Monday, September 26, 2016

An Interview with Sony's Third Party Production - Banner Saga (Vita)

Since December 2015, Vita fans have been hopeful for the release of The Banner Saga on Vita when Sony stepped in to help production along. While it's taking some hard work, progress is well underway, and we have an update from Sony's Third Party Production team about how things are going.

Michael A Cunningham (Pocket-Console): Before we dive into The Banner Saga, could you talk a little about what the Third Party Production department does? What other Vita games have you had a hand in helping along and in what capacity?

John Sanders (Lead Producer, Third Party Production): Third Party Production exists to assist developers and publishers that need help bringing games to PlayStation platforms. We are big fans of PS Vita and have had a hand in bringing 15 titles to the platform thus far. Some PS Vita games we’ve been a part of are Nidhogg, Risk of Rain, Grim Fandango, and Resident Evil: Revelations 2 just to name a few.

MAC: Last December was when it was revealed that Sony was stepping in to help save the Vita version of The Banner Saga. Does this mean that Sony is working on it directly or is there a third party involved in the porting process? Just curious about how this is happening.

For Banner Saga we brought in Code Mystics, who have helped port several titles to PS Vita (Metal Slug 3, The Last Blade 2, Risk of Rain, etc.). We're big fans of their work and they have taken on numerous challenging projects for the platform. We are involved in overseeing the project together with Versus Evil, the publisher, and Stoic, the creators of Banner Saga.

MAC: Back around PAX West, you made it clear that things were well underway for The Banner Saga. What challenges have you had in scaling this down to the Vita? Maybe some specific challenges? Anything go smoother than expected?

To this point there have not been a lot of specific technical challenges related to the game scope/content itself. It’s going to be super beautiful on PS Vita! What we've faced is some resource challenges in switching developers to Code Mystics, digging into the codebase, and ramping resources to complete it. It's hard to review a port in part/piecemeal, as you need to get most of the game up and running first. So it takes a lot of time, but when it clicks the whole game is pretty much there and the focus becomes performance tuning, polish, bug fixing, etc.

MAC: What are your thoughts about adding additional content for this version? Something to make it unique? Too much work?

The content all comes from Stoic. Not to answer too much on their behalf, but when we undertook this project they were super-focused on Banner Saga 2 and continuing to progress the story/content in that way. As they are a small team, it would have been a direct impact to the progress of that new game to come back and do anything for BS1, which neither party wanted to happen and so we focused instead on a direct port of an already amazing game.

(screens from PS4 version)

MAC: The important question...any ETA on a release date?

Code Mystics is building up momentum, so I would expect that we're going to be hitting the performance tuning, polish, and bug fixing phase soon. While we can't say specifically, I would expect to get this into eager PS Vita fans hands early 2017...we shall see.

MAC: Have there been any thoughts of doing a physical release for The Banner Saga, even if very limited? There may not be a massive audience for Vita, but as the folks at Limited Run Games have shown the Vita fans are passionate for physical Vita copies. I know I am.

This is a decision that rests with the game's publisher, Versus Evil, so if you'd like to see a physical release, I would ask them!
John Watson (Stoic, Technical Director): We definitely like the idea of physical media. We made boxed copies of both The Banner Saga 1 and The Banner Saga 2 on PC, primarily for European and Australian audiences. We will look into the possibilities for Vita! 

MAC: I'm curious...what would you think about just adding in The Banner Saga 2 while you're at it?

JS (3PP): 
Doing the work on BS1 helps set the stage for more Banner Saga to follow on PS Vita from a tech point of view – but again this is up to Versus Evil. I do know Versus Evil and Stoic are big PS Vita fans, so let them know you'd love to see more Banner Saga
JW (Stoic): Yes, from a tech side, having a unified engine really helps things along. It took us 2 years to port TBS1 to PS4, but because we were able to leverage the technology, we released TBS2 on PS4 only 10 weeks after the PC launch. We hope we can get this developmental speedup on the Vita side as well.

MAC: Any other future Vita titles we should be looking forward to from the 3PP team?

We sure do! Garou Mark of the Wolves continues our great partnership with SNK and Code Mystics to bring fighting games to PS Vita. Pox Nora from Desert owl will be bringing an amazing amount of content for all your tactical, turn-based online fantasy game needs. Also keep an eye peeled for Ray's the Dead from Ragtag and Adult Swim! 
We're also really excited for Darkest Dungeon's PS Vita release on September 27. If you're interested in a challenging, gothic, turn-based RPG, make sure to check it out.

Pocket-Console and #TeamHandheld would like to thank John Sanders, Gio Corsi, and the Sony PR team for their support of the Vita and for taking part in this interview. Many thanks as well to John Watson from Stoic for the follow up replies. Looks like we still have a little while before The Banner Saga hits Vita, but it's good to know that things are still going well. Fingers crossed it sells well enough to justify doing the sequel.

1 comment:

  1. Top job Pocket Console, it would still be cool of Sony to be slightly more vocal about the Vita during its events though!