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From WipEout to iOS: a chat with Playrise Digital

Wednesday, 16 January 2013 08:42 GMT By Dave Cook

Playrise Digital is the new indie outfit from ex-WipEout developer Nick Burcombe. Its first game Table Top Racing hits iOS this month. VG247′s Dave Cook spoke with the studio’s founder to learn more about the team.

Playrise Digital

Formed in 2012 by industry veteran Nick Burcombe, formally of Sony Studio Liverpool, developers of the WipEout franchise.

Before forming Playrise, Burcombe worked on SkyDrift from Sine Mora developer Digital Reality, and worked with UK studio Magenta Software.

The studio’s first title is Table Top Racing, a 60 FPS, 3D racing title for iOS. It follows a similar format as Micro Machines and Mario Kart but with the weapon-based mentality of the WipEout series.

You can check out the Playrise Digital site for information on Table Top Racing and its next iOS title Baby Nom Nom.

The last few years have seen many developers leave prominent positions at high-profile, triple-a developers. Epic’s Cliff Bleszinski, BioWare’s Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk, Ubisoft’s Patrice Désilets, Infintiy Ward’s Rob Bowling and 22 Cans founder Peter Molyneux are just some of the industry figures who have moved on to go it alone, retire completely or to tackle new challenges.

Nick Burcombe was working at Sony Studio Liverpool when his employer announced a wave of lay-offs at the WipEout developer. He was one of the casualties.

“This was actually the first time I’d been made redundant so it was a new experience for me,” Burcombe explained. “In many ways though, I was glad that the studio had survived and that the Wipeout franchise would carry on after its incredible 18 years.”

As we now know, Sony shuttered the studio in 2012, and in many ways Burcombe dodged a bullet, because rather than leave the industry, he formed Playrise Digital, a new studio that launches its first title, the racing combat game Table Top Racing. It’s a 60 FPS app that is said to hit a quality level that competes with the home console pack, which is becoming common in the technically proficient mobile sector.

It is certainly a prosperous market – one that has drawn in many big-name developers over the years – granting Burcombe and his team space to explore new ideas, grasp emergent mobile tech and to largely stand aside from the pitfalls of the triple-a stereotype, such as spiralling production costs, poor financials and the quashing of new ideas.

Setting up Playrise wasn’t quite straight forward however, as Burcombe dabbled in many worthwhile pursuits before forming the studio, such as working with Atomicon – formally Playbox – and assisting Sine Mora developer Digital Reality in developing Skydrift. Nick then returned to Liverpool to work alongside Magenta Software, which is where he met his Playrise Digital business partner Chris Maloney.

“Over the course of that period I learned something about myself that would lead to the formation of Playrise Digital”, Burcombe explained.” I’d got the bug to do my own thing and thought if I can find the right people and bring them together we could achieve something pretty cool.

“I was still at Magenta when I met my current business partner Chris Maloney and on one of the many rainy-night walks back to the car park, we talked about the explosion in mobile gaming and that we could see for many games in that sector, the quality simply wasn’t there.

“There are of course fantastic developers in the mobile sector that have also understood that average quality product is unlikely to be in demand going forward and so we agreed to look at taking the next steps toward setting up an indie studio focussed on high quality mobile gaming.”

Although Playrise Digital is an indie developer releasing on iOS, Burcombe quite rightly believes that moving into this sector shouldn’t be regarded as a shift away from triple-a development, because it’s clear to see that the mobile space still produces high quality, highly lucrative titles regularly.

“For us it’s the other way round,” Burcombe stressed. “We still want to produce triple-a quality, but this time for mobile devices. Of course the biggest difference going into mobile space for me is the usual ‘trilemma’: people, time and budgets.

“All of which are a fraction of the resource pool you’d have at somewhere like Sony. In some ways it’s been an exciting challenge, but the effort to produce the quality we have on Table Top Racing has been extraordinary and the team have been as passionate about reaching triple-a quality as they would be on console.

