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Which indies are working on PS4 games, and why? Exclusive
Which indies are working on PS4 games, and why?
February 22, 2013 | By Mike Rose

February 22, 2013 | By Mike Rose
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    12 comments
More: Console/PC, Indie, Business/Marketing, Exclusive



It's fair to say that this week's big PlayStation 4 reveal was more aimed at drumming up interest in potential developers for the system, rather than pulling in the players. The latter can come later -- Sony needs devs on its side first.

What wasn't very well publicized during the two-hour presentation was the role that indie developers will play in the PS4's launch. Some tidbits about indies being able to self-publish was thrown in at one point, but nothing hugely concrete was mentioned.

Following the show, however, a press release went out detailing the PS4 hardware and, perhaps more excitingly, a staggering list of all the third-party developers and publishers who are apparently on-board.

And notably, a good portion of this list is indie studios. There's big names like Minecraft developer Mojang, BIT.TRIP's Gaijin Games and Nintendo 3DS publisher Nicalis, while smaller yet mighty teams like Vlambeer, Spry Fox and Wayforward also feature.

But with so many studios listed, the real question is: how many are actually working on PS4 games, and which have simply expressed an interest, yet been added to bump the numbers up and make the reveal seem that little bit more impressive?

Many indie studios that we got in contact with told us that they weren't able to talk about their current PS4 development status, although we were able to squeeze details out of them here and there.

Who's in, who's out?

We didn't get off to a great start in our hunt for PS4 indies, as Mojang's Daniel Kaplan told us that he wasn't even aware that the Minecraft and Scrolls studio had been included in the release.

"That is more than I knew!" he laughed. "I mean we are talking with different people with Scrolls, but we havent decided anything yet."

Could it perhaps be the case that Sony has simply included a list of indies who are working on Sony platforms? "Maybe everyone will just be bumped up to PS4... I don't have a clue to be honest," he answered.

Super Crate Box's Vlambeer isn't currently developing for PS4 either, although developer Rami Ismail says that "we've discussed the idea a bit."

We had far more luck with Rocketbirds developer Ratloop. The studio is one of only four Asian companies to be currently working on PS4 titles (according to the Sony press release, anyway), and Ratloop's Sian Yue Tan was happy to discuss what's going on at the company.

"We've been working on Rocketbirds 2: Evolution for the PS4 since we received the kits last month," he noted. "We shipped our latest iteration of Rocketbirds for PS Vita only last week."

He added, "Up until last night it had been a bit of a guessing game for us to figure out how the tech should be used, but we were pretty happy to see how the PS Vita would fit into the grand scheme of things. From a developer's perspective, the PS Vita has a lot more similarities with the PS4 than the PS3 and the connectivity between the PS4 and PS Vita could lead to some exciting new ideas."

Skulls of the Shogun studio 17-Bit, on the other hand, does not have a PS4 dev kit as of yet, although that's not for lack of trying.

"I'm surprised we were on any sort of list!" says the studio's Jake Kazdai. "We've actually been licensed Nintendo and Sony developers for years, and are working on a new project but we haven't decided anything yet about where it will land, or if it will even hit a console. I am anxious to see a PS4 dev kit and have been chatting with them about that but nothing official at all yet."

Gaijin Games' Alex Neuse says that the BIT.TRIP studio is definitely going to be jumping on the PS4 bandwagon at some point soon.

"At this point, we're still in early talks internally about what we're going to be doing on PS4, and we're just getting started," he said. "So to say that we're developing anything right at this moment would be a little bit of an overstatement, but we almost certainly will be developing something for PS4 in the fewtch."

"Suffice it to say, as I'm sure you assumed by seeing our name on that list, we are licensed PS4 developers and we're doing all the preliminary things that go along with getting rolling on a new platform."

Relatively new studio Roll7 is also on that list, and developer John Ribbins told us that he does indeed have a project in the works, although he's not allowed to talk about it yet.

Ripstone, the PS Vita publisher that has recently been causing a stir on the handheld, is also on board with the PS4, and is currently funding games headed to the system -- although the company wasn't willing to announce anything at this point.

