Why Sackboy Will Run at a Locked 60 FPS
Though Sumo Digital has confirmed before that Sackboy will run at 60 FPS, Waterhouse spoke a bit at length about why, from the start of the project, this locked framerate was such a key facet of the game.
“We said from day one, the absolute must was a smooth 60 frames per second because we focused on play and that was about creating the best platform we could. For us, that meant awesome character controls, and it meant a really responsive character,” Waterhouse said, explaining that that also meant a solid framerate on both the PS4 and PS5 versions of the game.He continued, “So we said from the get-go, it has to be a solid 60 across all platforms. We use dynamic resolution scaling to ensure that we can keep it at a smooth 60, but that was our priority throughout development. And I hope that players feel the benefits of that when they play the game.”
Approachable, But With Some True Challenges
Platformers often have to thread a difficult needle of, well, difficulty, ensuring that they can be approachable from the start for players to learn the ropes, while also letting those who crave a challenge really test their skills.
“We wanted to create an experience with broad appeal that everyone can enjoy, he’s a wonderfully endearing character, the world is rich and it’s inviting, and we just wanted lots and lots of people to get the chance to experience that and to enjoy that,” Waterhouse explained.
But, of course, platforming fans crave a good challenge, and the Sumo Digital team took an interesting approach — namely, the difference in mastering the campaign and mastering all of Sackboy’s content comes in his moveset.
PS5 UI screenshots
“So the way that we approached this was, we said we’re going to broaden Sackboy’s moveset. We’re going to introduce loads of new moves… But we said, we will only use a subset of those moves to complete the main adventure. That doesn’t mean the main adventure doesn’t have challenge. It’s familiar and welcoming when you start out, the challenge increases as you become more accustomed to the character and the world.
“But what you don’t need to do is learn every move and you don’t need to learn how to chain them all together. You can complete this game with a subset of those moves. However, if you want to set all the high scores, find all the secrets, master all the levels, beat the post-game and platinum this game, you are going to have to learn how to master this character.”
In particular, Waterhouse pointed to a subset of levels called the Knitted Knight Trials, which Waterhouse described as “quick-fire, fast-paced arcade-y, bits of gameplay where you’ve got this hazard strewn obstacle course, one life, and you have to get to the finish line as quickly as you can.”
PS4 Players Shouldn’t Be Disappointed
Sackboy is going to be a launch PS5 game and also hit PS4. It is aiming to take advantage of the new system’s advanced capabilities, including the DualSense controller, the system’s SSD, and more. But Waterhouse made it clear that PS4 players should not expect to be disappointed by the experience.
“When it comes to the PlayStation 4 version of this game, I don’t think anyone’s going to be disappointed if they buy that version,” he said. “For me and for the team, it was really important for us to be on that platform because we wanted as many people as possible to get a chance to play this game. That said, the new console is more powerful. It’s got new features, and that allowed us to enhance both the visuals, take advantage of the SSD, and do some work with the DualSense and the haptics.”Waterhouse and I were speaking in the context of what the DualSense brings to Sackboy’s adventure, but he wanted to make it clear that even without its unique capabilities, PS4 players can still expect the same platforming levels and challenges, along with the same performance goal of 60 FPS the devs had for both versions.
A Slapstick Approach
Sackboy has always had a charming humor to him and his world, both the ones devised by players in the LittleBigPlanet series and in the levels built around him by Media Molecule and Sumo Digital.
And injecting his new adventure with a Monty Python-esque style of comedy was something Waterhouse explained the team wanted to do not just in the game’s story but also through its gameplay. And it helps, as he described them, that the devs have a bit of “mischief” in them, anyway.“LittleBigPlanet has a rich vein of slightly irreverent and Python-esque comedy to it. And we were very mindful of that and we looked to carry that through the story of this game,” he said, continuing: “We’ve got a host of quirky characters… We’ve got 60 costumes in the game. They all break down into their constituent parts, you can paint all of those parts. We have some amazing looking costumes, but there is real flexibility in the system. And honestly, some of the things that the development team create are abominations,” he joked.
He even went on to elaborate that the team found as many ways as possible to allow co-op players to interact with one another, both in ways to meaningfully make progress and to grief each other.
PS5 Box Pictures
“One thing that we did is we said there should be lots of ways for players to interact with each other. So in this game, you can slap each other. You can bounce off each other’s heads, you can pick each other up and shock them. You can grapple them, you can do [the new move called] a roll run.
“There are perfectly legitimate ways to use all of those moves in the game in order to progress. But also, you can sneak up behind your little brother and Slap him off a platform,” Waterhouse explained, mentioning that he wouldn’t be surprised if the game caused a few arguments during the holidays.
Making a Great Co-Op Experience
And on the note of co-op, Waterhouse really drove home the point that, while Sackboy is built to be a great single player game, the team also always had co-op in mind for the adventure.
In addition to the fun ways to grief your co-op partners, as well as interact through cooperative-specific emotes, there are a host of co-op specific levels that will really require players to put their skills to the test by working together.Every level in the adventure is also possible in co-op, but Sumo Digital wanted to make sure that no two players ever felt like different skill levels or handling on the controls would deter from the overall experience.
“We know that players of different abilities will want to play together. We have a few things in the game that allow you to [level the playing field]. We have an option that we call the assist copter. You can call in the copter when playing in multiplayer, Sackboy will light a flare, and this little crafted copter comes down and picks him up.
“And what the copter does is it follows the lead player. Providing that one person can get through a section of gameplay, everyone can get through. We also have a shared life system in the game because it’s there to encourage collaboration and teamwork and a little bit social responsibility. If you want to turn that off and enable infinite lives and just enjoy the platforming challenge, then you can do that.”
Sackboy: A Big Adventure will look to offer players plenty of ways to play, with dozens of varied levels, costumes to unlock and mix and match, and both single-player and co-op challenges to face.
Jonathon Dornbush is IGN’s Senior News Editor, PlayStation lead, and host of Podcast Beyond! Talk to him on Twitter @jmdornbush.