With the release of Bizarre’s Boom Boom Rocket on the Xbox Live Arcade today, we have a XCN Q&A with Craig Howard, Design Manager on Boom Boom Rocket. Read on for the scoop.
Bizarre’s involvement with XBLA is synonymous with Geometry Wars – how do you think people will react to Boom Boom Rocket?
Well we hope people react to it positively! Boom Boom Rocket has been designed as an inviting game for players of all ages. The goal has been to make an accessible game that uses the synergy of visual and audio stimuli to drive the player to higher scores. We hope they’ll become absorbed within the experience.
Could you explain the background of how BBR came to be developed at Bizarre?
We were approached by EA’s Pogo Studio with the game’s concept. They were keen to work with us given the success of Geometry Wars, and we were interested in working on a new IP with such a cool idea behind it! EA presented us with a barebones concept, which we then worked together to develop into the game BBR is today. Whilst the bulk of the design and production was done at Bizarre, Pogo Studio have been involved in virtually every step of the development process. That goes from initial concept development right through to marketing and PR.
Please give us an overview of how Boom Boom Rocket plays.
Keeping true to our initial design principles, the game is an extremely simple concept to pick up and play. You need to simply detonate the fireworks in time with the music. There are four different colours of firework (yellow, blue, red, and green), which correspond to the colours of the face buttons on the Xbox 360 pad. Press the appropriately coloured button when the firework reaches the detonation bar. It’s easy.
The fun comes in the execution. The fireworks get really fast, and you’ll find that it’s fun to pull off the tougher combos after a bit of practice.
And can you try to sum up the sensation of playing BBR?
It’s a combination of intensely beautiful fireworks and pounding familiar melodies that will invoke the desire to improve on your previous scores as you strive to be as one with the game. We hope that both novices and experts will find something to like in BBR… we’ve aimed the game to appeal across a very wide demographic.
What kind of visual experience does a game of BBR create?
The visual goal was to create the most spectacular firework display ever seen in video games. I’ll let you be the judge of whether we’ve achieved that or not!
We are doing lots of custom trickery to allow us to throw around tens of thousands of particles to create some jaw dropping displays. The lighting is also important so we dynamically light up the city and the smoke with the explosions.
The Bonus mode takes this goal and moves it off the scale!
Obviously this would be no good if we couldn’t maintain the arcade perfect speed of 60fps, so the guys have worked hard to ensure we don’t drop frames during gameplay.
Geometry Wars is seen as quite a hardcore game – is BBR hardcore in a similar way?
One of the strengths of Boom Boom Rocket is that players of all ages can pick it up and enjoy the game. This is not to say that we have alienated the Hardcore players. We have spent a lot of time engineering subtlety and depth into the scoring mechanics; this will give the players lots of scope to improve their score. We also have an Endurance game option which continuously speeds up the song until the player can’t keep up. We see this as a very large challenge to the hardcore who will really be able to shine on this mode.
Do you see BBR encouraging people to have high score battles with the people on their friends list?
Definitely! Boom Boom Rocket has a combined leader board that tallies your best performances for each song, This will allow you and your friends to easily see who is the best overall in the game.
What kind of Xbox Live features are you implementing in BBR?
Boom Boom Rocket will feature Xbox Live leaderboard support.
Are you planning to create DLC for BBR?
We have included DLC functionality for the game, but nothing has been finalised yet. It really comes down to what gamers tell us after they get their hands on the game. If they want extra content, we’ll do it. Rest assured we’ll be listening very closely to our forum post launch.
BBR will feature remixes of classical music. Why did you choose this genre, and are you concerned that it will put off certain sections of the audience?
The most important factor when looking at the in-game music was that we wanted tunes that have strong melodies and hooks for the players. We decided to base the music on classical music, as no matter what music you listen to its inevitable that you would have heard many classical tunes in Films, TV and advertisements.
The classical tunes were a seed for Ian Livingstone to work with and he has managed to create some tunes that are distinct and uniquely Boom Boom Rocket.
Will you be able to play the game to your own custom soundtracks as in other titles like Def Jam: ICON?
We did consider the possibility of you being able to play with your own soundtrack early on in the games lifecycle. After a bit of research it was quite apparent that rhythm action games are based on the tightness of the level design to the music. So we channelled our energy into crafting really detailed and playable levels instead… this is really where the game shines.
However, we have dropped in a full visualiser, which will choreograph a fireworks display to any music stored on the HDD. It’s not playable, but it’s a nod to those who want to see their own tracks up in lights.
Rhythm action games seem to be becoming increasingly popular these days. What other games have influenced you in the creation of BBR?
We are big fans of lots of rhythm action games here, and it’s hard to not be influenced by some of the better ones. These might be DDR, Guitar Hero. Pop n Music or Samba de Amigo. However, we think BBR has a unique style and gameplay… certainly we don’t think we’ve just copied what was already out there.
Q Entertainment has just announced that it will be bringing Every Extend Extra Extreme to XBLA. How do you think BBR will shape up against it?
E4 is very different in its core mechanics so we don’t consider Boom Boom Rocket as a competitor. We are big fans of Q entertainment’s games and look forward playing it.
What pricepoint should we expect for BBR, and what is your view of XBLA pricing at present?
You can expect to pay 800 MS points for Boom Boom Rocket. This is a price which was set by Electronic Arts, but one which Bizarre is really happy with. Obviously we put GW out at 400 points at launch, but BBR is a much larger game with much larger development costs, and ultimately more gameplay.
GW had 1 person working full time on it. BBR has 7 full timers at last count… so it’s an order of magnitude bigger!
Generally we think that XBL pricing is a little high, especially for some of the “remade” titles. However, consumers will vote with their wallets. We know that people won’t buy it if the price is unfair, so we hope that people see 800 points for BBR as a decent investment.
What kind of Achievements are you creating for BBR, and what do you think of the Achievement system?
We have a wide range of achievements in the game to help everyone feel that they are making progress. There are some easy wins such as the ‘Bonus Schmonus’ Achievement that is awarded when a player activates the bonus run for the first time. On the other end of the spectrum is the ‘Carpal Tunnel Syndrome’ achievement that requires the player to get an A rating or above on all 10 songs.
Finally, what’s in the future for Bizarre’s involvement with XBLA?
We’re huge fans of XBLA, and it’ll come as no surprise to hear that we do intend to keep very involved in this area. We have some more announcements to make… watch this space (or more precisely, watch www.bizarreonline.net!).
Thank you for your time Craig!
Boom Boom Rocket is available to buy on Xbox Live Arcade from today at 800 MS Points.
In light of this Q&A will you be purchasing Boom Boom Rocket? Leave us your feedback on the game via our comments area below.