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The Polarity of Outland – Experience it June 14th

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The Polarity of Outland – Experience it June 14th

As we are now about to release Outland, I thought it would be nice to share some thoughts on developing the game, especially on its main feature, the “Ikaruga” polarity mechanic. Thinking about it almost two years later, it feels like we came about the concept easily and naturally.

opposite_spirits

At the very beginning I had an idea on creating an action adventure platforming game that would give the player similar emotions and encounters I experienced when playing some of my favorite platforming games in the 80’s (Pitfall II, Jumpman Jr., Rick Dangerous etc. – see, I never had a NES). Early versions of Outland had a guy jumping, shooting and sliding around in a jungle environment. We expanded that basic gameplay by adding a special spirit mode that made the character move faster and cause more damage.

Our spirit mode, which we called the “Flow” mode, was one where you turned from a normal guy into a superhero; blue energy surrounded you and you were nearly invincible. We toyed around different variations of the concept, from having an additional boost mode, to having Flow sources/springs in the levels that would activate the spirit. Somehow the one-dimensional approach of the special power didn’t feel like enough. We decided on having some brainstorming sessions to further enhance the concept, but initially nothing caught on. Finally, during a weeklong meeting between Housemarque and Ubisoft, we started discussing applying Ikaruga’s mechanics to our 2D platforming, and Outland’s final concept was born!

jungletwo

Once we set ourselves on changing the spirit power to be binary, we had a very good feeling about it. Even if there hadn’t been many platformers with a similar feature (Silhouette Mirage, we know of you), we knew we could get it working. Just after a few weeks of development we had a prototype running and it confirmed our beliefs. Now the task was to fit this polarity mechanic into our existing concept.

Before coming up with the binary concept, we had had concerns about shooting working with fast, acrobatic movement. Now, on top of that, we had the environment and enemies shooting complex volleys of bullets at you, and you were supposed to make sense of what you were avoiding and where you were going while aiming at enemies. In addition, shooting required us to use the second stick, which made switching between aiming and jumping quite cumbersome. And that wasn’t all. Animating a human character who can jump around walls and point his arm to any and all directions at the same time proved to be especially hard.

The decision to drop the projectile weapons and stick with a melee attack proved to be the right one. Controlling the character became easier and more straight-forward, and now the experience started to be more about player skill than the controls handicapping the game. The final debate we had before going into full production was to decide which way the player’s energies worked against enemies and items.

Outland for PS3 (PSN): UnderWorld

The development team was torn half between the same color hurting enemies versus the opposite color doing so. To me, it felt more natural to use the same color (for everything), but two specific things convinced us decide on the opposite. First, we realized we could get more diversity from players having to switch between modes when fighting enemies, jumping on colored platforms and absorbing bullets; also, all of those items being of alternate color looked better. Second, Ikaruga had also gone the ‘opposite’ route and that was good enough final confirmation for us.

One major thing we did differently from Ikaruga was the inability to hurt enemies of the same color. We tested different damage ratios between half damage and one sixth, but none of them made it clear enough that the player should switch alignments for stronger attacks. Ultimately, going full-on binary clarified gameplay and enabled us to create encounters where the intent was clean. Once we had that final thing settled, we had all of our core mechanics nailed down and moved from prototyping onto full-on production.

The end result you can all judge by yourselves. I and the rest of the team truly hope you enjoy Outland when it hits the PlayStation Store on June 14.

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94 Comments

  • real_Susp3ct

    Congrats on creating a wonderful game. the wait is killing me!

  • Or play it now on the European Store :D

  • Looks amazing. Is there a demo? Its co op right? With online?

  • Demo?

  • zombiemakermx

    14th? nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

  • thetruth8431

    Thanks for the update how about one on homes now ?

  • Despair-Amit

    This is definitely one of the prettiest and most interesting games I’ve seen in a while. Too bad still more than a week off, day 1 purchase for certain.

  • Will the PS+ discount that was announced for the original release date still be happening this time?

  • nice

  • Looking forward to this. Love Housemarque games :)

  • This or call of duty black ops add on… :(

  • I actually played it (the trial) on the 360 and didn’t care for it.

  • I planned on buying this more than a month ago. Damn hackers!

  • I want you.

  • The first picture makes it looks like a boxing game.

