Sony has shown an incredible amount of support towards the independent development community throughout the industry over the last few years. This has resulted in a plethora of quality titles appearing on the PlayStation hardware, from some of the very best independent studios in the industry.
One of those studios is Futurlab, which has recently released Surge Deluxe, the critically acclaimed Velocity Ultra and the follow-up which will appear on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, Velocity 2X.
Recently, Analog Addiction has had the pleasure to talk with Futurlab founder and managing director, James Marsden. In this interview, we speak about the currently-in-development title Velocity 2X, Furtulab’s support of Sony, and the PlayStation brand, alongside getting an interesting look at how this studio came to be.
Analog Addiction How did FuturLab begin? And how has your studio changed over the past 2 years with the success your team has had?
James Marsden FuturLab began when the CEO of a start-up I joined in 2002 decided to emigrate with my wages and the wages of a colleague. I had the option of either getting another job or starting a company with the client relationships we’d built together during the previous year. We chose the latter with just a year’s experience of rudimentary web development. I’ve since been on a 90 degree learning curve.
Analog Addiction Velocity 2X was announced last year, and we were recently treated to some beautiful screenshots from the PlayStation 4 Alpha version. Is the PlayStation 4 allowing you to truly emphasise the vibrant visuals that were in-place in Velocity Ultra?
James Marsden Velocity 2X is a PS Vita game that is also being released on PS4, so it’s the PS Vita that has allowed us to achieve the vibrant visuals, not PS4. Remember that Ultra was PSP code visually upgraded, so our codebase for V2X is much more refined and mature having been written from scratch to target PS4 and Vita.
Analog Addiction How has developing for the PlayStation 4 differed from previous development? Has the transition to new hardware been smooth and simple?
James Marsden It’s easier to develop for across the board, from the hardware architecture to the tools support and package creation processes.
Analog Addiction Velocity 2X will have a female lead character named Kai Tana. How does Kai find herself in this situation? And what is her end-goal throughout Velocity 2X?
James Marsden If I answered this question it would be a spoiler.
Analog Addiction Velocity 2X alters the formula of the original release quite significantly, with the inclusion of new on foot puzzle platforming sections. What inspired your team consider to add these mechanics? Lots of sequels these days stick to the same formula without many new features. Was it simply the fact the team wanted to try something new?
James Marsden We wanted to keep surprising our players. That’s how good review scores and loyalty amongst players is earned and maintained.
Analog Addiction After looking throughout some of the previously released screenshots of the puzzle-platforming sections, I get reminded of DrinkBox Studios’ Guacamelee. Were there any titles that inspired these sections? Or perhaps any game that may mirror how Kai herself will control during these moments
James Marsden Turrican 2 is the main inspiration, but V2X controls very differently to other platformers. Kai is incredibly nimble.
Analog Addiction I noticed Velocity 2X will feature “dual format bosses,”which will include puzzle-platforming and ship combat. Can we get a little more insight into how these bosses will take place? How difficult has it been to include both formats into these boss encounters?
James Marsden Shoot a boss in your ship to disable shields, then teleport inside the boss to wreak havoc to its insides, before teleporting back outside to finish it off.
Analog Addiction One of the most impressive aspects of Velocity Ultra was the amazing soundtrack. Joris de Man will be returning for Velocity 2X; can we aspect to encounter as many addictive tracks as we did in the original release? What is your personal view on the soundtrack? Can it top Velocity Ultra?
James Marsden There’s a lot more music, with better production, more musical variety and more emotive, energetic & engaging themes. It’s far far better than Ultra’s soundtrack. If Joris doesn’t win an award for it I will be very disappointed.
Analog Addiction FuturLab has clearly aligned itself with Sony over the past few years, but still released titles to iOS and PC. How did this strong partnership with Sony begin? And would you ever consider releasing your titles to other handhelds/consoles?
James Marsden I’m a genuine fan of Sony’s ethos. Did you watch Kaz Hirai’s CES keynote? That perfectly illustrated why I love Sony. It’s not a business governed by profits alone. There is a joyful passion and curiosity for innovation that is carried through the company by its staff.
Analog Addiction Some have said the PlayStation Vita has been unsuccessful due to lack of sales, though the attach rate for the system is over 10 games per console. That being said FuturLab is one of the most supportive developers of the handheld console, what is pushing your studio to develop for the handheld and has this high attach rate been financially beneficial for your studio?
James Marsden We make games for PlayStation platforms because of what I said above, and because Sony supports our creativity. The important thing to understand about FuturLab is that whilst we care a great deal about our players, our business priority is helping to uphold PlayStation’s incredibly strong brand and ethos. That is something we have taken upon ourselves from the beginning, and I suppose that must be quite flattering to the people that work at PlayStation. Those are good conditions for a relationship to blossom.
Analog Addiction FuturLab has had a few games involved in the Instant Game Collection for PS Plus members; how has providing these games for the service treated the studio? Did you see a strong increase in sales numbers when these games were involved? And are there any benefits depending on the number of times your title is downloaded?
James Marsden PS+ is a fair deal, and provides great exposure.
Analog Addiction When can we expect to see the release of Velocity 2X? At the moment it is scheduled for 2014, but is there a particular month your studio is aiming for?
James Marsden Sorry, we don’t know yet.
Analog Addiction Finally, is FuturLab in the process of creating any other unannounced titles? Perhaps even bringing more titles from your PS Mobile/Mini releases to handhelds/consoles?
James Marsden We’re always working on something. It’s the Futur part of FuturLab that I’m most interested in.
Analog Addiction would like to thank James Marsden for taking the time to answer these questions. For more interviews regarding some of the other independent studios working with Sony, check out our interview with Curve Studios and Housemarque.