Three years to cross the border.
A Long Time
First item, top of the page. This version of Papers, Please was announced over three years ago. That’s a long time brewing for a relatively simple pixel-art game. There’s a few ingredients in the mix for this delay but the main fault lies with me.
I had a great bunch of people to help with this project — all the port programming was handled by James Gray and others, engine support from WayForward, testing by Ratloop Asia, and submission assistance from Coatsink.
My responsibility was gluing it all together and in the long tradition of “one simple job”, the best I could manage was the slow-setting kind of glue that takes forever to dry. Working as a single developer has its advantages but managing multiple projects is not one of them. Unfortunately it was Papers, Please on PS Vita that suffered the most and I apologize for that.
Ok, the game is available today so let’s turn this around and segue into what we’ve got here: Papers, Please on PS Vita. The most portable version yet, document inspection and stamping in the supple palms of your capable hands.
Content-wise, this version has all the features of the desktop and tablet versions. All 31 days of singleplayer story mode with branching narratives, 20 endings, “endless” mode with online leaderboards, and stamping so much stamping.
Even though it’s a low-resolution pixel-art game, Papers, Please was originally designed to be played on a big screen. When I wrote it back in 2013 I’d just come off a mobile-only project and wanted to rebel against the low-density large-touch-target design necessary for mobile. So the game packs a lot of small stuff into a big space. There’s three separate sections of the screen that need to be visible at all times: booth, desk, and checkpoint.
The big challenge in making it work well on PS Vita was fitting everything onto the smaller screen without sacrificing the core document shuffling mechanics. Luckily Vita has a great touchscreen and, critically, nearby physical controls. For this version we increased the desk size slightly, floated the booth over the border view only when needed, and added vertical scrolling to shift between the booth+checkpoint and the desk. The analog sticks and directional buttons can be used to quickly scroll up/down and after a small adjustment it feels completely natural to use your left thumb for scrolling and your right fingers for touching (or vice versa, no preference, left=right, all love.)
Papers, Please was developed in a programming environment called Haxe/OpenFL. Haxe is the language and OpenFL the engine that enables Flash-like applications to run natively on desktops (PC/Mac/Linux) or mobile devices. When taking a game from desktop to console, it’s not uncommon to just rewrite everything with a more console-friendly engine. I had a few offers for that sort of thing early on but as a hopeless engineer it felt like a waste to ignore Haxe/OpenFL’s inherent multi-platform capabilities.
A few years ago there was no way to build Haxe/OpenFL projects for consoles but with a little time, money, the hard work of James Gray, Lars Doucet from Fortress of Doors, OpenFL’s Joshua Granick, Nilsen Filc, and the generous contribution of WayForward’s engine tech, we were able to create a console target for Haxe/OpenFL. One of our goals with all that extra work is to hopefully benefit other games in a similar situation.
The Destination, Finally
This version was a long time coming and I appreciate your patience. Thank you to all the fans of the game that have encouraged me over the years and I hope you enjoy playing it on PS Vita too.
Glory to Arstotzka.