With PlayStation Mobile set to end on July 15, it might seem absurd to release a game on a platform that PlayStation owners will only be able to purchase for a month. That isn’t how Necrosoft Games sees the situation, though, as they decided to give the platform “one last hoorah” with their second PlayStation Mobile title Oh, Deer!. To find out more about this interesting Mobile game that launched last week, PlayStation LifeStyle talked to Necrosoft Games’ Brandon Sheffield.
PlayStation LifeStyle: Oh, Deer! has a really unique concept, and as someone who has had some close encounters driving it hits close to home. What is the story behind the game’s creation?
Brandon Sheffield: The idea came from a friend of mine, back when I still used an instant messenger. He said, “you know those signs that say ‘deer next five miles?’ Wouldn’t it be weird if, when you saw that sign, the road was then just filled with deer!?” So I decided to make a game about that!
It went through a lot of iterations. At one point, Mick West, the original programmer of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, was doing the code, and Superbrothers (of Sword and Sworcery fame) was doing the art. But Mick ran out of time, and Superbrothers realized he didn’t want to do a game that had that kind of violence in it, so it fell apart. There’s a prototype of that version floating around, which uses the original OutRun car. Later, Junkboy (from Mojang) was doing the art – we still have mock-ups of his, and wound up using the art from his mock for a long time.
Eventually, Decinoge, our lead artist and programmer, took over, and the game really came together. He was instrumental to making this happen, because he not only understands how to make pseudo 3D work, he was able to tell all the artists exactly what to do. Pseudo 3D is kind of a lost art, so there was a lot that people just didn’t know. The game is proper pseudo 3D, by the way – there’s no 3D, no unity, nothing like that. What you see in Oh, Deer! could run on arcade hardware of the 90s – if it had enough RAM.
PSLS: What are the player’s goals in Oh, Deer! and what types of modes will be present?
BS: In this alpha version we’re releasing, your only explicit goal is to get to your grandma’s house. Other than that, you can try to hit all the deer, or avoid all the deer. That’s about it! The game is a bit too easy right now, but getting a perfect deer run is pretty tricky at least. In the final version, there’ll be a couple more things going on, but I am not gonna promise anything, since we don’t know if we’re making it yet! The one thing I’ll say is in the final version, the more deer you hit, the more disturbing and awful the backgrounds and graphics in general get. Zombie deer, bloody waterfalls, et cetera. The more you avoid deer, the happier, fluffier, and saccharinely disturbing it gets. Unicorns, rainbows, deer with anime eyes and human smiles. That sort of thing! That’s the original true vision of the game, but in the alpha only the music changes when you hit or avoid deer. There are 13 tracks, and 3 ending themes, depending on how many deer you hit or avoid!
PSLS: Music seems to be one area where Oh, Deer! really stands out. How did the working relationship with Streets of Rage composer Motohiro Kawashima come about, and what are your thoughts on the soundtrack overall?
BS: Essentially, I found Kawashima on Twitter, because I really liked his work on Streets of Rage 3. That was the kind of unsettling electronic vibe I was hoping to go for with Oh, Deer!, and he pretty much just said yes! This is the first game he’s been lead composer on since 1993. I met up with him at a cafe in Tokyo, and we talked through what it was that I liked about his original work, and what I wanted to hear in the future. I asked why he hadn’t been lead on any soundtrack since Streets of Rage 3, and he said, “Well, nobody asked me.” I kind of couldn’t believe it!
It was an interesting working relationship – I had to communicate with him in Japanese, primarily, and at first it took a while for him to get back into the groove of his old sound. Initially I was worried he wasn’t going to be able to find that part of himself again – but as he made tracks, and as we discussed everything, he just kept delivering better and better tracks.
Being perfectly honest, I would buy this soundtrack even if I didn’t commission it. I think it’s pretty damned fantastic. Kawashima is really, really good at what he does, and I hope he winds up getting a lot more work after this, simply because I want to hear more of his music.
