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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  • I enjoy these kind of racers quite a bit. Fond memories of Supercars and Ivan Ironman Stewarts Off Road Racing come flooding back.

    I still love 2D and good pixel work and think there’s still plenty of scope to employ it in HD games.

    Having said that, looking at the screenshots in this topic, it seems to me that an oppurtunity has been missed. Much of the artwork seems to lack character to me. It comes across as functional and workman like. I’m not wanting to sound overly critical and I appreciate the game is not finished and that it’s necessary to have clarity in game graphics so that gameplay isn’t compromised.

    However, one of the reason I still love 2D is that it lends itself so well to expressing character. The incidental detail around the tracks just seem a little bland compared to what pixel art and high resolution might offer.

    Perhaps there is lots of character in there that can’t be conveyed by static images, perhaps not.

    Clearly, the most important aspect is that the game is fun to play and I’d favour that over any other characteristic. It just seems a little out-of-sorts that the full potential of 2D graphics, in an article about using 2D graphics for games, doesn’t appear to have been realised based on the images shown.

    Good luck with the rest of the project and with your other projects.

  • $10 and you have a definite sale!

  • So do you drive like a normal race car(D pad left right) or like a slot car (just speed up and down)?

    I don’t get it.

  • Everyone seems to forget that Pixel Junk is like a slot car game…. You have three choices of lanes you can be in, bottom, middle, and top. Not much fun if you ask me.

    Save your ten dollars and buy Super Sprint…a game where you have actual control over your car.

  • The idea of 2D High Definition games really appeals to me.

    Hopefully the remake of Street Fighter will be successful enough so that companies (Konami) consider making more games like this.

    A new Castlevania 2D HD game would be beyond awesome. Somebody should pass this info to them.

  • I realy need pre-paid cards when this hits the store, any news on that?

  • This looks like a blast. I’m really looking forward to playing it.

  • We don’t need a force-feedback wheel, we need a wheel we can grab and spin, spin spin!

  • Why not revive Monkey Island. That was a great 2D game. This little car racing stuf thingie is …not.

  • Does this mean it’s being released today? I hope so it looks like a ton of fun. I look forward to other PixelJunk software.

    I loved the days of early gaming and all the innovation. So far we have a few returns of commodore gaming, SSD HD and now this. Bring them on, my wallet is ready.

  • So each of the 30 games are going to be full priced?
    I am a fan of the smaller dev cycle, but if it only takes 2 months to make the game, that is a fraction of the length of time it takes to make a real game, but if the game is 10 bucks, that is 1/10 the price of a full game that took 2 years to make, and the team is much smaller…. It just seems to me like i’ve been getting ripped off with some of these downloadable games.

  • This Game looks awesome but you guys should point out that you NEED high definition to play this game. on SD you just can’t see it that well, you should re-name it “Pixel-junk racers HD” or something.

  • I keep waiting for PSN games like this to be playable on both the PS3 and PSP – then I would be more inclined to purchase.
    For the PS3, I tend to want to play the “big budget” games… but for the times when my husband is watching the HDTV, it would be nice to play this type of game on my PSP (then switch directly to the PS3 when he is done with his hockey game!)
    … my thoughts on these type of games anyways!

  • Elsa43, Calling All Cars is supposed to be one of the first if I recall correctly.

  • Elsa43, if you look as good as your sword and if you are sick of your husband hogging the TV to watch hockey, you can come round to my place and play on my…. PS3.
    A nod’s as good as a wink to a blind bat!

  • The range of content coming to the 3 is great. Blu-ray games all the way to PSN games. This is the last time Im going to say this. Keep the content coming.

  • Looks very good.

    What are some of the other games that you guys are working on? Can we get some hints?

  • Sony i think you should invest in creating more cellshaded games for the psp. Why? because they look better. The colors are rich and brighter, and the textures are pleasing to the eye. The ps2 type games such as syphonfilter are just plain ps2 look alikes and the poor textures are not easy on the eyes. Cell shaded games such as Naruto, Dragon ballz, PaRappaTheRapper i blieve really attract buyers. I believe this as i was really impressed by PaRappaTheRapper, and dragon ballz. Tekken was good but i have not seen anything close to that quality since then.

  • This is great for us gamers. i seem to have less and less time to spend gaming and this type of “fix” is just what i need. I am not sure how good this is for my already filling up hard drive though. Maybe Pixel Junk should create an external drive with the Sony badge on it as another side project?

  • I bought a Wii for 2D, not a PS3

  • @ 71

    Thanks to games like these I don’t have to buy a wii and can get my occasional fix for 2D gaming on in glorious 1080p!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • @ L3371 : If I’m not mistaken, the game engine is actually 3D, but since the camera is fixed over head, it makes it look 2D. So it’s purely a perspective thang.