Rudolf Kremers from Omni Systems (Eufloria) told us that he isn't commenting on his PS4 projects at the moment, while Iron Galaxy's Dave Lang confirmed PS4 development, adding that he couldn't say exactly what yet.

SpryFox's David Edery couldn't say whether the Triple Town studio was working on a PS4 game or not, and Metanet's Mare Sheppard answered, "Yes, we are developing something, but we can't say anything about it just yet -- ask us again in a few weeks!"

The full list of indie studios working on PlayStation 4 titles according to Sony -- or at least licensed PS4 studios, as it would appear -- is as follows:

Ratloop Asia (Rocketbirds)
Red Hare Studios (Page Chronica)
17-Bit (Skulls of the Shogun)
JETPACK Interactive Entertainment
Metanet Software (N+)
DrinkBox Studios (Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack)
Klei Entertainment (Mark of the Ninja)
Mojang (Minecraft)
Slant Six Games (The Bowling Dead)
Nicalis (VVVVVV, NightSky publisher)
Spry Fox (Triple Town)
Gaijin Games (Runner 2)
WayForward Technologies (Mighty Switch Force)
Iron Galaxy Studios (Divekick)
Ludosity (Garden Gnome Carnage)
Roll7 (Focus Pocus)
Omni Systems (Eufloria)
Tribute Games (Wizorb)
Dakko Dakko Games (Scram Kitty and his Buddy on Rails)
Ripstone (Big Sky Infinity publisher)
Four Door Lemon (The Lighthouse HD)
Ronimo (Awesomenauts)
Vlambeer (Super Crate Box)
Beatshapers (Jetpack Joyride publisher)
Bloober Team S.A. (A-men)
Boss Alien (CSR Racing)
Curve Studios (Stealth Bastard)
Double Eleven (Frozen Synapse: Tactics)
Flying Wildhog (Hard Reset)
Frozenbyte (Trine)
FuturLab (Velocity)
vBlank Entertainment (Retro City Rampage)
Laughing Jackal (Hungry Giraffe)
Shortround (Extraction: Project Outbreak)
Stormbasic (Ecolibrium)
Team 17 (The Worms series)

Why PS4?

So it sounds like the PS4 has a nice spread of indie studios backing it. What, then, are these developers excited about when it comes to the tech, and the various features shown at Sony's big reveal?

"As a developer I was happy to see the x86 architecture," noted Borut Pfeifer of 17-Bit.

He continued, "The main thing I'm excited about is that Mark Cerny is the system architect - realistically we still don't have a lot of details, but with Cerny in charge I'm a lot more confident they won't go off the rails."

Vlambeer's Ismail found himself excited about lots of the new features. "We are pumped - it seems the sharing stuff will be great and we're happy with all the background up - and downloading," he said.

"But for us those are secondary," he noted. "It's the promise of a more flexible, more open platform that sounds like something we can get behind. We think this generation, the flexibility of the platform to adapt to new games, new ideas and new ways to make games will dictate its ultimate success."

Ronimo's Joost van Dongen was pretty taken with the games shown as part of the presentation. "Personally, I was pretty excited about what Media Molecule was showing," he noted. "The visual style of those characters near the end is something that is only possible with a lot of polygons, and thus very next-gen, even though many gamers might not be aware of this."

"I hope more devs will jump on the possibilities of PS4 to make unique styles like that," he added. "And the Killzone showing was of course extremely spectacular!"

Gaijin's Neuse is more interested in the new capabilities, rather than the hardware's graphical power. "Honestly, we're most excited about the new downloadable features," he said. "The way they're promising to make the store more easy to use and friendly for gamers."

Roll7's Ribbins agrees, and in fact, he came away from the reveal with some new ideas of the direction in which to take his PS4 projects. "Graphics are graphics these days, but it's the social and more indie friendly side that I think is going to be cool," he noted. "As a developer, Sony have been really supportive and nice to work with thus far. It was great to see that they're trying to establish a place for the Vita alongside the console with the game streaming stuff, and it was nice to come away from the keynote with like, 50 ideas about how some of the new stuff could be implemented into cool little features in games."

