Setting the Stage for a Royale Rumble

A young team tackles the PlayStation pantheon: SuperBot Entertainment talks about the development of PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale.

SuperBot Entertainment occupies two squat, unassuming buildings amid a quiet business plaza in Culver City, California. Inside, the developers behind PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale--an upcoming brawler starring numerous PlayStation icons--are entering the home stretch. Finding the right setting to showcase the all-stars has been no small feat for the young studio. With over three years behind them, the team has gone through a lot of experimentation to reach the state their game is in today. Now, the end is finally in sight.

The inside of SuperBot looks like a massive studio apartment turned game studio. The majority of each building's single room is dedicated to rows of computers. A kitchenette sits off to one side, and a few conference rooms are scattered along the walls. There are no partitions separating the work stations on the main floors, creating an open work space where team members can freely talk with one another.

Under the watchful eye of Guru, a massive, multi-armed robot mural, the 110 employees are hard at work putting the finishing touches on their studio's breakout game, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. This mascot brawler stars a host of familiar faces from across the Sony lineup. Similar to its contemporaries, the game has simple controls. All you have to do is press a button and direction together to perform a special attack. Where it differs is in its energy meter, super attacks, and scoring system. But it wasn't always this way. The story of SuperBot and All-Stars begins over three years ago.

Chan Park, president of SuperBot Entertainment, remembers the early days of the company. Before starting work on All-Stars, SuperBot was an incubated team within Sony Santa Monica. Back then they were called Broodworks, with a humble staff of just under 30 people. Being an incubated team meant Santa Monica provided the office space, equipment, and other resources, freeing Broodworks to focus solely on game development. As the two teams collaborated, it was ultimately decided that Park and his young team would take on the mantle of the all-stars with a full, retail release.

Straight out of the gate the team's first challenge was finding the right vehicle to showcase the cast. It went through dozens of ideas, many focusing on a single-screen, multiplayer experience. In fact, All-Stars started out a more casual game. The idea of a capture-the-flag game, with combat as a secondary function, was thrown around a lot. However, another idea that was equally pervasive was the mascot brawler. As weeks passed, the brawler idea gained more and more traction--until it ultimately won out. At that point, the team knew it would need specialized help.

"Implementing and executing a winning strategy is where the fun in fighting games is born." -- Kendall
Enter Omar Kendall, game director for PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. With his past experience developing fighting games, and the connections he had made within that genre, he was a natural fit. "Once we figured out what the game was going to be, and what that core combat loop was like, then it became a matter of finding the team who could take that experience and make a whole, proper game out of it," said Kendall.

"It was very challenging to find the right talent," Park recalled. "[The fighting game genre] is something where you really need to find experienced people, and even then it is a very specific learning curve." Kendall added that it was difficult to fill some of the key positions--gameplay programming, animation, design--with those who had worked on fighting games before. "We have been fortunate to find some young, hungry, and talented people to fill out this team."

An early concept of the Metropolis stage from Ratchet & Clank.

Three months after Kendall joined, another proof-of-concept was completed, and the team moved into its current space one month later. "Omar nailed everything down," said Ivan Glaze, the game's senior producer. When Glaze was brought on in 2010, the game was still in preproduction, and the team was exploring some very different ideas. "Once Omar came in, he said this is what we're going to do, and this is how we will be different from other games out there--and that really helped."

We prototyped all kinds of different things," adds Michael Bilodeau, the game's lead level designer. These prototypes included dozens of ideas that never saw the light of day, including one where characters raced along the inside of a sphere. As the game's concept became concrete, Bilodeau focused on character control first, and designing levels around those parameters second. What the players are actually doing needs to feel the best, he stated, and the stages need to accommodate that.

"Building these stages starts with research. This means playing through Uncharted, BioShock, God of War, and other games whenever there's free time. "I played through the most recent Ratchet & Clank on lunch breaks the first month I was here just to get a refresher," Bilodeau added. As they play, Bilodeau and the team are looking for basic game elements that they can isolate and construct a level around. Those ideas are then brainstormed, documented, and made into a visually simple "block out" where the idea can be tested in-game. "We burn through a ton of those," Bilodeau said. "The best are then brought to Omar and the rest of the team where we can start working on how to make them work in the game proper."

