The Calculated Chaos Of PlayStation All-Stars

Parappa the Rapper slings a jab. Kratos takes it in the gut. Said jab leads into a slick combination — a flurry of one-twos that culminates in a tremendous uppercut, sending the God of War soaring impossibly into the sky.

Seconds later, Parappa hops onto a skateboard. He runs over a Fat Princess who, just seconds ago, was punching above(?) her weight against Sweet Tooth from Twisted Metal. Somewhere in the background Hades is under attack from a particularly belligerent group of Patapon.

This is madness, I think to myself.

This is the calculated chaos of PlayStation All-Stars.

The insanity erupting on screen is one thing, but the fact that multiple Sony brands — brands that exist in directly opposing tonal extremes — are co-existing? Well, that’s a different type of madness altogether…

“It’s definitely a challenge,” laughs Chan Park, Director and Studio President of SuperBot, the newly created development studio tasked with building PlayStation All-Stars. In a sense SuperBot represents a different, very real team of all stars, top developers who have worked across several pivotal fighting titles in the games industry — Mortal Kombat, UFC Undisputed — brought together for the express purpose of creating something special. All stars creating All-Stars.

The inspiration is also the competition: Super Smash Bros. But while Nintendo’s massive cast of characters fit snugly within the same family friendly universe, Sony’s IP blasts wildly across the radius. Kratos and Fat Princess? Sweet Tooth and Parappa the Rapper? Is it possible to shoehorn this wide cast of characters into a single game and have anything make sense?

We ask Chan.

“In terms of integrating them all into the same world, part of this is supposed to feel like a mash up,” he says. “We’re not just trying to sanitise everything, we kind of want them to stand apart from one another — that’s where the irreverence and the humour comes from.

“It’s a challenge, but ultimately we’ve found a pretty decent balance of getting them all to live in the same world.”

Another game begins, on a battlefield loosely based on LittleBigPlanet’s opening level. The battle starts auspiciously — PlayStation characters beat the living crap out of one another and all is right with the world.

But what’s this? In the background, LBP’s ‘pop-it’ appears onscreen, and starts randomly adding new platforms to the scenery, as if a user created LBP level is being constructed ad hoc. As we play, the terrain is constantly evolving. It’s crazy, but fun.

And that’s just the beginning. Seconds later Buzz turns up, on a massive projector screen behind the platforms. He is literally part of the level and he’s asking questions. 'This doesn’t make any sense whatsoever,' I think to myself — but in context it somehow works!

Then I remember the last level I played — a schizophrenic Frankenstein’s monster of a stage featuring Quark from Ratchet & Clank being eaten by the Hydra from God of War. I wonder why I’m still allowing myself to be surprised.

I also wonder how the hell Sony managed to convince its studios to sign off on this collective madness…

“I’ve been at Santa Monica studio for a really long time so fortunately I know a lot of the people who have spent a significant amount of time creating these characters. They live and breath these characters and one of the really important things to establish with our content partners is — first off — thanks for your support!”

As Executive Producer at Sony Santa Monica, it’s Deborah Mars’ job to convince everyone that PlayStation All-Stars is a swell idea and their beloved characters should be involved. Deborah is friendly, but assertive. I suspect she rarely has to take no for an answer.

“It’s just incredible the amount of support we’ve gotten,” she continues. “I worked really closely on Fat Princess, so I know what it’s like to give up your baby, and have it live in this world and play in the sandbox with all the other characters.

“I’m just like, oh my god I don’t want Fat Princess to get beat up by Kratos!”

I smile to myself. Just five minutes ago I was playing as Kratos. And it was Fat Princess doling out the beatings.

“The thing is, no matter what, PlayStation All-Stars always makes you smile,” says Deborah “And this is one of the areas where SuperBot has done a fantastic job

“It’s never going to be a 1:1 representation — I think that’s one of the messages we’re giving when trying to get everyone’s support and approval. There’s no way the Fat Princess from the original game is 100% the same as the Fat Princess you’re going to play in PlayStation All-Stars. And it’s not supposed to be.

“At first they’re like, ‘that’s not the world my character is supposed to live in!' But once they get their hands on it, and play it, they just have a ton of fun.”

The characters are one thing, but it’s arguably the levels themselves that are most subversive: a calculated chaos where directly opposing IP intertwine in the strangest ways.