For Burcombe and Maloney the decision to make a racing game felt natural, as both parties wanted the studio to play to its strengths. Bucombe continued, “We talked in depth about our experiences playing games like Mario Kart and Micro Machines and that was it – it was quite obvious to us what we should be making. We set ourselves some quality goals – things like 60 fps gameplay and simple, responsive controls and then went about crafting Table Top Racing.

“We consciously made the decision that it shouldn’t be too weird or abstract and that gamers of all types could recognise both the world they were racing in and the vehicles they were racing. Programming and Art then went to work to see how far we could push the mobile hardware – I think what they have achieved is remarkable.”

Table Top Racing bears all the hallmarks of what gamers perceive triple-a titles to have, such as 60 FPS play, online multiplayer, cloud saves, native retina 3D visuals and highly polished visuals. Technically it’s no slouch, but it’s also a playful title to boot.

Breakneck chases play out across eight circuits, such as the tables in a Japanese sushi bar, the “Toy R’ You” kid’s store and a garage workshop setting, with proposed, community-led content that could see more levels, weapons and modes added post-launch. In an industry where Micro Machines is notable by its absence, the timing of Table Top Racing is absolutely perfect.

Even the cars are bonkers, such as the “Whippy Kai Yay!” Ice Cream Truck and the NamGang 4×4″ army jeep. Players will be able to customise and upgrade their rides using coins earned through winning races, which will be essential to dominating the Game Centre leader boards. Even changing your car’s wheel type can have advantages such as giving your car the ability to jump, or simply go faster.

Being of WipEout descent, Bucrombe naturally opted for each car to have weapons, “We have four standard weapons that all cars can randomly get awarded by smashing through crates. Now on the surface of it that doesn’t sound like a lot, but they all function very differently and can be used both for attack and defence.

“For example, if I pick up an EMP, I can use it in different ways. If I’m in first place I can use it to defend my position by stopping faster cars overtaking. At the back of pack I can use it to clear mines left on the track by an opponent so I can catch up without losing speed. I also can use it to destroy an incoming heat seeking missile but this required good timing skills.

“All the weapons can counter each other and have numerous uses. Exploring how best to use them in a strategic way is great fun. We added other weapons as experiment, but they threw things off-balance, so we’ve stuck to the stuff that works well.”

The game seems like it will be a lot of fun, and will sit well among the darlings of the iOS scene, and even though we see games come and go on App Store rapidly, quality titles will always rise to the top. No market is without risk, but Burcombe firmly believes that the mobile sector is the place to be at present.

“My belief is that it’s simply too high-risk in the console business at the moment to bring new IP to console,” he explained, “which is why so many mid-sized developers and internal teams have gone to the wall in recent years. Budgets have been escalating towards blockbuster movie levels for some time now and so many companies have been burnt by trying to introduce new IP’s that something has to give.

“I guess it might look like stagnation to some people, but equally on the other side of that argument – there is a huge audience for those big IP’s that are established and it’s not going anywhere in the short term. Call of Duty seems to break records every year, no doubt the next instalment of GTA will be huge – as will others and so if you’re working on one of those big franchises there’s a definitely a future ahead of you because they all have massive audiences waiting on every update.

“From my own personal perspective, I always thought that rather than this become a console versus mobile war, it would be more interesting and beneficial to players if the two camps could integrate one with one another. So with something like Gran Turismo, you should be able to conduct B-Spec races or tune cars and test performance on the iPad, sync it up with PSN/iCloud and your console game has evolved.

“Perhaps something like GTA, you could have an element of getting hired guns to do sub missions to make more money or reclaim turf – or perhaps a casino component to it when you’re out and about.”

Finally I simply had to ask for Burcombe’s personal opinion on whether or not we’d ever see a WipEout game release again, following Sony Studio Liverpool’s closure. While he hasn’t worked at the studio since 2010, he offered me his own distanced thoughts on the matter.