"Game design is fundamentally problem-solving all the time. You get a goal very easily; achieving that goal is the hard part." -- Bilodeau
In January of 2011, art director Lee Harker was brought on board. At that time, Harker recalled, the project was just getting off the ground. His first task was addressing how the characters would look. Opinions were mixed about whether to keep the characters close to their original designs or to create a unified design for the entire cast.

The final call was a compromise: the characters' physical designs would stay true to their native games, while the ancillary details--texture, lighting, surface quality--would be unified. This means, for example, that the way Raiden, Sackboy, and PaRappa react to light is the same, giving them the appearance that they all belong in the same location.

Doug Prior, audio lead, hails from Sony Santa Monica and has been with the team for about a year. When he joined, the game's art style and combat mechanics were coming together, but the audio design was "an empty canvas." After collaboration between Prior and the rest of the team, the idea for audio mash-ups was born. Since every stage in All-Stars is a mash-up of two games--such as the Uncharted 3/BioShock Infinite stage--it seemed appropriate that the music followed suit. As Prior explained, when the stage starts, only one track will be playing. Then, once the stage mash-up begins, there will be a bridge segment where the two tracks will match beats and overlap. Finally, the first track will fade out, and the second will take over.

One unresolved issue is how to handle move-specific barks. In many fighting games, when characters perform a special attack--such as Ryu's hadoken--he or she will call out the name of the attack or give some other audio cue. Presently, the characters in All-Stars don't do this. Prior explained that when you're battling with four other people, having everyone call out move names every single time creates a lot of noise and confusion. Testing is still ongoing to find the right balance.

"We kept the fact that we are creating an introductory experience for some players in mind." -- Kendall
Today, Park, Kendall, and many of the department leads are busy reviewing and refining every element in the game. The ideas are set, now the team must be sure they are right for the game so the final vision is not diluted. In the beginning, when the team was much smaller, sweeping changes and big cuts were not an issue. But now, as the team has grown and the game's November release draws near, those course corrections are not so easy. Each element in the game must be watched very closely to make sure it falls within their goals. And some of those elements are still being cut.

One example that didn't fall in line was dying from level hazards. As Kendall explained, attacks from the stage itself--such as the Patapon's arrows and Hades' energy wave--would kill players on contact. This proved to be overwhelming for most players. And because dying was so frequent, the significance was devalued; most players just didn't care when it happened. An alternative was decided where instead of killing a player, background attacks would knock out some of the character's energy meter as orbs that anyone could collect. This ties in naturally to the game's focus on energy and supers. "The game made sense on a whole new level with that change," Park added.

A nearly complete concept of the Sandover Village from Jak & Daxter.

"We are a studio that has been purpose-built to make this experience," Park said. Throughout all the prototyping, revisions, and even leaks, Park and Kendall remain confident in the team they have assembled and the product SuperBot has created. They have brought the game to numerous trade shows, and the private beta through PlayStation Network is ongoing. The data and feedback collected is analyzed and adapted into the final product, which the team hopes will do their lineup justice. But all that hinges on the game's release, just a few short months away.

For more coverage on PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale check out the Dante and Nariko character breakdowns, or the Raiden and Heihachi video demos. The game will be released on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita in North America on Novermber 20th.

Written By

Want the latest news about PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale?

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale

Follow

Discussion

138 comments
BBLethal7
BBLethal7

Besides the big four characters missing - Lara Croft, Spyro, Cloud and Crash; I think there are a bunch of other characters from titles not mentioned here.. Like what about Kain and Rhaziel from the "Legacy of Kain" series? or any of the fighters from the "Bloody Roar" series like Yugo and Shen Long? or Nathan Hale or a Chimera Alien (which I heard is on the game actually) from the "Resistance" series? There are a shit load of possibilities for DLC or even integrated characters not mentioned yet

Danimita
Danimita

If they managed to get Crash and Spyro in the game (and my bet is they did), they'll probably be the last characters to be announced.

