Ladies and Gentlemen (mostly gentlemen I assume, but feel free to correct me if I’m wrong), may I take the great honor of introducing Ryan Ellis from Void Star Games. He is the co-founder and art director at Void Star and is responsible for helping to bring Poker Smash to the Xbox Live Arcade. I’ve asked him a few questions about the game, the future, and life so read on for the goods…
Thanks for joining us on TXBD Ryan.
Q1: What is your name, Gamertag (if you wish to reveal it) and your position/responsibility at Void Star?
Ryan Ellis, CpnNebs. My title is Art Director but really I do lots of things. I made all the art for the game as well as worked on some of the sound effects. Also I helped with the general game design.
Q2: How long has Poker Smash for Xbox Live Arcade been in development and what challenges did you face while bringing the game to the Xbox Live Arcade platform?
Well Poker Smash was in development for over a year and a half. Being as small as our team is and the fact that we are new comers to XBLA made it sometimes difficult. We did not have the manpower or resources to do some of the bigger features we wanted. Also it was really difficult to test everything. The Xbox itself is great to work with and is perfect for a small company.
Q3: There are a lot of other “match 3” type games (Bejeweled, Puzzle Quest, Jewel Quest, etc.) on XBLA. What do you think separates your game from the competition?
Well there are quite a few things that separate our game out from those examples. For one our game is meant to be played very quickly our control setup is optimized for quick actions. Also the poker rules allow us to put quite a bit of depth and strategy into the game. This allows you to play the game very simply, going for the three and four of a kinds or you can take a little bit of time and try and go for the really huge stuff. The inclusion of the slow-mo and bomb powerups also give you more tools with which to arrange cards.
Q4: Poker Smash looks like a lot of fun. What do you feel is the most fun aspect of the game that gamers will latch onto?
Well hopefully just the simple act of making a match will be enjoyable for people. We worked very hard to make the basics fun and rewarding. For me tho trying to get the really big chains is where its at. Takes some practice but once you are able to master it a whole new world opens up.
Q5: Did the imposed 150Mb cap on XBLA games present any issues in development and what sacrifices were made (if any)?
Actually we were originally only given the 50 MB limit and yeah that was a bit difficult to get everything in there we wanted. We had to cut down on the amount of levels in the game as well as reduce the quality of the audio. We could not get all the content we wanted. By the time they upped the cap to 150 MB it was too late in the development cycle for us to fully utilize it.
Q6: What forms of Downloadable Content or Expansion packs are you preparing for fans of the game and when might we expect this content?
Well we haven’t nailed down anything yet but more puzzles and themes would probably be a good bet. As far as when. That’s not figured out yet.
Q7: What new, innovative game ideas does Void Star have on the table for XBLA?
Well we have lots of community and co-op features that we want to implement on future projects. Expect us to put an emphasis on those types of things.
Q8: Will Poker Smash be making an appearance on any other consoles/platforms in the coming months or is this an XBLA exclusive?
We are always looking to expand the IP but for now it will only be on XBLA.
Q9: Was the certification process of getting Poker Smash onto XBLA an ordeal or did Microsoft make it pretty easy for you?
They made it as easy as it can be. Still with such a small team it had an extra layer of challenge that made it a bit of a chore.
Thanks very much for your time Ryan. I look forward to playing the full game now that I’ve sunk my teeth into the trial game.
The rest of you can look forward to a review of the game in the coming week or so. Cheers!
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