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The story of Astro Bot Rescue Mission’s lost multiplayer mode

Find out more about the design changes that helped shape the PS VR platform adventure

Hi everybody, it’s a great pleasure to be back on the PS Blog for a new story on . Today is a bit special because we’re going to be lifting the lid over mishaps and hiccups we encountered while creating the game and how we got around solving them. Or not.

The thing to be aware of when developing creative content such as video games is that it inevitably means that some of the work will go to waste. That’s especially true with innovative games where the search for new experiences implies numerous iterations until things feel right.

So grab your Astro broom and let’s head out to Space! Please don’t expect amazing graphics here, these ideas were all abandoned before they got to be embellished by our lovely artists.

The Mecha Spider

Let’s start with the “Mecha Spider Enemy”: Imagined as a fire-spitting baddie, it required you to cut its legs using the shuriken gadget before Astro could give it the final punch. Getting this one to move well with four, three, two or even one remaining leg proved a real challenge. The distance was problematic too, as we needed space to get a good shuriken-flicking experience. In the end, we dropped the prototype and opted for the bamboo enemy — simpler, clearer, more versatile, and gratifying to shoot.

The canyon is lava

Levels of course also got their fair amount of chopping, if they weren’t dropped altogether. Luckily, the way we built them meant that a big piece could be cut off, readjusted, and applied to a different stage.

This is how part of the loooooong Canyon Stage was removed and ended up being used in the Volcano Stage. We cut out the last chunk and did a bit of resizing: building blocks from the rocky theme were quickly swapped for molten rocks, the water down below made way for bubbling lava, the enemies were replaced with fire-themed foes and voila!

Well, it sounds easier than it actually was, but it was definitely quicker than if we had created everything from scratch.

Idle animations

Astro himself was not safe from the occasional axing: we tried making him dance and sing to the level’s music whenever he would be idling.

We tried it and realized that besides the need for a voice that would not get annoying, the tempo of animations and music style were so varied for each level that we would have to create a large amount of bespoke animations.

Considering that the player would only notice this feature when inactive, the cost did not feel right and we ended putting our efforts into better animations for the environment and the stranded bots.

Multiplayer mode

And last but not least, our biggest cut of all: multiplayer mode!

Multiplayer was always at the heart of Team Asobi’s previous projects and it made sense for the team to continue that trend. So we developed a TV mode where three more players could join Astro and share the same play space, making their way to the goal together while climbing and punching each other and generally goofing around.

It was a lot of fun and hearing the team’s laughter every morning was an indicator we were making a fun local multiplayer game…

… Except when playing the game in VR, especially solo, things weren’t so fun: the levels built for multiplayer were too large and felt empty.

There wasn’t enough use of verticality or perspective, largely because the TV camera had to fit four players on screen at all times and therefore keep movement and amplitude at a minimum. Without noticing, we were slowly putting the priority on TV play at the expense of VR.

We were nine months into our 18 month development when a serious call had to be made: multiplayer was put on the back burner to unleash the creativity of the level designers and let the game’s “VR ness” bloom.

Within days, the change paid off: Levels such as Vertigo-go appeared as the new benchmark, full of unique gameplay only possible in VR and the tempo we had been searching for all along. More levels soon followed.

The rest, as they say, is history.

The multiplayer episode was a difficult time on the project. It was probably the hardest cut we ever made, and it created some controversy within the team, especially because it felt like we were taking something of quality away.

But at times, such decisions are necessary for the greater good and there is no more regret today as it allowed the game — and the team — to reach new heights.

I hope you enjoyed this insight on hiccups and mishaps from Astro Bot Rescue Mission. Thank you for your continued encouragement and please let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Until next time, friends!

9 Comments
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My favourite game of the gen, please can we have some DLC or a fully fledged sequel?

Any chance of Puppeteer in VR?

1.1

Puppeteer is an amazing game. Shame it’s doesn’t suit the PS now/PS3 resolution very well. would be amazing in 4k and would make a stunning VR game.

I said it the moment I played it a couple of years ago but no one was listening.

Amazing game and an interesting read. The only things I would have liked (other than just more of it because it’s so good) would be additional save spots so I could start again from scratch – I know you can create a new profile but it’s not very convenient. It was also a crime that you didn’t make a gallery for all the toys you get from the claw machine, the models were so cool to hold and look at but you only get to see them once before they become part of the big diorama.

PhantomOfOpera 19 July, 2019 @ 16:10
3

I loved this game. I can only wish for DLC or a sequel

What an amazing game!

Having said that, I haven’t finished the main missions as I don’t want the experience to come to an end. I think I have 2 more worlds left to go.

‘Big brother’ is my favourite stage so far.

5

I’m glad the multiplayer was cut. VR needs more unique single player experiences and multiplayer just ruins that, especially ones that rely on online.

6

I may buy a PS VR just because of this game. (oh, and because of Beat Saber) Any other games that are worth buying?

Oh yeah! You got Tetris Effect, Wipeout Omega Collection, Resi 7, Farpoint, Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, RIGS.

7

The reason I loved these games was because of the multiplayer aspect. Playroom VR allowed two people to play, and I expected this to continue in Astro Bot (hell, the cover still says it’s for more than 1 player). There are so many single player VR games already, so when we have friends over, do we just expect them to sit and watch us play the game with the VR headset on?

I was shattered when I loaded up Astro Bot and saw there was no mode for 2 or more players. It killed the game for me. How about releasing a multi-player version or expansion?

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