Roland Fauster, manager of the German PlayStation.Blog, recently spoke to VooFoo Studios‘ Technology Director, Mark Williams, about his work on the excellent PS3 pool game, Hustle Kings.
Programming is maths and, in Hustle Kings, you’ve had to calculate friction, respect natural laws of spin and momentum, and have all these balls clashing with each other in chaotic order. Who explained the physics and to you, Stephen Hawking?
Haha, well yes, you are right: programming is maths. Unfortunately, they don’t teach you the equations for moving balls around a pool table in school. However, for most things a bit of imagination and intuition can help to combine several basic rules of maths and physics to do things that actually look quite clever.
For the really difficult stuff, we have to rely on other people’s work and, luckily for us, one guy by the name of Wayland Marlow spent years researching exactly how billiard balls react with one another and with the table. We use his research extensively in Hustle Kings to get the motion of the balls as close to real life as possible.
Are you aiming to simulate reality or to gain the most entertaining gaming experience?
I think it’s always very important to concentrate on the gaming experience first and foremost. There is no point in having a realistic game if it is no fun to play. Of course, much of the time, realism and fun complement one another.
Sometimes, you have to stray away from reality for the purposes of the game – after all, why make a game when you can do exactly the same things in real life? As an obvious example, we provide the option to use an aiming assistant in Hustle Kings, showing the path of the ball – it’s far from realistic but really helps beginners get into the game and makes it much more accessible to a wider audience.
Does Hustle Kings only appeal to cue sport enthusiasts or does it have wider appeal?
The popularity of pool and snooker has created a market for games like Hustle Kings, and I do feel that our audience is even wider than that. Hustle Kings is very ‘pick up and play’ so appeals to the most casual of gamers, and it is very accessible, allowing even novice pool players to get into the game quickly.
At the same time, the realistic physics and competitive AI provide for an enjoyable and challenging experience for the more hardcore gamers, as well as pro pool and snooker players. From the outset, we wanted to ensure we could offer something to everyone and I think we’ve achieved that.
Why did you decide to release Hustle Kings via PlayStation Store and does it have the scope to become a full Blu-ray Disc release?
We never felt there was ever any need for Hustle Kings to be a full-priced game. If you take the DLC into account, there is a huge amount on offer there: plenty of game modes, including all of the popular pool variants; snooker; trickshots; bonus games; and several high quality pool halls.
If we did a full priced game, we wouldn’t be able to offer much more, but it would cost more. The reason Hustle Kings is cheaper than a full priced game is not because there is less of a game there, but simply because we don’t have the overheads of packaging and distribution to contend with – I do strongly believe that for this reason, digital distribution is the way of the future.
Every project has a beginning and an end. How long do you think will you continue to support the community with DLC and Patches?
We have always listened to the community for feedback, and will continue to do so. We intend to support Hustle Kings with additional content, DLC, patches and so on for as long as there is demand for it. There are active Hustle Kings forums on our website, where we welcome suggestions. We have many more ideas to enhance Hustle Kings, so watch this space.