It’s almost one year since we announced that forma.8 was coming to PS4 and PS Vita on PlayStation.Blog, so it’s time for an update, isn’t it? In the announcement we shared a “late 2014” as a tentative release date and, as you can see since the game is still not available we, err… missed it, plain and simple. Two factors contributed to the delay: first we focused on launching Futuridium EP Deluxe on PS4 and PS Vita and it took a bit more than expected, then we decided to raise the bar on forma.8, with a massive visual and technical overhaul.
As crazy as it may sound for a small team like MixedBag and on a long in the making project like forma.8 (we started working on it back in 2011!), we really felt that we had to try harder and polish the game further, pushing more and more to reach our original vision. And we’re proud to finally share our progress with you for the first time here, right from the new demo we’ll show at GDC next week!
Bringing An Alien World to Life
Forma.8 is an action adventure where you pilot a small robot probe stranded on an alien planet, on a dangerous mission to recover a powerful energy source from huge underground caves and bring it back to an orbiting space mothership that is too low on energy to continue its intergalactic voyage. It’s a so-called ‘metroidvania’, where you have to explore a huge interconnected open world, solving puzzles, killing enemies and getting new power ups to progress.
The alien planet and its eerie mood plays a huge part in the game, and giving it the right look makes or breaks the whole forma.8 experience. First, while we settled on a peculiar, very stylized graphic design early on, there’s a lot of subtle detail we can add without giving it up. This is a quick look on how the game looked like back in 2012 and how it looks now, from the same area.
This is one of the zones that changed less from start, please don’t search online for other screenshots from the 2012 build, we know they’re around and they could be embarrassing for us! Oh we were so young and inexperienced… Here are a couple more examples of the forma.8 improved look.
Another thing we’re working on hard are animations. Everything was a bit stiff before, but thanks to the addition of the awesome Andrea Marchi to our team (by the way, welcome Andrea!), things really changed during the last two months. Andrea is a very talented 3D modeler and animator and his years of experience are helping us injecting more life into the forma.8 world. And for life we mean… say hi to one of our new friends, the creepy giant spider!
All enemies and creatures in forma.8 are being redone from scratch by Andrea, sporting new animations and sometimes a totally new look.
To sum the redesign up, we’re focusing on improving all the particle and special effects. Ranging from subtle ambient particles suspended in the air to big explosions and lava burst, with added full screen effects like wobbly heat haze distortions in the vulcano area.
Under the Hood
We’re using Unity3D as our engine for forma.8, and since the start of the project things evolved a lot: four years are ages in videogame and technology land. When we started working on forma.8, Unity offered a 3D physics engine and almost no 2D capabilities out of the box, so we had to wrestle with it to make a 2D game with what was essentially a 3D game-making tool. Things worked wonderfully, but then Unity evolved and got a lot of awesome 2D features, so we decided to switch forma.8 to the new 2D physic system in Unity. It required a lot of coding work but… Ok, ok, that’s boring stuff I know, so let’s make things short: since 2D physics drive all the game, giving it a nice unpredictable spin, we can now throw a lot more action and interactive stuff on screen, with even better performances as icing on the cake.
Which means: full resolution and 60 constant fps on PS Vita (on PS4 that’s a given), a magic number that’s really important in a smooth game like forma.8. It simply doesn’t work at 30fps, trust us, we’ve tried it.
After this big visual and technical transition, things are going smoothly on the development front, and we’ll post more and more about the progress on the game in the future. But we won’t make the error of giving out another release date that we may miss: we made this mistake before (ah, inexperience!), and we don’t want to promise something we can’t deliver.
We want forma.8 to be the best game we can make, it’s our little baby after all, and we don’t want to rush it. It’ll still take a bit of time, but we really hope you’ll enjoy it when it’ll came out.
Since we’ve shared only ‘redesigned stuff’ today, how about a glimpse at one of the never-seen-before, work in progress areas? Here it is, and trust me it’s huge, forma.8 is like 1 pixel small here, and he has to deal with that giant… spider thing?
Bye from Italy!