Interview: Beatshapers Reveals New Mini Development Details & Discusses BreakQuest & Melody Bloxx

breakquest 1One of the PSP mini titles I’m most excited to get my hands on is BreakQuest. I originally played the game back in 2004 on the PC and had a blast with it. For an Arkanoid style game it was fresh and creative.

I was lucky enough to speak to Alexey Menshikov, the CEO of Beatshapers, about his experience of bringing the game to the PSP.

Who are you and what is Beatshapers?

Alexey Menshikov: My name is Alexey Menshikov, I’m Founder and CEO of Ukraine based Beatshapers. We started in 2006, as a console and casual game development label. We even won the PlayFirst Developer Dash award back in 2007, but now we are an independent company licensed to develop on all modern consoles. Our key team members recently worked on IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey (btw PSP digital version to be released tomorrow, so actually we have two PSPgo launch games) and IGF Mobile 2009 finalist Rhythm of War PSP. Our target is the rapidly growing digital downloadable market, so we starting with PSP minis platform.

I personally come from audio/game audio industry: worked as audio designer and producer for the past 12 years on more than 20 titles on various platforms (Canivores series, Vivisector: Beast Inside, EA’ Black, Cryostasis: Sleep of Reason and more) and had my own audio software company, delaydots.com, which was sold in spring 2009. That’s probably explains our special interest to music related games perhaps =)

Why BreakQuest?

AM: First of all I’m big fan of the BreakQuest game. When I tried the demo back in 2004 I was excited about the mix and feeling of using physics/art style and audio in such a new way, so I loved the game immediately. Back in 2006, I suddenly recalled BreakQuest and after preliminarily dealings with Nurium Games, I tried to pitch it to publishers. The problem is that the title was quite small for them and PSP (as publishers said) performed good only for big brands at that period of time, so first attempt was unsuccessful. I never gave up, so back in 2007 the game was approved as a launch title for another console which never happed for reasons I can’t reveal. Anyway, when Sony announced the PSP minis opportunity and approached us with the initiative it seemed like perfect timing for BreakQuest, so we made it.

breakquest 2

How did you find the process of porting your game to PSP. What has been your overall experience developing a PSP Mini.

AM: We just finished IL-2 Sturmovik PSP several SKUs, so we are know everything that Sony can demand from PSP game and porting process was very smooth.

It was only two of us. I was the producer, iso burner, tester and engineer who ported the game. In total, it took 2 months from PSP-screen size PC prototype playable to PSP master disk, but again, we had experience with the PSP platform in the past. But to be honest, this is best project I’ve developed in terms of development process.

What was the biggest challenge you faced.

AM: There were two of them; screen resolution and controls. Screen resolution raised two more issues. Because of the smaller resolution, not all levels fit into PSP resolution, so we changed them a bit. Secondly, smaller resolution affected the game play, we found it a bit harder to play on PSP, and so we changed several levels in order to simplify them.

The controls issue was extremely important so we solved it by offering player two control options: play via Analog Stick with adjustable sensitivity or Cursor controls with turbo button. I think our players will find the best controls for them.

Have you been happy with the development process Sony has set up for the Minis program and have you been happy with Sony’s support.

AM: That was perfect and yes, we are happy how the process was. Sony gave us excellent support with dev kits and general development inquires. I have to thanks to George Bain, our SCEE account manager and friend of mine for the excellent support and help.

Is there any advice you would like to give to other developers looking at PSP Minis as a possibility?

AM: First, play as many PSP games as you can – that will teach you the PSP game feeling and you will see how other developers handles issues. Secondly, read the PSP development documentation carefully. No really, if you have no PSP experience, read the documentation that Sony supply especially TRC documents.  When you start PSP game development, think about controls first. 50% of console game experience is a controls convenience, this is very important.

Speaking specific, apply to PEGI/ESRB/OFLC rating as earlier as possible. This is quite a slow process, so it’s better to be ready before you are ready to submit the game itself.

You are currently developing another game for the PSP, Melody Bloxx. Not much is known about this game yet. Can you tell us a little bit more about it?

AM: I like fusion. I like to mix genres and things so I had the idea to merge Lumines and match-3 game during my trip to New York this spring. We made first the prototype in a couple of weeks with several iterations and we liked the feeling that the game delivered to players. Unfortunately, work on MelodyBloxx has been delayed in order to get BreakQuest released in time but now we are back to development. Also, now we have several publishers interested in this game, so we might consider a co-publishing deal for MelodyBloxx. We think this game will work on other platforms as well, so stay tuned.

MelodyBloxx-6

The future plans

AM: As I have said, we have big plans for digital downloadable platforms, so right now we have several PC games licensed for PSP minis as well as our own ideas, and part of the team now working on PS3 PSN prototype using Gamebryo Lightspeed technology. So, stay tuned.

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Comments

6 Responses to “Interview: Beatshapers Reveals New Mini Development Details & Discusses BreakQuest & Melody Bloxx”
  1. Count says:

    So many good games to expect >_<

  2. David Black says:

    Hey Chris, do you know if they are planning to release Rhythm of War? I discovered that title last year during the IGF Mobile competition and I have heard nothing but good things about it.

    Great interview btw. I hope Breakquest launches on the US store soon.

  3. Aktion says:

    Rhythm of War has been canned for several reasons, one of reason was same as with initial BreakQuest PSP pitch – publishers wasn’t sure about PSP non-big brands performance back in 2006.
    I was game producer and my team made art/design. Because rights belong to Russia based KranX Productions, I didn’t moved forward with Row game except IGF Mobile nomination. If it be released in future, it will be another development team. (I’m just hosting that teaser page at beatshapers.com).

    And yes, BreakQuest goes to US store soon.

  4. David Black says:

    Thanks for the update on Rhythm of War, Aktion. This sounds like an all too familiar story from the world of PSP development. I hope that one day we will see the title on PSP.

    And I’m glad to hear that I’ll be able to get my hands on BreakQuest soon!

  5. Count says:

    I would love it so much if there’s gonna be a PSP Mini remake of “Zombies ate my neighbor” or at least release “Herc’s adventure” for PS1 so I can transfer it on a PSP once I plan to try and get a PSP.

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