Exclusive Inferno Pool interview with new developer Dark Energy Digital
After exclusively announcing the impending arrival of Inferno Pool on the PSN last month, followed by this week’s “comical” hands-on video, it was only natural for us to sit down with the creators of the game and find out more.
The inaugural title from brand new development studio Dark Energy Digital, we were eager to not only get a better look at the upcoming chaotic “pool party” title but also some background surrounding the emergence of a new player in the digital distribution arena.
Luckily for us, Rob Hewson, Senior Creative Designer at Dark Digital, was more than happy to oblige.
[PS3 Attitude] You have a special announcement I believe: the creation of new studio Dark Energy Digital. Tell us something about the new endeavour. How did it come about and what is the studio’s goal?
[Rob Hewson] We see digital distribution as the future, and Dark Energy has been created from the ground up to focus on download games which are on par quality wise with full retail products. To make that possible Dark Energy has invested massively to develop state of the art technology which allows AAA quality games to be delivered for a fraction of the usual footprint.
[PS3A] Dark Energy. Sounds â€¦ ominous â€¦
[RH] It isâ€¦ look it up on Wikipedia!
[PS3A] In our recent interview with Jim Mummery of Doublesix Games, he mentioned that, at some point in time, every new game will be distributed digitally. Though the likelihood of the physical media market dying out entirely is remote, the consensus within the industry – especially among the smaller players – is that developers/publishers either embrace digital distribution, or embrace obsoleteness. Would you agree?
[RH] The rules of the game have changed; no doubt about it. The shift towards downloads, which was already inevitable, has been hastened by the global recession. Lots of companies are now scrambling to focus on digital distribution, but those who were already ahead of the curve have an advantage. Itâ€™s like F1 at the moment; the rules have changed and the smaller teams who had been looking ahead to this season for a year or more while the big guys were fighting for the championship are suddenly at the front. Well, weâ€™ve been developing state of the art technology to deliver on the downloaded future for years, so we think weâ€™ve timed it absolutely perfectly.
[PS3A] We’ve spoken in the past in connection to your position at Blade Interactive. How does Dark Energy Digital fit in with the overall structure of Blade? Is it autonomous or will it be viewed as somewhat of a sister company?
[RH] Itâ€™s more like Dark Energy is the big brother, because the cutting edge technology and the big-budget titles are being developed here, with some major backing behind it.
Blade will continue to concentrate on its core Snooker franchise which it has built a reputation around, but the two are separate entities.
[PS3A] And where do you and Pete [Jones] fit in this new hierarchy?
[RH] Here at Dark Energy, Pete Jones and Deb Jones are the joint managing directors, while the technical director is Huw Lloyd who oversees HydroEngine2.0 at Dark Energy and Gary Leach as development director whoâ€™s team has developed i-Worlds â€“ an enhanced version of InfiniteWorlds designed to deliver on the downloadable dream. I am senior creative designer working alongside Lee Barber as senior design manager and the managers of the programming, art, animation and tech teams.
[PS3A] Has Dark Energy Digitalâ€™s creation affected Hydrophobiaâ€™s schedule in anyway? We ask as you previously mentioned Hydrophobia having an April release date. Are there staff working on both titles?
[RH] Hydrophobia is being developed by Dark Energy â€“ which has massive resources and talent behind it now. We have some very big announcements to come regarding Hydrophobia in the near future. We are striving to deliver nothing less than the pioneering AAA episodic game and a killer new IP.
[PS3A] Letâ€™s talk about Dark Energy’s first title, Inferno Pool. The title suggests a pool game but with some added heat. Can you give us a gist of how the game works?
[RH] For our first title, we wanted to do a really, really great multiplayer game. We wanted something intense and addictive, something for 4 players local or online which had a great arcade feel.
Inferno Pool is NOT like traditional Pool. You can pot any ball you like, with the aim to clear your table as quickly as possible. Every ball you pot gets sent to an opponents table and vice-versa, with the ability to nominate, send at random or store your potted balls in your Ballzooka to unleash later. Every shot you perform earns you points, with skill shots earning you big bucks and unbroken potting streaks building up your multiplier. This fills your Inferno Meter, which unleashes Inferno Mode when full.
