Harry Krueger, Lead Programmer of RESOGUN talks about Housemarque’s latest.
We recently spoke to various individuals over at Housemarque – with answers compiled by Harry Krueger, Lead Programmer of RESOGUN – about the benefits of developing on the PlayStation 4, the brand new gameplay features, the physics behind the dynamic destruction and more.
Rashid Sayed: For our readers and fans of the game alike, can you please tell us what RESOGUN is all about?
Harry Krueger: In short, RESOGUN is a shoot ’em up with a retro attitude and a modern approach.
Rashid Sayed: I have got to ask this! What is the meaning behind the term RESOGUN? What prompted you guys to name your next project with such a catchy name?
Harry Krueger: We used RESOGUN internally as working title, but everybody was liking it so we decided to stick to it. It has to do with “resolution”, the idea that every voxel is some kind of “3D pixel”. The “gun” part it’s just to make clear that things are gonna explode big in this game.
Rashid Sayed: We all know that yo u guys made hits like Super Stardust HD and Dead Nation. How is RESOGUN going to provide a different experience compared to say Super Stardust HD?
Harry Krueger: Super Stardust HD became famous for its “spheric gameplay”: the ship could travel around planets and approach enemies from all directions. RESOGUN is a twist on that formula: its cylindric game world completely changes the rules of engagement, and allows the player to monitor 100% of the playfield at all times. Our inspiration is clearly rooted in classic titles such as Defender and Datastorm, but there’s so much more micromanagement going on in RESOGUN that we consider it a “spiritual successor” toSuper Stardust HD, not older titles.
Rashid Sayed: RESOGUN is exclusively releasing on the PlayStation 4. Why is the game not coming on the PS Vita especially given the fact that such games might have wider appeal on the Vita?
Harry Krueger: At the moment we are focusing all of our efforts on PS4 and because remote play works so well for PS4 and Vita we have not considered a native VITA game at this time.
"These detached voxels that you see in game are not just particle effects or point sprites; they are actual individual cubes, with their own geometry, collisions and physics, and each has its own lighting and casts its own shadow."
Rashid Sayed: Destruction physics seems to be a big part of RESOGUN. I believe you guys are using millions of individual building blocks that break up in real time. Can you further elaborate on that? Also how dynamic the destruction system is?
Harry Krueger: Basically, the entire world of RESOGUN is built out of individual voxels. Using our custom toolchain we export the levels as large 3D textures, which are then loaded to our engine and polygonized on the fly to build the “centrepiece” of each level. The environments are all fully destructible (though we do mark certain cubes as “indestructible” to maintain some gameplay readability) so when an explosion happens nearby, the voxels of that part are detached and chipped away.
These detached voxels that you see in game are not just particle effects or point sprites; they are actual individual cubes, with their own geometry, collisions and physics, and each has its own lighting and casts its own shadow. All these cubes are fully dynamic and reactive, so for example when the player boosts through the cubes you will notice them being pushed away. Our engine supports up to 500,000 of these at any time, though in normal gameplay we rarely exceed 200k.
Rashid Sayed: What kind of crazy weapons can we expect and have you guys finalized on the number of levels the final game will have?
Harry Krueger: We’re planning on having 3 different selectable ships in the game, and each one will sport a different weapon type. Like Stardust HD, the traditional boost and smartbombs will also make a comeback, and this time we’ve also given the player an Overdrive ability.
Basically, by collecting green “energy” cubes the enemies drop, the player will be able to build up his Overdrive bar and – once full – ultimately activate it to unleash a super-powerful beam attack. We’re planning to have 5 levels available in the main game, and each will have its unique own style, enemy encounters, and geometry for the player to break apart.
Rashid Sayed: RESOGUN promises to run at a slick 1080P @ 60FPS. How is the unified architecture and 8GB of GDDR 5 RAM of the PS4 helping you achieve the same?
Harry Krueger: It is not just helping, it is necessary. With unified architecture we can easily split up our memory usage the way we want and still have fast GPU access to the bits written by CPU. We are using more memory than PS3 has in total just for th e flying cubes! The GPU and compute shaders are also being heavily utilized for a lot of things.
"In this generation PS4 seems to be the console with fewest quirks - no embedded DRAM. Just raw power. Sony's signature low-level graphi cs API may leave some developers with bloodied knuckles but also gives access to a lot more of its potential."
For example, all of the geometry generation (for the cubes and levels), the physics and collisions for the cubes, the particle mayhem you unleash with your Overdrive or Bomb; all of that is being done in compute shaders. There is still plenty of CPU power left over (currently we’re cruising at around 50% CPU usage during gameplay), but with the GPU and compute shaders doing all the fireworks, we do not really even need it.
Rashid Sayed: You guys have worked on the PS3 for a long time. What kind of development differences do you see between that and PS4? By rough approximates how powerful the PS4 is compared to the PS3?
Harry Krueger: We have worked on many platforms in the past. On development side the two are not all that different; only instead of hard-to-program SPUs that require assembly-level programming if you want to extract the full potential, we have compute shaders that are easy to program and most of the cumbersome scaffolding is now in the GPU hardware. One difference is that when things go wrong, PS3 GPU crashes but PS4 GPU hangs [note: you just read some coder humor].
As for power, anyone can look up the figures on paper. It is powerful enough to blow your pants off.
Rashid Sayed: Furthermore from a developer perspective, do you see developers using the extra GDDR5 RAM and more GPU compute to churn better exclusive and multiplatform games on the PS4?
Harry Krueger: Definitely. In this generation PS4 seems to be the console with fewest quirks – no embedded DRAM. Just raw power. Sony’s signature low-level graphi cs API may leave some developers with bloodied knuckles but also gives access to a lot more of its potential. This time PCs and consoles have more in common than ever before, making multiplatform easier, but this time people will ramp up effects for PS4.
Rashid Sayed: Can you please tell us a bit about the multiplayer component of the game? Does the game have any skills, customization or leveling up system?
Harry Krueger: For multiplayer, we’re planning on having at least the traditional online co-op mode, so you’ll be able to play through the normal game’s levels with a friend, online. Of course, everything that you’ll experience in single player – all the destruction, the effects, the amount of enemies, the solid framerate – all of that will remain intact in the multiplayer mode.
"We will be using the touchpad, and not only to scroll menus. We can't go into details now but we believe people are not expecting what's coming."
We’re also interested in spicing up the multiplayer to make sure players keep coming back for more, so it’s possible we might add some extra features there to make things more exciting.
Rashid Sayed: The creators of Warframe, Digital Extremes have said it took them only 3 months to get their game up and running on the PS4. Given that RESOGUN is launch game for the PS4, how long did it took you guys to get RESOGUN up and running?
Harry Krueger: It took a little longer. I don’t know how many people were working for Warframe on PS4; we had mainly two, one long-time veteran and one relatively new hire. A few others helped, too, but the graphic engine takes the lion’s share of the effort.
Rashid Sayed: Are you guys using the touch pad controls of the PS4? If yes, can you please explain how?
Harry Krueger: We will be using the touchpad, and not only to scroll menus. We can’t go into details now but we believe people are not expecting what’s coming.
Rashid Sayed: Is there anything else you want to say about RESOGUN?
Harry Krueger: We are very excited to be in the launch lineup of PS4 and included in the PS+ program. That means millions of players will be able to get their hands on the game from Day 1. As developers, we couldn’t hope for a brighter future for our new baby 😉
A big thank you to Tommaso De Benetti from Housemarque for setting this interview up.