PSP: Make way for the Minis • Page 2

Sony and its indie friends talk up their upcoming "snackables".

Honeyslug reckons that transitioning from existing mobile platforms to PSP was no bother at all. "We have extensive experience in mobile, as well as PC casual download, Flash and Nintendo DS, so PSP wasn't hugely surprising, and we were able to use a whole load of our existing code," Ricky Hagett says. "The PSP code samples are extensive and mostly very good, and the level of support we received from the dev team was excellent - with really quick, helpful responses. With Kahoots, we went from zero to alpha in 10 weeks, which is an indication both of the ease of developing for PSP, and our suitability for it."

Another small-scale mobile studio that has been welcomed into the PSP Minis fold is the almost legendary Subatomic Studios, responsible for one of the most successful and indeed brilliant games on the iPhone: Fieldrunners. "Coming to the new Minis channel has been a great, great pleasure for us," says Subatomic CEO Ash Monif. "We've had immense support from Sony - they've been great, great partners in all this. We've been hard at work, heads down, on creating a new enhanced version of Fieldrunners. It has enhanced graphics, enhanced sound and will be featuring new content: two entirely new levels with new strategies, new towers, and new enemies."

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Prepare to lose hours to Fieldrunners...

Fieldrunners is widely considered to be the best tower defence game available on the iPhone. The objective is simply to guard your base from wave upon wave of incoming enemies: hundreds, thousands of them even, depending on the game-type you select. You set up different towers, each equipped with different weaponry that blasts, zaps or blitzes the oncoming foes causing varying levels of damage. Setting up the towers side-by-side also serves to create intricate mazes that the hostiles funnel through as they seek to reach your HQ. Part of Fieldrunners' genius is the way in which the iPhone's touch-screen display has been used for an ultra-intuitive game interface.

"We've paid very special attention to the control system on PSP," Monif says. "We've shown it on the showfloor to the press and fans alike and they've been pretty happy with the controls so far. We're optimistic that you'll be able to get right into the game and have lots of fun. You navigate the field with the d-pad, you place towers with the X button, you select the tower types with the left trigger and the right trigger... The tower upgrades are the same - select the tower and move left or right. Finally, you zoom in and out with the analogue stick." Sounds fine in theory, and fingers crossed that Subatomic can pull this off. A trailer shows that the PSP version has a clear graphical and audio advantage over the iPhone game, but Fieldrunners veterans will know just how crucial that touch-screen is to the gameplay.

The good news is that the developer still aims to support the older version of the game, for those happy with their iPhones and with little interest in joining the PSP renaissance. Indeed, Sony is placing no exclusivity limitations on the Minis developers we speak to. "We're continuing to support our iPhone/iPod Touch version of the game, releasing content across all platforms," Monif states. "However, because we're so small we need to do just one thing at a time."

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Frima Studios' Zombie Tycoon.

Not quite so small is Frima Studios, currently producing Zombie Tycoon as its first release for the PSP Minis line. As its own press releases says, Frima is "an important game developer based in Quebec City, Canada" and boasts over 240 employees. However, the firm specialises in mobile projects with appropriately mini-sized teams. "This project has a team of seven people, working for about four months in development," says Frima's Jean-François "Jeff" Tremblay. "We've got another five or six weeks in development, so we spend anywhere between four to six months in total depending on the energy, the effort... This includes conception, the artwork, the design and all the creative research."

Zombie Tycoon appears to be new version of an older mobile game originally created by Frima's recent mobile-centric acquisition, Humagade, but has been radically transformed into a full 3D game for its transition into the PSP Minis line-up. A smattering of gameplay footage, backed up by extensive concept design work, is shown in a slick trailer - the idea of the game is effectively to take control of your own zombie horde and employ their brain-sucking abilities to achieve the complete and utter destruction of mankind, in a humorous, wacky manner of course. It turns out that that the undead suffer from an attention-deficit disorder, so if you don't take direct, RTS-style control of their lives, they turn on each other with unfortunate flesh-eating consequences.

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About the author

Richard Leadbetter

Richard Leadbetter

Technology Editor, Digital Foundry

Rich has been a games journalist since the days of 16-bit and specialises in technical analysis. He's commonly known around Eurogamer as the Blacksmith of the Future.

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