Brad Hendricks at Blind Squirrel Games, which is currently working on developing both its own PS4 IP and existing IPs for other companies, says, "What we find most interesting are the possibilities of integrating Second Screen gameplay into the IPs we are developing."

"The gameplay features that can be introduced with the combination of high quality graphics and asymmetric input methods using a tablet/phone/PSVita are quite interesting to us. We are currently experimenting with various prototypes to expand players involvement in the game from the standard living room experience to something that can be constantly interacted with."

Omni Systems' Kremers is interested in the PS Vita integration in particular, as well as the overall focus on the end user experience. "It sounds like it will be easy architecture to work with, with plenty of ram and horsepower," he added. "As an indie this seems ideal as we have limited resources and generally we just want to focus on the games themselves."

Meanwhile, SpryFox's Edery looked at the new hardware from both sides of the coin, stating, "as a developer, I'm personally most interested in the social/sharing features. As a consumer, the streaming features and the ability to instant-resume are very exciting to me."

It was the demo streaming that really did it for Ratloop's Yue Tan. "I'm pumped about Gaikai streaming," he told us. "To start playing while stuff's downloading in the background makes it so much easier for people to try new games - it's what we tried to do with Rocketbirds: Revolution! back in 2009, so I'm glad to see something like this being adopted in a big way."

Iron Galaxy's Lang told Gamasutra that the hardware is looking great, "but I'm hopeful all the social stuff they are doing with the platform will expose people to games they might be willing to buy, as opposed to having them dig around in an online store."

And Ripstone's Michelle Senior said that she believes the reveal was perfect for whetting gamer appetites.

"It is a big step change for Sony and one that will be appreciated by the fans as they've made it more gamer-centric than console-centric which is what is needed; everyone's experience will be personalised and unique," she noted.

Senior added, "As a publisher, the Gaikai streaming feature is noteworthy for us as it should extend the life of our games past their initially expected life-span. It's all pretty exciting, even the build-up to it was great. I love a good bit of buzz in the industry, especially when it's something positive."


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Comments


James Coote
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Hmm... Maybe I was overly cynical in my previous comments on this issue. I guess time will tell

Jeremy Reaban
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Laughing Jackal seems to be up to something, they mentioned their being on the list on their Facebook page.

Hopefully not just a really, really hi-res version of Hungry Giraffe.

Jarod Smiley
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And the most important part of a console, the developers, all seem to be happy...SMH...and here the entire internet is at one side of extreme.

Sony fans==OMG it's amazing! I'm buying it

Other fans==OMG they didn't really explain how there doing anything! I'm not convinced.

Man, screw that knee jerk stuff, Developers are excited about this platform, that's all that matters.

Chris Hendricks
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In the fans' defense, the middle ground between those is "OK, that's a thing that makes me potentially interested, but maybe not". Whenever I feel like that, I usually don't end up commenting at all.

ian stansbury
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Agreed @Chris, while I will say it looks promising at this point there's just too little to go on for those of us sitting on the fence about it. If you've decided at this point you will own a PS4, then your gonna own a PS4 pretty much regardless of anything between now and release (pending something catastrophic of course).

For myself personally, I'm interested in what Microsoft will be doing and how that will stack up to the PS4, though I think they will be comparable in the end. Not really sure at this point if either will be able to pull me away from my PC quite honestly. Hopefully though, this will cause MS to also push for even more indie's on their platform as well. I think no matter which side of the debate you are on, everyone can agree that more indie games on more platforms with more visibility is a good thing for the industry and for gamers.

Jimmy Albright
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I'm a longtime Sony fan.

The PS4 might be a great console, but the presentation of it was very underwhelming. You can say things like "the event was there to attract developers" but as a developer I need to be enthusiastic about the platform before I spend thousands of hours working on it. Before you convince me to develop for something, I need to be convinced that I should buy the damn thing first!

More than likely due to awesome studios like Naughty Dog I'll inevitably end up purchasing one but as I said before, Sony did not do a great job of convincing consumers.

Amir Sharar
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There is absolutely nothing extreme about taking a wait and see approach, especially when critical details that will directly affect the success of the console have yet to be shared.

It is in fact a true middle of the ground position here.

