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Tiny Brains on PS4: An Experiment in Teamwork

Simon Darveau's Avatar + Posted by Simon Darveau on Jun 05, 2013 // Co-founder, Spearhead Games

Tiny Brains on PS4

After my Spearhead Games co-founders and I wrapped up Assassin’s Creed III and Dead Space 3, respectively, we wanted to get out of the AAA world and back to the basics of why we love video games: playing together with friends, finding new ways to interact and challenging your brain.

With these ideas in mind, we founded our own indie studio, and started making Tiny Brains, a co-op puzzle game – which we can now reveal will be headed to PS4! Tiny Brains is set in a lab where four super-powered animals have to work together to solve puzzles and escape from a mad scientist’s experiment. We chose this theme because now that we are indie devs and have more flexibility, experimentation is what we’re all about in our creative process.

Tiny Brains on PS4

We have a “no design doc” policy at Spearhead. Being able to do this has been one of the best things about going indie, and the philosophy helps us make significant creative developments in a short amount of time. With no design docs, we can think about how to make the best experience at all times. When a designer has a cool idea for a puzzle or level, they just make it, and we all play it together. From there we decide whether the prototype should be incorporated, tweaked, or chucked.

As we went back and forth playing early prototypes with each other, our game emerged almost by itself: four cute and quirky characters with unique powers of creation, teleportation, force, and protection, which can be combined in a number of different ways. Because of this design flexibility, we’ve discovered that there are actually more than 16 different ways players can combine their powers to solve the first level alone!

Tiny Brains on PS4

We took this experimental philosophy with us on the road to PAX East where Tiny Brains made its first public debut. In our PAX Experiment, we studied attendees as they played, and asked them to fill out surveys about their experience. Since our design flexibility lets us make updates quickly and we’re committed to trying different things until we have the best game possible, we’ve already incorporated feedback and ideas from the surveys into our latest build, which will be at E3 this year (south hall, booth 2359). All PAX players rated Tiny Brains ‘fun’ or ‘extremely fun,’ so we feel like we’ve been on the right track!

From the beginning, we set out to make a game that turns strangers into friends, and our PAX experiment confirmed our hypothesis. In Tiny Brains, players can’t get by without talking to each other. They really need to collaborate as every character’s power is required to solve puzzles. That said – we’ve enjoyed seeing how many ways our playtesters have successfully completed the challenges. Each group has had a different approach: since there’s no one “right” answer to a given challenge, the right way becomes how the playtesters agree to move forward, based on what they think as individuals and how they want to work with each other. At launch, Tiny Brains will have over a dozen challenge maps to complete, with more to explore and unlock.

Tiny Brains on PS4

As a new indie studio, we can’t be more excited to be a part of video games’ next-generation with our PS4 release and show the world the results of our grand experiment. Stay tuned for more information, and if you’re going to E3 we’d love you to check us out in the south hall, booth 2359 and see what we have in store this summer!

Do you like co-op games? Do you remember the very first game you ever played together with a friend? Mine was “Ice Climbers” – tell me yours in the comments!

//Add Your Own

37 Comments   6 Replies

1

+ phanboy4 on June 5th, 2013 at 6:09 am said:

Is that rat naked. Also, looks pretty cool!


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    + Simon Darveau on June 5th, 2013 at 10:04 am said:

    1: Yes, the rat is naked! LoL


2

+ Xer0Signal on June 5th, 2013 at 6:13 am said:

Looks really cute and colorful. Looking forward to learning more!

I guess Contra was a co-op game, right? I’ll go with that.


3

+ Mando44646 on June 5th, 2013 at 6:13 am said:

Just PS4? No Vita support?


4

+ LordEleos on June 5th, 2013 at 6:17 am said:

Yes ps vita would be awesome


5

+ Heavenly_king on June 5th, 2013 at 6:22 am said:

@3,4: You can play it via remote play, so be happy.

With the PS4 there will be no purpose at all of cross-buy of games for PS4/PSVITA games, as you can play every PS4 game on your VITA via remote play.


6

+ Shin-Ra on June 5th, 2013 at 6:22 am said:

I was looking at the first picture and thinking “cool concept art” then opened it full screen and “nice, that’s actually in-game.”