“Who knows?” he asked. “Sony keep things pretty tight regarding plans, but my honest answer is probably not, even though I’d hope so. I’d love to see Sony experiment with some of its IP across other platforms – maybe that’s the ‘Psygnosis’ in me. If I had the chance – I’d love to bring something like Wipeout to iOS. I’d want to go freemium to reach as wide an audience as possible, and then hit them with something utterly spectacular.

“There’s so many ways to monetise a game like Wipeout I think it could be a great success – the trick is to keep the costs under control if you know you’re going to have more of a hardcore following. I think the fans of the franchise deserve another chance to put themselves into that Zen-like state and be at one with it.”

Table Top Racing launches on iOS this month. You can check out the official Playrise Digital website for updates.

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3 Comments

  1. Da Man

    From clumsy proprietary attempts at hardware, milked to death for a decade to adequate regularly evolving tech.

    Quite a transition indeed.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. theevilaires

    looks neat, bring it to Android and you got yourself a purchase buy Mr. burcombe.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. nburcombe

    It’s on the “to do” list. :)

    #3 2 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    The Square Enix Collective showcases projects for a limited time to help drum up community support and potential backers, and RTS title XO from Jumpdrive Studios is worth taking a look at. The teaser trailer is fairly brief, but if you visit the page for XO over at the Square Enix Collective, it’s understandable – […]

  • GTA 5 PC patch disables mods. Here’s how to get them working again

    A new patch for the PC version of GTA 5 was released yesterday and, as it turns out, has wiped the ability to use mods with the game. The wasn’t great news for some players, but YouTuber taltigolt has already figured out how to play the PC version with mods after installing the patch. Matt […]

  • Xbox One ad stealth launches a mysterious Halo 5 competition

    A new Xbox One advert released today isn’t as straightforward as it appears. The trailer has a couple of pretty conspicuous ‘glitches’ throughout, and members of NeoGAF wasted no time in breaking it down. The first item of interest is the screen from the hunt the signal site, which displays an error message when accessed […]

  • Battlefield 4 Jungle map improved with latest update

    DICE LA has updated the Battlefield 4 Jungle map, adding more foliage and a new route. As demonstrated by Westie in the video above, the map now has the kind of foliage you’d expect in the jungle, helping to conceal infantry players. The update also tweaks positions of objective points and has added a concealed […]

  • Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate free DLC pack for May includes Metroid and Mega Man armour

    The May DLC pack for Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate boasts some big ticket items, including Metroid, Street Fighter, and Mega Man gear. This big fat chunk of free DLC, detailed on the capcom unity blog, includes Hunter equipment: Metroid’s Varia Suit Metroid’s Zero Suit Metroid’s Arm Cannon Taiko Drum Master Hunting Horn USJ’s Star Rook […]

  • Destiny: Xur location and inventory for May 1, 2 – Hard Light edition

    Here he comes with his weird face, dealing goods and gear for Guardians. It’s Friday. Xur: Agent of the Nine is back in the Tower. Of Course he is. Got your Strange Coins? Here’s what’s in his bag this week: Ruin Wings [Exotic Titan gauntlets] – 13SC Don’t Touch Me [Exotic Hunter gauntlets] – 13SC […]

  • Dragon Age: Inquisition Jaws of Hakkon DLC drops for PS4 on May 26

    Dragon Age: Inquisition DLC has now been announced for May 26 for PS3, PS4 and Xbox 360. The announcement was made on Twitter via the official Dragon Age account. Mark your calendars! #DAIJawsOfHakkon pic.twitter.com/mU1WfkSrQV — Dragon Age (@dragonage) May 1, 2015 The DLC was released for PC and Xbox One back in March thanks to […]

  • New Witcher 3 screenshots highlight Geralt’s questionable fashion choices

    Even though The Witcher 3 release date is drawing closer, it still feels like a million year away. So here are some more screenshots to tide you over until then. We got to look at in-game shots yesterday, but these new screens show Geralt riding through some gorgeously vibrant mountains, in the midst of combat […]

