Velocity Ultra – ‘The Best Game On Minis’ Heads To Vita
There’s nothing more heart-warming than a homegrown success story and last year, FuturLab warmed our hearts more than most.
FuturLab’s Velocity was released in May last year and its success dwarfed the PlayStation Minis platform it was born on. It was the best game on PS Minis and has been described as, and we quote, ‘lovely stuff‘. Not our words, the words of the Play team.
So Velocity Ultra makes us very happy indeed. A native PS Vita version of Velocity, Ultra will sport a revamped art style, Trophies and leaderboards.
But most importantly, it’ll be an even better version of the game we’ve already fallen in love with. We had a quick chat with James Marsden, Managing Director of FuturLab, about the revamped edition of last year’s sleeper hit…
Congratulations on the announcement of Velocity Ultra (almost seems like I’m congratulating you on the birth of a child here!) – how did the decision to make Velocity Ultra come about?
About half way through the development of Velocity, we realised the game was punching above its weight for the minis category, so we attempted to get it signed up for PS Vita. Our timing was off for several reasons and so we got turned down. Whilst we admitted defeat and continued to self publish on minis, we knew that it belonged on PS Vita. Since release we’ve had no shortage of requests to put it onto PS Vita natively, so when Sony asked us to do it, it was an easy decision. We said yes please.
When FuturLab released Velocity, speaking honestly, what were your expectations for it?
We’d learned a great deal about the games industry in terms of building buzz publishing Coconut Dodge. Through blind faith and optimism we managed to create some interest in a tiny, extremely simple game. With Velocity I absolutely knew we could take it further, because we had so much more to work with.
I would keep saying to Robin, our programmer: “If we just keep this up, we’ll make it into Edge – this game can get us into Edge!” He probably thought I was nuts, but I think I have a pretty solid understanding about what critics and gamers want.
Self publishing on minis has ultimately worked in our favour – people were so surprised it was even in the minis category that they became evangelists for FuturLab. We built a group of awesome fans as people could see that we had potential, and were limited by the platform, not our abilities. It’s also meant that the IP is now established. If we’d had it signed up the first time, we’d have lost the IP.
Given it was a PS Mini, were you surprised at how much exposure it got amongst the press and PS3 owners? Was it something you felt you had to fight for?
I wasn’t surprised, but I was relieved. We had to fight for the attention, but we fought creatively, finding interesting ways to engage the press. We also had a powerful opening line: ‘This is the best game on minis’ – people are going to take notice of that, whether they want to agree with you or not.
Part of Velocity’s appeal came from the retro-styled pixel art. This is being updated for Velocity Ultra – why make the change?
So many reasons! Firstly, the original intention was to have this edgy cartoon style, but when we tasked our artist with that, he just said ‘nah, we can’t do that at the PSP resolution’, so he tore through it all in pixel art instead. I’m glad he did, because it served the game well and he got a lot of work done quickly – which was essential for us with next to zero budget.
But almost every small indie studio releasing in 2011/12 took the exact same approach. By the time Velocity was released, people were bored of seeing retro pixel art. Pixel art’s second coming has well and truly come and gone!
Finally, if we’re going to build Velocity’s universe into a franchise that we can grow with, we need to establish a style that is wholly ours, so we’re starting again with Velocity Ultra – it’s genuinely a director’s cut, from the connectivity we missed out on with minis to a more distinguished and contemporary art style.
Will there be any changes to the soundtrack? Please don’t put dubstep in it.
We’re not going to try and fix what ain’t broke
British games studios have had a hard time in recent years but FuturLab goes from strength to strength – is there any secret to being a thriving games studio in the UK?
I can’t comment on other studios throughout the UK, but studios in Brighton seems to be doing great at the moment. As far as our secret sauce goes, yes I do think we have a certain recipe for success, but I can’t share that with you as we want to keep the edge!
How important has your partnership with Sony been to growing FuturLab?
It’s been critical. We’d much rather build a relationship with a publisher that has deep pockets than try our luck on the App Store. Because luck is what it all comes down to on the App Store if you’re an indie.
What’s next in FuturLab’s future?
More of the same with any luck! We’d love to get onto PS4 (or whatever it’ll be called) when it comes around.
There’s a questionnaire on FuturLab’s site with an eye towards a Velocity sequel – does FuturLab ever sleep?
We do sleep, and we dream about what’s next.