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    + Simon Darveau on June 5th, 2013 at 10:05 am said:

    Thank you very much. :-)
    I forwarded the message to our artists!!


7

+ Heavenly_king on June 5th, 2013 at 6:23 am said:

Also most probably games released on the PS4 wont be released on the VITA because of what I said. And that is good because the VITA require unique games on its own; and not be a console port handheld.


8

+ Berae on June 5th, 2013 at 6:33 am said:

This looks like it could be very fun! I think Contra is the first game i have played coop too


9

+ bldudas on June 5th, 2013 at 6:34 am said:

Looks cute and fun.


10

+ Chaoz on June 5th, 2013 at 6:40 am said:

I love co op games! Looks like a day one!


11

+ FeddeCampo on June 5th, 2013 at 6:42 am said:

Looks nice and original :) great work guys!


12

+ DarkChun-li on June 5th, 2013 at 6:44 am said:

this remind me of pinky & the brain


13

+ Vyprstryke on June 5th, 2013 at 7:01 am said:

Game is an absolute blast! Prolly my favorite hands on thing from PAX with my friends. We’re all looking forward to playing more of this so I’m happy to see it coming to the PS4! As far as my first co-op experience, I do believe it was a game called Dinosaurs for Hire on the Genesis ^_^


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    + Simon Darveau on June 5th, 2013 at 10:06 am said:

    Glad you appreciated it. :-) Back then, the game was barely announced and it really pumped the team to see people’s excitement during this event.


14

+ paulogy on June 5th, 2013 at 7:02 am said:

I saw your booth at PAX! :-)

Question about the co-op, if you only have two local players, what happens to the other two characters? Are they AI controlled, able to be swapped into, or do you need to go online to have strangers populate them?


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    + Simon Darveau on June 5th, 2013 at 10:07 am said:

    Playable 1 to 4 players jump in, jump out! When less than 4, you can swap between character. When you are alone, the level (sometimes) dynamically change to simplify the puzzle!


15

+ paulogy on June 5th, 2013 at 7:05 am said:

Oh and as far as early co-op games, first I’d say was Contra, Rampage, and Double Dragons. Second gen was Final Fight, Streets of Rage, TMNT etc. HUGE fan of couch co-op, and I’m glad to see I’m not the only one anymore


16

+ CrusaderForever on June 5th, 2013 at 7:14 am said:

Indies RULE!!! This is one of many reasons why Sony is skyrocketing to all encompassing greatness. The next gen is Sony’s if they stay the course. The PS4 is going to be The Federation of gaming. So impressed and pleased with everything I read about the PS4. This game is a shining example of what we have to look forward to along with the AAA games. Thanks for making this game for the PS4 as I cannot wait to play it.


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    + Simon Darveau on June 5th, 2013 at 10:07 am said:

    I concur!


17

+ Mando44646 on June 5th, 2013 at 7:18 am said:

@5, remote play only works on local networks. While I LOVE PS4 games will be required to have it, that means games like this cannot be taken on the go – which is what I was asking about


18

+ omnichaotic on June 5th, 2013 at 7:39 am said:

@17, What you are saying is not true. Not only can it work from any internet connection, but Sony has it set up so you can even “remotely” turn your Sony PlayStation system on if it is off.


19

+ Wozman23 on June 5th, 2013 at 8:10 am said:

This looks fantastic. Migrating away from AC3 and DS3 was a smart choice, as both those entries were the weakest in their franchises so far. With stuff like this and Knack, I really hope the PS4 will take us back to the basics.

I can’t recall my first co-op game. It would have been one of many on the 2600. But I do have fond memories of Streets of Rage, TMNT, and Battletoads/Double Dragon (even if I got mad at friends for always dying before getting to the awesome space shooter level).


20

+ S_Darveau on June 5th, 2013 at 8:13 am said:

@1: Yes, the rat is naked! LoL
@6: I forwarded the message to our artists!! :-)
@13, 14: Glad you appreciated it. :-) Back then, the game was barely announced and it really pumped the team to see people’s excitement during this event.
@14: Playable 1 to 4 players jump in, jump out! When less than 4, you can swap between character. When you are alone, the level (sometimes) dynamically change to simplify the puzzle!
@16: I concur!