  • if this cost 7 dollars or less than count me in. flow was overpriced

  • Hey, that looks interesting but I’m not sure if its my kind of game. Please have a demo when you release it so that we can try it before buying it. I won’t buy anything that I have not played beforehand.

  • Will these new PSN games be at the Tokyo Game Show? And can we get an update on anything that Square Enix shows for the PS3. I read that the FFXIII games are going to be shown along with a new game from Square for the PS3.

  • An $8 release would be great. Some people might not like the idea of this game, but I do- it reminds me of some of those multiplayer racing games on the Nintendo or on an Arcade machine. Good idea w/ the 1080p, as well as having traffic throughout the track. Way to twist the rules around!!!

  • I think this is the sort of game that we should start seeing available for the PSP, given it’s a game meant for some quirky gameplay and looks like it would fit a small screen well.

    Ah well, looks good and I hope to see some more like this and hopefully some portable versions

  • Niiice. I love the idea of these byte size games, and it’s encouraging to know that we’ll have access to some made by some talented game-smiths such as yourselves. I’m stoked at the idea of this slot car game – anything that’ll take all the controllers I can round up will make for a great one to play with mates.

  • Hey everyone,

    Thanks for all the comments!

    The demo and full game will be on the store very soon now and the price will be, as far as I am aware, less than 10 bucks.

    You can unlock and purchase the game directly from the demo so give it a play and if you like what you see, fund us so we can keep experimenting and making more quirky stuff like this!

    I agree with the posters regarding a HD remake of Castlevania and other such classics – in full-HD with all the extra detail and in wide-screen, those kinds of games would be such a breath of fresh air. I don’t want to simply play them again in SD, I want to see them re-invented for 1080p.

  • That’s a cool way to purchase the game- right from the demo. Looks like console gaming can be moving towards some PC gaming techniques.

  • “$10 and you have a definite sale!”
    I mean, come on. It should not be more than $5.99-$6.99 if not less. Dylan points out it will be less than $10, I don’t think it is going to be 9.99 :)

    Not that I don’t respect the amount of work gone into it, but leisure games like this should be cheap, and they will sell loads more, maybe with slightly less profit but much more people would buy it if cheap, somewhat evening out the less profit-per-sale.

  • I really think Sony should consider making this a show exclusivly on the PSN you know with the weekly updates I have really grown fond of these clips and almost shed a tear downloading the last one yesterday, I got a crazy good ideal how to charge for them without any mishaps or bad PR and really think it would help with other content like this down the road.

  • 2D should NEVER die! Specially in fighting and platform games!

    I really miss 2D games man…

  • VGBlogger.com - » New PixelJunk Racers Trailer

    […] to catch it on your PS3 as of yet. Q-Games President and Executive Producer Dylan Cuthbert wrote a fantastic post on the PlayStation.Blog a couple days ago detailing how the concept for the PixelJunk series came […]

  • Damn; 6-8 weeks a game! I saw the HD trailer for this and I was really excited.

    I can’t wait!

  • There needs to be a remake of BIONIC COMMANDO!!!!!

  • AznSniper, the untitled TGS game is by Q Entertainment, the company that made Lumines, Every Extend Extra and Ninety Nine Nights. Q-Games is a different company.

  • I’m really looking forward to this game. This sort of 2D old school simple pick up n play action is right up my street. I think these sort of games are what is needed to really make the PSN store excel. I can relate a lot to the old school term of thinking from Dulan and want these sort of 2D games to do really well.
    The fact I get to play them in 1080P on my 52″ TV just makes it all the sweeter. :-)
    I hope you can realise the 6-8 week period for releases as I will be looking forward to each and every one.

  • I’ve not 1 clue what this game is going to be about. Do you race? Do you hit things and blow them up? Is it a shooteR? I can’t make heads and or tails of it. I’ve bought so many PSN games and never played any of them hardly. I’ll no doubt buy this just to say I have it, but we’ll see if it holds my interest… I’m on pins and needles here.

  • I like the concept, since my kids and I are into slot car racing.

    My favorite family racer is Wacky Races on the Dreamcast. For some reason it strikes a chord with the whole family – ages 8, 10, 30 something, and well let’s just say I’ve hit the big 40 :..c (

    I have trouble seeing the tiny cars though. An occasional track breakage, where maybe one lane ends up jumping a little to get to the other side might make things more interesting. Or maybe one part of the track can catch on fire and the cars catch on fire for a few seconds as they go through, that type of thing. Kids love that stuff.

    I haven’t even played. Comments just based on the trailer.

    Seriously though, how many games are there on the ps3 that allow the whole family to race? Very few. I had to break out twisted metal black just to get some basic racing type action in for the 4 of us.

  • To be frank, while I’m interested in this game, anything above $5 for something so simple would be hard to justify. I think a $3 price like Piyotama would be ideal.

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