PixelJunk, Bringing 2D Back in HD

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Hey everyone, I’m Dylan Cuthbert, I run a small developer studio called Q-Games based in Kyoto, Japan. You could say I have a fairly long history with Sony, having now worked for SCEE, SCEA and SCEI at different points in my career so far, all of which helped me begin talks with them earlier this year around a new game series concept – one that would really capitalize on the HD aspects of the PS3.

When I was first messing around with the PS3 a couple of years back, one thing that really impressed me was the clarity of 1080p, so I decided I wanted to try and return to 2D games and use this HD clarity and resolution to re-energize the classic game play of my youth, not just Nintendo-style 2D games, but ZX Spectrum and Commodore-64 style games which were much more quirky. So, I took the nickname I use on a Japanese blog I post on, “PixelJunk,” and started up a whole team at Q-Games dedicated to thinking up cool 2D and HD concepts for a whole series using that moniker.

We knocked out about 30 concepts before deciding on three to move forward with in parallel (as each one finishes up we begin production on a new one, juggling three at any one time). The first one to be finished will be PixelJunk™ Racers, a quirky little slot car style racing game with lots of weird rules and conditions for finishing the races. Additional titles should appear at a pace of about one every 6-8 weeks. (That’s the plan anyway!)

For PixelJunk™ Racers, we’re working tightly with the production team inside Sony’s Santa Monica Studios to finalize all the last details and it’s looking to be a brilliant little game. One thing that fires me up is that even though there’s a huge party play side to the game, with up to 7 players racing simultaneously, the single-player experience is equally fun and really challenging! In fact, being more of a loner gamer, I actually prefer the single-player experience as I like to turn off the lights with a big TV glowing in front of me and fight through all the challenges by myself. Online rankings and such also add a lot of dimension to the single-player experience.

Until now, I’ve always gravitated toward big titles, so it’s been a very interesting process making a smaller title with just a handful of people; it really reminds me of how it was to make games back in the 80s when I was growing up. Back then, I would knock out a fairly good game working evenings after school (I didn’t get much homework done) and it would only take 6-8 weeks. Of course, in order to flesh out the HD aspect and give people simple but original gameplay, the games in the PixelJunk™ series are taking a touch longer to make than that, but it’s a stark difference to the 20-40 man team for two years type of affair that seems to have become the minimum requirement to make games in the current industry.

Shortening and simplifying game development, and opening up communication with the players through blogs like this, is really helping game developers become addicted to developing games again (like those homegrown developers in the past who would lock themselves in their bedrooms), and this is going to start affecting innovation enormously over the next 2-3 years. Of course, there is still plenty of room for the big projects and, fingers crossed, they never disappear, but cheaper price points, lower development costs and shorter work cycles are going to create a whole load of diversity and I am really looking forward to seeing what will be born from all that.

Anyway, I’ll sign off for now. Our team here will read all your comments, so fire away!


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