StarDrone Interview – PSN 2011 Preview

High-speed arcade action game StarDrone, mixes Pinball with Arkanoid into a rather frantic and enjoyable experience – all set in space. After a successful release on the PC, the game will now be coming to the PlayStation 3, with day one Move support, and 3D soon after. Originally developed by Orb Games, the PS3 title is being developed by Beatshapers, with Orb Games fine tuning the game.

To learn about StarDrone and about the difficulties of transferring a mouse game to the PS Move, PlayStation LifeStyle talked to Andriy Sharanevych, Owner and CEO of Orb Games, as part of our PSN Preview Week 2011.

Hi Andriy, could you start by introducing yourself and telling us about your work at Orb Games?

My name is Andriy Sharanevych; I am owner and CEO of Orb Games. I’ve started my game development career back in 1997 as a level designer, and since then contributed in various roles to the development of over 50 games. At Orb Games I participate in literally everything both on development and business sides. Orb Games is an independent developer and publisher of mobile and online games. We create fun games in flash and then bring them to other platforms, including iOS, Android and PlayStation. There’s a lot of games available at our portal to play just for free.

The game is made in collaboration with Beatshapers, how evenly was the work spread between the developers?

The original PC version of StarDrone was made solely by Orb Games. Beatshapers is responsible for bringing it to PlayStation 3. They did all the technical work converting the game and they also took care of all publishing aspects. We were involved in fine-tuning of various parts of the game so that it looks and plays perfectly on PlayStation 3. Great deal of cooperation happened when we adapted gameplay mechanics and controls to work with Move motion controller. And certainly a lot of testing.

Did having two separate studios working on the game present any difficulties?

No. We have our offices right next to each other, so we didn’t have issues with bad communication or misunderstanding. Everything went smoothly.

StarDrone crosses several different genres, and is quite a unique game. What’s the best way of describing the title?

I used to say that it’s like Sonic the Hedgehog meets Pinball, with puzzle and breakout elements set in outer space 🙂 Basically, the whole gameplay is based on the idea that your drone can only fly in a straight line so you have to grab onto beacons located around the level to make your turn. But you also have to be careful since traps, enemies and other obstacles are set along your path. You are selecting a beacon to grab onto by pointing it with your Move, then you press the button to attach to it. Once attached the drone orbits around the beacon until you release it and set flying in other direction. Using this indirect control you have to travel through over 50 beautifully rendered levels while completing different goals, from collecting gems to destroying all enemies or merely surviving until you reach the level ending. Every level was designed to maximize the replayability and competition with your friends for highest score.

Why did you decide to release the game on the PlayStation Move?

The game can be played using either Move or DualShock. When your Move is active the game will use it by default. If you don’t have the Move or it is turned off, then the game will automatically switch to DualShock. Each controller has own control scheme and hence presents slightly different experience to players. We’ve designed special algorithm helping players select right beacons when using DualShock, because you can point to them directly. It works great and makes it really fun to play even when you don’t have the Move. If you have both controllers, I’d strongly recommend trying to play using each of them. Anyway, you don’t need to have the Move to be able play StarDrone.

Having started development before the Move released, are you happy with the controller’s sales figures?

Controller’s sales figures were pretty impressive. But when we started development, we didn’t know that for sure. We’ve discussed all the possibilities and decided to make the game playable with either controller.

Do you believe that Sony are effectively marketing the controller to the right people? Many of their ads are targeted at the casual audience.

According to statistics Sony’s consoles were always evenly spread between all audiences, casual and hardcore, male and female, kids and adults. I think the same will happen with the Move, so over time there will be a game just for everyone. There are so many possible ways to use the motion controller to play and there are so many talented developers out there. These days the threshold to become a developer and publisher on PlayStation is so much lower than it was 10 years ago. Hopefully, a lot of indie developers will begin experimenting with PlayStation 3 and the Move controller and we’ll see many unexpected and innovative mechanics.

How does the Move compare to other motion controllers?

The Move is more precise and responsive as compared to the Wiimote, giving a better sense of control and reaction, hence suitable for both casual and hardcore games. In our case it works perfectly with an action game that was originally mouse only. Kinect is definitely a more superior piece of hardware and it costs accordingly. Because of the way you interact with it, I believe Kinect is better for casual audience. The Move maintains the best balance of price vs. possibilities among the three of them and allows to play a broader range of games.

How easy is it for developers to transfer mouse based games to the Move?

From our standpoint everything went quite smooth. The Move fits the game’s control scheme perfectly and actually we were pretty confident of that even before we started. Perhaps Beatshapers can give more technical details, since they did all the coding.

You’re bringing YouTube and 3D support to the game in the future. Considering how few people have 3D TVs, do you think the update will increase sales?

There are even fewer games with 3D support. According to various publications, about 50% of all TV sets produced in 2011 will be 3D TVs. We’re bringing 3D support as a free patch, so it’s going to be a cool bonus for those who have already bought the game and a good motivation to buy for those who haven’t yet.

Are you planning on converting any other mouse games to Move?

We have plans on a sequel to one of our popular games that was originally played using the mouse. But that won’t be a straight port of the game, instead we want to build a totally new experience. Stay tuned for announcements.

PlayStation LifeStyle would like to thank Andriy Sharanevych for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer the interview questions.