The start of a new project is an interesting time. It’s often stated that this is one of the points where you’re most excited about what you’re going to be making and in some respects it’s true. I’m sure for many it’s the truest of all truths too. For me, the beginning is one of the most annoying parts next to that bit where you have to put a menu in.
God, I hate that bit.
So I’m sitting here safe in the knowledge that Andy has signed on the dotted line and tomorrow I’ll be doing he same. I’m safe in the knowledge that we both want to bring Death Ray Manta (DRM) to the Vita and I’m safe in the knowledge that after a year working with DRM in its current incarnation across multiple platforms I can’t carry on with that anymore. It makes me tired just to look at it. I want to roll out the update with Mac and Linux then draw a line in the sand and all the things that I wanted DRM to be but for reasons of life and time it never became it will now truly never become. For my own sanity, if nothing else.
And yet, I want to make DRM again. We’ve both agreed to make DRM again. And we want to make it the best, most expansive DRM that we can make. There’d be no point doing it otherwise.
I asked Andy what he wanted DRM to be in his hands.
“I want to make it the most beautiful Rob game ever made” came his reply.
“I want to help in making this amazing”
OK. That sounds good. I like that. Flattery will get you everywhere.
What do I want to make?
“I want to make the best arcade game on the Playstation Vita that isn’t by Jeff Minter”, you can quote me on that. I’ve even put it in quotation marks to make it easier to cut and paste.
That’s a ridiculous claim, right? Yeah, obviously but…
Currently, and I know this is set to change, there just aren’t that many truly great arcade games on the Vita. Not “great games”, that would be both rude and a lie. the “arcade” is an important qualifier.
Now, I don’t mean this in some arrogant “here I come to save the day” manner because that would be bullshit. I mean this in the most matter of fact “these things aren’t there yet” way. There are some, Velocity Ultra deserves a special shout out because it is great and an essential buy for anyone with a Vita, Sixty Second Shooter may be threadbare in the looks department but it’s a lovely little idea worth a gander over and obviously, Super Crate Box is a thing that exists and it’d be rude not to acknowledge it.
I know all this will change because I know some of the people who will be making games for Vita and they are brilliant, brilliant people with brilliant, brilliant ideas and the ability to make those ideas shine. And they will do that because that is what they do. There’s more games on the horizon that excite me greatly, this is nice.
But in recent years the focus on the kind of arcade style game I like and the kind of games I like to make has drifted so it’s not really that lofty an aim, it’s more about filling in gaps than mighty claims.
There’s a void that very few people even try and fill with their games so I want to aim high with the intent of helping to fill that void. I want to make games about the play without the non-game noise, attention grabbing, meta meta meta meta and whatever. No cutscenes, y’know? The modern arcade game. This has long been at the heart of what I make and heck, I don’t believe my way is the right way, the one way things should be. It’s a way not the way, it’s the space I want to explore.
I hope that other people will have similar aims and I hope other people do beat me to the chase, do make better games than we manage because that would be fabulous but I don’t mind if they don’t, I like diversity, I like lots of types of videogames. This isn’t a precious “look at me” thing, it’s what I want to achieve.
Andy and I have been chatting a lot the past few days about what The Next DRM (not the name) will be, what it should be. What it can be. Things we’ve found problematic with DRM in its current incarnation, things that we can realistically do because there’s no point having all these ideas if they steal our time and will to exist, it’s no point letting something become a sprawling monster of death that does lots of things but not one thing especially well. We’ve been trying to find the focus and whittling Death Ray Manta into shape so that it has focus.
And we’ve not held back in throwing all the ideas on the table, not held back in saying “this might be shit” and kept an open mind on how this could evolve and how the game can still share the name of the one that came before it.
“Will this even be recognisable as DRM?”, asked Andy.
“Yes”, I replied.
A 1:1 port of DRM, we could do that on PSM and be done with, no fucks given, no questions asked. It’d take us as long as this would anyway, getting to grips with a new system, getting stuff up and running then throwing it all in. So we’re going to fix things up, throw some new things in but not stray from my core design philosophies of what Death Ray Manta is…
DRM won’t waste your time.
DRM will be a complete experience on purchase.
DRM does not have padding to artificially extend its life.
DRM does not make you watch a number go up and give you shinies for a number going up.
DRM will be a videogame in the rawest sense. One word, videogame.
DRM starts you with everything you need to play the game. No shops, no upgrades.
DRM goes away when what it has is exhausted.
DRM is about the experience of flashing lights at yourself and falling into a sea of noise.
DRM is for you. It’s OK to put it down when you’ve had enough. I won’t stop you.
So we’ve added some new stuff to the list…
DRM is not defined by its controls. What is appropriate for one platform is not necessarily appropriate for another.
DRM can give you shinies but only because you earned those shinies because you are great.
DRM does not define being great within a videogame as something reliant on skill.
DRM will be running on the most brilliant screen, it’d be rude not to exploit that.
DRM can be more expansive but it can still never waste your time.
Which is an arse about tit way of saying it’ll be a dual stick videogame with trophies that you don’t just get for dancing, it’ll be the heart of DRM with prettier graphics and anything we add has to be only added because it has worth to the experience but it will be a bigger game. By virtue of shifting to dual stick from single, the amount of stuff we can add increases by a massive number simply because of how much more control you have of your manta. The fun bit is making that work and making that stuff interesting and exciting, we can’t make the best arcade game on the Vita just by selotaping some stuff onto a thing we’ve already made, that’d be rubbish. It will also not look like DRM in its current incarnation, not when we’ve got shaders and that screen.
That’s where we’re heading, this is our quest. We’ll probably fail in so many ways, trip up and trip over in so many ways and hey, nobody is perfect but fuck it, we’re going to have fun making the prettiest Rob game ever made and we’re going to make this the best we can to the best of our abilities.
To be honest, I’m not sure I even know how to do anything else these days.
And I hope that if we fail in our quest to make the best arcade game on the Vita that’s not made by Yak it’s because we’ve been bettered by someone else. But I also hope that if we do fail anywhere down the line, it’ll be for interesting failures not because we made a pile of shit.
I think that’s all we can ask for, right?
Wish us luck!