Maybe you can play touch-screen style by dragging the block. If it's back-touch enabled you could do it without covering the screen with your hand. The hand icon would help locate where you're touching the back before you start dragging a piece.
Almost everything's rendered in 3D now so Q? can enhance the presentation in funkier ways. Tapping the rear touchpad speeds up charging the avatar with the hand icon on the front, touch that and you get some kind of bonus and special block. Maybe they should make it so you have to tap the song's beat or a fitting rhythm to build the avatar gauge.
Flying through the vector digital utopia of Rez was a defining moment for me when I played it on the PS2. And when Q Entertainment released Lumines for the PSP soon after, Tetsuya Mizuguchi and his team easily became one of my favorite developers.
Now the team comes full circle with Lumines: Electronic Symphony, a launch window title for PS Vita. Producer James Mielke joins me on camera and introduces the next generation of Lumines, an addictive musical puzzle journey. Lumines: Electronic Symphony was built from the ground up to take advantage of the PS Vitaís potent graphical capabilities and unique touch mechanics on both the rear and front OLED screen, giving you immersive control on over three dozen tracks with every quantized musical note at your finger tips.
Have questions about Lumines: Electronic Symphony? Hit me up in the comments and Iíll do my best to shed some light.
James Mielke also announced it would be a NA/EU launch title on twitter a few weeks back.
The original Lumines is a landmark in puzzle games. It was the first game to take the falling blocks approach out of the lighthearted Tetris/Puyo Puyo realm and put some emotion into the genre. I chalk that up primarily to the lead-off track, 'Shinin'', which was a fantastic opening song. It's uplifting and uptempo, and did a great job setting the tone for the rest of the game.
The original Lumines is also the game people still ask us - to this day - to put on PSN, but it's a difficult thing to do because of re-licensing issues. So, what we set out to create with Lumines: Electronic Symphony was a true, spiritual sequel to the original game. Most of the other versions of Lumines on other consoles featured some common elements brought over from the original and Lumines II. But what we're creating now is completely new, featuring an all-new visual engine, all-new music. It's a true next-gen Lumines for the VITA, as much as the original Lumines was at the time for PSP.
I can't say just yet how we're using all of the VITA's various hardware features, as we're still doing a bit of experimenting, but there is something in the TGS demo that I can describe. First, we have a new 'Avatar System,' which takes those cute little avatars you used to choose at the start of the game, and we gave it a function. The avatar gauge fills up over time, either simply by clearing blocks or by creating big combos, and once the gauge is full you can tap the avatar on-screen to generate a Chain Block, which is a modification of Lumines' original 'Special Block.'
Using the Chain Block, you no longer have to create a full square in order to activate it. Any same-colored block that the Chain Block touches will 'detonate' all connected, like-color blocks in the sweep of one timeline-pass. The sort of balancing factor is that even if you activate a Chain Block, you won't know what color it will be until it's generated. So if you set up a huge chain of orange blocks, but you generate a white Chain Block, it may not help you too much. Chain Blocks still occur naturally, too, independent of the avatar gauge.
The rear touch screen can also be tapped, causing synchronized percussion effects to play, and the avatar gauge to fill faster. We're still tweaking this so it's not unbalanced or overpowered, but we wanted more casual fans to be able to try it out at the show, so we made it easier for the demo. The game also features touchscreen controls in addition to standard D-pad controls.
As I mentioned we've adjusted the original Special Block and converted it to the Chain Block. The Chain Block is primarily a beneficial block. But since the original Lumines is so finely balanced, and throughout all of its iterations --with the exception of one mobile version released only in Japan-- the mechanics have stayed the same. I didn't feel that we could call this a true next-gen Lumines without adding --as opposed to altering-- something fresh. So, another block we've added is something called the Shuffle Block.
The Shuffle Block basically randomizes any cluster of blocks it comes in contact with. It's neither a good block nor a bad block, but it could be either depending on the situation. For example, if you're in danger of reaching a 'game over' point, and your screen is full of blocks, a Shuffle Block may actually clear out a large amount of space for you, or it may not. But if it appears earlier in your game, and you're carefully constructing a big chain combo, it could mess you up.
