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Yoshida really, really disappointed by lack of third party support

Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida recently lamented the state of PSP in an interview with IGN UK. He notes that third party support for Sony's handheld has been "really, really disappointing," calling the current sitation "a lost opportunity for the third parties." He's echoed this sentiment before.

"They should look at what the PSP can do for their titles and the potential for the business that their IP has," he says, pointing out Sony's first-party support of the handheld through titles like God of War, Resistance and Buzz!. Of course, Yoshida's job is to convince third party developers to support the platform. His strategy? "We have to show by examples. What's happening in Japan is interesting - because of the massive success of Monster Hunter, Japanese publishers realise, 'here's a resource'. Lots of people are playing PSP in groups of fours and when you go to Japan it's hard to find a train or a bar where you don't see some people playing a PSP. So other publishers in Japan are seeing these consumers, and thinking, 'Wow, we can make games for those consumers'."

Want some pipe-bursting Pipe Mania info? We've got it

We've recently had the chance to catch producer Ben Wilkins and Empire Interactive's Director of project management P.J. Snavely for a little Q&A session on their latest multiplat puzzle game, Pipe Mania. The game is a remake of the classic 1989 title with a legion of new game modes and gameplay features. Wilkins told us that this new Pipe Mania will keep the classic core gameplay and will emphasize on building on top of that by adding more content.

Speaking of adding more, the game is set to have 250-300 levels -- about three times more than the original. Levels are not randomized; they're all preset. Expect to see some classic levels. World mode (story mode) is the game's main course, taking players to themed areas like: sewers, railroads, a toy factory, and even the almighty internet. Arcade mode is described as a "never-ending series of puzzles" and the PSP's versus mode involves competitive head-to-head matches via "remote" (which we're assuming means infrastructure play). Wilkins noted that the PSP was the best fit for multiplayer, but was also the most difficult to work with in regards to the interface. The Wii, DS, and PC versions all have that original point-n-click interface, but the PSP and PS2 don't. You'll have to be "slightly less cavalier with your moves" said Wilkins.

Lastly, the duo made mention that a PSP demo will be available soon on the PS Store. That should come in good time as Pipe Mania is due out in North America by mid-September. Oddly enough, a price for the title is "still being determined."

Gallery: Pipemania

Koller promises more first and third party games, less ports

It's undeniable that the PSP is in the middle of a serious software drought. Even John Koller, PSP's main marketing man in America, acknowledges that. Why the sudden drop of games, after the successful launches of games like God of War: Chains of Olympus and Crisis Core? It's simple -- PSP wasn't performing too well earlier in its life cycle, and developers have only recently woken up to the incredible potential of the PSP as a platform. "I think what you're seeing is the result of decisions made 18 months ago, a development cycle ago when hardware sales weren't as strong as they are now and we were shifting demographics from that older, professional consumer to the teen group. There was kind of a little bit of a lull in hardware sales 18 to 20 months ago; you're seeing the results today from those decisions back then."

Since then, Koller and the Sony team has been going on a publisher "road show," and according to Koller, their efforts to envigorate the PSP development community has been successful. "Our worldwide studio team is actively developing titles for that platform and we've been on a road show amongst every, major third-party publisher -- which we actually just finished last week -- and have been talking to them about really how to publish on the PSP, and the level of excitement is really palpable."

When can we expect new game announcements? Well, that's up to each publisher. However, Koller promises that "we're going to see a very good lineup of quality franchise titles coming over to the PSP that are really unique." In fact, "you're not going to see many ports anymore, and I think that's good." We'd agree.

Read the complete interview at IGN.

Rebellion CTO: PSP 'kicking arse,' just in the shadow of DS

Rebellion CTO Chris Kingsley sat down with in an interview and he had quite a few positive things to say about the PSP. However, he claims that publishing games on the PSP "wasn't a deliberate choice, it just happened. We were very keen on it as a platform and it took off for us." Earlier during the the week, Rebellion CEO Jason Kingsley echoed similar sentiments.

