The indie line-up on the PlayStation 4 is nothing to scoff at. More surprising has been Sony’s approach to the genre, with key titles being presented as exclusives and touted as system sellers. And though there have been the requisite hard hitters, there are also a few understated titles that will be fighting to make an impact when the PS4 releases. Take Ronimo Games’ Awesomenauts for example, which is also slated to arrive on the console at launch, thus inserting itself into the fray from the get-go.
We recently spoke to Ronimo Games co-founder Jasper Koning about the game, including features we can (and can’t expect) with the PS4 version, the advantages of the PlayStation 4’s architecture, the lack of an Xbox One release and much more.
"It's true the PC is going stronger than ever, but that's always the case at the end of a console cycle. The effect might be more pronounced than normal because the cycle lasted a bit longer, but that doesn't mean there's no place for another successful set of consoles."
Jasper Koning: We’re a small team of developers who joined forces when they graduated from their Game Design & Development course in 2007. We released our first commercial game in 2009, called Swords & Soldiers. After that we ported the game to PS3 and PC while we started working on our next title.
This turned into our second game, called Awesomenauts. We first launched the game on Xbox 360 and PS3, later porting the game to PC. Since then we’ve been supporting the PC version, added lots of new characters, features and improvements.
The game itself is a unique blend of 2D action platforming and modern arena battle games. Think Contra/Metal Slug mixed with League of Legends, with an awesome 80’s cartoon theme, complete with kickass intro tune.
"The PlayStation 4 allows us to bring the full experience back to console gaming, published by ourselves without hassle."
Jasper Koning: Well we’ve been very busy on updating Awesomenauts over the last year, leaving little room for making a new game. And we also really wanted to bring these updates back to the TV.
Unfortunately there’s lots of technical, financial and legal trouble with doing that for current gen consoles. Meanwhile the PlayStation 4 allows us to bring the full experience back to console gaming, published by ourselves without hassle.
Actually, we don’t even have time to make the PlayStation version ourselves with all the new Kickstarter content coming up. Fortunately we’ve partnered with a technically strong studio we’ve known for years. They allow us to keep working on improving the Steam version, while also releasing a PlayStation 4 version.
"Going from 1080p/60fps to 720p/30fps can free up an incredible amount of resources depending on how your game is set up so it might still be a viable option"
Jasper Koning: When we decided we wanted a next gen version of Awesomenauts, the PlayStation 4 was open to self-publishing and Xbox One wasn’t. That was the simple reason. Since then Microsoft has changed a lot of policies, so we’ll reevaluate the possibility of making an Xbox One version once the PS4 version is out the door.
GamingBolt: From a gameplay perspective, how are you guys making sure that the PS4 version will be different compared to others?
Jasper Koning: Our goal is not to make the PlayStation version different. In fact, we’re trying to keep the PS4 and Steam versions as close as possible. This should make it technically easier to keep them both on par when it comes to updates.
One big change we’re implementing that’s mostly meant for the PlayStation 4 version is dual stick controls. Originally Awesomenauts could only be controlled using a classic side scrolling shooter scheme, whereby one stick controls both movement and aim direction. We will create a new optional control scheme that allows players to move and aim with the left and right sticks respectively. But because of the way we work, this scheme will become available on the PC version as well.
The other big differentiation lies in playing with a controller, on your couch, with your PSN friends.
"When we decided we wanted a next gen version of Awesomenauts, the PlayStation 4 was open to self-publishing and Xbox One wasn't. That was the simple reason."
Jasper Koning: No, it didn’t anything to the game.
GamingBolt: The PS4 boasts an exotic architecture along with unified CPU and GPU. How did it affect the development of Awesomenauts on the PS4?
Jasper Koning: Very little, as an indie developer we don’t push the hardware so hard that we’d need any architecture specific optimization. Nowadays the underlying architecture only becomes relevant when you want to push it very hard.
GamingBolt: Many developers have compared the PS4 to a high end PC but there are also others who believe that it will become obsolete (compared to a PC) in a few years’ time. What is your take on the same?
Jasper Koning: It’s true the PC is going stronger than ever, but that’s always the case at the end of a console cycle. The effect might be more pronounced than normal because the cycle lasted a bit longer, but that doesn’t mean there’s no place for another successful set of consoles. In fact, the last cycle was bigger than ever in total console sales, and I expect Sony and Microsoft to push even harder this time around. And in the end that’s what’s most important, because they can bring exclusive content to the table that gets people buying their boxes.
GamingBolt: Tell us a bit about how multiplayer will work on the PS4 version. What new features have you added to Awesomenauts’ multiplayer this time around?
Jasper Koning: The game will use the same drop-in drop-out model as all previous versions have. So players can always come and go whenever they like. We will be implementing a couple of features that will promote starting matches together and discourage leaving however. We’ll be talking about those details soon.
"One big change we're implementing that's mostly meant for the PlayStation 4 version is dual stick controls."
Jasper Koning: We don’t really have a set planned. As long as the community is there and the game is doing well, we’ll be building new characters. Thanks to the Kickstarter we’ll be building at least four more that will also be added to the PS4 version, but we have no end planned.
GamingBolt: 1080p resolution and 60 frames per second is something that fans have been demanding for next generation games. Can you please let us know whether Awesomenauts on the PS4 will be running at that golden standard? Furthermore do you think more and more games will run at 1080p/60FPS on the PS4?
Jasper Koning: Of course Awesomenauts will. I can’t speak of other titles though. I mean, it was already possible to in the last generation, but most developers opted to go for adding lots more detail. Going from 1080p/60fps to 720p/30fps can free up an incredible amount of resources depending on how your game is set up so it might still be a viable option.
GamingBolt: How long did it take to get Awesomenauts up and running on the PS4? Warframe developer Digital Extremes reportedly took only three months…
"[PS4's 8 GB GDDR5 RAM] means we no longer have to cut corners when it comes to textures."
Jasper Koning: It won’t because we use the back ends of Steam and PlayStation network extensively, and there’s currently no way to tie them available to developers other than Sony and Valve.
GamingBolt: The PS4 has a super-fast memory of 8GB GDDR5 RAM and there is literally a ton of things going on the screen when Awesomenauts is being played. How does that extra memory matters in developing the game?
Jasper Koning: It mostly means we no longer have to cut corners when it comes to textures. For the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions we had a fairly tight texture budget that the art team had to work around.
GamingBolt: When is the game expected to come out on the PS4? Are you guys targeting launch day?
Jasper Koning: We’re indeed aiming to be a launch game! So hopefully everyone can grab a copy when they get their new consoles come November!