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We Spoke To PlayStation’s Team ASOBI About How Astro Bot Builds On Astro’s Playroom

It's building to something special

After playing Astro Bot last week, I also had the chance to talk to Nicholas Doucet, the Studio Head and Creative Director of Team ASOBI, about Astro’s journey through virtual reality, being a massive part of the PS5’s launch, and how Astro’s Playroom inspired the team to create something larger in Astro Bot.

After working on Astro’s Playroom which was a big part of the PS5’s launch, was it immediately clear that the team wanted to expand on that in a full priced AAA game?

Nicholas Doucet: It was planned that if Astro’s Playroom was well received, we’d go on and make a bigger gamer game. With Astro’s Playroom, the desire was to introduce Astro to as big as an audience as possible as well as introducing all of the features of the console and taking the chance to do that 25-year history tribute.

There were several goals, but one of them for the team was to prove to ourselves and to get feedback from people as to whether Astro could stand on its own feet as a platformer. And since it went quite well, then we validated it and we’ve been working on it for three years now.”

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Astro Bot is even more of a PlayStation celebration than Playroom. Did you speak about whether you’d double down on that or move away to establish Astro as his own thing when starting development?

ND: Yes it was a big discussion in fact. We are trying to establish Astro and his own universe so it has to be able to live by itself, so that was one of our big focuses to ensure that everything that we do mechanically would work and be fun even without the PlayStation coating.

But then we also felt that there was more that we could do with PlayStation, so why not, right? It’s about the case of having more cake and eating it too, so last time it was a big focus on the hardware with some cameos, this time we went much deeper into the characters, so in total we have over 150 cameos.

The PlayStation collectibles seem to differ in the sense that each level has a theme. Is every level was based on a franchise in terms of the characters that you collect? 

ND: We tried to do sets, so you saw Ratchet and Parappa in the two levels, so you’ll usually find characters that are connected.

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What liberty do you have with other IPs that are aligned to PlayStation but not owned by PlayStation?

ND: I’ll talk about the PlayStation Studio IPs first. We get so much love and support from our other studios including Santa Monica Studios, Insomniac and Naughty Dog and some of them are really iconic characters such as Kratos. They really understand that making a platformer is also very hard, so the support we get not only for the characters but the DualSense functionality is great.

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I don’t want to spoil anything, but there’s 150 cameos, but if you start looking at secondary characters within the PlayStation Studios, there’s a lot of secondary characters, so Uncharted for example, there’s a lot to pull from.

Playroom was designed to show off the DualSense controller and the features. Was there any kind of pressure with the gadget design in the sense that every gadget would need to be tied a DualSense feature and did that influence the designs?

ND: Yes it did, but that pressure came from ourselves. We wanted to be balanced and rounded and show off the five main features of the DualSense, the triggers, the touchpad, the haptic feedback, the speakers and the microphone, so we pushed for that. We worked with the mechanical team in Japan who designed the controllers. They understand what features have legs, and then its our job to tailor the experience.

With Playroom, it was experiences that were largely separated, so you’d do play some platforming, then you’d do a minigame for climbing and then you’d go to platforming, where now it’s all integrated into the platforming. We didn’t want Astro Bot to feel like it was full of minigames, so it’s all blended into the core which is a jumping game.

So for instance, the dog booster gadget, the booster is something that has to work in 3D so that you can run, jump, hover and boost, so the second we do that, it means that the core controls which is moving and jumping, has to be protected, so for instance the touchpad is harder to reach, so those are the things we took into consideration, but before you arrive in a level, you’re not platforming, so we utilise the gyroscope for instance because it doesn’t get in the way of platforming.

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There’s 80 levels and it’s obviously a lot longer than Playroom. How do you keep that feeling fresh throughout the whole experience?

ND: Just throughout the levels, you see that the gadgets are quite different. When you chart out the game, our goal was to make every single planet feel unique. There’s also different sizes of levels, so the challenge levels whilst shorter, obviously are longer in the sense that they’re difficult.

I know it’s not your decision, but Astro’s Playroom was one of the best pack-ins, if not the best pack-in in history, and obviously this is on the other end as being a full-priced title. Did that put any extra pressure internally?

ND: Our focus was on making the best possible game that we could and then all the pricing is a bigger discussion, and it’s not quite a full-priced PlayStation game, it’s a little bit less.

Astro Bot launches on PS5 exclusively on September 6th. It’s available on Amazon for $89.95 with free shipping HERE.