The CTO went on further to say that Sony's handheld has a good few years left in it, thanks to its versatility, but admits that publishers are not as keen as they once were about software on the PSP. Why? It isn't piracy, according to Kingsley, but rather developers want "to work on the flashy, high-end stuff." He cites the PS2 as a "less glamorous platform" that has remained economically viable for publishers because the software matches the right platform -- Kingsley feels the reason why the PSP has been "kicking the arse of pretty much every other system out there" in Japan is precisely because it has the right games. His illation on the PSP is that Sony has "done a great job," with "tens of millions of PSPs ... worldwide." but that its "incredible" success has been overshadowed by the DS.

Details revealed for Pipe Mania remake in interview

In an interview with Pocket Gamer, game designer Ben Everett and publisher Empire's product manager Rob Lightbody went into detail about their remake of the classic game Pipe Mania (also known as Pipe Dream) on the PSP. The original game, with a simple premise of keeping a usually green liquid (officially known as Flooze) oozing through a list of different pipes of the player's choosing until the next level, has been ported to many systems over the years. The remake will feature new game modes, slightly reduced difficulty, a "leak-meter" to allow you a chance to repair the pipe, different types of Flooze, new characters, "electricity" and uniquely for the PSP, a versus mode.

However, we feel the most interesting aspect is the positive things they had to say about the PSP. Lightbody states that he has had "positive experiences" with the PSP, and they are also pleased with the sales of Jackass: The Game and FlatOut. Lightbody also states that respectable software sales are possible even in mainland European territories with a smaller PSP install base but it just requires "a little more of a focused effort." Look for this nostalgic remake coming to you from the PSP-friendly publisher in "mid-September."

Sony pres Yoshida: admits third party struggle, promises continued support for PSP

The state of PSP is rather confusing at the moment. On one hand, it is meeting extraordinary sales in Japan, being the top selling system in the territory for the last few months. On the other hand, disparaging software sales in the West have caused major publishers and developers to speak against the platform. New Sony Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida talked with, and although he admits shortcomings, is confident about the platform.

"It's too early to make judgments," Yoshida says about the three year old handheld. "We know there's a lot more that we can do, and with the massive growth of the industry we understand that third party publishers have so many choices, many more than they have resources. Sometimes we struggle to convince them to put more resources into the PSP."

Yoshida views the DS not as PSP's rival, but as a different kind of product altogether (not unlike comparisons between the PS3 and Wii). "We've always thought that the PSP as a platform is standing on its own - there's no direct competition, although some people think that the DS is its rival simply because it's portable, but the positioning and the main user base are totally different."

While Sony may be struggling to convince third parties to work on PSP, Yoshida promises continued support for the handheld. "So we continue to support the platform, and we've been doing really well with first party software, and I hope that more developers and publishers see some of the things that the PSP can uniquely offer to them, and its reach into consumers' lives." See the full interview here.

Microsoft's Zune may learn from PSP 'cautionary tales'

Microsoft is not yet ready to unveil a handheld gaming device, and it may not for quite some time looking at the performance of the PSP. While Sony has met moderate success with the PSP, it has struggled against Nintendo in the sector, and in spite of better hardware, has been unable to beat the Nintendo juggernaut.

Zune, Microsoft's current music player, can play both music and video -- but will it ever play games? Perhaps. Microsoft's Robbie Bach spoke with Dean Takahashi on VentureBeat, and had a few things to say about what they're learning from the PSP. "The PSP is a reasonably successful product at the profit-and-loss level. But as a product concept, there are cautionary tales to learn from it. While it is good at producing audio, it's not a good music player because it doesn't have local storage (except for flash memory slots). You can't keep your music there. It has a beautiful screen, but you can only get the video under the Universal Media Disc format. That format hasn't been successful. On a game level, it has done well. But even there, it is mostly PlayStation 2 ports. There isn't much original content."

Bach's comments ring of some truth, but they seem to based on the image set by Sony during the PSP launch. Since then, PSP can run full-resolution video off Memory Stick (although there are still a number of arbitrary restrictions on video playback). PSP has gained a number of original non-ported games, but it must still fend off the image that it doesn't have original content. "When you do these devices, they can't be pretty good at a lot of things. They need to be great at what they do. Zune is a great music player. We have local storage, a marketplace, the social network. We didn't do video right out of the gate because you want to do those things in a high-quality way. Same thing in the gaming space. It is technically possible to do games on there. But you aren't going to see a broad gaming effort from us until we sort that through and have it figured out."

