PC Interview

Plain Sight with Robin Lacey

Studio head talks robots

Beatnik Games' Plain Sight is heading straight for release on the PC, and in celebration we sat down with studio head Robin Lacey, studio head, for a few words on the suicidal robot-battler.

Robots, swords and explosions sounds like fun. What genre best-describes Plain Sight?

If I was being boring and sensible I'd say: "multiplayer arcade game" but "psychedelic robo-ninja snuff p0rn" sounds more edgy and cool.

The visual style is unusual - where did the idea for this come from?

When we first started development we didn't really have any artists to speak of. So our collective hive mind came up with the grey flashing pinball fiasco idea.

After a few months we took on an art team - they gave the game an art-gasm.

How do you keep the experience fresh?

Keep it simple, fun and brief. Rounds in Plain Sight are usually only about 10 minutes and, because death is a goal, play times are kept short.

What are the benefits of publishing your game via Steam? Do you fear Valve's dominance of PC download sales?

If Valve were providing a shoddy service, blocking out smaller developers or taking too much money - I'd start worrying about their market share. However they're doing the exact opposite. From a developer's perspective, Valve is doing a great job at keeping PC gaming awesome.

Tell us about how the multiplayer fun pans out. What unusual modes are on offer?

There's basic deathmatch and team deathmatch mode. This is where players have to murder their robot foes for their energy. The more energy they get the bigger, better and more badass they become - they also become more of a target. However, energy can only be converted into round-winning points if the player blows themselves up.

The more they take out in the process, the higher the multiplier.

So, like the Weakest Link, but with suicide bombing.

We also have 'Capture the Flag' (with a self destructive twist), 'Ninja! Ninja! Ninja! Robozilla' (where a team of mini-ninjas have to take down the giant Robozilla) and 'Lighten Up' (a time based turf war mode). Certainly enough to keep you busy!

How large and varied are the game's maps?

The smallest map is for 5 players or more. The largest can easily accommodate 20 players. At the moment 20 players is the limit however we might be able to raise this in the future and have larger maps.

How big is the team at Beatnik, how did you get together, and what are your plans beyond Plain Sight?

There's currently eight of us. We started out about two years ago with four. Since then we've slowly grown, mostly taking on friends-of-friends.

Beatnik Games was started by myself and an old school friend Damien in late 2007. We got drunk one night and decided to quit our jobs and start a games company. Considering we're not industry veterans or anything, it was a pretty hair-brained idea.

By some miracle (and a bit of sleeping in the office) everything has worked out pretty well!

The game will retail for 9.99 USD. How tough is it pricing smaller, digital titles?

Pricing a game is so hard, especially smaller (digitally distributed) indie titles. I lost a hell of a lot of sleep over it... we set the price point for Plain Sight really low for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, it's a multiplayer game, so the servers need to be full. If you price the game too high, the few people that do buy the game will be greeted by a smaller game list. This means there's a higher possibility of having to play the game with higher latency.

Secondly, just because your game is at a lower price, it doesn't mean it can't lack quality and polish. Look at PopCap. Yeah, they make "casual" games but they're also beautifully made and priced incredibly well. I think you're going to do much better with a really nice game at an accessible price point rather than the same game at an "about right" price. People will think too hard before they buy it.

Do you plan on bringing the game to other formats?

Yep! PSN and WiiWare - Q1 2011.

Thanks for your time!

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