Stay tuned! A new trailer is coming very soon. Also, we’ll be @ E3! :-)


21

+ Siufung on June 5th, 2013 at 8:14 am said:

@14, No AI characters, but you’ll both be able to switch to the missing characters at any moment.


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22

+ Simon Darveau on June 5th, 2013 at 8:22 am said:

@20: Just realised Sony created this special account for me! LoL


23

+ GeoDarky on June 5th, 2013 at 8:28 am said:

i love this type of games between my AAA titles, really looking forward to this creative game


24

+ xClayMeow on June 5th, 2013 at 8:59 am said:

@Heavenly_King, I’m glad you think every Vita owner is going to buy a PS4. There is a 0% chance I buy a PS4 at launch, so excuse me if I’m one of the many people that would love native Vita games. Remote Play is not the end all be all of the Vita, don’t be so naive.

As for the game itself, I love the animals. They look sufficiently unique and somewhat creepy. Let’s assume I get a PS4 eventually or this comes to Vita, my question is whether the game is co-op only or can you play single-player and switch animals on-the-fly, Trine-style? I prefer single-player games and will never buy a co-op/MP only game. I don’t want to rely on friends or randoms to enjoy a game.


25

+ xClayMeow on June 5th, 2013 at 9:02 am said:

Sorry, I see you answered the single-player question. You should reply to comments because then they show up red and we all know when official dec responses occur.


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    + Simon Darveau on June 5th, 2013 at 10:03 am said:

    Ok, thx for the tip! ;-)


26

+ Lemondish on June 5th, 2013 at 9:27 am said:

“Tiny Brains is set in a lab where four super-powered animals have to work together to solve puzzles and escape from a mad scientist’s experiment.”

You sold me right there. I’m freakin’ hyped up already.


27

+ GhostMachine1 on June 5th, 2013 at 9:54 am said:

Labs are infamous for torturing animals through experimentation. Will these animals get revenge in any way?


28

+ Ricen-Beans on June 5th, 2013 at 11:32 am said:

This looks awesome based on the pics alone.

Is this an exclusive title? Or available on other platforms as well?


29

+ pokota03 on June 5th, 2013 at 12:03 pm said:

That is some seriously awesome character design. As far as co-op goes, I’d say Gauntlet was my first. Rat needs clothes badly!


30

+ tusunami on June 5th, 2013 at 1:01 pm said:

This seems to be a unique title indeed, will need to see more of this for sure!!!!!!!!!


31

+ zzZeroAgent on June 5th, 2013 at 1:20 pm said:

I’m glad I clicked on this, the game looks quite interesting. It’s also very aesthetically pleasing.

When can we expect a youtube trailer? I’d like to see more from this. Looks great :)


32

+ OneMoreVillain on June 5th, 2013 at 1:38 pm said:

Dax, Stew, Pad, and Minsc.

I guess theses are the real names of our tiny minded vermin or were those swapped for the ability names because you guys thought “Vortex is so much cooler then Stew.”


33

+ Elvick_ on June 5th, 2013 at 3:16 pm said:

Looks neat.


34

+ RockinKev on June 5th, 2013 at 6:04 pm said:

Is this game launching same day as PS4 launch?


35

+ BlindMango on June 5th, 2013 at 11:32 pm said:

This game looks like so much fun!! These are the kinds of PSN games I just love to play, and the art style looks so great too! Cannot wait to see more of this game! =D


36

+ Redikol on June 6th, 2013 at 12:21 am said:

Tiny Brains looks so cool! Awesome job Spearhead, really looking forward to seeing more on it. When seeing this, I keep thinking about Pinky and the Brain. It would be awesome if you got the voice actor for Pinky for one of the mice.

Now to the question, “Do you remember the very first game you ever played together with a friend?” My first game was Double Dragon with my older brother. Although I have fond memories of the SNES games TMNT 4 – Turtles in Time, Battletoads, NBA Jam, Goof Troop, Final Fight, Super Double Dragon & Super Mario Kart.


37

+ TUNA-EGG on June 6th, 2013 at 9:32 am said:

Looks charming! I only hope it works out better than The Cave, because that game bored and frustrated me.


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