Developer Hardsuit Labs originally created the Unreal Engine 3 shooter "Blacklight Retribution" for high-end PC gamers. The free-to-play, first-person shooter was later ported to PlayStation 4 as a launch title for Sony's next gen console. Now that very same game is playable on NVIDIA's new Shield Android TV console. Andy Kipling, CEO at Hardsuit Labs, talks about the expansion of the Android platform and explains what NVIDIA's new superchip opens up for mobile and big screen gaming in this exclusive interview.
Q: What were your goals heading into this game?
A: We had a few goals we wanted to hit. Our primary goal was to bring our game, "Blacklight: Retribution," to more devices and make it accessible to additional players, and we had always seen Android as a platform for that. The game was originally built as a PC-only game and then later ported to PlayStation 4. Porting controls to touch screen would have been a tremendous amount of work, but with NVIDIA's Shield console we get a controller and powerful Android hardware. We were able to develop a version of "Blacklight" for the Tegra X1 chipset that takes full advantage of the advanced hardware such that we can deliver a fun and compelling "Blacklight" experience to users on the NVIDIA Shield Android TV.
Q: What's the storyline in this mobile game world?
A: "Blacklight" takes place in a dystopian future where operatives do battle against infected zombies and advanced enemy soldiers. The operatives harness technology that allows them to expand their deadly capabilities, including things like HRV, which allows them to see through walls, advanced weapons and armored exo-skeleton mechs called hardsuits. In "Blacklight" on NVIDIA Shield Android TV, players play offline against the hordes of infected and can take on enemies in the same arenas and with the same gear available in the PS4 and PC versions of the game.
Q: How do you feel you're pushing things forward with this game?
A: Android is a new platform for us and that was a huge step which involved a lot of pushing. That said, the Tegra devices really open up a whole new world of opportunities as they show what types of games can be delivered to handheld, tablet and mini-console devices. As an independent game developer, the ability to develop games and content that will easily and effectively work across all different types of platforms is a huge boon for us.
Q: Can you talk about the single player experience?
A: "Blacklight" on NVIDIA Shield Android TV is entirely a player versus environment experience encompassing two main game modes. Onslaught is where you fight waves of humans infected with CIV. We have also implemented bot practice modes allowing people to play multiplayer maps against AI bots.
Q: What type of multiplayer is there?
A: "Blacklight" on NVIDIA Shield Android TV is entirely offline, however players can experience the same multiplayer experiences of "Blacklight: Retribution," just not against live players. Players can still earn GP, unlock weapons, customize their configuration, and go to battle in all the various maps that one is familiar with from "Blacklight: Retribution." However, we eliminated the online requirements in order to allow the game to reach as many gamers as possible.
Q: How have you worked with NVIDIA on your game?
A: NVIDIA has been extremely helpful on the development side, helping us with all kinds of technical issues and instructing us in how to effectively leverage their hardware, putting us in touch with others developing on similar problems and so forth. NVIDIA has been a great partner on this project.
Q: What have they provided in terms of tech that has helped with development?
A: Tons of man hours, resources and tools that have helped us immensely.
Q: What are your thoughts on the evolution of Android as a platform?
A: We believe that it has proven to be a strong competitor to the status quo.
Q: What excites you about Android TV?
A: Android TV will bring a ton of new users into the console gaming world, and a world that will have more and more games in the vein of what we would be known as more traditional console games.
Q: What impact do you think NVIDIA Shield Android TV could have within the gaming ecosystem?
A: The biggest thing here is the diversification of hardware. It can be a problem for developers, because you have to aim for so many different targets at the same time. However, it also is breaking down barriers such that consoles in general are now more accessible to more users and this is expanding the gaming audience in general. It is introducing more competition and forcing the platforms to get better and more agile. We believe all this is a good thing for the community and industry over all.
Q: What do you see NVIDIA Shield Android TV opening up for game developers moving forward?
A: The best thing is the ability to transfer traditional console games to android console devices and thereby to whole new sets of users. From there it is not much further to go to Android devices in general (even if it's a pared-down experience). And there are gazillions of Android devices out there.
Q: How was it adding controller support to your game?
A: Our game already had controller support so it mapped easily and well. Controller support was a critical aspect for us because we did not want to develop a first-person shooter touch-based control scheme as we feel that such an input method would not work for the feel and function of "Blacklight." The controller on offer by Shield has been excellent for us and we have found it has worked great.
Q: What impact has Tegra X1 technology had on the gameplay experience Shield Console users will have?
A: Players will get to see levels of graphics fidelity and performance that one would previously only find on a PC or next-gen console. The Tegra X1 allows us to bring these features to the Android platform.
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