Dave Long
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@ Jimmy - depends what you were looking for - I know a lot of consumers that are excited about it, I know some that are either way, some that are waiting for more detail and some that aren't gamers at all. It was easily the best-detailed console reveal in history, with more actual games, gameplay and developers/publishers supporting it. There's also been not a bad word about the architecture, and all the devs involved in it seem very positive, and that's a hugely important part of a platform's ecosystem.

Jimmy Albright
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@Dave Long "It was easily the best-detailed console reveal in history"

There was a TON of questions that developers needed to hear, and honestly very little was revealed about the console itself outside of 8GB of RAM and doing away with the cell processor .

The level of backwards compatability is 100% up in the air at this point. Services like Gaikai aren't ideal for all of consumers. As I've said in other articles, the fastest internet in my state is a 22/2 (mb, ofc) pipe that I unfortunately have to pay $120.00 a month for. The MINIMUM recommended upload for gaikai and streaming (among other features) is 3MB. Only recently was a 55/5 connection released in my state. It's very unstable and it costs $200.00 a month. You might say this isn't Sony's problem but when they remove features from hardware and put them in the cloud without talking about the geographical limitations of their audience it's kind of a big deal. We "might" be able to play PS3 games on our PS4s some day? What kind of a statement is that?

What is the submission process for Indie's going to be like? In what ways are they embracing developers? I wouldn't call getting rid of the cell processor a bad thing, but that's not exactly leaps and bounds ahead of it's competitors. For the first time in like 15 years they changed the controller but spent like 2 minutes talking about it. They added an entirely new camera peripheral (THAT was some careful patent tip-toeing) without even providing a single example of the innovation it could bring to the living room. There was also a bunch of market plugs for the Vita, as if a single person who doesn't own a Vita is going to buy one so they can play their PS4 games on it. (The fact that Sony at one point called the Vita the "future of living room gaming" has me VERY worried.)

The big list of 3rd party developers shouldn't have impressed a single person on here. What third party developer who's previously had good relations with Sony WOULDN'T want to be in on the PS4? It's a huge money making opportunity for every single company on that list, and even quite a few have said they aren't even working currently on PS4 titles. Microsoft could effortlessly produce a list of the same size.

The Sony event was what, like 2 hours? I felt there couldn't have been more than 20 or 30 minutes devoted to the actual PS4. I'm also wondering what their thoughts are no not even showing the hardware itself. The look of the console isn't important from a gaming perspective, but from a marketing perspective it seems like a horrible idea. If their idea was to build up even more hype for E3 without showing the console, I honestly feel it was a huge mistake. The worst part about this is that it was Sony's announcement. They hyped this up for a month, this was their announcement that they had full control of planning. I expected a lot more.

Then again, Microsoft could screw up so bad that it makes Sony's announcement look like a raging success.

Dave Long
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@ Jimmy - keep in mind this is just the first reveal of the console - there are always questions after the reveal (how much did we know after the Wii U's reveal? Almost nothing beyond that it had a tablet controller and would be HD). Of course there are more questions and details. Also, I completely agree with you about backwards compatibility (although from a development perspective it's not really a big issue).

As for the Indie submission process, that's not really glitzy press-conference material - expecting that at an event like this is unrealistic.

That's not to say there aren't issues. I think your comment about the PS4 eye and patents is very appropriate ;). I think Sony are (as always) trying too hard to make sure they can do everything - so they've got their Kinect-alike and their Wii Ugamepad-alike (in Vita remote play/any game playable on Vita). But we know more about the console and its games now from the reveal of the PS4 than we did of any Playstation, Nintendo, Sega or Microsoft console in the last twenty years, and that part of what we know is that Sony is focussed on developers. I'm not talking about the big list - I'm talking about the number of warm bodies on stage and on video - it's easy to put your name on a list, but when was the last time you saw people from Activision, Ubisoft, Ready at Dawn, Bungie, most of the Sony Studios, Double Fine and a few more besides all talk up a console at the reveal?

Langdon Oliver
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I on'

Leon T
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Sony always shows a big list of developers or a big screen full of logos, but history has shown ( this goes for all the big 3) that talk is cheap and all that support rarely shows in the first year drought.


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