Joedgabe
Joedgabe

Crash!!! god dammit!!!! why is the Guy from uncharted here but not crash ? Crash has always been naughty dog's most respected character. Spiro would be great too... or even at least 1 character from legend of the dragoon or Parasite Eve or how about Allucard from Castlevania ? Or even better MUSASHI!!

romedawg
romedawg

1:03 the racism is blatant why would they want to only appeal to the whitest possible audience

bonzaibillie
bonzaibillie

"We wanted people to have accesiblilty to this game..." So we f*cking ripped off Smash Bros to the letter

InasahLJ
InasahLJ

Spyro, Crash, Lara Croft, Cloud...that's IT !

No_SuRReNDeR
No_SuRReNDeR

Personally, I would imagine they will add and build characters as "additional download content" in the future so even if say Crash doesnt somehow...god forbid make this iteration....he will likely be there eventually.

 

deadruler08
deadruler08

THE GAME DOESN'T COME OUT TILL NOVEMBER.  IT'S SEP 7th.  THERE'S 2 MONTHS LEFT TO ANNOUNCE CRASH AND SPYRO.  K BYE

Nikolaj-11
Nikolaj-11

Sceptic that Crash and Spyro isn't in the game, but I have do doubt that it'll be fun nontheless.

Hig1134
Hig1134

A good dev team, putting in the necessary time and effort to polish the game. I really think this game will be good! 

randomrings
randomrings

I like the fact that they talk to the developers about ideas on their characters. This will make sure that Playstation All-Stars doesn't have its "Sonic" (Super Smash Bros Brawl reference). I love Sonic, but his character in SSBB still depresses me

00black
00black

This game has DLC written all over it. Bet they do what Mortal Kombat did and sell you the full experience in packages.

Ares360
Ares360

They really should do some DLC and put Cloud in here just saying, I mean what franchise has been on the Playstation longer than the FF series

xpepox
xpepox

Where are Crash and Spyro?

King9999
King9999

Crash is the only glaring omission that I see.  He was THE PlayStation mascot.

ClimaxJumper
ClimaxJumper

SuckerPunch, Naughty Dog and Insomniac characters in it for sure.

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

When you need to add Parapper the Rapper and Fat Princess in your roster, you know it's time for a new exclusive IP, Sony.

rain_ishigawa
rain_ishigawa

Sony wants in on that smash brothers money XD

 

not bashing this game it could be fun, it's just funny the guy at the end  couldn't say "smash brothers" properly ... cmon moustachoied dude it's easy to say no need to hide behind euphemisms such as "eerr umm not our compertitors" XD 

obsequies
obsequies

feels like it should have clair redfield, katamari thing, final fantasy characters, lara croft, yoshimitsu, crash, vib ribbon guy..the lineup they chose is really terrible and shallow..but I guess the rights to the TRUE playstation crew lies elsewhere

soulless4now
soulless4now

They spent three years on this game?

 

lol Okay. 

RAGEofSTUNTS
RAGEofSTUNTS

Spyro and Crash DLC announced a week or two after the game is released, and it is already on the disc.

 

Going to wait to get this game, I don't want to end up like with my past situation with Killzone 3 and buy it at full price just to have a version later for half the price with all DLC.

deadlysin87
deadlysin87

You know, I know with near 100% certainty, that this will fail.

 

And yet, I can't help but root for it.  It seems like they've got some core things going right, and I hate to see developers suffer.  Here's to Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale being a successful game.

crasha12
crasha12

WE WANT CRASH!! WE WANT CRASH!! WE WANT CRASH!! .......

Slagar
Slagar

They put a Big Daddy in this game? I don't think Bioshock really belongs here...

mav_destroyer
mav_destroyer

 @romedawg Now I'm picturing the Playstation Eye scaning people before allowing them to play certain games XD

mav_destroyer
mav_destroyer

 @bonzaibillie well when you think about it, SSB isn't available on Playstation is it? sure they copied the idea but there's nothing like it for PS players

ExtremePhobia
ExtremePhobia

 @CivilizedPsycho I know =). I was thinking the same thing too but it was a timed exclusive not entirely exclusive. While they made the announcement seem like some kind of huge PS character, he is an awesome character regardless and I like the idea of him being in a game. It'd be awesome if he had a secondary skin that was a Big Sister or something (or even just subject Delta).

