Interview by Keith Murray & Jamie Davies, April 2009
Having developed several titles for the PSN (with more in the pipeline) Creat Studios have played in key part in supporting the platform. We spoke to Creats Scott Hyman on what its like developing games, bringing their creations to life and even some info on their upcoming PSN title, Smash Cars.
Who are Creat Studios and how did you get started?
Creat Studios has been developing animation and video games since 1990. We have made games for XBox, PlayStation2, GameCube, PSP, DS, PC, and PlayStation Network. Recent releases include Tony Hawk’s Motion and Insecticide for the DS, and Magic Ball, Cuboid and Mahjong Tales: Ancient Wisdom for PSN.
The downloadable tiles you’ve released so far have all been on the PSN – what’s attracted you to the platform over the others?
Sony has been an amazing partner, and the opportunity was very attractive. We are a publisher for the network, and their support has allowed us to develop and publish what we want to make.
Have there been any major benefits in developing for the PSN?
Well, working with Sony, for sure. The level of support has been key, and the direct access they help provide to our customers is a huge bonus for us. Developing for PSN provides a great amount of freedom to make the kinds of games we like, that we feel players want, and to do so within a reasonable budget.
What would you say have been your main challenges in developing these titles?
We’ve gladly accepted the challenge of keeping the focus on gameplay, and providing the most value. Larger projects can often get caught up in the extras, and the gameplay can suffer. Creat has maintained to keep our games accessible, and to get right to the fun.
The current consoles have brought the downloadable scene to the mainstream for the first time. Do you think this fosters closer links with consumers as opposed to the more traditional large developer/customer relationship of old?
It can make a difference, and it has for us. But I believe the relationships between developers and their customers depends more on the company’s priorities. As Creat entered the downloadable space, we have been able to connect directly with our players more frequently, take their feedback, and let them know how much we appreciate them.
The company seems to have a produced a diverse selection of games with Magic Ball, Cuboid and Mahjong Tales. Your upcoming game Smash Cars is also another departure in a different direction. Has this been a conscious decision to produce something very different each time?
Our intent is not to make different games from each other, but just to make good ones. We have an amazing team of designers, with backgrounds in every genre. They are always brainstorming cool new ideas. Our artists and engineers are always up for the challenge to bring their ideas to life, and we have a diverse set of projects currently in the works.
What can players expect from Smash Cars?
Action, action, action! Jumps, tricks, flips, shortcuts, bumping and grinding, and online multiplayer. On road and off road. Players control a small RC vehicle, and race through an island from the toy’s point of view. Points and rewards come not just from the best racing time, but from flips, tricks and the number of opponents pushed off the track.
Tell us a little bit about the creative process you put in to your titles where do you begin in drawing up your titles and what are the typical goals you set yourself?
The starting point can be different every time. From a team member being inspired with a great new idea to a favorite license becoming available, anything can launch the process. Once the concept is being considered, an open communication process is what moves us forward. Everyone chats with everyone, providing feedback and critique until we feel that a great game is emerging. Setting our goals depends on the scope of the project, but the end goal is always to make a fun game. All the extras are secondary to making something as fun as possible.
Cuboid is a real gem on the PSN was the overwhelmingly positive reaction it’s garnered expected?
We hoped that people would like it, but the waves of praise have been the best surprise of the year, so far. The overwhelming response has inspired us to push even harder to provide more of what players have told us they are enjoying.
Have you thought about developing for the other downloadable platforms like XBLA and Wiiware? Is there anything that attracts you to, or puts you off, working on these platforms?
I don’t think anything has ever put us off from any of the three platforms. We love the freedom and innovation that the downloadable space inspires. We can develop high-resolution, state-of-the-art graphics while still keeping the focus on gameplay. I think that, in the next few years, many of the best and coolest new ideas will continue to come from this part of gaming. The budgets are low enough to allow for more risk. More risk means that ideas will surface on PSN, XBLA and Wiiware that likely would never see the light of day anywhere else on the consoles.
Has there been anything on the downloadable platforms for the current three consoles that has impressed or inspired you?
Flower is cool. So is N+. I played Burn Zombie Burn! at GDC and really enjoyed myself. There’s so much great stuff going on that it’s almost unfair to keep listing, without fear of leaving titles out.
Aside from your own titles what would you say have been your favourite XBLA/Wii Ware / PSN games?
Oh, don’t make me choose! I have to give a nod to Flower, because it’s so different. That’s what we need more of. Other than that, I need to finish wrapping up from GDC to finally play NHL 3-on-3.
A big thanks to Scott Hyman, Olga Paskovaty, Michael Robinson and the rest of Creat Studios for taking the time to speak to us. Magic Ball, Cuboid and Mahjong Tales: Ancient Wisdom are available to download from the PSN right now.