As a huge fan of WipEout 2048, the instant I saw Switch Galaxy Ultra I knew I had to find out more.
I missed the earlier games in the Switch series, you see, but the future cool presentation tone, sleek ship design, the unyielding speed, and the reaction-based play all grabbed my attention.
So, I got in touch with CEO and co-founder of Switch Galaxy Ultra developer Atomicom Gary Nichols to find out more.
And while it's evident he's aware of Switch Galaxy Ultra's association with WipEout, he wishes to emphasise that his team is making a very different futuristic racer from Studio Liverpool's Vita racer.
Nichols also talks to me about the Atari 2600 game that actually inspired Switch Galaxy Ultra and the free updates planned for his new game. He then fills me in on how this latest entry in the Switch franchise for Vita and PS4 is bigger, better, and MUCH faster than its predecessors.
Pocket Gamer: Could you explain what Switch Galaxy Ultra is for anyone unfamiliar with the Switch games?
Gary Nichols: It's full-on reaction-based gameplay with very simple controls. That's because it's all about the speed.
The setup is simple: you "switch" lanes to avoid obstacles and collect power-ups and credits in your attempt to get from 'A' to 'B' in the fastest times possible.
What improvements and additions to the Switch games have you made in Ultra?
Actually, a lot. After releasing Switch Galaxy on PlayStation Mobile, we were so happy with all the amazing reviews and customer feedback that we knew we had to carry on building on what we had already created.
We've added a host of new player ships and tons of new levels in Switch Galaxy Ultra, for example. Furthermore, we've redesigned the enemy ships so they are a lot better looking. We've increased polycounts on pretty much everything, and we've re-designed the frontend and the HUD.
There are also new power-ups and loads of new scenery in the levels. Plus, the game runs at that all-important 60 frames per second, making the game super-smooth. We've also improved on the effects in the game, so, yes, there are more particles and shader effects such as bloom, blur, and bump mapping.
In what ways will you be supporting Switch Galaxy Ultra post-launch?
We're thinking about that now and have lots more stuff we still want to do with the game. One of the main things we'd like to do is add new game modes for multiplayer, which will come as a free update.
We'll be monitoring the reviews and player feedback, so will look to include extra stuff based on what people are suggesting.
Switch Galaxy Ultra's obviously got a very futuristic 'vibe'. You're also planning on including a comic story by Darren Douglas of WipEout fame with the game.
Was WipEout a big influence for you on Switch Galaxy Ultra? If so, what is it about that series that inspires you?
Actually, WipEout couldn't have been further away from the inspiration.
Atomicom co-founder Mike Clarke and I both worked at Psygnosis, so we had a hand in WipEout. I worked on a number of WipEout games and the last thing I wanted to do was base a game on it.
I grew up playing Atari 2600 games and one of my favourites from that console was Dodge 'Em. It was so hard and fast at times and that made me want to replay it to try and do better. So, we started discussing the idea of remaking it in 3D.
We did lots of concepting, had the game running in 3D, but the camera and the turns made people nauseated.
One day, Mike suggested we straighten out the lanes, so we did. Thus, Switch was born. In truth, it's really difficult to make a futuristic racer and for it not to be compared to WipEout.
I guess it does go in our favour that we are kind of filling a space that WipEout would have once dominated.
What can we expect from Switch Galaxy Ultra's soundtrack?
Well, we have the luxury of Mike. As well as being our CTO, you see, he was the senior sound and audio designer at Psygnosis and worked on a massive amount of Psygnosis games. So, he'll be adding some new audio tracks to the game.
We're also working with two new DJs to try and get some licensed tracks in to liven up the mix. At the moment, though, we can't say who they are, but we'll announce that as soon as everything's set in stone.
From what we've seen, Switch Galaxy Ultra runs incredibly fast on PS4, while maintaining 60 frames per second.
Is this the case with the Vita version? And how important do you think is it to provide a smooth frame rate in a racing game?
It's critical, really. You can't have a reaction-based game mechanic that runs slow and frustrates the user because it's not smooth.
We struggled a bit on the PlayStation Mobile version of Switch Galaxy to hit 60 frames per second. We could only manage 60 on some devices like the Xperia Z, though this was mainly because of the SDK issues.
Now the game is back in our own hands, we can hit 60 frames per second on Vita. It may mean, however, that we cut back some of the effects and shader enhancements slightly.
Switch Galaxy Ultra will be available on Vita at the launch of the PlayStation 4, i.e. on November 14th in the US, and on November 29th in Europe.