Our PS Vita Development Experience

Welcome to my latest post about our PS Vita development and self-publishing experience.

We have now reached a crossroads whereby we have developed our two titles, Pub Games and VTrax to a point, which is somewhere around Alpha. We are out of money now though, so the future is uncertain.

Currently both titles are ‘on-hold’, and at the moment we are doing a couple of smaller titles to dip our toes into the market on a few other systems including iOS, Android and Windows 8. We have also developed two PSM titles, which was good fun. The first of which, Life of Pixel is out on the 9th January.

So, back to Vita…

Scope

The Vita is a really nice machine, with potentially superb graphics performance. We really wanted to utilize this as much as possible – with nice shaders, real-time shadows, reflections and so on. We did this – but an issue we hit was that the Vita just isn’t as powerful as say a PS3 or Xbox, so it required a fair few months of code optimisations to get decent performance. It was hard-core for a developer as small as we are, but we were delighted with the results and how nice the games looked on the Vita.

We have now got it to a point where all the effects we wanted (all bar water/liquid) are in there and running at a decent speed. It was the first time I had done art to take advantage of shaders and with nice RT shadows on the environments, so it was a blast – I’d say the most enjoyable 3D work I’ve ever done, buy a long way.

For both titles the core game components are all in and done, including gameplay, game modes, rewards and we just have a few Vita IPA specific tasks left to complete, such as Trophies, DLC, Online support, etc… Oh – and a few more tracks to design in VTrax.

In all honesty, given our budget and manpower we probably bit off a little more than we could chew. Expectations for Vita software are very high, particularly within say the car racing genre, and there are several incredibly good AAA examples on the machine. At times it was a little daunting – for example when I saw Need for Speed – Most Wanted – it really made me think; WOW! That is incredible, Yikes! Then again, we’re only a 2-man team, so you have to try and get a sense of perspective.

We have definitely tried to create two solid, unique titles that would be a good addition to the platform, and I feel given our resources we’ve done a good job. Hopefully we can one day find a way to finish them.

Finances

With each passing month so money became tighter and tighter, and our hope for the platform took a few knocks. I have lost count of the number of stories I have read now about what a failure Vita is, how bad sales expectations are and so on. It genuinely makes me sad, not just because I worry about how we’ll do, but because it really is such a GREAT machine.

I have personally funded much of our Vita development by reduced wages or often no wages at all. I have been evicted from my home once, and very nearly (this Christmas 2012 to be exact) a second time. But through all this, I have really enjoyed my time working on Vita.

Possibly, if I took a purely financial view, I should have stopped long ago, but I kept at the development as we had put SO MUCH time, effort, and love (yes LOVE :)) into both games that to abandon them unfinished seemed unthinkable. Alas we have now reached a point where it is impossible to continue – we just can’t carry on and complete the titles without income.

Future Plans

In the cold light of day, for us to develop and self-publish two Vita titles without any extra funding was just too large an undertaking. If the option had been there I’d like to think we would have released a couple of smaller Vita titles by now, but when we initially began the Sony IPA requirements were much more severe than they are now so we got a little carried away and promised more than we could realistically deliver.

I would dearly love to continue Vita development and complete our games and see them out there on the PS Store. It is such a nice machine – I love the features like twin sticks and physical buttons; a proper gamer’s machine.

I’ll close with a slideshow with a few screens from Pub Games and VTrax so far. I am really pleased with how they look, especially as only 2 of us worked on the titles. I’d like to think we did the Vita justice. If anyone has any ideas or suggestions on how we might get the funding to complete these games we’d love to hear from you.

Screenshots

7 Responses to “Our PS Vita Development Experience”

  1. DarrenJanuary 11, 2013 at 10:46 am #

    Um not sure how much funding is needed for those projects but since I lobe life of pixel so much I would donate funds, especially if it means a 16 bit sequel to life of pixel (hint hint)

    Hit me up with some details…..

    Darren.

  2. RichHWJanuary 11, 2013 at 11:36 am #

    Thanks Darren :)

    A few people have mentioned Kickstarter. We’re a little uncertain as we don’t think a Vita only title would get noticed. Currently I’m thinking over this one as to what would be a good approach.

    Pixel 2 – the 16-bit era is something we definitely want to do.

  3. vixJanuary 14, 2013 at 12:10 am #

    I think if you somehow ask to Vita owners we can donate founds to kickstarter.

  4. ianJanuary 22, 2013 at 11:10 pm #

    go for kickstarter. life of pixel frustrated the hell out of me……just like all thise old platformers did :)

  5. KosmoCrisisMarch 28, 2013 at 4:56 am #

    Any update on this story? Still having funding issues? Now that Sony is making a huge push for indie devs (had a blast at the PlayStation Indie Arcade in SF Monday night) I’d hope there were some Sony sponsored options to look into.

    I would be extremely honored to make your Kickstarter the first one I have ever invested in. These two games look fantastic, and I own NFS too. I worked on the pub games in Gangs of London on PSP when I worked at Sony. I want this.

    • RichHWMarch 30, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

      There was no Sony funding available unfortunately, but we’ve been thinking over options recently especially in light of the recent indie and concept approval announcements, so we’re going to try and finish these – Pub Games first.

      Initially there will be a couple of things we have to drop (such as online MP on Pub Games). We will be trying to make it a great game though, and a lot of the work is already done.

      So we’ll be resuming development start of April, and by hook or by crook we’ll get them finished.

      Just hope Vita titles perform better than PSM titles. Pixel earned Euro 1800 month 1, down to Euro 1000 month 2, so not enough to cover development for PSM titles.

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