Clever Beans talks PS Vita, PS4 and the future of the gaming industry

U.K. developer Clever Beans, developer of the recently-released PS3 and PS Vita game When Vikings Attack, talks to about a range of interesting subjects, including the story behind its latest game, the challenges of implementing cross-play between the two platforms, and its hopes for the PlayStation 4.


You can read the review of When Vikings Attack here.

Answers provided by Clever Bean’s directors Martin Turton and Andrew Newton

1. Tell us a bit more about Clever Beans. What’s the story behind the name and what are the goals of the studio?

Clever Beans is a company set up by the two of us (Martin and Andrew) approximately 18 months ago. After spending a total 20 years between us in the game industry working at some large 100+ person strong studios owned by companies such as Sony and THQ and we had both experienced many a canned project and had creativity stifled by risk averse investors and management. We saw an opportunity to go out on our own with a vision to create games that put fun first! Although this sounds rather clichéd you’d be surprised how often fun doesn’t take precedence in a lot of studios.

As for the name Clever Beans, I wish we had a fun and meaningful story behind the name; the fact is it was just the first name in a huge list of possibilities that we were both happy with and ticked all the boxes!

2. You’ve been busy working on When Vikings Attack for PSN and Vita which launched last week. The idea of chucking street furniture at each other across urban settings reminds us of those scenes when you see football supporters brawling at the EURO Championships outside a café or through a high street. This is obviously cartoon-violence with no blood, but the gameplay has that chaotic, manic feel to it. What was the inspiration for When Vikings Attack?

We always start a game by prototyping ideas to ensure we are on to something fun before we get too far in to development. For Vikings we set out with two key design goals: “a 100 person beat ‘em-up” and “a beat ‘em up with shoot ‘em up style gameplay”.

The 100 person beat ‘em up idea was inspired by some of those huge bar brawls you see in movies. We thought the idea of dropping the player into an environment sounded great! But upon prototyping this we realised that this isn’t quite as much fun as it sounds. The player can only realistically engage with one other person at once so you end up back at a traditional beat ‘em up just with a queue of 99 enemies waiting to take you on next! From this point we just started to experiment with controlling many people at once, so the game is still a 100 person beat ‘em up except the players would control a whole bunch of people simultaneously. After several iterations (and a few months) we ended up at the game you see now.


When Vikings Attack - the new multiplayer brawler from Clever Beans

You can still see elements of the second design pillar we had: ‘shoot ‘em up style gameplay’ such as one hit kill, power ups, simple controls that are hard to master etc.

3. What was the thinking behind offering When Vikings Attack on both PS3 and Vita for one price? It’s a strategy we’d like to see more of!

The cross-buy idea just makes sense for a game like ours. Our game is exactly the same on both platforms so we just felt that it didn’t seem fair to make people buy the same game twice and we felt like the goodwill gained by offering the game like this would far outweigh any lost sales in people not buying it twice. Hopefully all games will follow this model in the future.

4. What challenges did you face to implement cross-platform play between PS3 and Vita?

We knew that networking would be one of the most difficult challenges we faced in this project so we designed the networking system very early on in the project’s development, back when the game only existed as prototype on PC. Planning this far ahead really did mitigate a lot of the problems we ... (continued on next page) ----

A gamer since the days of the ZX Spectrum, Steven Williamson now works as General Manager for PSU. He's supposed to be managing, but if you're reading this, it means he's dipped into editorial again. Follow @steven_gamer
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