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Velocity 2X

Picking up the Pace - Talking with FuturLab about Velocity 2X

From conception to performance, we break the shoot 'em up down.

  • Text: Sam Bishop

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Velocity 2X was first released on PS4 and PS Vita four years ago, but now it's back with a vengeance on the Nintendo Switch, where a whole new audience can get acquainted with its chaotic shoot 'em up action. We recently talked to James Marsden, Game Director at FuturLab, about the title, how it came to be, how it was influenced by coconuts, and of course, its release on the Switch.

Where did the idea come from in the first place. What was the philosophy around the project?

It started from us wanting to inject more imagination into the shmup format, that was the philosophy. We used the mechanics of one of our previous games, Coconut Dodge, as a base. In Coconut Dodge, you play as a tiny crab moving at three different speeds to avoid a hailstorm of coconuts. We thought that those core mechanics could be replaced very easily with a teleportation control, and changing the coconuts into a space station. Sounds bonkers, but the code we had meant this was easily done.

Once we'd decided to make a teleporting space shooter, we had a TON of problems to solve, each one leading to a breakthrough in design that meant we were quickly leaving key foundations of the shmup genre behind and inventing something genuinely new. It went from trying to create a new shmup, into something that was more about speed and the perfect run, than about dodging bullets and shooting. It's usually the case with anything you do creatively, it starts as something, but you go on a journey and end up with something that isn't what you originally intended, but has evolved into something else, something a lot more interesting than what you originally thought of.

Velocity 2X

What are the challenges when it comes to merging shoot 'em ups with platforming at this speed?

The biggest challenge in the original game was figuring out how to balance allowing the player to judge the environment to do teleport jumps, with a horizontal scrolling screen where there's not a lot of vertical look-ahead.

We had to have the scrolling very slow by default, to allow a player to read the terrain ahead and make thoughtful decisions. But that meant the game was slow to play, especially if you were replaying and knew what was coming up next.

So, we added the Scroll Boost feature, which scrolls the environment independently of the ship speed. This is actually a very weird feature that doesn't appear in any other game as far as I'm aware, and it allows the player to pump the gas and proceed through a level at their desired pace, which, for me when designing the levels, meant very very fast.

Was speedrunning something you had in mind from the start?

Absolutely. In essence, completing Velocity 2X is one giant tutorial that teaches its mechanics, ideally you will likely have mastered them by the time you roll credits. The real game begins when you go back and replay the game, realising that all the levels are designed for a high level player to speed through, performing incredible acts of dexterous speed. We want players to surprise themselves at how good they have become at the game when they finish it, and when they do, it feels great.

Velocity 2X

What did you take from Velocity Ultra and what did you scrap?

We started Velocity 2X from scratch, knowing that the foundations of the gameplay were very strong, which is what we got from Ultra. So really for us, with Velocity 2X it was looking at the foundation and building layers on top of that. The platforming sections were actually part of our original vision for Velocity, but couldn't be implemented into Ultra. After adding them in, we then had a great mix of schmup and platforming gameplay, so we just added mechanics on top of those and the game really came together.

Where did the art style come from? What influenced it?

The art style was highly influenced by Flashback. We are also a small team so we devised a look that is elegant and looks really nice but is also simple, so we can generate the huge amount of assets we need.

Tell us about the music and how it fits in with the action.

We created an electronic music soundtrack, which in our opinion is very important for this type of game, as it can be heard without any associations tied to the real world. When you hear instruments, you can imagine someone playing them - but with electronic music, everything is digital, so you can imagine it being created by otherworldly creatures or technology. It's quite an intense, fast-paced game, so we created a soundtrack that matches it, without it being too excessive, we hope!

Velocity 2X

What's the performance like with all this chaos going on?

It is an unwavering 60fps game.

Is it a good fit for the Switch?

The game is great for Switch! The game itself is based on short levels that you race through, meaning if you have a spare couple of minutes, you can make some real progress. It's also a perfect fit for long play sessions if you want to spend time perfecting your run or going through the whole game. Plus, playing with detached Joy-Cons is extremely comfortable too. The console also packs a lot of power, meaning this version has all the giant explosions, maximum particle count and full-screen post-processing effects that were in the PS4 release, so this is the best looking portable version of the game and just as good looking on a TV as the other versions, which were already some of the highest rated indie titles on Metacritic. We also use HD Rumble and the touchscreen, which is handy!

So there you have it, one of the minds behind Velocity 2X breaking down exactly where it came from and where it is now. Have you been playing the game? Let us know below!