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Ask not what a platform can do for your game, ask what your game can do for its platform: Massimo Guarini talks PS Vita

And why Murasaki Baby is exclusive to it
Ask not what a platform can do for your game, ask what your game can do for its platform: Massimo Guarini talks PS Vita

Sony wasn't scared of surprising its fanbase back at Gamescom in Cologne, but few revelations surprised Vita owners quite as much as the unveiling of Murasaki Baby.

Developed by former Grasshopper Manufacture director Massimo Guarini, the colourful and quirky puzzler is packed full with a host of mechanics specifically designed for touchscreens, yet a smartphone version was nowhere to be seen.

As things stand, the game is a PS Vita exclusive.

We caught up with Guarini recently to talk about his post-Suda 51 life, his new studio - Ovosonico - and what lured him into developing for a dedicated gaming handheld.

PocketGamer: Sony was happy to show Murasaki Baby off at Gamescom, why did you choose the Vita as your home for this project?

Massimo Guarini: Technology has never been the starting point when conceiving a game. I, instead, primarily focus on content; then once I am confident about an idea, the platform choice that fits the game features best comes as a natural consequence.

Technology shouldn't be where we start from or what we aim at, we should use it to express ourselves and create unique products instead.

Because of the game concept, Murasaki Baby was perfect to be a PS Vita exclusive.

Vita has been struggling globally with sluggish sales. Are you worried that Murasaki Baby won't reach as many players as it could have if you released it for consoles or mobile?

When conceiving Murasaki Baby, we never really thought about the market, the target, the sales or anything too business related.

The creative process for me, the core idea, is something entirely prescinded from all of that. Every project or idea has its own character and the ultimate aim should be to create unique content that entertains and moves people.

I narrowed down the potential of this platform as soon as I thought about a gameplay mechanic, where the player swipes the back of the Vita to change the background of a level - from sunny to rainy, for example - as a way to solve puzzles.

So, my answer to your questions is no, I am not worried that Murasaki Baby won't reach as many players because our main goal is to create entertainment that will potentially attract new audience.

The mobile market is definitely wider and potentially reaches many more people - there's no doubting that

However, because of the "wide-open" market and low barrier to entry, the various digital stores transformed the sector by establishing an easily-accessed direct connection between developers and consumers that can bypass publishers.

Publishers, in my view, are still fundamental to the promotion and marketing of a game - there are still some significant advantages to the traditional publisher-developer model.

What was your inspiration for Murasaki Baby, and what niche do you see it filling in the Vita’s library of games?

I get inspiration from my everyday life. Everything around me captivates my attention, I like to observe people and things surrounding me, so anything can trigger my imagination further.

One day I was traveling on a train and I saw this little girl holding her mother's hand. At the same time, she was holding a balloon in her other hand.

The image was so beautiful; I immediately translated this emotion into a very high level game system where you would hold the hand of a child through a touchscreen.

To me, raw emotion and their personal interpretation are crucial when it comes to inspiration. I don't tend to look at other games to get inspired for my next creation, as this approach to me would mean repeating the same thing someone else did. It would loose its distinctiveness.

You founded Ovosonico after leaving Grasshopper Manufacture. How did your experience with titles like Shadows of the Damned translate to Ovosonico's new projects?

My experience at Grasshopper Manufacture allowed me to create titles with surreal and grotesque components, while not taking myself too seriously.

What is really important to me, and what I care very much about, is to be able to let my imagination run free and create experiences that, while having nothing to do with the real world, are triggering genuine human emotions.

Ovosonico's mission is to "create gaming experiences taking advantage of other media" - how does its debut project, Murasaki Baby, accomplish this?

The other huge source of inspiration for me is music.

Music is pure emotion and can trigger in me very clear visions. I could never come up with a new concept without having clear in my mind its soundtrack style.

With Murasaki Baby, music helped me visualise the game universe in my mind, and for this very reason music is not an accessory we think about when the game is done.

Taking advantage of other media to me means involving other media in the creative process since the very beginning, as opposed to blandly combining things when the game has already been laid out.

In the past, you've said that "Making games is good, but creating real entertainment brands is even better" - is there an opportunity for Murasaki Baby to become an entertainment brand?

Possibilities are endless, who knows. At this time, however, our primary focus is to complete the game and offer all our players with the best game and experience possible when playing Murasaki Baby.

What's next for Ovosonico? Do you intend to stay with Vita releases, or will you explore other channels like the 3DS, consoles, PC, or mobile?

Ovosonico's main goal is to communicate something new and personal. We want to expand the medium and create games that involve emotions.

Obviously, domestic consoles are on our radar in order to be able to offer a different experience but nothing has been discussed yet.

Thanks to Massimo for his time.