Itâ€™s about building alliances, and then betraying people, performing devastating skill shots to unleash Inferno Mode and generally kicking ass.
[PS3A] Taking Blade Interactiveâ€™s past pedigree with snooker games into consideration, we’re assuming the leap to a downloadable title involving a combination of cues and balls was a natural path.
[RH] Well, we already had the best ball-physics simulation in the business available, so we were able to borrow that from the Blade team to realise our concept. What we are doing with it is completely different, itâ€™s not a simulation; itâ€™s an arcade game. That means no waiting around to take the next shot, you can start lining up while the balls are still moving, it means allowing outrageous jump and swerve shots to be performed more easily and it means jets of flames coming out of the pockets.
[PS3A] Weâ€™re trying to think of the last truly great pool game. Pool Shark and its sequel immediately comes to mind, which, it just so happens, Blade Interactive actually developed. Is it fair to say youâ€™ve got this genre licked by now? You mentioned Burnout to us in a previous conversation as an influence on Inferno Pool but what other games, pool or otherwise, inspired you when designing Inferno Pool?
[RH] We were inspired by those old-school multiplayer party games like Micro Machines and Goldeneye, where itâ€™s just an absolute blast to get together with friends and compete. Thereâ€™s also an against-the-clock endurance mode in the spirit of the modern renaissance of the time attack, and weâ€™re expecting to see some unbelievable skill-shots surfacing when people gets their hands on the game.
[PS3A] What has been the general reaction to Inferno Pool from the chosen few that have played it?
[RH] Itâ€™s been awesome. People at Dark Energy have been getting together at lunch time and after work to play against each other, and everyone outside the company who have played it has been really complementary. We were so confident with the game that we decided to get ordinary people for the trailer rather than actors â€“ so their reactions are real rather than performed, and they clearly enjoyed themselves!
[PS3A] So, weâ€™re assuming this will be marketed as a great party game. Can you tell us something about the multiplayer options on offer? Will there be co-op for example?
[RH] Up to four simultaneous players and you can mix local or online as you wish, or you can play against AI opponents. There are leaderboards and trophies to unlock â€“ some of the trophies require co-operation between players to achieve. Thereâ€™s not an explicit co-op mode, but that doesnâ€™t mean you canâ€™t team up and bully somebody who keeps winning for example.
[PS3A] We donâ€™t know why but weâ€™re seeing pool tables shaped like donuts and other abstract concoctions in the near future. Can we assume that Inferno Pool will received DLC support similar to games such as High Velocity Bowling?
[RH] Well, weâ€™ve got a lot of ideas for DLC, but weâ€™ll have to wait and see how the game performs. If it takes off like we hope then weâ€™d be mad to not release some DLC, wouldnâ€™t we?
[PS3A] One of Burn Zombie Burn!â€™s features that we really enjoy is how Doublesixâ€™s employeesâ€™ scores, obtained through the rigorous testing of the game, became the exalted de facto high score us mere mortals should aspire towards. You even get a trophy if you surpass them. Whoâ€™s the master of trick shots over at Dark Energy Digital? Will we have any indication what a respectable score is when the game launches?
[RH] Well the guys in QA who have obviously played the game to death just wipe the floor with the rest of us when it comes to skill shots and multiplayer â€“ I really need to practice my jump shots before I can get anywhere close to them. One of them is the current champion in Endurance mode; he has a time of about 16 minutes or something which is just insane to me – my best is 6 minutes 10 seconds at the moment. Weâ€™re looking to set up a channel on YouTube to capture our top performances which will hopefully then get annihilated by players.
[PS3A] Finally, when can we expect to see Inferno Pool on the PSN and have you decided on what it will cost yet?
Itâ€™ll go live on 28th May, priced at Â£6.29/â‚¬7.99
[PS3A] Next week?! How did you manage to keep its existence so quiet for so long?
[RH] Weâ€™re not called Dark Energy for nothing
Our thanks for Rob for taking the time out of his busy schedule to speak to us about Dark Energy Digital and Inferno Pool. Check back soon for our review of the game.