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Meet Truant Pixel – The People Creating Custom PS4 Themes

September 18, 2015 Written by Alex Co

ThemesFeat

 

With Sony’s PlayStation 4 themes a little on the thin side when it comes to selection, you’ll be glad to know that some people are actually doing something about it.
 
Enter Truant Pixel. Founded by Maher Al-Samkari (m0dus on NeoGAF who also developed PS3 themes under that alias), and his wife Souha Al-Samkari (Sousourocket on NeoGAF), the pair are hard at work on custom PS4 themes as we speak! PlayStation LifeStyle naturally reached out to see where they’re going with this, what their plans are and just what kind of themes can we expect.
 
Check out our Q&A below, as well as videos and screens of the studio’s custom PS4 themes. It’s worth mentioning that the PS4 themes you see in the article (videos and screens) are in development, and aren’t the final product.

 

PlayStation LifeStyle: Alright, who are you and why are you making custom PS4 themes even if Sony isn’t?
 
Truant Pixel: We are actually an independent developer, currently working on a game for PlayStation VR (formerly Morpheus).  Prior to that, we were making themes for the PS3 and PS Vita that were both distributed independently online and in an official capacity from companies such as SEGA, Konami, and Naughty Dog. 
 
PSLS: Do you have approval from Sony to do this? Have they contacted you at all?
 
TP: Themes for the PS4 require formal development tools, and distribution is only through PSN.  In order to do this we went through the standard registration process to obtain the hardware as well as the authorization to create content and submit it to the PlayStation Store.  We did this in order to produce the game title I mentioned, but making themes was an added bonus!
 
 
PSLS: When will you release your custom PS4 themes and how much will they cost?
 
TP: We plan on keeping our prices competitive, as getting our work out to as many people as possible holds greater appeal to us than making a quick buck.  We’ve already got some work coming down the pipe this month, with much more to come soon!
 
PSLS: Has this “theme” campaign been influenced by the BetterPSN movement or is this just something you came up with?
 
It’s something we’ve been doing since 2008 — It just took us an extra year to break into doing it for the PS4.  We’ve actually not heard of BetterPSN.  Would they like a theme?
 
PSLS: How hard is it to create themes for the PS4? 
 
TP: Without getting into too much detail about things I’m not at liberty to discuss, it’s required learning an entirely different markup language.  The limitations that are present, in terms of memory and processor bandwidth, are in place to prevent the themes from taking resources away from the games themselves.  I’ve found that working within those limitations forces you to take new and more efficient approaches to doing things that you’d otherwise take for granted in a fully enabled game engine, and the work overall is better for it.
 

PSLS: What’s next from you and your studio?
 
Well, we’ve already produced our first premium theme for Oddworld Inhabitants (available for free on PSN as of September 22nd).  We are currently seeking out opportunities to do more work in an official capacity.  You don’t see terribly extensive theme work coming out of even some of the larger studios because it requires diversion of resources (programming, art, etc) from the games themselves.  We’ve already proven (through our work on the PS3 with the companies I previously mentioned, as well as our work with Oddworld Inc) we can work closely with the publishers and studios to produce high-quality product without being saddled with the same limitations.  
 
If I could have my wish, though, it would be to produce a theme for Shenmue 3.
 
Oh, and we’re making a game.  But I can’t talk about that :).
 
 
What do we want out of making themes? We want bring our own brand of high quality customization to the PS4 interface. The dashboard is the first thing you see when you turn your system on, it waits in the background when your application is loaded and running, and is the last thing you see before shutting down.  As such, it should never be an afterthought. The default theme for the PS4 is subtle, minimalist and beautiful — anything that endeavors to replace it should be produced to the highest quality possible.  
 
What to Expect: We want to take full advantage of what the hardware will allow us to do to create the best looking custom themes possible.  As a small studio we have the resources to go the extra mile: creating assets for themes require implementation of key art, programming, and audio. All these elements of a theme’s design, from 3D elements, to background, icons, custom audio, and ambiance, should be cohesive and representative of the subject they are meant to depict.  With that in mind, even themes from large studios can fall by the wayside because they often cannot afford to divert the necessary resources from their main project.  From a philosophical standpoint, we try to approach every theme we develop as if it was an internal project from the studio in question. That’s the quality we will always endeavor toward.  That being said, while we are more than happy to offer our services to large studios, we also are trying to extend a helping hand to other indies such as ourselves.  
 
Hurdles: Aside from waiting for Sony to open up the platform for customization in the first place? Once we had the capability to build themes, learning how to implement our ideas within the allotted memory and processor resources available was the biggest hurdle;  In only a few short months we’ve  discovered it really has some truly amazing capabilities that most of the themes available on the marketplace haven’t touched upon yet. We are truly excited about what we’re working on and we’re hoping to be able to share it with you all soon. 
Hope that helps! We are also working on our own game for Morpheus. We hope to share more details about that soon, please stay tuned.

 You can check out more of Truant Pixel on Twitter, Facebook or send them an email via contact@truantpixel.com