[Via GameDaily]

Sakamoto describes his inspirations for echochrome's music

How does one craft the music for a game like echochrome? It must have been a challenge to create the ambiance necessary for such an abstract puzzle game, but Hideki Sakamoto was up to the challenge. Speaking with Siliconera, the musician noted the need for simplicity to match the game's visual style. echochrome is a game that needs no language, and Sakamoto wanted to convey that through a sound that's universally appealing. "Considering that the visual aspect of the game is strikingly simple, I had it in mind not to let the music overpower the overall design. I wanted to avoid distracting the player by using unusual sound effects or unfamiliar instruments. Classical music seemed to me the best choice because it is universal."

One of the challenges of crafting the musical landscape for echochrome was creating a sound that doesn't necessarily move the player in a particular way. "In Echochrome, the important thing was for the player to have such feelings, just for their own sake. There was no sense of striving to manipulate the player's emotions, and that was something of a realization for me as a musician."

Please read the entire interview at Siliconera for more. It really is quite fascinating. Samples of the soundtrack can be heard here. The soundtrack is available for import at Play-Asia.

Interview with Crisis Core's Tabata describes hopes, aspirations

If you've tired of playing as Zack from Crisis Core, now would be an adequate time for a reprieve. We've caught wind of a short interview with the game's director, Hajime Tabata, and what his thoughts are on some random bits of the game, as well as any future plans he has or would like to get involved in.

Tabata uses past influences to generate his ideas, citing the Japanese comic "Doraemon" specifically as an influence. Unlike Zack, Tabata claims he could probably only do 50 squats in succession and unlike Sephiroth, uses less than a bottle of shampoo per shower. Yep. It's that kind of interview.

He also says he would not be interested in working on spin-off titles for other Final Fantasy games -- only the world in VII seems to interest him. Tabata said that, if anything, he'd like to create a gun-action game in the VII world with a new character who uses both guns and magic. Like Dirge of Cerberus, but less horrible. Currently, Tabata is working on Agito XIII as well as some other unnamed titles. Maybe he'll get his wish someday!

Lead Artist Nathan Phail-Liff talks about working on God of War

We're sure a lot of you are snickering right now, because Ready At Dawn's lead artist's last name is an internet-savvy spelling of "fail"; we snicker at you though, since this man got to work on God of War: Chains of Olympus and thus earns the respect of millions. What did he do on the project? How does he feel about it now that it's out? We're glad you asked.

For the first eight months, Nathan was actually programming tools to bring what we see in the final product to life. After he programmed all the necessary components, then he went back and actually used them to help create what ended up in our hands. That's pretty impressive. Working on an existing IP, he said, is a blessing and a curse. Especially for God of War since there are so many expectations surrounding it. The stylistic guidelines they used to keep the game familiar to fans is pretty clever.

The challenges faced by the staff for making the PSP game were numerous -- insert all sort of technical mumbo-jumbo here. Cramming the game onto the PSP is one thing, but only having 15 artists to do it really puts the workload into perspective. If you want to hear more about his experience programming for the game, or his proudest accomplishment, read the full interview. It's really quite entertaining.

John Koller talks about the PSP turning 3 and what's to come

As you all know, the PSP turned 3 years old recently -- and Sony's John Koller sat down with Game Informer and talked about what's in store for the PSP now. Obviously Koller gleefully explains this has been the best year for the PSP yet, thanks to the varied games released as well as a slimmed design and price drop. He expects the fourth year of the PSP to continue this momentum.

He goes on to say how it's a unique marketing proposition due to its multiple functions in addition to being a gaming device as well as some unexpected upgrades to the handheld, like Skype support. It's consumer demand in action! A big emphasis for the coming year is more Remote Play with the PS3. We're excited to see where that goes, too. Some elements, like watching TV on the PSP can work in Japan, Koller says, but aren't possible in the US. We assume it's because we've got pretty sour bandwidth across the nation.

We can also expect some updates on a video download service for the PSP, a GPS system, camera, keyboard, original games as well as new entries of respected franchises, and of course, a few secret cards we can't know about until closer to E3. In all, it seems the PSP is shaping up to have an interesting fourth year and we're excited to see where it goes.