 

Course, I still don't have a PS3 so *shrug*.

Hig1134
Hig1134

 @MooncalfReviews Yeah, because Sony isn't the one company introducing new IP's  nowadays, are they?? That's right, they ARE the only company introducing new IP's. Not sure what you were getting at....I guess you just don't know any better.

Gh05t_
Gh05t_

 @MooncalfReviews "Its time for a new exclusive IP Sony."... Other than Gears, Halo, and Lost Odyssey, what does 360 have that PS doesnt that is worth mentioning? And besides, those two characters are going to be fun. It is, after all, a party game. SSB had Mr. Game-&-Watch... who was totally awesome!

King9999
King9999

 @MooncalfReviews Nothing wrong with adding either character.  In PaRappa's case, that was a welcome addition since he hasn't been seen for years.

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

Claire Redfield was Capcom not Sony (she also appeared on the Gamecube and the Xbox). Lara Croft isn't Sony either. Nintendo were able to add so many characters into their roster because they already had the rights to almost of their's.

obsequies
obsequies

they should have got this game going last generation 

Hig1134
Hig1134

 @soulless4now Yeah, because polishing a game to be the best it can be is a bad thing, right?? I agree with the other two replies...I don't understand your point of view. 

StJerK
StJerK

 @soulless4now I don't understand your comment. Are you saying it shouldn't of taken so long? 3 years is pretty good for development time.

Plataea
Plataea

 @deadlysin87 

I don't see why this game should fail.  Of course, no one can really say until it comes out, so there's definitely a chance it will be a disappointment.  However, at this stage, there's every chance it could be a fun game.  I don't see any major problems in the gameplay we've seen

 

 @StayFrosty 

You can't see where the fun factor comes in?  Anyone who's played SSB knows that a game like this can be incredibly fun and addictive.  This game will be different from SSB, of course, but if if it's anything like as good, then it should be a riot.

StayFrosty
StayFrosty

 @deadlysin87 Indeed, I'm going to try and see where this fun factor comes in. I'm sure I'll have a blast at some point. my expectations aren't that high anyways.

Uiltetwr
Uiltetwr

 @crasha12 will never happen activision owns him with spyro very very veyr sad

Gh05t_
Gh05t_

 @Slagar I like that they are branching out from there exclusive characters.

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

They are the only company introducing new IPs, I agree. I'm saying their characters suck. Mostly.

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

Halo isn't worth mentioning, LOL.

 

I'm not the biggest Microsoft fanboy (I'm more a fan of companies such as Bioware, Bethesda, and Rockstar), but they have more interesting exclusives than those you mentioned. Fable, Alan Wake, Mass Effect (1), all the old Bioware games that never got released on to name a few, are all better than Halo or Gears.Not saying Sony doesn't have better exclusives, because they do, but the characters on those exclusives tend to be a bit lame. Mostly. Which I was only discussing because we're talking about the roster for this game.

obsequies
obsequies

 @MooncalfReviews yoshimitsu is namco and all the other characters I listed arent sony either so I don't get what you're point is as I stated very clearly in my comment that the rights are in another castle..this isn't sony battle royal..its playtation...and final fantasy 7, the first resident evils and the first tomb raiders are more playstation 1 than anothing else..I do realize tomb raider came out on saturn first but it was crap on there. my point wasn't devs but that those were mainly ps titles

also..donkey kong, mario, and luigi were on atari and coleco consoles and in fact they were there first...solid snake was on a microsoft console before nintendo, does that make him able to qualify for a halo vs snake royal or render the nintendo characters less viable to be a smash brothers candidate? give me a break buddy I'm not an idiot

Hig1134
Hig1134

 @MooncalfReviews Well....that's your opinion, which is fine. Stating an opinion as fact, however, not so much. Sony's characters are great, IMO. To each his own, I guess.