  • Sims Gurus patch out pregnant men

    Say goodbye to The Sims 4 unique take on fatherhood, as The Sims Gurus confirm that male pregnancies are no more. The Sims 4 players have been reporting high numbers of alien abductions, leaving their male characters with sore bottoms and a bellyful of alien baby. Kotaku reports that not everyone was getting their knickers […]

  • Black Mesa countdown probably points to Half-life remake release date

    Half-life remake Black Mesa may have a release date at last. Black Mesa is a Source Engine remake of the original Half-life, which like everything related to Half-life feels like it’s taking forever to come out. The first part launched in September 2012, and it looks like we might have a release date for the […]

  • Spector puts down rumours of troubled Epic Mickey development

    Epic Mickey seemed like a surprising follow-up project from the man who made Deus Ex, but Warren Spector has put down rumours of a difficult relationship with Disney. Epic Mickey displays several qualities found in Spector’s other games and which he has always espoused in interviews – heck, this is the man whose dream it […]

  • Ubisoft makes good on Child of Light promise with free eBook

    Child of Light fans can check out a gorgeous new illustrated book set in the world of Lumeria. Earlier this month, creator Patrick Plourde confirmed that there were more Child of Light projects on the way. As we expected from the cagey wording, at least the first of these projects isn’t a game: it’s an […]

  • Half-life episode from Junction Point would have featured a magnet gun

    Half-life seems to be on near permanent hold, but at least we can glean some insight into what might once have been. Junction Point’s cancelled Half-life game came up in Warren Spector’s Reddit AMA overnight. Commenting that he isn’t sure whether he’ll get into legal trouble for discussing the project, Spector gave a few comments […]

  • Destiny: exclusive shader, emblem on offer with Nepal benefit shirt

    Destiny developer Bungie has asked Guardians to offer their aid, and they’ve already responded in troves. A new Destiny shirt added to the Bungie Store is the object of a fundraising drive to provide aid in Nepal following a devastating earthquake this week. Bungie popped the pretty stylish shirt on sale earlier today, offering an […]

  • What does the creator of Deus Ex think of Human Revolution and Mankind Divided?

    Deus Ex creator Warren Spector seems pretty positive about the direction the sci-fi series has followed under Square Enix’s hand. Deus Ex was created by Spector and his team at Ion Storm, and remained with Eidos after the developer shuttered. When Square Enix purchased the British publisher, it put new studio Eidos Montreal to work […]

  • Protest Goat secures future for Elite Dangerous destruction derbies

    One of the stranger and more beautiful stories to manifest in the gaming world this week, I think. Elite: Dangerous has given birth to an unintended, emergent style of gameplay; a destruction derby like affair where players gather in no combat areas to both race and gleefully smash into each other until a victor limps […]

  • Destiny’s stunning landscapes captured in panoramas

    Destiny has some beautiful environments, which screenshots don’t necessarily do justice to. Walking around Destiny exclaiming over the lighting effects and the tiny animated details is the best way to experience Bungie’s tremendous achievements, but these panorama images stitched together from in-game screenshots are a good second. Click to see them fullsize. Redditor CenturyEagle made […]

  • Star Wars Disney Infinity re-release on the cards – rumour

    Star Wars is a no-brainer for Disney Infinity, and at long last it looks like it’s happening. A Star Wars re-release called Disney Infinity 3.0 has reportedly leaked from German retailers. We have to lable this one a rumour as we haven’t seen the original source, but the story was originally reported by DisKingdom, which […]

  • Award-winning mobile indie Monument Valley out now on Windows Phone

    Windows Phone’s game selection can be a bit restrictive, but has expanded delightfully today: Monument Valley is now available. Monument Valley is one of those gorgeous, mind-bending puzzlers the indie scene produces on the regular, winning awards and consuming everyone’s lives for weeks on end. Developed by Ustwo Games, with beautiful, understated art from Ken […]

  • Old-school EverQuest servers safe from legal troubles thanks to Daybreak agreement

    EverQuest rights holder Daybreak Game Company given its blessing to the wonderful Project 1999. EverQuest: Project 1999 is one of those lovely ideas that it are all too often crushed by the realities of the games industry. An entirely fan-managed affair, it provides an emulated version of the classic EverQuest experience, which is no longer […]

