Sunday, April 15, 2007

Prince Of Persia: Rival Swords

Both the PSP and Wii versions of Prince Of Persia: Rival Swords have been out for a little over a week now and a few reviews have popped up for both. So far on this blog I've only talked about my work on POP games once and it seemed to generate some interest, so I thought some of you might like to read my take on the reviews I've read so far and a little sneak peek behind the development of the titles.

Rival Swords on the Wii

The Wii controls worked for some and not for others but I think IGN was the harshest with their critique of our camera system:
As a result, Ubi has been forced to sloppily map camera controls to the motion-tilt on the Wii remote; twist it in a turn-key motion and the camera will swing left; twist it right to go in the opposite direction. It doesn't feel good and the response time on the camera is imprecise, so you may sometimes overshoot your desired camera view
I'm surprised, really, because the camera control system tested very well during development. Allowing a player to control movement with the analog stick on the Nunchuck while tilting the remote to change camera angles created, we thought, a physical manifestation to the act of looking around that people usually adopted very quickly to. We had wanted to map the vertical camera access to the up/down tilt on the remote too, but doing so caused complications in combat given that we used this movement for sword swings. Ultimately by biggest regret about the camera control is that we couldn't find a way to make vertical and horizontal panning consistent.

The game is currently averaging 75% (down from around 84% for The Two Thrones) which is right about what I was expecting given the lack of new content. I still feel that the Wii controls add a huge amount to the game and very much consider the project a success, if for no other reason then to have validated the potential of the franchise in a motion sensitive controller environment. Ubisoft can now safely argue all the way up the management chain that the gameplay of a POP game can translate well onto a Wii (or potentially SixAxis) control system. If Rival Swords at least breaks even in sales we could potentially convince executives to invest in the development of a POP title from scratch that makes even greater use of the unique control systems.

Rival Swords on the PSP

Unlike the Wii version, Rival Swords for the PSP featured a significant new amount of content: Nine new levels integrated into the story (three long levels, three short, and three that were really just upgrade rooms); three all-new chariot races; and an asynchronous ad-hoc multi-player race mode (that is, you have to be in the same room as your opponent and you don't actually see their avatar during your race but rather you are impacted by their actions, and vice versa).

One thing I'm pleasantly surprised about is that reviewers aren't being harder on us given the difference in content between the PSP and Wii versions considering they share the same name. I had expected people to develop expectations re: Wii functionality based off of the PSP feature set and then be very frustrated at its lack. Clearly there is a desire for more unique content in the Wii version but exact feature parity between the two doesn't seem to be important - this is an interesting lesson for me.

The new single player levels were ignored completely by some reviewers, but Gamespot, at least, thought enough of them to offer the following:
Much of Two Thrones/Rival Swords is spent navigating to and then knocking out sand portals to disrupt the Vizier's supply lines. Instead of giving you the free ride you got in other versions of the game, the PSP version has you delving inside these portals to implode them. The challenge here ranges from maliciously difficult to overly simplistic, though they all provide more background on the story.
We made a lot of tweaks to the difficulty of these levels to try and keep a good flow and in the end I thought we did a good job considering the team that developed this version (Pipeworks software) hadn't been involved at all in The Two Thrones and therefore had an extraordinary challenge in trying to create and inject levels that fit in properly in our difficulty curve.

The biggest complaint about RS on the PSP (pretty much across the board) are audio bugs and a general down-grading of texture quality in some areas.
The audio has its problems as well. The soundtrack offers strong orchestrations and decent voice-work, but can sometimes be out of sync with the on-screen action.
The Two Thrones had a huge amount of data (both art and audio) and so the fact that we managed to fit it all onto a UMD without cutting levels or creating abhorrent loading times was a feat of significant engineering. I think it is still a toss-up whether or not the reviewers would have been harder on us had we made more drastic cuts to ensure less noticeable bugs (ie: cut music payback during dialog) given the fact that we were starting from a well known experience (ie: The Two Thrones).

Ultimately I think both versions will probably settle around the 75% mark. They both have their fair share of problems but, I think, both also have some unique value for fans of the franchise and particularly those who didn't get around to playing The Two Thrones.



Blogger THE ANiTOKiD said...

The Wii is outselling the PS3 at 3:1 and the 60GB PS3 is being sold by Japanese retailers at the same price point as the Wii itself. AND SNE is discontinuing the least expensive, 20-GB model of its PS3. The popularity of the Wii makes sense for SNE to focus on the hardcore, brand-loyal gamers most likely to buy the high-end PS3…another niche that NTDOY may want to tackle on in the future.

5:50 AM  

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