Stealth Inc. isn’t your typical stealth game – despite the naming. Formerly known as “Stealth Bastard”, Curve Studios’ little project wants you to associate “getting caught” and “dying” fairly quickly. Of course, being so involved with Sony in bringing the game to PlayStation 3 and PS Vita (the studio also handled the development of Thomas Was Alone to the console and handheld), Curve is quite busy with other things as well.
We recently got to sit down with Jason Perkins, the MD of Curve Studios, to learn more about Stealth Inc. and to find out his take on a variety of other issues, including PS4 development, upcoming titles and the stealth game renaissance.
Ravi Sinha: First things first: What prompted the name change from Stealth Bastard to Stealth Inc.?
Jason Perkins: We originally released Stealth Bastard as a little freeware only game that was something our creative director had made in his lunch hour. Back then, the name really fit it well and got us a lot of early coverage of the game. As the game “grew up” though, we wanted a name that fit more into the universe we were trying to build. Instead of coming up with a name ourselves we ran a competition and had our fans give us name suggestions, which was a pretty hilarious way of renaming the game especially as many of the suggestions were significantly ruder than the original.
Ravi Sinha: The genre has gotten a lot more blood flowing into it with the likes of Monaco and other stealth/puzzle titles seeing success. What influenced the decision to create a game like Stealth Inc.?
Jason Perkins: Back when Stealth Inc was put online for free as Stealth Bastard, there weren’t quite as many indie stealth games around! Now we have amazing games like Mark of the Ninja and Monaco, but the difference with Stealth Inc is the focus on speed, action and difficulty.
We really enjoy stealth games and wanted to create something that got right to that tense moment of hiding in the shadows without any of the waiting around if you got found out, and the fast action elements of Stealth Inc were all developed around that idea.
"We want players to feel bad about themselves when they mess up, but also feel that the fault was their own, not the game just being unfair on purpose."
Ravi Sinha: Tell us more about the gameplay of Stealth Inc. and its own unique take on the stealth/puzzle-platform genre.
Jason Perkins: The main element in Stealth Inc is really, really simple. If you are discovered by an enemy, you die horribly and instantly. There’s no running back to hide behind a wall or throwing objects to distract guards, you’re either unseen, or you’re dead. Death is something any Stealth Inc gamer should become very familiar with during the game – each level has a ton of traps right from the very start, and it’s not always easy to work out how to do something right first time.
To make sure that resulted in a fun experience, we made sure the game had both a very healthy number of checkpoints and very tight controls. We want players to feel bad about themselves when they mess up, but also feel that the fault was their own, not the game just being unfair on purpose. No matter how you die, you can always jump straight back into the action where you left off and give it another go.
Ravi Sinha: Will Stealth Inc. have a multiplayer or co-op mode?
Jason Perkins: We wanted to focus on a fun and challenging single player experience and as a small team that meant we couldn’t develop a multiplayer mode this time around. However, a big part of the experience of Stealth Inc is the leaderboards which allow you to share your time with the world, and with your friends. The competitive nature of that has led to the original game being popular with people who enjoy speed runs and the challenge of getting an S rank on every level.
"There’s no way Thomas Was Alone or Stealth Inc would be available on a console if it wasn’t for the attitude and help of Sony."
Ravi Sinha: After Thomas Was Alone, Curve Studios is building a reputation for bringing high quality ports of indie platformers. Will the PS3/PS Vita versions also feature additional content?
Jason Perkins: We work hard to make sure we make enhanced versions of a game rather than a straight port. With Thomas we had exclusive DLC, and with Lone Survivor there’s a huge amount of new in-game content. With Stealth Inc, we’ve focused on bringing the graphics up a notch including making the main character fully 3D and working on lighting and shadows. There will also be exclusive DLC available at some point after launch.
Ravi Sinha: What are your thoughts on Sony’s “developer friendly” approach with the PS4 console? Surely the courting of indie devs and the like must’ve played some role in bringing games like Thomas Was Alone and now Stealth Inc. to the Sony consoles.
Jason Perkins: There’s no way Thomas Was Alone or Stealth Inc would be available on a console if it wasn’t for the attitude and help of Sony. As a small studio, having support from a company like Sony can make all the difference when deciding whether or not to port a game. PlayStation may not be as open as something like Steam when it comes to development, but Sony have made huge steps forward when it comes to working with indies. Crucially we feel like we’re as important to them as a big studio making a triple A release, and that’s something that’s never really happened before on a console.
Ravi Sinha: Are there any projects currently in development for the PlayStation 4 from Curve Studios? Or is the interest strong enough to do something on the scale of Jonathan Blow’s The Witness?
Jason Perkins: We have 3 PlayStation 3 and Vita releases coming this summer, so as you can imagine we’ve already got a lot to focus on for this generation yet! However, we’re obviously looking towards the next gen consoles and working out how and what we would like to produce in the future. We absolutely want to continue both making our own original titles and helping other indies get their games onto new systems.
"Although Microsoft recently announced it would no longer cost money to patch games, the reality is releasing a smaller game for the Xbox is still a significant amount of work, and right now we want to focus on making sure out PlayStation releases are absolutely perfect."
Ravi Sinha: Two years ago, we didn’t see even half as big a push for 3D. After this year’s E3, it appears to be one of the key areas of gaming to console manufacturers and digital distribution networks alike. What are your thoughts on this change?
Jason Perkins: Most of what we’re working has been 2D platformers and side scrolling games, but that’s not to say we don’t like the idea of having 3D elements, depending on what format we’re bringing a game out for.
Everyone in the office is very excited about the Occulus Rift and the changes that could bring to gaming next year. After years where relatively little has happened in terms of gaming technology and the longest console cycle ever, it’s really good to see new hardware and new techniques being developed. As an indie developer, it’s very easy for us to experiment and quickly adapt to different technologies, so in general we’re all for it!
Ravi Sinha: Stealth Inc. is due for a wide range of platforms but not on Xbox. Can you please let us know why that is?
Jason Perkins: People often underestimate the amount of work it can be to bring a game from the PC over to a console. There’s obviously development work to do, but when that’s done there’s a lot of administration, submission and QA work that needs to take place. That means that as a small studio, you eventually end up having to make a decision about how much time you can really put into each platform.
Although Microsoft recently announced it would no longer cost money to patch games, the reality is releasing a smaller game for the Xbox is still a significant amount of work, and right now we want to focus on making sure out PlayStation releases are absolutely perfect. That’s not to say we would never release a game on the Xbox 360 or Xbox One, but there’s still some barriers that need to be broken down before it makes sense for us.