Zen Studios, the developers behind the the popular pinball game Zen Pinball 2, have launched the PlayStation 4 version today. In order to know about the game we got in touch with Mel Kirk, Vice President of Publishing at Zen Studios. Read the full interview below.
Update: The game has been delayed to 24th, December 2013 in North America.
Ravi Sinha: When Zen Studios first started out, it felt as though Pinball titles were more of a side-focus with games such as Ghostbusters and The Punisher being bigger names. How did that focus shift over the years?
Mel Kirk: The focus on pinball became real once we were able to publish the original Pinball FX to Xbox LIVE Arcade. We were not sure what to expect, but it ended up far exceeding any level of goals we had in our minds, paving the way for us to expand the vision of the game. The result has been a true evolution of pinball and a very successful business that has allowed us to grow the studio quite comfortably and try different types of games (i.e. CastleStorm and KickBeat).
Ravi Sinha: Zen Pinball 2 released earlier this year. How has the reception been to the game and will it be justifying a sequel any time in the near future?
Mel Kirk: Zen Pinball 2 continues to do very well. We have a great model, offering new content all the time and keeping players connected to the game. I think people know us quite well now and know what to expect when we release a new game. Their trust is so important, and I think we have proven that we will deliver a good experience each time. We definitely have plans for future Zen Pinball platforms.
Ravi Sinha: Zen Pinball 2 will feature a cross-buy ability in which any tables downloaded on the PS3 and PS vita will be available free for the PS4. The game itself is otherwise free. While this plan will encourage veterans to pick up the game on PS4, how will you work to attract new players for the PS4 version?
Mel Kirk: Correct, if you previously purchased any of the tables coming to PS4 on PS3 or PS Vita, you are able to download them for free on PS4. We did this for a few reasons, mostly to thank players for sticking with us for so long. Another reason is that we want to keep this community intact and engaged while we work behind the scenes on new content and platforms. Lastly, we’re fans of the PS4, we want to brag that we have a game available on the system! As far as attracting new players, we are offering the Sorcerer’s Lair table for everyone to play at no charge. Everyone has a reason to at least give it a try and see if it is something they might enjoy.
Ravi Sinha: Does Zen Pinball 2 take advantage of the PS4’s touchpad or any other console-specific features to enhance the experience?
Mel Kirk: No, Zen Pinball 2 does not take advantage of the touchpad. The game is basically a juiced up port, but we did make major gains in performance, running 1080p @ 60 FPS! Feature wise, you will have to wait for the next iteration of the platform. I guess I keep hinting at this, right?
Ravi Sinha: Can you please the game’s engine development and how it was ported over to PS4?
Mel Kirk: We use our own internal proprietary technology and it has been evolving over the past 8 – 9 years. The process to PS4 was not that bad for us, we had to adjust a few things in the engine but our engineers are top notch so it was pretty smooth.
Ravi Sinha: We also know that there will be new tables for the game going forward. Could you tell us a bit more about these tables and whether they’ll feature franchises such as Marvel, Star Wars, etc.?
Mel Kirk: We will have an amazing 2014, packed full of new releases – both branded an original content. New Marvel and Star Wars tables will release, as well as new tables based on brands that the entire team is so excited about. I cannot gush about all the details just yet, but it will be fun when we can finally talk about it.
Ravi Sinha: Will Zen Pinball 2 on the PS4 be at 1080p and 60 frames per second (as indicated by a comment on the PS Blog US)? How will this benefit the gameplay and presentation going forward?
Mel Kirk: Yes, the game is running silky-smooth at 1080p and 60 FPS. You will immediately recognize how sharp the artwork looks, better reaction from the flippers and an all-around better looking experience.
Ravi Sinha: What strategies were laid out for asset creation along with optimization for 1080p resolution for the PS4 version?
Mel Kirk: Anytime you are producing or capturing in true HD you have more polys at your disposal. The ability to make your game look top notch is something that we are excited about, so we paid close attention to detail with all artwork and assets. You want the color contrasts to be right, you do not want to be overexposed – and of course you have no control over what monitors or TVs players have so you try to set defaults to the best of your knowledge.
Ravi Sinha: Given that display resolutions have become a big deal with next gen console releases as of late, do you feel that it is a necessary evil when working on the PS4?
Mel Kirk: Not really, you just have to trust that players, especially early adopters have some sense of scale. You also hope they know how to adjust settings and figure out basic adjustments to ensure they are getting the most out of their setup. Very few players have 4K sets yet, but we would love to hear what they think!