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PixelJunk, Bringing 2D Back in HD

Dylan Cuthbert's Avatar + Posted by Dylan Cuthbert on Sep 05, 2007 // President and Executive Producer, Q-Games Ltd.

Hey everyone, I’m Dylan Cuthbert, I run a small developer studio called Q-Games based in Kyoto, Japan. You could say I have a fairly long history with Sony, having now worked for SCEE, SCEA and SCEI at different points in my career so far, all of which helped me begin talks with them earlier this year around a new game series concept – one that would really capitalize on the HD aspects of the PS3.

When I was first messing around with the PS3 a couple of years back, one thing that really impressed me was the clarity of 1080p, so I decided I wanted to try and return to 2D games and use this HD clarity and resolution to re-energize the classic game play of my youth, not just Nintendo-style 2D games, but ZX Spectrum and Commodore-64 style games which were much more quirky. So, I took the nickname I use on a Japanese blog I post on, “PixelJunk,” and started up a whole team at Q-Games dedicated to thinking up cool 2D and HD concepts for a whole series using that moniker.

We knocked out about 30 concepts before deciding on three to move forward with in parallel (as each one finishes up we begin production on a new one, juggling three at any one time). The first one to be finished will be PixelJunk™ Racers, a quirky little slot car style racing game with lots of weird rules and conditions for finishing the races. Additional titles should appear at a pace of about one every 6-8 weeks. (That’s the plan anyway!)

For PixelJunk™ Racers, we’re working tightly with the production team inside Sony’s Santa Monica Studios to finalize all the last details and it’s looking to be a brilliant little game. One thing that fires me up is that even though there’s a huge party play side to the game, with up to 7 players racing simultaneously, the single-player experience is equally fun and really challenging! In fact, being more of a loner gamer, I actually prefer the single-player experience as I like to turn off the lights with a big TV glowing in front of me and fight through all the challenges by myself. Online rankings and such also add a lot of dimension to the single-player experience.

Until now, I’ve always gravitated toward big titles, so it’s been a very interesting process making a smaller title with just a handful of people; it really reminds me of how it was to make games back in the 80s when I was growing up. Back then, I would knock out a fairly good game working evenings after school (I didn’t get much homework done) and it would only take 6-8 weeks. Of course, in order to flesh out the HD aspect and give people simple but original gameplay, the games in the PixelJunk™ series are taking a touch longer to make than that, but it’s a stark difference to the 20-40 man team for two years type of affair that seems to have become the minimum requirement to make games in the current industry.

Shortening and simplifying game development, and opening up communication with the players through blogs like this, is really helping game developers become addicted to developing games again (like those homegrown developers in the past who would lock themselves in their bedrooms), and this is going to start affecting innovation enormously over the next 2-3 years. Of course, there is still plenty of room for the big projects and, fingers crossed, they never disappear, but cheaper price points, lower development costs and shorter work cycles are going to create a whole load of diversity and I am really looking forward to seeing what will be born from all that.

Anyway, I’ll sign off for now. Our team here will read all your comments, so fire away!

Yoroshiku!

//Add Your Own

96 Comments

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1

+ florian on September 5th, 2007 at 4:45 pm said:

Hey Dylan and team!

This is very good news. I’m really looking forward to playing Heavenly Sword. But the hilarious fun I had playing rampage with my friends last night (and that was from 11 in the evening till 4 in the night) will probably not be experienced while playing Heavenly Sword. The article I just read is making me excited because what I understand is that we will get simple addictive games with no depth at all. We don’t need a Virtual Console, because you make our own classics arcade games. Only ours are in 1080p and with the power of the PS3, PixelJunk can do things the older classics just couldn’t do. I applaude mindlessly simplistic and preferably: silly games. If the price is right and the 6-8 week agenda is kept up. You: PixelJunk, can be my new hero’s! :)


2

+ AznSniper on September 5th, 2007 at 4:50 pm said:

Can you guys reveal the unannounced title that will be playable at TGS?


3

+ TheDevilsJoker on September 5th, 2007 at 4:54 pm said:

Look like it has a good style!


4

+ cduran02 on September 5th, 2007 at 4:54 pm said:

Wow this brings back memories…..I got started developing my own games on an Aquarius computer, then moved up to a commodore 64. But somewhere along the line I moved away from making games and all I do now is firmware development, hopefully some day Ill be able to pick up that hobby again.

Cant wait to see what you guys have in store for us.


5

+ I_Love_New_York on September 5th, 2007 at 5:03 pm said:

Great game. I think that I may buy it. It looks awesomne and so old school.


6

+ WHAT on September 5th, 2007 at 5:06 pm said:

I love slot racers. Bring it on.


7

+ Sakimori_X on September 5th, 2007 at 5:07 pm said:

Looks like great fun.

LONG LIVE 2D!!


