Super Stardust Portable Coming Soon

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Hi, my name is Kimmo Lahtinen and I was the programming lead for Housemarque on Super Stardust Portable. Super Stardust Portable is the PSP version of our previously released PS3 title Super Stardust HD with some nice additions we think you’ll enjoy. And you’ll be able to enjoy them very soon. Super Stardust Portable will be available for download on the PlayStation Store on Thursday, December 4th for just $9.99!

If there is one word to describe the game, that would be ‘intense’. Your goal in the game is to simply destroy the waves after waves of enemies we throw at you and try to not get killed. If you’re not constantly on the edge of your seat when trying to blow up everything in sight with dozens of asteroids coming at you all the while screen is filled with explosions and fireworks, you should probably apply for a job as an astronaut or something. :)

When we first got the idea from Sony about doing a PSP version of the game, we were thrilled. We think that Super Stardust is a perfect fit for a portable device, do a 10 minute session of Endless while riding on the bus into school. Pick up and play, it’s like it was designed to be portable from the start. Then it hit us, how are we going to get this thing running on the PSP. Even though the PSP is the most powerful for a hand-held console, it’s still a totally different animal from the processing power of the PS3. We’ve got more than ten thousand objects and hundreds of thousands particles flying around in the PS3 version and we probably use more than 10GHz of processing power from the machine.

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What we learned from developing the PS3 version is that sphere level is actually quite a large playing space and requires thousands and thousands of objects rotating around before the game level doesn’t feel empty. It took a lot of trial and error to get that working on the PS3 version. The PSP version is played on a wrapping 2D field that is optimized for the PSP screen. There was a lot of tuning to make it not feel either crowded or too large so we could have the gameplay and levels stay as fast as before. After we found the optimum size, we felt that we had lost nothing of the old intensity in the conversion. In addition we actually do a few tricks to make it look like you’re still playing around a planet too. After a lot of work and because of the choices we made, we managed to get more than a thousand objects on the field with 60 frames per second. That’s a lot of things to shoot. We’ve also got the Super Stardust trademark particle effects working on the PSP, so the explosions look as pretty as ever.

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Another change we faced was the controls. The PS3 version uses two analog sticks for control and shooting. How are we going to get that working on the PSP where there’s only one analog stick available? What we decided to go with is to map the shooting to the face buttons and let the game interpolate the shooting direction when needed. This took a lot of effort to get right, but the end result feels perfect. We were glad to find out that even for those that are completely new to PSP system, it didn’t take long to figure out the controls. We also made a new shooting mode to make full use of the buttons. If you tap a shooting direction, the shots will spray around. This also makes for another interesting gameplay choice. More weapon power on one focused point or less in a wide spray? The controls are also configurable, so if someone out there doesn’t like the choices we made, they can remap the controls for their own liking.

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Some other new things we have for PSP version:

  • A completely new mode: Impact. In impact mode you cannot shoot, just bomb and boost. The boost is a bit different in this mode in that when you boost through something, you receive more boost energy and your multiplier goes up at the same time (max 100x), so the key to high scores is to chain your boosts into as long as you can and to collect points with huge multipliers.
  • A new final boss: One complaint on the PS3 version was that the final boss was way too easy. I should warn you that your first meeting with Professor Schaumunds’ new machine of destruction could leave a bit of something in you pants. ;)
  • Even more intense gameplay. We still have a casual mode that is suitable for everyone, but one thing we found out about the PS3 version is that for the best players it takes hours and hours to complete the arcade game. For this version we have upped the difficulty curve too after a few of the first difficulty levels. This is a portable game, you shouldn’t have to play a day to get challenged in the game even if you are that good.

Our main goals were to keep the same high intensity gameplay from the PS3 version and do it at a consistent 60 frames per second. We feel that both goals were successfully completed, but I’ll leave the final judgement to you.

See you on the high score lists! (Yes we have online high scores too!)

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