Crash Lab talks Twist Pilot and PlayStation Mobile
Founded in November 2011, Crash Lab is a brand new British studio founded by three industry veterans formerly of Free Radical Design and Rare Ltd. October saw the release of their awesome PS Mobile launch game Twist Pilot, and recently PS3 Attitude had an opportunity to talk with the team’s Managing Director Steve Ellis about Crash Lab, their games and PSM.
[PS3 Attitude] How would you pitch Twist Pilot to someone who has never heard of it?
[Steve Ellis] The core idea is “don’t touch the sides” – kind of like the old board game Operation. You are Phil, a little guy who can’t stop spinning. You have to get through a series of increasingly difficult mazes. Timing and precision are critical. You’ll use a bunch of power-ups along the way to help you out, and you’ll face spiders and things like fans, magnets and doors.
[PS3A] Twist Pilot has more than a little in common with the Game Boy Advance title, Kuru Kuru Kururin. Was it always your intention to create an homage to that game, or did it develop naturally?
[SE] People have mentioned that and also a PlayStation game called Irritating Stick, but that’s not really where it came from. It began with me playing about with control mechanisms over the Christmas break last year, trying to work out what works well with touchscreens. We wanted to do something that was a new experience for touchscreen gamers rather than yet another physics-based puzzler. I made an editor for creating mazes but the game actually started out with a fairly different mechanic – where you used multi-touch with 2 fingers to control the angle of your character. We felt that it was a little awkward to control that way, so we tried out constant rotation instead. We liked it, so it stuck.
[PS3A] You clearly put a lot of work into the bright presentation of Twist Pilot, and PS3 Attitude previously described it as ‘the most complete PSM game so far’. Tell us a bit more about the design process for the game.
[SE] In our previous jobs at Free Radical Design and Rare, we’ve always believed in trying to do things to a high standard. I’d rather make 1 polished game than 2 average games. There’s no real secret to it except to not release before it’s ready – when you’re making a game there is always a long list of things that you would like to do to improve it. Generally those things that you do to add polish after the core game is finished make the biggest difference, so it’s worth spending a little extra time and doing as many of them as you can.
[PS3A] The final screen of the Level Select suggests that more levels will be coming soon. Do you have any idea about a release date or price yet?
[SE] Hopefully in the next couple of months, and we won’t be charging extra.
[PS3A] Before forming Crash Lab, you founded Free Radical Design, while Martin Wakeley and Lee Musgrave both worked at Rare. In recent years, why do you think so many game designers have left big companies to set up their own independent studios?
[SE] Big companies and big games aren’t a lot of fun. When the team working on a game is 200+ people, the most you can hope to contribute is 0.5% of the finished product and there needs to be a fairly rigid, inflexible plan, so experimentation is difficult. Consequently it’s much less rewarding. It’s also incredibly risky – big companies seem to be closing or making mass redundancies constantly, and that’s a reflection of the fact that the business model doesn’t really work for teams of the size that are needed to make those games – but their size also makes it difficult for them to take risks or change direction. Small companies are much more flexible and able to try out different things, so it’s not hard to imagine why so many people would prefer to set up on their own.
[PS3A] Crash Lab currently has several iOS games in the pipeline. In the future, can we expect any of these to make their way to PlayStation Mobile?
[SE] Maybe. We haven’t decided yet. The difficult decision will always be where to focus our limited resources – on porting to other platforms such as PSM or working on new game.
[PS3A] Has developing for PS Mobile been a mostly pain-free experience?
[SE] There was a small amount of learning required along the way as I hadn’t worked using C# before but apart from that, yes, it was generally pain-free. Certainly it was less painful than working on Android directly.
[PS3A] Sony recently announced that full PSN integration for PSM is on the way, including features such as online leaderboards and Trophies. Will these be coming to Twist Pilot, and are there any other features you would like to see in the next SDK?
[SE] We may add leaderboards and trophies in an update. As for the future, I’d love to see it able to use C++ as an alternative to C#. It would be a much easier decision to release our upcoming games on PSM if it didn’t involve translating them to another language and then maintaining 2 codebases in parallel.
[PS3A] And finally, earning all of Twist Pilot’s platinum stars is going to be a major challenge for any gamer. Do you have any useful strategies to share?
[SE] I don’t count myself as a particularly skilled gamer and I’ve done it, so it’s definitely not impossible. One tip: sometimes touching the sides can be the best thing to do. Aside from that, I often find that I get my worst times when I’m trying to go fast. Sometimes slower ends up being faster!
[PS3A] Thank you very much for your time!