[Thanks, Joe!]

PSP Fanboy interview: Secret Agent Clank's Lesley Mathieson

Way back at GDC weeks ago, we had a chance to chat with Lesley Mathieson from High Impact Games. They're currently working on their second PSP outing, Secret Agent Clank. Read on as we chat about this upcoming PSP exclusive action game.

This is the second PSP game. What has High Impact Games learned from Size Matters?
Well, we learned a lot of things. Obviously, the PSP is a very different platform than the PS2. We learned a lot of things about adapting the game to that platform, making sure the controls work, etc.

Is PSP a platform the team would like to continue with?
The PlayStation Portable is a great platform. We love working with it. At the same time, we're excited about the next generation of hardware as well. We'd be happy to work in any direction, so long as its an exciting and interesting project.

Gallery: Secret Agent Clank

Continue reading PSP Fanboy interview: Secret Agent Clank's Lesley Mathieson

PSP Fanboy interview: David Geudelekian, N+

Continuing our previous chat about N+, the upcoming PSP and DS platformer is David Geudelekian from Atari. As a producer, he helped bring the indie game over to the handheld scene. Find out more in our exclusive interview.

What caught your eye about N? What made it so appealing to bring to the console side?
David Geudelekian:
I had been playing N since 2005, and on top of simply being one of the greatest platform games of all time I had always thought that this would make an excellent portable game! The organization of the gameplay into 5-level episodes make for an excellent translation to portable gaming with each level usually lasting under a minute and each episode just over the two minute mark. The simple but stylish graphics would translate well too, and even the run-and-jump gameplay seems perfectly suited for the often interrupted attention-spans of the average portable gamer.

Gallery: N+

Continue reading PSP Fanboy interview: David Geudelekian, N+

PSP Fanboy interview: Metanet and N+

Metanet's latest game, N+, recently took Xbox Live Arcade by storm. With a pending PSP and DS release, we chatted with the development team about what handheld players can expect from this challenging, community-driven platformer.

The original N was a surprising success. What do you think made it appeal to such a wide audience?
Mare & Raigan: It's very addictive, in part because it's not easy -- the more you play, the more you learn and the better you get, the more you want to keep playing. Hundreds of levels provides a lot of options for players, so that if they get stuck on a specific level they just play a different level rather than giving up. Online replays allow them to show off their talents to the world and be competitive. The simple presentation focuses the player's attention on the gameplay and puts the spotlight on the movement of the ninja. N references old school games like Lode Runner and Jumpman, titles that inspire nostalgia in the older gamers, and the injection of modern physics and collision plus the hilarious ragdoll deaths makes it appeal to younger gamers. N has something for everyone!

Gallery: N+

Continue reading PSP Fanboy interview: Metanet and N+

PSP Fanboy interview: Wild ARMs XF's Akifumi Kaneko

XSEED's upcoming PSP exclusive Wild Arms game takes the series to a bold new direction. Like the great PSP games of last year, the popular RPG series is getting a taste of strategy. We got a chance to talk to producer (and scenario writer) Akifumi Kaneko about this upcoming SPRG.

Where does the influence for the unique western music come from?
From all the western movies I used to enjoy as a child. I think the idea of something being "cool" is a worldwide concept. I thought combining the musical style from western movies with the style from anime (Japanese cartoons) would create an original Wild ARMs soundtrack that would be considered very "cool" by many people. That is what we strive to achieve with each new game's soundtrack.

Was this game originally created as a strategy-RPG?
It was planned as a strategy RPG from the initial stages. The past few Wild ARMs games had become more action-based but we wanted to add more depth to the battle tactics while creating a new concept in the Wild ARMs series. Another reason was that we wanted a faster paced story element, especially since the story in Wild ARMs XF is constantly changing with many plot twists. If we kept it the same style as previous Wild ARMs games, the pace of the story gets put on hold every time the player gets lost or can't find the next dungeon. We branched off to the strategy RPG genre so that the story can be enjoyed at the speedy pace that it was meant for.

Gallery: Wild Arms XF

Continue reading PSP Fanboy interview: Wild ARMs XF's Akifumi Kaneko

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