At first I wonder if this dilutes PlayStation's brands — does Kratos lose his menace after being hit over the head with Parappa the Rapper’s skateboard? Maybe. But perhaps the explicit tonal differences help define the identities of Sony’s finest. In stark contrast to one another they instantly become more tangible.

“That’s SuperBot’s goal,” says Deborah. “They’re taking these disparate worlds and characters and asking — how can they live and breathe in the same space? Well, it’s about the execution, it’s about the conscious decisions being made as to which worlds and which characters they’re going to merge together.”

“It would be kind of boring if we were too straight with the levels,” adds Chan. “We really saw an opportunity to celebrate PlayStation history, to draw from characters or lesser known characters, to bring in cameos in the background, so that people playing — and the people watching — can be like, ‘oh my god, I know that character!’ Look the Patapon just attacked Hades!

“To have that sort of interaction just makes the game a richer experience. That’s what it’s about — bringing in as much fan service as possible to try and spice up the game world.”

And it’s certainly spicy. It’s a sort of chaos, a calculated chaos of brands and mechanics, but somehow it makes sense. But even when it doesn’t make sense, it coasts easily with a light and breezy irony. You couldn’t imagine a cast of characters this broad co-existing in any other video game, or any other platform for that matter — and that’s a good thing.

“I think that’s what makes Sony so unique,” says Chan, finally. “The game, by virtue of the fact we’re dealing with the PlayStation universe, is just gonna be edgier and cooler, because there are so many different looks and styles. It just makes sense that you’d want to mash it all up and see what happens.

“And we’ve put a concerted effort into making sure that everyone can play nice together.”


Comments

    Nice article- any chance you could do a breakout with the known roster?

    Will be interested to see how it plays... but doubt it will replace Smash Bros Melee for my mates and I. Everthing about it is just so tight, still will likely pick this up if it's good fun, even if it's not an amazing combat system.

    Is there a video?!?

      There is, hate to send it to them, but IGN has gameplay footage.

      Gametrailers has 3 or four videos that are about 20 mins long enjoy :)

    Rofl. this is so lame. The UI is nearly the same. and half the characters will be unknowns.

      Don't know if this is troll or....

      Looks pretty lame tbh. The art direction alone looks terrible.

    Could certainly e intereting - i look forward to seeing a working video, though.

    Gret work, as usual, Mark :)

      Theres one on the playstation blog.

        Thanks for the heads up, mate! :D
        It actually looks pretty crisp :) I like it.

    Holds much more interest the SSB for me, only because I know more of the "characters" that are likely to be in this.

    Hmmm, I don't want to say it seems like a cheap rip off because clearly it's not cheap and there's a lot of effort going into it, and no doubt it will be a well balanced fighter loved by many. But my god is that a rip-off. Now excuse me while I go and play a variety of strikingly similar FPS games.

      Yes because only Nintendo can make fighters like that. Man the deck boys, fanboy alerts going off. Grow up Gog... You're worse than Chazz.

        I have no issue whatsoever with a brawler similar to Smash Bros featuring Playstation mascots. But I dunno, I just wasn't expecting to look at a screen shot and think it was actually a Smash Bros screen being used for comparison sake only to realise that nope, it's just a rip off game. Also might be worth noting I actually find the smash bros series exceedingly dull and boring and of no interest to me, so I can hardly claim to be a fanboy. Merely a non-interested party making an observation.

          Yeah. I'm not a Smash Bros fan and I'm a HUGE fan of the idea outright stealing game mechanic ideas (where are all the games with combat like Arkham?!), but this seems like they've been pushed into making a Playstation port of Smash Bros rather than their own mascot brawler/party game. As if there's someone at Sony who doesn't understand what he's looking at overseeing the design.
          Call me a fanboy (of what I'm not sure) but you'd have to be crazy not to notice the striking similarities here.

          That's not to say it's going to be a terrible game. It looks well made. If it was literally just a Smash Bros port it'd be a sweet game so it's safe to say it'll be fun. Just that they really need to do something significant to make it their own. Also change the UI to timer on top, character in each corner or some other party game layout. It's a simple change but it'll help establish it as it's own game (based on those screenshots I would have believed it was a SSBM mod).

            I'm more amazed that it's taken Sony this long to rip Smash Bros off! They were onto Mario Kart pretty darn quick with Crash Team Racing, so what took them so long here?

