Sumo Digital is known for having a hand in major recent titles like Sonic Team Racing, Mortal Kombat 11, Crackdown 3, and the rebooted Hitman series just to name a few, but they also know their way around mobile game. Their latest venture is Spyder.
Spyder recently launched on the Apple Arcade. It’s a game in which players take on the role of a miniature spider-like robot called Agent 8. Agent 8 is a spy robot built to infiltrate technology and sabotage the plans of evil doers. Our own Blake Morse recently got to chat with Spyder’s lead designer Nic Cusworth on the game’s arrival on Apple Arcade, the first Sumo Digital mobile game in a while, and the design that went into it.
Shacknews: It’s been a minute since Sumo Digital has published a title on iOS, what made Spyder seem like the perfect fit for it?
Nic Cusworth: Yeah, it’s been a little while since Sumo Digital published on iOS, but one of the strengths of the company is its approach to multi-platform development. Sometimes that work goes under the radar. For example, we’d previously worked with Disney and Apple on bringing Disney Infinity to tvOS. We also have two studios in the UK dedicated to mobile development.
When Spyder was starting out as a project we showed it to Apple and it just felt like a natural fit for Apple Arcade.
Apple is a company that truly backs creative talent, and we knew Spyder was going to be something a little different to the more standard platform/puzzle games. Working with Apple on the title gave us the confidence to really explore the possibilities of the game, knowing they fully supported the creative direction of the project.
Shacknews: Where did the concept for a puzzle game starring a robot bug come from?
Cusworth: Spyder began life as the winner of an internal Game Jam. It was a pretty different looking concept back then, but the company felt it was a strong contender to turn into a full title as we’d had some previous success with Snake Pass, which was also a Game Jam winner.
Even in its early stages, the thing that resonated with players was the ability to explore an environment in full 360 degrees. This freedom of perspective really suited itself to more puzzle heavy gameplay than, say – a shooter.
Shacknews: When did you come up with the spy motiff for the game? Did it come early on or during the start of the development process?
Cusworth: The Game Jam demo was pretty abstract, so a team was put together to create a few different concepts for how it could be turned into a full game. The spy genre was one of those concepts and it just stuck. It seemed perfect for creating a game centred around a small character in a human sized world, and of course the spider would have to be a tiny robot ‘Spyder’ to complete the fiction.
Shacknews: There’s a lot of x and y axis changes as far as moving from floors to walls and around spherical objects in the game. It could’ve been really easy for players to get lost. What steps did you take to make sure that players stayed oriented in a world with so many possible perspectives?
Cusworth: This has been the biggest challenge of the project. Early on we had a camera that kept Agent 8 at the bottom of the screen. This had the effect of having the world feel like it was rotating around the player, rather than the player navigating the world. We also found players would get easily lost as there was no longer any concept of what was up and what was down.
It was pretty much halfway through development when we decided to switch the camera system so it was always world aligned. This change really transformed the game. While it was always neat to be walking on any surface, now it really felt like you were acting like a spider, and all confusion about where you were in the world instantly went away.
While the camera change was (literally) a game-changer for project, it didn’t come without its own challenges. Having the camera dynamically adapt to the different surface orientations was a huge challenge. We also wanted to try and limit the amount of interaction the player would need with the camera as we were building the game for a touchscreen.
The camera has been a bit of a controversial feature of the game. There are a lot of people who love how it works, but there are also players who have struggled with it.
For us – we committed to doing something different, something that would really sell the world, the space you occupy, and the uniqueness of Agent 8. We knew we wouldn’t be able to please everyone, but it was the right decision to try something new.
Shacknews: I love how each level is essentially just one giant puzzle to solve. When working on a level, what’s the design process like? Does the core game gameplay concept come first and dictate level design or is it informed by the narrative design?
Cusworth: A key pillar of the level design was that missions had to be impossible for a human agent to complete. That really helped define the types of locations we could build.
A good example of this is the first mission where you’re crawling over a war room desk trying to stop a missile strike. A human agent couldn’t just walk up to the computer and stop the attack, but Agent 8’s size makes him naturally stealthy and able to infiltrate these spaces unseen by the enemy.
Even when humans are present in the level, we always stuck to the concept of human space and Spyder space. This concept of Spyder space really informed the choice of locations for each mission.
Once a location has been chosen, we create a brief that breaks down the moment to moment gameplay before the level designers and artists start to block out a level. It’s here where the level starts to really take shape. It’s a delicate balancing act to have environments that feel natural at a human scale yet are still interesting to navigate as a 4cm Spyder.
A lot of work goes into making sure there’s variety in terms of navigation, especially in the more open-world missions. It soon gets boring walking across a flat surface to your next goal without any kind of environmental challenge!
Offsetting that with trying to keep a sense of realism to the world isn’t easy, and we were learning all the time we were building the game. A lot of early work was thrown out as it just didn’t achieve the level of engagement we were going for.
