When Sony announced the PlayStation 4, the company promised support for a wider range of monetization methods used by modern-day developers. Zombie Studios is the first independent studio to take advantage of Sony's new publishing options with its free-to-play multiplayer shooter, Blacklight: Retribution.
Blacklight: Retribution launched on PC a year ago to generally positive reviews, and Zombie Studios has been updating the game ever since with new missions, maps, and gameplay modes, including the popular co-op survival mode, Onslaught. In addition to the extensive weapon customization options (which can be purchased via microtransactions or earned by playing the game), Blacklight: Retribution shakes up the typical sci-fi shooter formula with a visor ability that allows players to temporarily see through walls, and mech-like Hardsuits that can be earned during matches and feature randomly generated weakpoints.
Now Zombie Studios is prepping the game for PlayStation 4, and is looking to take advantage of the console's power to provide players with improved visuals and console-specific features. We spoke with Zombie Studios creative director Jared Gerritzen about how Blacklight: Retribution has evolved over the past year, what it's been like working with Sony, and what shooter fans can expect from the PS4 version of the game.
Blacklight: Retribution launched as a free-to-play online PC shooter last April. Will the game be free-to-play on PS4 as well?
Absolutely! When we started talking to Sony about bringing Blacklight to PS4, our first question was keeping it a free-to-play game. Sony has been very open about having different types of games on the platform, including free-to-play games.
Can you give us an idea of how the deal to bring Blacklight: Retribution to the PS4 was made? When did you get involved with Sony?
Last E3 I was lucky enough to get invited to a Sony Indie dinner that started talks about Zombie working with the Pub Fund group. They were very upfront with details about the PS4, and after that meeting we instantly knew we wanted to be working on the PS4. Their goals were very much in line with ours. We quickly started talking about games and we happened to be in the process of getting the console publishing rights back for Blacklight: Retribution. The timing couldn't have been more perfect. It really was perfect timing on both sides.
Did you consider bringing Blacklight: Retribution to other current-gen or next-gen consoles? If so, what made you choose the PS4?
We did some research in bringing Blacklight: Retribution to current-generation consoles, but it really wouldn't have worked for us. We are a small team and there were a number of hurdles involved and it just didn't make sense for us. After talking with Sony about the PS4 and their plans, it was a very easy choice for us.
Will the PS4 version of Blacklight: Retribution use any of the system's unique hardware features or functionality?
We have been experimenting with a number of features on the PS4. We have some really cool ideas for the touchpad on the controller. We started messing with it, and there were some really cool ideas that came out of that. We aren't sure if they will end up in the final version of the game, but some really cool experiments are happening. With the growth of online spectating, we see the built-in spectating as game changer. Having that built into the box is amazing in so many ways.
What's it been like working with Sony? Have you collaborated with any of their first-party developers?
Sony has been an amazing partner. They have helped us in so many ways, from getting technical help to getting additional kits. We couldn't be happier to work with a great partner so focused on helping us make a great game. As far as collaborations, we have been talking with various support groups at Sony and they have all been great.
Blacklight: Retribution has been out for about a year, and has been continually updated. What do you consider to be the biggest and most important changes you've made to the game since its initial release?
We have had one major change and one major addition to Blacklight: Retribution since its release. Late last year, we did a massive weapon balance pass and refactoring of the entire weapons system. We really wanted to make the player feel powerful when they shoot, so we went back to the drawing board and revamped the whole system. It took us months to really nail that "right" feeling for the weapons, and after countless matches in the office, we really feel we improved the game for all players. The second was our addition of Onslaught, our co-op survival mode. Blacklight has a great competitive scene, but sometimes you just want to team up with your friends and kill the AI. We had a lot of fun with it while it was in development, but the community has really latched onto it and it has become one of our most popular modes.
Are you planning any new content to mark the launch of the PS4 version? Will there be any differences between the PS4 and PC versions?
We are still working on what content the PS4 will have when the game launches. Blacklight: Retribution is live on the PC right now and it really wouldn't be fair to the PC players to keep content back. We would like the PC and the PS4 version to be as equal as possible. However, there are technical advantages to having a fixed platform like the PS4. We have gone back and have redone the lighting and retrofitted levels to focus on frame rate and making everything look great. Compare this to working on the limitations of the minimum specs on a PC with thousands of hardware combinations. Expect a visual jump on the PS4.
Will PC and PS4 players be able to play together?
When we first started thinking about Blacklight: Retribution on PS4, we instantly started investigating crossplay, but after looking at it more, it just became clear that it wasn't going to happen. It would have been awesome, but we are excited to have new players as well as some additional control that we wouldn't have if we were tied to the PC.
Do you plan on continuing to update the game when it releases on PS4?
We have a plan to support the PS4 as much as possible. We have a lot of ideas brewing right now on what exactly to do, so nothing specific right now, but we have ideas and we want Blacklight: Retribution on PS4 to have serious legs and last a long time after launch.
The PS4 provides a lot of built-in social and streaming functionalities. Are you planning to use these capabilities in interesting ways?
Totally! Being a F2P game having those social tools to introduce new players to the game is huge. Either it be online on the platform seeing cool screenshots or updates from friends, or watching streaming video of an amazing match. We are really excited about these features and how the community will use them.
Is there anything else you think fans of the PC version of Blacklight: Retribution should know about the PS4 version?
The experience will definitely change between the two platforms. We really want to use all the pieces the PS4 has to offer. The share button, the camera, motion tracking, and the controller are all really great systems that we want to use. However, we only plan on using them if they fit the game and gameplay. Don't expect us to make a player use motion control to throw a grenade or make a player jump for the [character] to jump in game. We want to make sure everything makes senses and is fun.