Malik Boukhira, Co-Founder of Spearhead Games, Talks Tiny Brains, PS4 and Indie Development
Spearhead’s first ever game, Tiny Brains, recently released on the PlayStation 4. We sat down with Malik Boukhira, co-founder of Spearhead Games to go over his experience with the PS4, whether there are any plans for future support, and what it’s like to be an indie developer. Make sure to check out the questions below and check 0ut our review of Tiny Brains here.
PSLS: How has work with the PS4 been?
MB: Challenging and exciting! Being among the first to develop on a new platform also means no one on the team has experience with it and everything is to be discovered. But at the same time, threading uncharted territory is exciting.
What were you able to do with the PS4 that would not have been possible last generation?
Our game driven by physics gameplay. With the addition of multiplayer, destructibles, particles, etc, our vision for what the game should be can become pretty taxing for current gen development. But with the added power of the PS4, we can have uncompromised gameplay with smooth framerate. Also, I think the real revolution with the PS4 is all the social features, especially the live streams. This actually allows us to translate part of that couch co-op experience that is so essential to Tiny Brains online.
Was it liberating leaving a big studio to do your own project? What were the unforeseen difficulties of that process?
Working on big studios and big AAA projects can be epic, but the large size of such projects does mean there is a loss of flexibility and ability to react quickly. So leaving the big studio did allow us for a much greater freedom to experiment not only on game design, but also on the process of making game. In terms of unforeseen difficulties, it’s the other side of being small. Each of the 200 people working in AAA projects have a role to play, whether that’s optimizing for a certain platform or polishing just one chapter. As an indie team, there are many things we didn’t know how to do (or didn’t know we had to do!), that was taken care of by someone else when we were at AAA studios. We certainly learned a lot about game development this year, despite the fact that we’ve been in the industry for several years!
Which puzzles are you most proud of?
Puzzle Challenge 1 is great. It has an apparently simple layout, yet requires the full cooperation of all the players to solve. It also has multiple solutions, most of them epic and requiring mid-air combos.
Which of the Tiny Brains is your favorite?
Everyone in the team have their favorite Tiny Brain. Personally, mine is Pad the Mouse, who has the power of teleportation.
What tiny brains didn’t make the final cut?
There was that dude who could breath napalm. Fun in combat, but not very useful in puzzles.
Any plans for future support through DLC? Possibly new challenges or Tiny Hockey (I can dream!)?
Tiny Hockey?…hm, interesting…
Tiny Soccer only supports couch co-op. What was the reasoning for that and why are the teams capped at 2v2?
Getting physics based gameplay to work smoothly online is quiet a challenge, especially for a small team like ours. Tiny Soccer, with its frantic pace, is a whole different level.
The ending song is priceless. Whose idea was the song at the end?
Glad you liked it! We had a blast working on that. Like most things in the game, the idea of having a song in the end is more of a team movement, than one person’s idea in particular. The execution of it, however, is thanks to some specific people in the team, notably David Boily, normally our AI/gameplay programmer, but who also happens to be a great musician. He wrote and performed the song. The lyrics are from our writer, Nadim Boukhira.
Did you draw any inspiration from the hit 90s cartoon Pinky and the Brain?
Not directly, but its very possible that the cartoon influenced us unconsciously. There are some fans in the team.