8

+ Loucifer on September 5th, 2007 at 5:09 pm said:

2D on a next gen system???…thats [DELETED] pathetic


9

+ Morock on September 5th, 2007 at 5:10 pm said:

looks great to see all these innovative unique games coming to the ps3….awesome. good job.


10

+ Joakim Hagdahl on September 5th, 2007 at 5:16 pm said:

Great stuff Dylan, I might send a resume to you guys very soon ;)

I saw a concept or something of the Skislopes game and I’m really hoping that it will look just like that. Just a small guy on a hill and you watch him from above.

Really exciting in my opinion but then I also grew up with these ‘simplistic in style’ but big in fun games.


11

+ nmc75 on September 5th, 2007 at 5:19 pm said:

Personally, I think the top down perspective looks too uninteresting to the eyes. The game looks like a bunch of ants running around some tubes.. I prefer games that have a top down/angled view like old 80′s classics RC Pro Am, Champion Sprint, that sort.


12

+ Goodfella2487 on September 5th, 2007 at 5:23 pm said:

Loucifer, you’re an absolute joke and a cancer to this blog. leave now.

Thanks


13

+ Al2x on September 5th, 2007 at 5:28 pm said:

Sweet! I can’t wait for PixelJunk Racers.

13th!


14

+ androvsky on September 5th, 2007 at 5:29 pm said:

That’s awesome, it’s always good to see some 2D love on the newer systems, even if top-down racers aren’t my thing. I’m really glad you’ve got more games in the pipeline, but please tell me one of them is going to be a scrolling shooter (I’ll take horizontal or vertical). Hmm, vertical shooter on a 16:9 screen… that could be interesting.


15

+ darktorns on September 5th, 2007 at 5:29 pm said:

i still have no idea how to play that game


16

+ scott on September 5th, 2007 at 5:35 pm said:

good job guys. we could use all and any content right now.i no good thing come to those who wait.plus u guys aka sony have ben doing a great job 4 years.its good to no good things are being worked on.


17

+ womfalcs3 on September 5th, 2007 at 5:46 pm said:

The PS Store is getting a lot of great downloadable titles this year. I’ve bought three games so far… and this looks like it’ll be the fourth.


18

+ Clinton514 on September 5th, 2007 at 5:47 pm said:

I’m not so great at these type of games but it does look nice.


19

+ rd2000 on September 5th, 2007 at 6:24 pm said:

OMG!

This is great news!!

I guess I’m not the only one using my 600 $ PS3 for playing old mindless simplistic arcade games.

Now If Q-games could get the license to a handfull of old C64 games like , Bruce Lee, Monty Mole, Wizball, Master of the Lamps, and have their way with them in 1080p I would be glued to my PS3 :)


20

+ Jeigh on September 5th, 2007 at 6:37 pm said:

Oh My God!!! Loucifer has something stupid and inane to say about the PS3!? I’m Shocked! Shocked! :o

Anyway- sounds pretty cool. I think it’s a pretty cool idea that rather than move everything from 2-D to 3-D, mix them together! :D

Don’t forget to go all out on the silliness! :P

Maybe make a 2-D RPG like the FInal Fantasys of olde. I look forward to hearing more on this! :D


21

+ joel on September 5th, 2007 at 6:43 pm said:

Do you guys think I should get tekken 5 online?

Also..sorry but I dont like the game.Go sports ski is interesting.


22

+ Jeigh on September 5th, 2007 at 6:46 pm said:

@ joel

That sort of question is really something better suited for the PlayStation.com forums.


23

+ IceCold on September 5th, 2007 at 6:51 pm said:

Humm im not so sure about this one…


24

+ Queso on September 5th, 2007 at 7:03 pm said:

KARATEKA nuff said


25

+ the_culture on September 5th, 2007 at 7:13 pm said:

Looks pretty good, though I’m not sure I’d pay for it. Will there be a demo?

Slightly off topic, EchoChrome can’t get herer fast enough. That game looks so amazing.


26

+ Teknoman on September 5th, 2007 at 7:26 pm said:

Yeah! 2D in HD= instawin for me. Seriously though, some 2d Contra/Metal Slug style co-op games for the PSN in HD, and some 4 player 2d HD beat em up games for the PSN would be amazing!


27

+ eksMAN on September 5th, 2007 at 7:40 pm said:

looks cool, cant wait to see the rest of the games in the PixelJunk series!


28

+ ps3mods.blogspot.com on September 5th, 2007 at 7:43 pm said:

I love Super Sprint and this looks like a nice evolution! Force feedback wheel supported?


29

+ lakaihigh on September 5th, 2007 at 7:48 pm said:

Game looks reeeeaaally old school. Old School (2D) meets next gen. I like it.


30

+ jerrt on September 5th, 2007 at 8:02 pm said:

finally, progress. thank you sony.


31

+ afrosheen on September 5th, 2007 at 8:22 pm said:

Hi Dylan.

Any relation to Elisha?


