Welcome to a new series of interviews. We are calling these our “Game Of The Year” interviews. Games that we believe are something special. Games that we believe are the best of the year. First stop? Well it had to be Hotline Miami didn’t it? After scoring a 10/10 here on Punk and Lizard, we just had to find out more. So this week we hooked up with Frans Kasper and the rest of the super kind people at Abstraction Games to find out about their work on the game everyone is talking about…
You handled the port of Hotline Miami on the PS3 and PS Vita and did an
incredible job. Was it a smooth process bringing them to PlayStation
From a technical perspective it has been an interesting challenge, the game
was originally developed in GameMaker which is a closed source game
development tool; which basically means that a bunch of the central pieces
of the puzzle we were trying to put together were missing. We’ve
essentially had to build a runtime to simulate GameMaker’s internals from
the ground up and develop tools to extract all the source assets (sprites,
script code, levels) from the GameMaker source file and convert them to
something we can use.
That being said; beyond that technical foundation the game didn’t need a
lot of big adjustments to be made suitable for Vita and PS3, so in that
sense it absolutely was a smooth transition. If I recall correctly the most
notable things we did change to the game itself were making the player’s
directional movement fully analog when using the sticks instead of being
limited to 8 axes and fixed speed and we revised the base control scheme
slightly to match better with what PlayStation users expect. That involved
swapping the shoulder buttons and trigger’s functionality around on PS3 and
making sure menus and contextual interactions can be operated as expected.
Beyond that we added the touch controls for Vita and the Leaderboards which
were a pretty natural fit to the game.
We gave Hotline Miami 10/10, have you been surprised at the amazing reaction
the game has received or did you feel you were involved with something
special while you were porting the game?
Hotline Miami has felt special to me from the first time I sat down to play
it on PC; the game just seems to have an irresistible pull and drives you
to keep you going until you get it right and that’s something I personally
find in very few games. I remember getting into the office the next day or
so and talking to Ralph (our CEO) saying ‘we need to get this ported to the
Vita’ as it just seemed like such a natural fit for the platform. Once we
actually started work on the project it really became apparent just how
good of a game Dennaton had put out; in all those hours of development,
testing and playing the game in my leisure time it never got boring or
tedious and always remained challenging and engaging. The killer soundtrack
(that I’m still not tired of hearing on a near daily basis) and the fact
that the game’s structure already naturally allows for both short intervals
and long sessions of play (which is great for portable games) were the
icing on the cake.
So, yes I think me and everybody involved knew Hotline Miami was something
special and had a general idea that it would probably do pretty well on PS3
and PSVita. That being said; the reception has still blown us all away.
It’s been pretty amazing to see all the positive feedback and reactions of
people enjoying the game and we’re all very glad to have been a part of it.
We may be a little bit biased here, but we think the Vita version is the
best. Using the touch screen to highlight individual enemies and scrolling
the screen up all work so well. Is there a particular version you prefer or
are most proud of?
As I said I think the game lends itself particularly well as a portable
title because it’s so quick to pick up and put down (only if you ABSOLUTELY
have to though!) and the game’s bright and colorful visuals do look really
good on the Vita’s OLED screen. Playing on the PS3 on a big screen in a
dark room with a sound system tuned to wake the neighbors is a completely
different experience that’s so gratifying in its own way. I’d say both
versions shine in different aspects so it’s hard to pick between them.
From a technical perspective I’m probably most proud of what we did for the
Vita version, even if it’s just because there was more work involved in
getting the controls right and nailing the performance down was more of a
challenge compared to the PS3 version.
How long does the process of porting a game like Hotline Miami take?
Hotline Miami took us roughly 4 months to complete but the duration of
these kind of projects can vary greatly depending on the approaches you can
take to do the conversion. In the case of Hotline Miami we were dealing
with a game that was built on an engine that we did not have full source
access to so that definitely complicated things.
We absolutely loved the addition of the new exclusive mask, Russell. How
important was it to you to add something extra like this?
Being able to add a little personal touch to a game you’re working on and
giving players something new to look out for is absolutely something we
love to do; in the end though we’re still working with someone else’s
product so that decision would ultimately be Dennaton’s. Adding in an extra
mask seemed like the obvious way to go; we wanted to add in something that
wouldn’t change the mechanics or add any major new content and preferably
was something that would be pretty difficult to do in the original
GameMaker version of the game. Once the idea for a cow mask that would turn
the game extra gory and red, black and white had taken shape we ran it by
Dennaton; they liked it, offered some tweaks and we were able to put it
into the game.
Can you let us know of any new projects Abstraction are working on or
have coming up?
We’re currently working on a remastered version of The Chaos Engine, an old
Amiga game, and bringing that over to PC. We’ve also got OrangePixel’s iOS
shooter ‘Gunslugs’ coming to PlayStation Vita soon. There’s a few more
titles to keep an eye out for over the coming months :).