FuturLab Talks Vita, PS Mobile and Signing a Deal With Sony

Yesterday, Velocity and Surge developer FuturLab signed an exclusive deal with Sony to produce exclusive content for the PS Vita in 2013, while still keeping the IP rights. We caught up with Managing Director James Marsden to discuss the deal, PS minis, PS Mobile, the Vita and more.

Hi James, congratulations on the deal! How do you feel?

Hey! I’m excited, relieved and pretty damned happy 🙂

Can you tell me about some of the struggles you’ve had to go through – from failed pitches to rejected titles – to get to the enviable stage where now you have access to Sony’s funds, but get to keep your IP rights?

We’ve just paid our dues I think. I had the naive enthusiasm to pitch to Sony without any experience, and whilst we managed to dazzle them with our creative thinking back then, there was no meat on the bones. Over the last few years we’ve proven that we can deliver quality products, and now we’re building a solid team of professionals to carry our ideas forward.

Do you think this financial stability will change your approach to game development?

It’ll allow us to focus more. All of our games to date have been produced under very stressful circumstances keeping bills paid with work for hire.

However, we’re going to keep our lean approach to game design; we’ll still prioritize quality ideas and game play over every other aspect.

The press release says that you’ll be working on games for the PS Vita. I assume this means PlayStation Mobile, or am I wrong?

It means native PlayStation Vita titles, fully PSN integrated with trophies, leaderboards, near etc. All that good stuff.

PSN and XBL developers have been highly critical over the costs involved in patching their games, something that can cost tens of thousands. Sony pub-funded titles have free patching, but what about minis and PSM?

I think it’s free to patch the first few times on minis, not sure about PSM – I assume it’ll be free.

I always felt the name ‘PS Minis’ gave the wrong impression – that the games were small and of less importance – but titles like Velocity proved otherwise. Do you think that the name limited the potential impact and success of titles?

My personal opinion is that I don’t think the name was the problem. The technical limitations of the platform were the problem, and minis, rather than being known for quick gaming on the move with online high scores, it became the label for titles that were crippled by limitation. That should be a different story with PlayStation Mobile.

How would you compare PlayStation Mobile to PS minis – both from a development and a business perspective?

PlayStation Mobile is a breeze compared to PS minis. The SDK is better, the tools and documentation is better, the submission process is not only quicker but also easier to get your head around –easier than iOS actually. On the whole I think PSM is a vast improvement over minis.

There are obviously a lot of iOS and non-PSM Android phones and tablets out there. Isn’t it tempting to try and tap that lucrative market?

No, we like the core audience and we enjoy making games for them.

What are your thoughts on the success of the PS Vita? Are you worried that it hasn’t exactly dominated the charts?

I’m not worried. Sony are investing in us, and we’re going to be making great games for it – we’re not the only studio.

Non-bundled Vitas don’t include memory cards. Is that a problem when your games are 100% digital?

I don’t think so. The price of the memory cards is an issue though.

Are you happy with how accessible PSM is through the PS Vita’s PSN Store, or should it get a more visible, more prominent placement?

It would be good if PS Mobile games showed up in the PS Vita games categories, with a label ‘PS Mobile’ next to the game title.

We’ve spoken to a lot of hackers and modders over the years, with many saying that if they’ve bought the hardware they should be able to do what they want with it. As a small developer who could be hugely impacted by piracy, what would you say to those working on hacking the Vita right now?

I’m also not concerned about hacking. People that have disposable income to spend on games, buy games.

Free-to-play is a big buzzword at the moment, everyone’s trying to experiment with it, especially indie developers. What are your thoughts on the business practice?

I liken the current free-to-play games to fast food. It’s not good for you, but you eat it anyway. There’s consumer backlash about the lack of quality, but ultimately people don’t stop eating it, and companies like McDonald’s rake in a fortune.

That’s working great for some companies now, but there’s a serious problem with the business model as it stands, because you need talented people to create great products, and talented people don’t want to work for McDonald’s.

For example: as a talented programmer, you can either choose to work in a bank and not be creatively challenged but make a lot of money, or you can work in games and get paid less, but have a more fulfilling career. I think there will come a time when making free-to-play games won’t be far off working in a bank, and at that point employees will decide whether or not free-to-play will succeed, because they’ll either continue working on shallow games, or they’ll seek something more fulfilling.

It’s certainly working for a lot of studios right now, but the games they’re producing are creatively and artistically vapid. We’ll do our part to try and change that as we’d be foolish not to give free-to-play a try.

Also, I’m very excited to play Hawken 🙂

Are there any plans to make Velocity a PSM game?

No plans I’m afraid.

Tell us something no one knows about ‘Fan Powered Flight‘. Especially something about “strictlyasausage“.

Sorry, I have no idea what you’re talking about…