Nicolas Doucet Team Asobi Astro Bot

Nicolas Doucet Is Ready To Show The World What Astro Bot Is Capable Of

Team Asobi’s Astro Bot is launching on September 6 after being revealed this spring to the world. Since then, the reception to a full-fledged mainline Astro title has been remarkable, with fans worldwide eager to discover what the studio has been working on these past several years.

The mascot for Sony has been around for almost a decade, beginning with Astro Bot Rescue Mission on the PSVR before returning for the launch of the PlayStation 5 with a baked-in tech demo called Astro’s Playroom, showcasing what the console and the DualSense offered fans.

My impressions are linked above for those reading, but we’re here to learn more about the upcoming fully-fledged platformer, which features over 80 levels across six distinct galaxies.

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Console Creatures: So, to begin, coming off last week’s reveal and reception, how’s the studio feeling about how it was received at Summer Game Fest and internally? How are you guys feeling?

Nicolas Doucet: The reception has been great, and the team feels excellent. It’s the perfect kind of boost we need. We are in the final phase and have a few months before release. Yeah, it couldn’t be better!

However, we always try to keep a cool head and, you know, stay humble. You see, it’s not done until it is done. And it’s like, there’s a lot left to review. There’s a lot left—many surprises, which is good. We kept a lot under wraps. The spirits are good. I think it shows that no matter the age, this game is for kids and gamers, right? You know — for everyone. I think everybody needs some playfulness in their lives, maybe. And it may come at a time when people feel that that’s a good decision. So yeah, that’s very good.

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Nicolas has been excited to hear from the media who’ve had the time to sit down with Astro Bot. This week, I was invited to play a demo that featured three worlds, a boss battle, and two challenges you’ll face in September. In short, playing through the demo was like a palette cleanse and reset after back-to-back months of long-winded and padded games. The reception to Team Asobi’s first complete game isn’t unwarranted, and it comes at the perfect time.

I was also eager to ask Nicolas about the many Easter Eggs hidden with the past games and what to expect in September, as many PlayStation icons have already been shown to the public, including God of War‘s Kratos, Horizon‘s Aloy, and more, including Ratchet & Clank‘s Ratchet.

Console Creatures: How did you decide which PlayStation characters you want to bring in, or if there are ones you have considered bringing in or maybe you want to bring in the future? Can you look at something from the PlayStation One era that maybe newer fans aren’t unaware of something from the PlayStation 2 era?

Nicolas Doucet: That decision comes from us. There isn’t a corporate list order or anything like that. So, because, you know, how many characters can we afford to make and, you know, all of that is something we must manage.

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There are three big categories — First, you have your kind of obvious ones, the blockbusters that people know today. And those are like, you know, Kratos, Drake, Ghost of Tsushima. Those are the no-brainers.  The second category would be the ones that are also very famous characters, but perhaps from, you know, older generations. Think PaRappa the Rapper, Journey; think of this kind of character or franchise.

Then, the third category is the one where it becomes like a little bit of a discussion, considered deep cuts where you go. “Okay, VibRibbon — deep characters from the PS One people may or may not remember.” Some games were not even global because back then, you had characters that were only, again, used in Japan, some of them were only used in North America, and some were only used in Europe, like Buzz for the EyeToy, stuff like that.

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It becomes interesting because it’s also a responsibility to be fair and use this opportunity to educate players about the various Japanese games. And that was true of Astro’s Playroom, too. I loved putting the PocketStation in there because it only came with games in Japan, but it’s a fantastic design; it’s a lovely piece of hardware. And that was the same kind of thing. It was just like, what an excellent opportunity to introduce something that was, you know, missed by Western players. So, this time, we can do that with characters, and that’s cool.

I want to add another thing to this; it was not intended. We had a lot of charming stories about people playing with their kids. They’re playing Astro with their kids, and the kids come across these kinds of funny, colourful characters that they don’t know who they are. They’re funny, and they enjoy them for who they are. But then the parents would say, “Hey, when I was your age, I used to play that game, you know, that’s Crash [Bandicoot], that’s Spyro, that’s PaRappa, that’s, you know, Jak and Daxter.

Suddenly, a generation bridge is building up, and this is also very nice because it’s like, you know, all of that is just good stuff, right? It’s extra good stuff that we can take and should be embracing. So, the nostalgic element is not just for older gamers to celebrate. It’s also something that can go beyond. And that was a nice side effect, I think.

Console Creatures: Adaptive triggers and haptic controls are synonymous with Astro Bot. Can you tell us which has been your favourite example so far and one that you’re excited people to experience on September 6?

Nicolas Doucet: Okay, it’s almost like it’s not one instance in particular but a subset of things, right? I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Astro Bot has a lot of physics. You see, we’re doing a lot of stuff with physical and fluid physics and hard physics. And whenever you do things with physics, especially when you touch them, knock them and stuff, there’s an opportunity for haptic feedback and to be very different.

For example, when you spin underneath the water, you can feel the water, but then there are floating leaves — every leaf you hit and push has a little haptic feedback, individual feedback. So the sum of these things makes you feel like, you know, you can feel the world better. The same happens when you’re inside the liquid or get the magnet, and all the metal parts start sticking together. You could close your eyes and count how many magnets came to you just by the number of metal impulses you felt [from the DualSense].

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In terms of the DualSense, there’s still so much we can do, you know, to really, like, you know, to accept the game and make it feel more immersive. Astro mainly works well with the DualSense because it’s okay for us to use the speaker a lot, and the speakers play a part in that illusion you create around the haptic feedback. What you feel and hear from the speaker and see on the screen becomes like a trinity, right? And, because it’s a colourful game, a playful game, we can use the speaker quite a bit, and it’s not annoying. I think there are certain games in which maybe using too much of the speaker might become detrimental to the experience, which is, you know, perhaps also why you see a little bit of contrast sometimes.

That would be my highlight feature — but I particularly like the adaptive trigger of the booster, the when you, you know, every time you kind of boost and then if you notice, but you know, the trigger rattles in your hand as well along with the impulse of the booster. It’s fantastic.

Console Creatures: Regarding post-launch content, we know challenge levels should arrive after launch. Was there anything you had planned that you were thinking of having that didn’t end up working, and then you had to cut it?

Nicolas Doucet: Yes, there will be free content after the launch.

We got to a point where we felt that the post-launch levels were quite good, but we didn’t have the time to make them into the launch window. You know, the primary campaign feels like it is big enough. But then, since we have those levels and we just got them to that extra level, we considered that they should launch for free, you know?

The focus will be on challenges or more complex play. However, we are also entertaining the idea of having something that would be more of a toy (more manageable levels) so that we can always, you know, address, you know, both audiences.

If you ask me if we cut anything significant outside of levels and kinds of power-ups? No, there was nothing major, such as a multiplayer mode; we just ended up cutting or nothing like that. We’ve been able to maintain the original vision more or less throughout the whole development cycle. We made more minor cuts to keep that nice tempo.

Players excited to save the universe won’t have to wait long as Astro Bot is set to launch exclusively on PlayStation 5 on September 6, 2024.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.