Boss Baddie talks random levels and micro-transactions in Vita shooter Big Sky Infinity

'We got to focus on the bits that really matter, like how many creative insults we could have'

Boss Baddie talks random levels and micro-transactions in Vita shooter Big Sky Infinity

Big Sky Infinity is an upcoming PS Vita game published by Ripstone, and developed by VooFoo Studios and Boss Baddie.

It's a big, bold, and very bright-looking hardcore shooter for Sony's portable powerhouse, and it represents the next stage in the evolution of the critically acclaimed PC title Really Big Sky.

Pocket Gamer naturally wanted to find out more about Big Sky Infinity, and who better to give us the inside line than James Whitehead, the owner, developer, and lead designer at Boss Baddie.

We discuss micro-transactions, as well as the importance of "cutting loose" in the game. Whitehead also explains why you'll never experience the same game twice, why this shooter isn't heading to mobiles (yet), and gives an asteroid-sized hint about his next big project.

Pocket Gamer: Could you tell the readers that may not be aware of what Big Sky Infinity is a little bit about it?

James Whitehead: It's a fast-paced twin-stick shooter with dynamic gameplay that adapts to how you play the game.

The regular "shoot everything that exists" gameplay is interrupted by another thing you get a bit of in space: rocks!

So, you have to shoot everything and always be on your toes ready to switch to drilling mode. So much stuff can happen at once and in a totally randomised order, you never experience the same game twice.

How does Big Sky Infinity differ from your PC title Really Big Sky?

There's a whole new look thanks to the guys at VooFoo. Big Sky Infinity looks amazing in full HD, and the PlayStation 3 version supports stereoscopic 3D, too.

We've got trophies, online high scores, new content, a fantastic new soundtrack, and a voice over. There's a really cool new endurance-style mode, too, which has a really interesting score method.

There's also a great asynchronous multiplayer mode in the Vita version. You can set a challenge, like getting so many bad guy kills or flying the longest distance, and send that challenge to a friend or to a random stranger. We had a load of fun playing this during development - it's my favourite new feature.

One of the big 'back-of-the-box' features is that the game is completely randomly generated, adapting to how you play. Can you explain how this works, and how a player's input affects the gameplay?

It's all down to the difficulty. If you're struggling to hit enemies, then it'll go easy on you. But, if you're a super-whizz at these things, it'll throw out massive waves of enemies.

It also depends on the mode you select. There's one mode called Nightmare that really doesn't want you to get high scores, so the game just throws mountains of bad guys at you... and traditional rock-based mountains, too.

The upgrade system to boost your ship's powers seems to be back in full effect - have you tweaked this element at all? And were you tempted to go down the micro-transaction route for the upgrade system, like many portable downloadables devs are?

As Einstein once said, "don't fix what ain't broke, James." Prices are the same still, but now all power-ups are spread over all ships in multiplayer, so, in a way, you get more bang for your Starbit.

We are selling time-saver packs of Starbits, too, just in case you want to get the biggest score as quickly as possible.

Really Big Sky is a graphically impressive game on PC, but I'm curious as to how well its screen-rattling explosions and blinding flashes of light will translate to the Vita. Have you had to make any concessions on the visuals front for the handheld version?

They look virtually identical, but the Vita has the benefit of sporting that OLED display where everything really comes to life.

It's amazing what the guys at VooFoo have been able to pull off. I mean, the PS3 version runs at 1080p at 60fps, and supports 3D. The Vita one is full resolution and again runs at 60 fps. Both versions look great.

Two other aspects of the presentation in Really Big Sky that caught people's attention were its ultra-British voice over and hardcore electronica soundtrack. Are these still big features of Big Sky Infinity, and was this slightly off-kilter, DIY approach a deliberate choice when you were deciding upon its tone?

It wouldn't be Big Sky without those! The narrator is back and dafter than ever, while the script itself is around four times bigger than Really Big Sky's. It's basically a licence to just cut loose and be silly, with nods to the stuff we love.

There are loads of even dafter things in the Library section. If you like coherence and sanity, don't go in there.

With Sony still struggling to get a foothold in the market with its latest handheld, are you concerned about the game's performance in terms of sales? And why develop for the Vita when you could have targeted, say, the iPhone?

While smartphones are great, the whole dual-stick setup and big screen on the Vita sits perfectly with Big Sky Infinity. It's much easier to just port existing controls from one machine to another similar machine than spend time converting controls to touchscreen devices. It's also a more fluid developmental experience.

We got to hit the ground running going from PC to console and we were able to focus on the bits that really matter, like how many creative insults we could have the narrator say.

In saying that, I'd never say never.

Finally, I'm sure that this isn't the only game you've got in the pipeline. Are you looking to the Vita for future releases, and what direction can we expect you to take with them?

It's not the only game in the pipeline, yes. I'm currently working on something with Ripstone again I'm really excited about and can't wait to announce - but it's all hush-hush at the moment. It's one of my pet projects and a labour of love, and I'm sure our fans will be excited by it.

Big Sky Infinity will be available for Vita and PlayStation 3 this quarter, so keep an eye on Pocket Gamer for the full review soon. Make sure to check out the screenshot gallery at the top of the page for some exclusive screens, too.