  • I can’t wait Take my 10 bucks, take it now. From what I read on IGN about a 8 hour game with arcade mode and co op! Really its rare to see a DL game this cheap with that much in it. The art style alone is wroth buy almost. Looking forward to see some more backgrounds.

    You sure you can’t release this any earlier? I’ve been waiting so long already…

    Off Topic: Any plans for Dead Nation DLC?

  • Awesome! I’ve been really excited to play this for the past couple months!

  • awwwwwwwwwwww, thought it would have been released earlier. boo!

    come back after a month and we are still waiting.

    little bit longer.

  • THESNIPER129

    plzzzzzzzzzzzzzz black ops map pack2

  • How much does it cost?

  • hope free with playstation plus

  • Depending on the button mapping, I don’t see how jumping could have been a problem while aiming a gun if it were mapped to an L or R button (jumping I mean). I don’t know all the buttons needed since I don’t know what this game really ‘does’ in full, but meh. Animation that’s awkward bugs me, so I’m glad you just did away with it. Smooth animation ftw.

    Looking forward to seeing more of this.

  • Oh man,I was really hoping this would be out this tuesday =/.

  • This looks really really interesting. I think I’ll pick this up :)

  • NamesIrish13

    Is their a reason why EU got this a few days ago and we have to wait until the 14? I am really curious if this was an accident or if it was on purpose either by Sony or the developer. I am sure I want get a response except maybe a troll but I thought I would ask!

  • The 14th? Really? Lame.

    I was expecting this game to be in one of the first “catch up” store updates, not one of the last. Ugh…the wait continues…

  • Sharingan_itachi

    MORE WAIT? I want it this tuesday.

  • Sigh, I’m worried that Sony lost their 20% discount with Ubisoft after the outage.

  • Oh, and the possible reason for the delay was so THIS POST could be made. This blog post was likely written to be posted a while ago, but wasn’t. They still need pre-launch advertising; here it is.

  • YEEAAA!!!!!

  • David--Clark

    nice. i’m gonna pick it up . that’s 4 sure XD

  • KILLERBONEZ10

    seems boring for me

  • @20: Must be 9.99$ as it’s 800 points on 360.

    Grabbed it day one on XBOX it’s an awesome game, i highly recommend it.

  • I’m sorry that you had to push back the Playstation release of your game to June 14th.
    I played it on Xbox 360 already and I really like it.

    I’ll be buy outland on PS3 when it FINALLY hits the store.

  • Why have I not heard of this game until today? The inclusion of a polarity system has me interested.

  • I’ve been looking forward to Outland for a while. Housemarque is a quality developer with a proven track record. I’ll be sure to pick this one up as soon as it’s available.

  • AH! AT LAST! HD ARTWORK FROM OUTLAND!

    I’ve been looking for the character art forever! I don’t know if Housemarque is reading this, but I’d definitely drop a few bucks on an artbook for this game.

    TO THE COSPLAY LAB!

  • The game looks awesome!

  • Why is it releasing even later now?

  • Well I’m having trouble going to the PS Store (wanted to get the Resident 2 and my Blue Toad episodes game) is that due the overload downloading on the ‘Welcome Back’ package?

    Just wanted to know if anybody else is experiencing this.

  • Do we still get our PS Plus discount?

  • That looks great. Would you guys release a demo? ;-)

  • There’s a demo available on the European store people. Go get it and play it. Its awesome!

  • gor1llap1mp

    WTF!? No offense but, one of the only things I was anticipating when the PS Store was back up and running was Outland and now we have to wait another 2 weeks?! Why the extra wait?

  • cool

  • Motion_Blue

    Why does NA have to wait an extra week? Europe had it(along with others) last week. I’ve been looking forward to this for so long, I want to play it before my vacation is over.

  • CHRISRHODE2004

    Outland was suppose to release that Tuesday just when PSN went offline….and now we have to wait another week and a half before it’s released with the sore back up….?? If UbiSoft had done their math they would’ve realized that this was a much anticipated game (all they had to do was browse the web) and it would sell without issues….no need for more prepping, but now with 3 store updates inbetween before its release i don’t think it will do well at all because most people have already spent their wallets. Especially with BO Escalation on Friday. Oh well – SORRY UbiSoft but now my money is spoken for.

  • thunderbear

    I was hoping it would come out sooner since it was due while PSN was down :(. Will still buy it day 1 of course.

  • There will be a discount for that game? :DD

  • twisterbisla

    congrats sony great job

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