Sony made it easy to bring Blacklight: Retribution to PS4, says Zombie Studios

Blacklight Retribution


Blacklight: Retribution arrived to little in the way of bated breath when it launched in August of 2012. In addition to being a sequel to the unremarkable Blacklight: Tango Down, Retribution was also pitched as a free-to-play competitive multiplayer title in a genre that hasn’t been particularly well suited to the format. Developed by Zombie Studios in Seattle and published by free-to-play MMORPG purveyor Perfect World in Beijing, the FPS achieved only modest success despite a positive critical reception.

After negotiating console rights to the title back from Perfect World, however, Zombie now seeks to turn Retribution’s fortunes around. We spoke with the studio’s creative director Jared Gerritzen about finding the game its new home on PlayStation 4.

Did Sony approach you to get Blacklight on PlayStation 4?

We’ve been talking to Sony off and on since E3 of last year. As the system matured, Sony made it clear that they were looking for content, and we just happened to secure the console rights to Blacklight: Retribution. After discussing it further, our goals were perfectly in line with their goals and it just happened to be right place and right time on both parties.

How is Sony working with you on the project, and how has that relationship changed since the PS3 days?

Sony has always been a great partner to work with through the years, but with the PS4 they have really made it easier for developers like us. They’ve streamlined the submission process significantly, so getting to the point of working on a game is much quicker and easier. Additionally, getting support such as development kits or technical support has been great. It’s clear that Sony went back and listened to where developers were having problems and are actively trying to resolve those issues and help developers.

You’ve mentioned that much of your tech is being redeveloped for PS4 – can you elaborate?

We’re working hard on extending Unreal Engine 3 to make the most out of the PS4, including taking advantage of the new rendering pipeline the system has. We’ve been using UE3 for a number of years and it’s a proven performer as a toolset. We’ve also been updating the user interface to benefit playing on a television and using a controller. We want to make it as easy as possible for people to get into a game and start playing.

How will you be making use of the PS4 controller’s touchscreen?

Right now we’re exploring all types of options for the touchscreen. We’ve experimented with things like quick grenades and other commands, but we’re still exploring. It’s been an exciting challenge to work with the touchscreen as it opens up tons of possibilities.

How will you be restructuring Retribution’s monetization system on PS4?

We’ve done a fair amount of research and plan to tweak the monetization in Retribution on PS4. We learned a lot from the PC version and want to give players a great experience with the PS4 version.

Which version of the game has seen the most success to this point?

While both games have done well and have a loyal fanbase, neither has been able to hit the lofty goals we set out to achieve. When we got the console rights to Retribution, we were excited about the opportunity to make a game in which we were in total control. Releasing it ourselves does put all the responsibility on us, and we’ve been very critical on areas we would have liked to change and reviewing the entire game to ensure we make it that much better. It’s now up to us to make it the best game we can and it is up to us to make it a success. I feel that the PS4 version of Blacklight: Retribution will be the be-all end-all version, and what we set out to make a number of years ago.

It’s been said that the PS4 hardware is more PC-like than past Sony consoles. Does this essentially encapsulate your perspective as well?

It’s much more like a PC than previous Sony hardware, which in our eyes is great. Being an independent studio, we love the ability to have power at our fingertips, where previously we would have had to put significant resources to get the performance we wanted out of the system. Again, it feels like Sony went to the suggestion box and really listened to what developers wanted and what they have been asking for and have built a system that everyone is excited about.

What has you most eager about the PS4 launch?

I’m really excited to see what games come out and what they do to push the limits of entertainment. We’ve hit the point of games no longer needing to worry about how the graphics look—games all look amazing nowadays. It’s now a matter of what we can do with gameplay and how fun the experience is. I really think developers have been waiting for this era, where we no longer need to worry if the world can be rendered and run. It’s now up to us to see what we can do in the world to make the whole experience fun.