If you’d like to learn more about Sypder, you can check out the game’s website. Sypder is available right now exclusively through the Apple Arcade for iOS, macOS, and tvOS.
TJ Denzer is a player with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. When he’s not handing out beatdowns in the latest fighting games, exploring video game history, or playing through RPGs with his partner, he’s searching for new food and drinks in the constant pursuit of good times with good people inside and outside the South Texas area. You can also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.
Tencent is determined to have more of an impact on gaming outside of China, and not just by pouring money into existing studios. Reutersreports that Tencent Holdings has created a new California studio, LightSpeed LA, that will develop and publish “AAA” (read: blockbuster) titles. The team will be led by former Rockstar Games studio manager Steve Martin and will have alumni from both Rockstar as well as 2K Games, Insomniac and Sony.
The Grand Theft Auto veteran didn’t outline what LightSpeed would work on, but joined the wave of companies hoping to end crunch time with promises of a “stress-free work environment.”
There’s not much mystery behind the strategy. Tencent want half its gaming revenue to come from beyond China, and that means developing games suited to wider audiences like its upcoming Pokémon Unite battler. The new studio won’t end concerns that Tencent is becoming a dominant force in gaming outside of China (it owns Riot Games and has a minority stake in Epic Games), but it could show what the tech giant is capable of with a US team made from scratch.
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We’re past the halfway mark in 2020 and we’ve already seen some great VR games release this year. But what else is coming between now and the end of the year? Let’s take a look at upcoming VR games for the rest of 2020.
Some recent announcements have elevated what was looking like a rather quiet H2 2020 to an exciting few months. We’ll be taking off in X-Wings and making Dreams come true.
At long last, Media Molecule’s fantastic creation tool is ready to add VR support. Dreams is essentially a development engine unto itself, letting players make their own games and share them online. The brief tease we’ve seen of VR support so far is hugely exciting. This will arrive as a free update to owners of the base game.
The much-anticipated Oculus Quest port of Onward is very nearly here. The ever-popular military simulation shooter makes its way to the standalone headset with all the same features including, multiplayer, single-player and cooperative modes as well as, crucially, cross-play with PC VR players. If this port is up to snuff, expect Onward on Quest to be one of the biggest upcoming VR games for 2020.
Solaris: Offworld Combat (Rift, Quest) – August (PSVR in 2020)
The makers of Firewall: Zero Hour return with a new multiplayer VR shooter that trades Rainbow Six for Unreal Tournament. Solaris offers 4 v 4 battles in which players sprint and slide across maps, picking up new weapons and finding the high ground. Given the developer’s past experience, we’re hoping for a top-quality VR shooter here.
Star Wars: Squadrons (PSVR, PC VR) – October 2nd
We’ve been lucky enough to have lived out several Star Wars dreams in VR already, but Star Wars: Squadrons seems to have struck a particular chord with the fanbase. The chance to jump into the cockpit of an X-Wing or TIE Fighter in VR makes us a little weak at the knees. Fortunately, we’ll be seated for its online multiplayer battles and single-player campaign, though. This is probably the most anticipated of the upcoming VR games in 2020.
Medal of Honor: Above And Beyond (Rift) – 2020
Respawn Entertainment is one of the game’s industry’s best developers, which gives you more than enough reason to be excited for Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond. Add in that this Oculus exclusive sees the developer return to a series it helped established as Infinity Ward, plus the promise of an expansive campaign and multiplayer support, and you have one of the most promising games of 2020.
Lone Echo 2 (Rift) – 2020
Lone Echo’s sequel has been a long time coming, but we’re hoping it finally enters orbit in the second half of this year. It’s high time we checked in on Liv and Jack after the first space odyssey’s dramatic cliffhanger and, now that Ready at Dawn is owned by Facebook itself, we wouldn’t expect this Oculus exclusive to hold back.
The Walking Dead: Onslaught (PSVR, PC VR) – 2020
The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners may have stolen hearts and minds on PC VR and PSVR platforms already, but we’re just as excited for VR veteran Survios’ take on the zombie franchise. Aimed at the TV show instead of the comics, Onslaught delivers a full campaign with iconic characters including none other than Darryl Dixon, voiced by Norman Reedus himself. Definitely keep this on your radar for upcoming VR games 2020.
Blankos Block Party is a colorful and intriguing-looking MMO party game of sorts that features a unique setup. The premise is that this game takes place in a world where vinyl toys come to life and have their own lives when humans aren’t looking.
As part of GameSpot’s gaming celebration Play For All, we caught up with Mythical Games chief creative officer Jamie Jackson who told us all about this imaginative project. In the video, Jackson talks about numerous aspects of the game, including its robust-looking level-editor that allows players to create basically anything they can imagine.
Basically, Blankos Block Party seems to combine the free-flowing gameplay of titles like Fortnite and Roblox with the aesthetic charm of a Funko Pop vinyl toy come to life. A beta test for the game launches later this year, so keep checking back with GameSpot for more!