  • Free Dragon Age short stories fill us in on Corypheus’s followers

    Dragon Age: Inquisition developer BioWare invites you to learn more about the lore and characters that make up its beautiful role-playing setting. Dragon Age is set in Thedas, a world still only partially revealed by the three core games to date. BioWare puts a heck of a lot of work into its worldbuilding, employing a […]

  • Remember that gorgeous Luminous Engine tech demo? It now utilizes DirectX 12

    Remember the gorgeous Luminous Engine tech demo Square Enix showed off three years ago? The firm showed it again at Microsoft’s Build Conference, this time utilizing DirectX 12. The Witch Chapter 0 [cry] real-time tech demo was created from research Square conducted using real-time CG technology and DX12 in collaboration with Microsoft and Nvidia. The […]

  • Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones sneaks onto GOG and Steam services

    Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones can now be purchased through GOG and Steam. On both services it will run you £12.99/€14.99/$14.99. Links here and here. The game features: Fully explorable ‘Metroidvania’ style overworld, laying siege to a diabolical cloning facility with varied and detailed environments. A variety of special equipment to unlock new […]

  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare DLC Ascendance has arrived on PC, PlayStation consoles

    Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare players on PC and PlayStation consoles can now download the Ascendance DLC. The second content pack contains the OHM weapon, the OHM Werewolf custom variant, and the second entry in the Exo Zombies saga, Infection. Four new maps are also included: Perplex, Site 244, Climate, and Chop Shop. Ascendance was […]

  • Latest Xbox 360 system update is live, now supports 2TB hard drives

    Xbox 360 now supports 2TB hard drives via the latest system update for the console. Support for the drives was announced earlier this month and has been available for preview members. “In addition we will also no longer reserve space in advance on your hard drive,” said the firm. “If you are using 16GB of […]

  • Kickstarter for Banjo-Kazooie spiritual successor Yooka-Laylee launches tomorrow

    Playtonic Games has announced the Kickstarter campaign for its spiritual successor to the Banjo Kazooie series, Yooka-Laylee, will launch tomorrow. The title of the game was announced today along with the Kickstarter date. Formerly known as Project Ukulele, the 3D platformer is said to be “between the size of Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie,” and stars Yooka […]

  • Console version of Mistwalker’s Terra Battle is in development

    Now that Mistwalker’s Terra Battle has surpassed 2 million downloads on mobile, the developer is now working on a console version of the tactical RPG. As part of the original Download Starter campaign, the 2 million milestone means the company will begin development on Terra Battle’s console version with details to be announced at a […]

  • Prison break game The Escapists is heading to PlayStation 4 from May 29

    The Escapists, Mouldy Toof’s prison break game originally released as a timed console exclusive Xbox One, has a release date for PlayStation 4. For those unfamiliar with the title, which is also a PC release, it tasks players’ time management skills as they do a bit of digging and crafting, and other prison-type stuff as […]

  • Dead Island 2 delayed into 2016 to ensure series is “taken to the next level”

    Dead Island 2 has been delayed into 2016 by Yager in order to ensure the sequel “takes Dead Island to the next level.” According to a tweet from the developer, it set “big goal” for the game, and in order to deliver what fans expect, the team needs more time to reach development goals. “We […]

  • Project Cars: here’s a list of all available cars at launch

    Project Cars will contain many, many cars and if we are counting correctly, there will be 74 total at launch. The standard edition contains 65 total, and when factoring the free car as well as the Modified and Limited Edition cars packs, you can add an additional nine cars to the mix. Comb through the […]

  • Competitive matchmaking support is coming to Team Fortress 2

    Team Fortress 2 will soon feature support for competitive matchmaking, which Valve says is a “high priority” project for it at the moment. According to a report from TeamFortress.tv, which visited Valve headquarters recently, Valve is looking into the possibility of 6v6 or 9v9 matches 9v9, a possible quick play option and it is also […]