Filed under: Interviews | Tags: Beatnik Games, Plain Sight, Robin Lacey, TVGB
Making games is a tricky business, regardless of the size of the studio. UK-based indies Beatnik Games know this all too well. They’ve had a rough couple of years creating Plain Sight, their multiplayer robot-ninja-em-up. It’s a title with a fascinating premise, in which you gain points and power by destroying your enemies, but only bank those points when you destroy yourself and return to your original state.
With such intriguing set-up it would have been terrible if the game had never seen the light of day. Thankfully, after a couple of setbacks Plain Sight is back on track, better than ever and gearing up for release. We dragged producer Robin Lacey away from his booth at the Eurogamer Expo to talk development hell, accessibility and shitting rainbows.
That VideoGame Blog (TVGB): You showed the game at the Eurogamer Expo last year. Tell us a little about the game’s journey since then.
Robin Lacey (RL): Well last year was pretty much an Alpha build, it was just the basic gameplay concept. What we were trying to judge whether people thought the idea fun and if they found it visually interesting – it was basically a prototype. The response was fantastic and we were like, ‘This is great!’ So we went and spent about 3 months or so just working away on it and we thought, ‘Great we’re in Beta stage.’
So around Christmas last year we launched our open beta, which we thought would be fine – we thought maybe 10 people would download it and we’d get a bit of forum feedback. But 50,000 people downloaded it and everything burst into flames and went horribly wrong.
We realized that the game mechanics were broken and it was an absolute nightmare. So over the last 12 months what we’ve done is take the feedback and all of the harsh lessons we learned and tried to make the most refined game we possible can. It’s certainly been interesting.
Robot ninjas. Robot. Ninjas. If the world was fair and just we could end this preview now, confident in the knowledge that we’ve said all we need to say about Plain Sight. But convention dictates that we continue, so here we go.
Plain Sight is the debut title from UK-based indies Beatnik Games. It’s a competitive multiplayer game with a stonkingly awesome aesthetic and a wonderfully conceived central conceit. And robot ninjas.
Taking control of one of these beautifully designed little fellas, you are charged with taking out as many enemies as possible, deathmatch-style. You’ll do this by leaping around the sleek minimalist environments, leaving a neon Tron-esque trail and a string of vanquished foes in your wake.
The ‘map’ we played – although it seems odd calling them maps as they are fully-formed little worlds – was a giant, dizzying, unravelling tape loop. As the action takes place in space (and because it’s fun), you can leap onto and off of any surface, with a gravity system in effect that is most easily described as Mario Galaxy-esque.
Enemies are destroyed not with guns, but with swords. Get within range of an enemy, click and hold the attack button and your targeting reticule will zero in on the target. Once locked all you have to do is release the button and watch as your robo-assassin darts across and reduces your foe to scrap robo-parts. Making this harder is the fact that you and your enemies will be springing around the environment after each other, making combat more like a dogfight than a twitch-based encounter.
But the really interesting little quirk of Plain Sight is yet to come. As you swoop around the environment dishing out the pain, you earn points. The more enemies you kill, the more points you amass. You don’t ‘bank’ those points, however, until you blow yourself up. Do that and you’ll register the points and possibly bag a few extra in the resulting blast. The more points you collect before you hit self-destruct, the bigger the explosion. The bigger the explosion, the more potential to score extra points. The kicker being that an impressive points haul can be wiped out by death if you get too greedy. It’s a fantastic risk/reward dynamic and far easier to understand in practice than with my fumbling words.
If you read our interview with the producer of Plain Sight, you’ll know that development of the game hasn’t gone entirely smoothly. The game is currently on its third iteration, after the original build proved too easy and its replacement/upgrade was impossibly difficult. This current version aims for the middle ground. We played the Alpha build (though sadly not the insanely hard rebuild) last year and can vouch that the current set-up does indeed demand far more skilled approach. Judging how balanced the combat is, however, requires a far longer session than we had.
With a fully-rounded set of gameplay modes incoming, including a single-player campaign, Plain Sight has more than enough going for it to stand out from the crowd. That, along with the aesthetic, the robot ninjas, the game rules themselves and the ninja robots means that we’ll be keeping an interested eye on the final stages of development.