Oh Deer! is a Farewell to PlayStation Mobile - PSLS Talks With Necrosoft
PSLS: From the footage you have posted on social media, it seems like there is a ton of artwork and different locales to drive through. How many artists have worked on the game, and how excited are you about people finally getting to see the result of all of this hard work?
BS: There are only 5 miles, each with a different theme to it – but there’s a ton of art. At least 7 artists have some of their pixels in this game, but four of them did the lion’s share, under Decinoge’s tutelage. I’m definitely excited for people to play the game, but people should be aware – in spite of all the art and work that went into it, the game is only 5 minutes long! This was by design – each mile of track is meant to take about one minute to complete. We wanted to have that immediate response you get from arcade games – a short experience, but one you can try to perfect.
I’m definitely happy that people are going to finally get to play it! Even if it’s only an alpha, I’m happy we finally got this thing out there. I just hope people enjoy it!
PSLS: Visually, Oh, Deer! looks reminiscent of classic arcade driving games such as OutRun. Were these classic titles a source of inspiration in the design?
BS: OutRun was definitely an inspiration, but for the drifting and controls in general, OutRun 2006 was more of an influence. There’s no drifting in the original OutRun, but we definitely wanted that kind of snappy-yet-smooth drifting action in Oh, Deer!.
In fact, I showed the game to OutRun director Yu Suzuki at a party at GDC in San Francisco, and he said “it’s not bad.” If the game had a box, we’d put that right on there! See:
PSLS: How challenging is it to develop a game that gives off a pseudo-3D look while running?
BS: Really, you’d have to ask the programmer, Decinoge, but like I mentioned, this isn’t just a pseudo 3D look – this is true pseudo 3D. And we have camera tilt, transparency, perfect scaling, and a much longer field of view than most pseudo 3D games from the past. There’s a lot we can do with the technology of today to improve the techniques of the past, but when you’re going for the pseudo 3D look, nothing beats the real thing. I really don’t like the look of the games that try to fake it in Unity with real 3D roads and filters and such. So in Oh, Deer! the car isn’t moving through a world – everything’s scaling toward the car, which never actually moves forward!
PSLS: Previously, when we spoke you expressed interest in releasing the title for free as long as Sony would allow it. Were you able to work that out and what is the current pricing structure?
BS: I wasn’t able to do it for free, so it’s 99 cents! Is that too much!? I can reduce the price a bit more, maybe…
(Note: Oh, Deer! dropped in price to $.49 after the interview was conducted.)
PSLS: With PlayStation Mobile closing in July, players will only have a limited time to pick Oh, Deer! up. You’ve compared it to ‘early access’ games in the past, is the plan to create a full Vita version if Oh, Deer! can prove to be successful?
BS: If the game is successful on PSM, or if people say they like it, we’d love to bring it to the Vita proper, and the PS4 as well! We’re hoping to get a lot of feedback about the game – we don’t have a lot of methods for people to contact us, so we might put a form on our web site, once we have it up. We’re working on that right now!
We need to get funding before we do the final version, but we’d like to bring it out everywhere. Even PC!
PSLS: In the past, we’ve seen iPhones with Flappy Bird and PS4s with P.T. installed go for crazy amounts of money online. Have you entertained the thought of Oh, Deer! causing a similar situation due to its limited time availability?
BS: Oh, goodness, I hadn’t thought about that. If we see Vitas going for crazy prices with our game on it, we’ll find a way to put the game somewhere else so that nobody feels compelled to pay that money. Or we’ll sell 30 of them and finance our next project. Ha ha (not really).
PSLS: Other than to avoid purchasing a Vita for $1000 down the line, why should gamers pick up Oh, Deer! before it is gone forever?
BS: Hmm, anyone who likes arcade action, good music, and stupidity should probably pick it up. It’s a weird, short, intense experience you can have before you go to bed, in the morning with your cereal, or during a break at work. That’s the kind of thing I look for, so hopefully a few other people are too!
A special thank you to Brandon Sheffield for answering our questions. Feedback on the Oh Deer! alpha can be given on the game’s forum. For more news and information about Oh, Deer!, and Necrosoft Games’ future products such as Gunsport, make sure to stay tuned to PSLS.