        Um, what? This has nothing to do with being a fanboy, even blind Skippy can see this is a shameless ripoff, and he's blind.

    What has turned me off this already is knowing that there are no health meters in the game at all and the only way people can die is via a super move of varying power which is gained by dealing damage to other enemies. I can already see at launch the very first OP character will be one of the only you will verse online since this game is essentially who can deal out the most damage and avoid the super moves rather then also worrying about your own defence and health like smash bros.

    Sure it's different from Smash Bros. (barely) but to me it sounds like all they have done is changed a few mechanics for the worst (IMO - because of a less emphasis on defence other then not letting your opponent getting their super meter up) and slapped Sony characters and levels in there and get it out for Christmas.

    prediction for other characters in this game: snake, ratchet, nathan drake, lara croft, crash, jax, etc

      Snake's unlikely because of SSBB, but the rest sound plausible.

      I also suspect sackboy, and hopefully Kevin Butler as announcer.

        I don't think you'll Lara Croft or Crash Banicoot in the game frankly. Though it would be good to see A Crash Bandicoot game of any kind??

    Nice work on the article Mark. Just thought I'd let you know though, "Quark" from the Ratchet and Clank games is actually spelled "Qwark".

    I love Nintendo, and frankly I don't mind that SSB has some competition now (it'll help keep Nintendo on their toes), especially considering this appears as though it'll turn out to be great fun (SSB would still be my first choice though :P).
    Hopefully Jak will be a playable character, that'd be awesome :D

    I predict that Sackboy will act like Kirby, able to copy abilities by altering his costume.

    I wonder if Snake will make an appearence. After being in Brawl, the odds are slim, but he is one of Sony's top line franchises

    Would it be foolish to hope they also include non Sony characters in this game? I mean they had Lightning and Ezio in the Playstation Home ad so....

    I wonder if they'd even want third party characters in the game though. Could be they want to keep the whole thing Sony focused.

      'Lastly, we also learned on GT.TV that guest characters from third-party games are not out of the question. In fact, SuperBot told us that "third party is a huge part of PlayStation and we're definitely going to feature some of those characters in our game."'

      From here: http://www.gametrailers.com/side-mission/2012/04/27/sonys-playstation-all-stars-battle-royale-enters-the-arena-this-holiday/

      Great news !This might sound stupid but i will be bunyig a sony PS3 slim as soon as they are available, the only reason i haven't got a sony ps3 at the moment is because i doesn't fit into my tv cabnet actually misses by 1 cm both ways, so i sold it becasue that was the only place for it, CANT WAIT WOOOOO

    Where the PS Vita version?

    looks shit

    It's a rip off. Couldn't they do something original with it? Million ways to make a fighting game. Million ways to make face icons.
    SSB
    http://images.wikia.com/ssb/images/b/be/SSBB_Gameplay.jpg

    PlayStation All-Stars
    http://i.imgur.com/vmIzY.png

    The fact that websites aren't jumping on Sony for this just shows how biased they are.

    In these days of Intelectual property and copyright, I'm amazed we haven't seen Nintendo filing a lawsuit. Obvious rip off, might as well have been developed by Zygna

    “I think that’s what makes Sony so unique,”. I lol'd

    It's the best Gameloft game not made by Gameloft!

    This games is so superior, look at this so original title, I can't believe that Sony came up with it by itself, so complete, so original, I mean hitting characters out of the screen, interactive backrounds, characters from different franchises...

    S A R C A S M *****

    Its times like this that even though I do my best to apreciate Sony, that things like this, make me want to collect every single superior baseball bat, give it to every angry person on the planet and paint a target on Sony's collective face.

    Its OK to copy, but this is an outrage. You see the only major difference is the fact players are referred to 1P as opposed to P1 on smash.

    Couldn't they just do something different... It is basically a an exact clone, but with Sony Characters... how can they possibly say it in other words. From hitting players off screen, to the levels "celebrating Sony's history" its a load of horse manure, if anything isn't Smash Bros. "a tribute to Nintendo's history" my god....

    I seriously could go on for a long time... so ... very... frustrated...

      Calm down. If you don't like it, just don't buy it.

    Couldn't be bothered coming up with anything new, so we ripped off the previously unique fighting game of SSBB; every single facet of it....

    Much shorter article and much more accurate.

    I wonder if it will have online play? Now that would be good fun!

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