Q&A: Hot Pixel maestro Jordane Thiboust

We caught up with the game's lead designer to get the full lowdown on this French minigame collection.

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When it was first unveiled all the way back at E3 2006, Atari's Hot Pixel looked set to bring the minigame genre to the PlayStation Portable with some considerable style. Now, over a year later, the game is finally set for release on the PlayStation Portable and PC in July. The distinctly quirky game promises over 200 minigames, multiplayer modes, and downloadable content. Arguably the most memorable part of Hot Pixel is its unique style that fuses street culture and retro visuals. While the game inevitably takes inspiration from Wario Ware, it certainly looks to be tackling the genre from a different angle.

As developer zSlide's first published title, there's also a great deal of expectation around what the French company can pull off. While they're currently working hard on finishing the game itself, we were still able to grab lead designer Jordane Thiboust to talk about how Hot Pixel has progressed over the last year.

GameSpot UK: Hot Pixel was first unveiled ahead of E3 06--what have you been working on for so long?

Jordane Thiboust: A lot of things, in fact: creating more minigames, adding extra games, polishing things, and, most importantly, we worked a lot on our online content--it is not something we wanted to take lightly. So we took our time to do it well.

GSUK: You originally promised a compendium of 200 minigames; has that list changed or grown during development?

JT: Yes, the list has grown quite a bit. There are 200 original minigames, plus 10 Xtra Games that are unlimited in duration and will allow players to have fun when they feel like playing a particular game for a longer session, as well as get high scores. Added to that, there are also "reskinned" games, they are basically some of the 200 games but turned into parody or weird situations, you will especially see them in the highest difficulty of the episodes mode, those are purely bonus and aren't part of the 200 games.

GSUK: Have you been influenced by games such as WarioWare when designing the minigames?

JT: Of course we were--Nintendo created a new kind of game with the WarioWare license. We had the idea to create a game that would be like "game sampling," where you have fun for a few seconds or minutes at most and then switch to another game, like zapping on TV.

WarioWare showed us it worked, so we took from there, and decided to evolve it further technically, using the multimedia and online capacities of the PSP, and adding things like playlist management, smart playlists, Xtra Games, and such.

GSUK: Give us some examples of how you will use the PSP control system to play the games in Hot Pixel.

JT: We tried to keep the controls easy and intuitive; when you have only a few seconds to play a minigame, you don't want to lose half that time trying to understand the controls.

That said, some of the minigames at the highest level of difficulty can be quite challenging. Added to that, when you can use the D pad you can also choose to use the analog stick--it all depends how you feel using one or the other.

GSUK: Tell us a little bit about Djon, the main character in the game, and how we'll follow his life as a skateboarder.

JT: Djon is indeed one of the main characters of the game; he is present in the cutscenes as well as in a lot of minigames, but in Hot Pixel Djon also evolves in a pixel world full of junk food creatures, aliens, weird animals, and such. That's his adventures in this world, as well as the life of its inhabitants that you will follow in Hot Pixel.

GSUK: How much has the urban sports theme influenced the visuals and audio behind the game?

JT: Well, not as much as you would think it has. First thing is that the urban style was here to give us an overall direction for the ambiance of the game, but it was never something that stopped us making minigames, music, or visuals if we felt they would be fun, even though they wouldn't be a perfect fit to the urban theme. It was a direction, but never a restriction.

Because even if we had that theme to guide us, the first thing we had in mind was to make a fun and original game--that was our priority before everything else.

GSUK: What multiplayer features can we expect from Hot Pixel? Will you be able to play with other people on one console, or connect with players over wireless?

JT: You can play with other players wireless, in a one-versus-one duel. In this mode you have to be the best at a specific playlist of games, while you throw "graphical disturbers" (shaking screen, reverse control, and such) at your opponents in order to complicate their minigames.

GSUK: Are there any plans to expand on the game with downloadable content in future?

JT: Yes, we have a lot of plans about the downloadable content of Hot Pixel, expanding it is of course one of them, but that's far from being the only thing. We will have more to announce about that in the really near future. So, stay tuned is all I can say!

GSUK: Jordane, thanks for your time.

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