjoy playing it on PS Vita too.

Glory to Arstotzka.

17 Comments
2 Author replies

Really enjoyed my time on PC with this. Anyone with a PS Vita really should give this ago it’s incredible. Sadly I no longer have a Vita. However, Is the PS4 version still on track for a release? It’s still advertised on the main website: https://www.playstation.com/en-gb/games/papers-please-ps4/

According to Lucas’s own twitter, there likely won’t be a PS4 version. Touch control on Vita can easily replace the mouse of the PC version, but that’s not the case with a dual shock controller, even the touch pad.

1.2

Right. Pointer/touch control is a core element of the mechanics. Shuffling the papers around just doesn’t translate well to sticks. It’s probably not impossible to make it work somehow but would change the gameplay enough that I haven’t explored it.

This game, like every other game, should have a Platinum trophy, but sadly it doesn’t!

Yeah. When I played it back on PC I found it difficult and long enough to deserve a platinum trophy. Not to mention the tons of endings and hidden collectibles!

Thanks for bringing your game to Vita. I bought it this night but I hadn’t got the time to play it yet. I know what I’m doing tonight: stamping, stamping everywhere!

I’m going to have to give this game a go. Heard so much about it but haven’t played it yet at all.

5

Man, I’m so happy it’s finally here! Waiting for my Vita to charge to start STAMPING as I type this. You are an absolute legend, Lucas!

Thanks Lucas. Papers, Please is among my favorite indie games with Hotline Miami and FTL. Any possibility that the Vita version gets a physical release in the future?

6.1

Thanks! I’m looking into a physical release. No promises but I will turn the gears.

Carnivius_Prime 12 December, 2017 @ 21:28
7

Can’t say it’s a game I enjoyed (just not my thing) but a friend of mine got really into it and I told her it’s on Vita and she’s happy. :)

Signing in to personally thank you for bringing this game to the Vita and not cancelling at the 11th hour. This is a game i have looked forward to for some time, and i feel will be perfectly suited to the console.

Despite what many think, the vita remains a hugely viable platform for the right types of titles. The library is vast and full of gems. I see papers please as only enhancing the rich library further.

I hope that all of your efforts to bring the game to the platform are well rewarded by the community.

Hello,

Wonderful game, I bought it for my macbook some time ago.

I have just bought the Vita version, for on-the-go bureaucracy.

thank you.

GLORY TO ARSTOZTKA

I’ve been playing for the last 2 days and it’s freat on Vita. The touch controls feel really intuitive to move Papers around, better than mouse controls I reckon. The words can be a bit small on the screen but otherwise it’s perfect.

I bought, and absolutely loved this on iPad. I may well be tempted to buy it again for trophies. It really is a brilliant game, one of my favourites I played the year it was released. Glad you finally managed to get a Vita port built, hopefully it’ll sell well and you’ll make some money off it. Looking forward to seeing what game you come up with next!

Isn’t it interesting how games are still being pushed to the Vita although people don’t have any real means of purchasing the system anymore? I love my Vita and wish more people would get a chance to use one… Here is hoping for a PS Vita 2 or similar :)

I don’t think Sony is all that interested, unfortunately. I hope we’ll get something that plays Vita games (and has a touchscreen…) at least.

I have to say my small piece here. I was sceptic after hearing Papers Please coming out on Vita. However after watching small Let’s Play video of that port I was assured game works fantastic. I bought Papers Please on Steam when it came out, but I never had chance to finish it. Today I bought the game on Vita and that port is just amazing. Touch screen works fantastic, everything doesn’t have any issues with frame rate, music, etc. and price is just perfect for that game. Thank you Lucas Pope for making this amazing game and I do hope more people will buy it on Vita.

PS If you can respond, are you working on new game?

14

Yes!!

I’ve been itching to play this on Vita after having loved it on PC years ago, patience is a virtue to all good citizens of Arstoztka, we have been rewarded.

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