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Zombie Studios Discuss PS4 Development, F2P and Self-Publishing

June 17, 2013 Written by Dan Oravasaari

ZombieStudios

While at E3, PSLS got a chance to speak with Brice Broaddus, the Art Director behind the upcoming Free-to-Play Blacklight: Retribution being developed by Zombie Studios for PS4 and PC. Read below to find out what he thought about Sony allowing self-publishing, the growing F2P market on the PS4 and what it was like porting over a PC game to the PS4, or check out our preview here.

How difficult was it to create a game on the PS4 compared to creating it on the PS3?

At Zombie we have done a few a console titles, but I do have to say though, working with the PS4 has been a lot of fun. Like with the previous consoles, especially with a game like Blacklight, it has been difficult to get them on there. When you go through certification and you’re trying to get everything to look the way you want it to look, and you have so little memory that you can use because the technology is so constrained. This has been great, this has been the smoothest port we have ever done for a console ever, and, although it was really hard to get it all done as quickly as we did – it has been a good experience.

How are you guys going to be handling premium content?

Well, with the current PC version, that is a partnership with Perfect World – so, Perfect World has a lot to say about how that actually gets monetized on the PC. Given that we are publishing Retribution ourselves with a partnership with Sony, we would like to handle monetization a little bit differently. Some things aren’t going to change drastically, but, because it is a new publisher – we wanted to fit and conform to what Sony has in mind what they see to be F2P.

Will you be able to purchase content directly within the title, or will everything be handled through the PSN store?

Yes, through the PSN store. Most things are going to stay kind of the same – As on the PC you can buy a helmet, and on PSN you can buy a helmet. You can work for a certain period of time and buy that same helmet with in-game GP or you can pay with money. So that part really hasn’t changed.

Will there be any content that is only available to those that pay?

Yes, we have been talking about it.

With so many other shooters coming out and other F2P games like PlanetSide 2, are you worried about getting enough attention from fans?

No, actually we aren’t. The community has always been really nice to us, in fact we’ve talked to the PlanetSide guys and we’ve talked to the Warframe guys, everybody’s really nice and supportive. We love them, and hopefully they still love us. I mean PS is a great game I play myself, and I’ve even been told a lot of PS players play our game.

Why do you think there are so many Free-to-Play games hitting the PS4 so early in the lifecycle?

I think that has to do with the way Sony has been handling things, as far as letting a developer self-publish on their own, you don’t have to go through EA and what not. I think Sony is doing a great job. I’m super excited about being on the PS4 and the fact that there are other developers like us who are really small and can take that shot at being on [Sony's] next-gen console. I say thanks Sony!

What are the benefits of Self-Publishing?

It is obviously very stressful, and I’m not talking about any specific publisher here like EA or anyone else [when I say this], but there’s often times where you have have an IP that you have worked on, that you have created, like we have here at Zombie with Blacklight – where we’ve always wanted to always try and keep it as pure as to what we felt it should be, but when you do involve a publisher, they’ve totally got the right to say, ‘hey, we’d like to take in a different direction,’ because it’s their money. With Blacklight we can add in a Katana, or a we can add in throwing stars and and not have a publisher say ‘we don’t feel like that is our demographic’.

So what kind of advertising are you guys planning on doing to push Blacklight?

Being the art director I am not as involved with the marketing budget, but I have been told we do have a marketing budget. I am hoping that we can work something out with Sony and we can get more publicity on Blacklight. For instance, there hasn’t been a whole lot of publicity on the PC title, but for us being here [at E3] and being on the PS4, this is the best response and the biggest group of people we’ve ever had looking at it. and with that new involvement and interest, I hope that we can do more marketing.

Will Blacklight: Retribution be available at launch on the PS4?

We are trying, I can’t give an actual release date, but we are shooting for this year. We are really trying to be done this year.

Could you tell me what about Blacklight are you most proud about?

As easy as that question should be, I think it will be the hardest. Blacklight is a little difficult to describe at times, because it has a futuristic setting and it’s not your atypical military shooter, but it does have a military faction that is set in this futuristic world that’s meant to take out this virus. If you go and play the PC version, we have this mode called Onslaught, and it’s kind of like the first time you get to see what’s really happening. There were these two factions on the last game, The Order and the Blacklight Unit. The Order was responsible for releasing this virus and the Blacklight Unit was just really responding to The Order’s threat, but found themselves involved in this kind of contagion, it’s still ongoing and the same sense of Resident Evil or some of the other zombie type games. The Blacklight universe gets deeper and deeper into that, and as far plans for the future, we don’t necessarily know how far we will take it, but zombies and the company Zombie seem to fit.

With Call of Duty being such a major player in the FPS market, how do you think CoD fans will respond to Blacklight?

That is a good question. Well, hats off to Call of Duty and Battlefield and what not, those are icons of gaming culture, and so, we are not trying to copy them, but somethings are just good ideas. For instance, our core shooting mechanics, like we spent a lot of time on them, because there are millions of people who play BF and CoD. We tried really really hard to make the mechanics something that people don’t just go ‘oh this feels weird,’ much like how swiping and pinching is now natural on the iPhone because everybody does it. So, with our mechanics we tried to get as much like what people are expecting as we possibly can. There are several systems in the game, we recognized that these are just good ideas, you have to do them for people to love your game. If you recreate the wheel, people are just going to go ‘I liked it, but it felt weird and a little strange’.

So is it that you are trying go for more of an evolution of the shooter genre, instead of a reinvention?

Definitely, it’s evolution, it’s where games are going. The way the buttons are even configured, it’s just like typing, nobody comes out with a new keyboard and changes the location of ‘A’ and ‘Z’. So, we felt that even the keys need to be kind of similar from game to game. I think that is kind of common nowadays.

Having had access to the DualShock 4, was there any new functionality that you were really excited about?

I am definitely excited about the touch pad, we have so much going on already that we are kind of like crowding the controller, but we have some innovative ideas that wanted to try with the touch pad. Not to mention with Blacklight from the ground up, we are really working some social media type stuff, with Twitch and the others. So when you are playing Blacklight, it’s going to be great to be able to host a game, let people see your great moments and transmit what is actually going on in the game.

Could you give me an example of what you could be using the touch pad for?

Because we have a lot of things in the game from all of our gear slots and what not, we have animations and taunts – but, no one is really doing them here. We do have taunts in the game, it could be that you do something special on your touch pad and it does your taunt, one that would be specific to you. Right now, we are experimenting with bringing in and out the scoreboard, but it’s a little bit hard. So that was one of the things we experimented with, but we are willing to try a whole lot more to see what people like.

What are you most proud about in regards to improving the Blacklight franchise?

Well, given that we sort of have two publishers of the same game – we have the console rights and Perfect World has the PC rights, we have to keep them similar. But we’re talking to Sony, we’re talking to other people – we are looking forward to doing some cross promotional stuff. Because Blacklight has so much customization with helmets and what not, we’ve talked to other developers, much like Steam who has a new game come out and there’s Shogun Total War helmets available.

There is no reason we can’t do something like that in Blacklight as well, and really bring in that community, which I feel most games are trying to do. Given the free-to-play nature, that is something that we believe in and feel strong about.

If you are thinking about picking up Blacklight: Retribution, make sure to stay tuned to PSLS for all updates regarding this title and more, and make sure to check out our hands-on preview of the title.