The good thing is that you can use it or dispose of it strategically. If you have a clear area with no blocks, and you don't want the Shuffle Block disturbing your chain that you're creating, you can drop it where it won't touch anything, or touch a smaller, less important cluster. We think these two new block mechanics offers some interesting strategic possibilities, without disturbing the balance inherent to Lumines.
In terms of raw hardware power, what does the PS Vita allow you to do with Lumines that the PSP couldn't?
The biggest thing it allows us to do is put a lot more visual impact in the game. While the primary game logic remains the same as the original --to ensure that the game feels 'right'-- the entire visual engine has been created from the ground up. If you liked what you saw in Child of Eden, I think you'll really enjoy the visuals in this Lumines. When we first started discussing bringing Lumines back, [Tetsuya] Mizuguchi (Q Entertainment's chief creative officer) said to me that he thought that this Lumines should have even greater visual impact than Child of Eden. As you can imagine, that's a pretty tall order, but it's also what we set out to do.
So for Lumines: Electronic Symphony my first wish was to ensure that all of the elements were created in 3D. In the original Lumines, all of the visuals are a blend of 2D animation and effects, from the blocks to the backgrounds. In Electronic Symphony, everything is in 3D. When you are manipulating the blocks and you move them from left to right, you'll see that they shift perspective slightly.
Having 3D blocks lets us do lots of cool things, from having block animations, giving them physics, creating contextual particle effects, and to even use cool visual tricks, like adding video textures to the blocks. Imagine a skin where ice blocks are dropping on the hot surface of Mars. This is just an example in my head, but when the block touches down, it releases a blast of steam. Or blocks designed as corn kernels that turn into popcorn when a block is cleared. These are just random examples, but I think what we are working on is going to be really cool.
How many track/skins are you aiming for?
The exact number will remain a secret for now, but it will be in the dozens. And then there's the matter of post-launch support for the game, which will only add to the default selection built into the game. So I don't think quantity will be a concern, whether you plan to augment your game with DLC or not.
Did negative fan reaction to Lumines II's more comercial soundtrack affect your plans?
As with any game we create, we listen to and absorb all of the feedback from the community. Since I wasn't with Q Entertainment when Lumines II was created, I have listened to what the original designers had to say about what did and didn't work, and reconciled that information with my own thoughts on the game.
Personally, I don't think the soundtrack was bad by any means. In fact, I thought it was quite fun. You may not have loved Gwen Stefani, but somebody out there did. I loved the Junior Senior track, and I discovered The Go! Team because of Lumines II. I think the problem was that it was too democratic in its tracklisting. It had a little bit of everything for everyone, but not enough of anything for anyone. Because of that, I made a deliberate decision to bring the soundtrack back to the game's roots and, as a DJ, I'm personally overseeing the track order to create an ebb and flow; to take players on an electronic, musical journey.
Time will tell once we release the full tracklist of artists supporting the game, but my goal with the soundtrack for Lumines: Electronic Symphony is to create an epic roadmap of some of the best music in electronic and dance music history, dating back from the 1980s to the present day.
I'd like this soundtrack to stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of the Wipeout 2097 and Rez soundtracks. That's my mission. Of course the electronic landscape is too far and wide for us to collect in one game alone, but the blend of music we've collected is a mix of electronic classics, and indie artists who deserve to have their music heard. I really hope gamers enjoy the music.
In a market so dominated by mobile gaming, what persuaded you to back Sony's device?
Any platform launch is a great place to either launch a new IP or revive a classic one. Since the original Lumines is so synonymous with the PSP launch, we felt that the time was right to restore Lumines to prominence with the VITA. Plus, the simple answer is that the power of the hardware lets us do things that no other handheld could before. Our goal is to make Lumines: Electronic Symphony an audio-visual showcase for the VITA.