32

+ Riskbreaker23 on September 5th, 2007 at 8:23 pm said:

i saw your other titles on your site. they look good too. hopefully you can get them out on schedule


33

+ meatee on September 5th, 2007 at 8:27 pm said:

I’ve been hoping a lot of other developers would see the glory of 2D in 1080p. I’m sure everyone would agree, if Capcom brought us a Symphony of the Night-style Castlevania in ultra-detailed 1080p, we would all be in heaven (at least I would anyway).

So, I definitely can’t wait for the 2D goodness!


34

+ meatee on September 5th, 2007 at 8:30 pm said:

Er, make that Konami on the Castlevania. Oops!


35

+ scorpio on September 5th, 2007 at 9:10 pm said:

I love super sprint and this looks like it works the same but in 1080p..wow


36

+ xplosneer on September 5th, 2007 at 9:22 pm said:

Nice man nice. Sweet title. Great gameplay as far as I can see. 1 question, can or could we zoom the camera in some more or make it an option to switch zoom in game? It’s too far away!


37

+ roadclimber on September 5th, 2007 at 9:58 pm said:

@Rd2000
WIZBALL!! best game ever.

This does look like fun. Glad to hear that it has a well developed single+ multiplayer side. Still not going to go out and buy 6 more controllers though..

maybe 3…. 4 tops.


38

+ lostboy85 on September 5th, 2007 at 10:28 pm said:

The game looks like fun. its nice seeing some 2d games on the PS3 i cant wait to play it.


39

+ Agriel on September 5th, 2007 at 10:50 pm said:

well I for one can’t wait to see what else you’re team is working on. I have always have had a thing for the 2D games of old. Hope you can keep up us up to date with all thats going on with you’re team in the future.


40

+ alx242 on September 6th, 2007 at 12:38 am said:

This is such a bloody good concept…Instant buy for me…:D


41

+ hammertime on September 6th, 2007 at 12:40 am said:

The store needs these games ASAP , as the its becoming a bit of a joke compared to the Xbox live! =(


42

+ TTP on September 6th, 2007 at 12:53 am said:

Game played really good at E3. Very nice concept and it indeed reminded me of those old 2D games :)

I see your point about solo-play and I understand PJR supports up to 7 players locally but sadly I’m not a teenager anymore as well as my friends. We have families and work to go after and we can hardly meet in a livingroom for playing. So not having an online mode basically means I wont be able to play PJR with anyone ever. It’s like the multiplayer option is not there for me.

Is it that difficult to add an online mode?

Please


43

+ KatanaKing on September 6th, 2007 at 1:39 am said:

This game looks good but the gameplay, oh my, i can barely see whats going on, its just too small and too fast, i can’t even see whats happening.Sorry, this is a non buyer for me.


44

+ RushBD on September 6th, 2007 at 1:54 am said:

Looks great.

Offtopic:
————–
Are you related to Elisha Cuthbert ??

:D


45

+ Shiloa on September 6th, 2007 at 2:49 am said:

Looks like a really tough version of Scaletrix meets Micro Machines.

That’s awesome by the way. =D


46

+ Apostle on September 6th, 2007 at 2:58 am said:

The cars look like they’re on rails? Is it just me? Do you actually steer the cars, or just make left/right button presses to change lane?

Looks nice though.


47

+ hammertime on September 6th, 2007 at 2:59 am said:

Good comment by TTP
, on-line is now a must too boost sale’s for any game running on the PS3 system,

or it will just end up a dead horse like all the other non online games

Please make this a Priority issue =)


48

+ thefrod on September 6th, 2007 at 4:28 am said:

This is probably my favourite genre and it’s been far too long since an example of it came out on a home system (best recent example was Racing Gears Advance on GBA). Can’t wait, hope it’s still playable at 720p.


49

+ coolasj19 on September 6th, 2007 at 4:33 am said:

just put a first person in-car view. please dont charge more than 10$.


50

+ Woot on September 6th, 2007 at 4:43 am said:

I enjoy these kind of racers quite a bit. Fond memories of Supercars and Ivan Ironman Stewarts Off Road Racing come flooding back.

I still love 2D and good pixel work and think there’s still plenty of scope to employ it in HD games.

Having said that, looking at the screenshots in this topic, it seems to me that an oppurtunity has been missed. Much of the artwork seems to lack character to me. It comes across as functional and workman like. I’m not wanting to sound overly critical and I appreciate the game is not finished and that it’s necessary to have clarity in game graphics so that gameplay isn’t compromised.

However, one of the reason I still love 2D is that it lends itself so well to expressing character. The incidental detail around the tracks just seem a little bland compared to what pixel art and high resolution might offer.

Perhaps there is lots of character in there that can’t be conveyed by static images, perhaps not.

Clearly, the most important aspect is that the game is fun to play and I’d favour that over any other characteristic. It just seems a little out-of-sorts that the full potential of 2D graphics, in an article about using 2D graphics for games, doesn’t appear to have been realised based on the images shown.

Good luck with the rest of the project and with your other projects.


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