At GDC 2022, Housemarque talked about Returnal‘s success and reflected upon its challenging development, revealing that the game was unplayable for nearly half of its development. Sony previously said that it considers Returnal a “mega hit,” and the game has since gone on to win numerous awards but its development was nothing short of challenging for a studio that was only used to making games with a much smaller scope.
Housemarque “punched above its weight” for Returnal’s success
One of Returnal’s biggest development challenges was having to come to grips with Unreal Engine 4. As reported by IGN, director Harry Krueger likened it to a “leap of faith” where developers had to “build our wings while falling.” “It’s not an exaggeration to say that for half of the game’s development time it was unplayable,” Krueger added. “We were learning how to use the engine, we were breaking things, creating dependencies that we didn’t understand… we were just learning as we went.”
Elsewhere in his talk, Krueger revealed that Returnal became somewhat unintentionally difficult for players because Housemarque was “trying to make a 3D game feel as simple as a 2D game.” He acknowledged that shooting and doing other things at the same time can make gameplay unnecessarily hard. “That’s why you end falling off ledges and getting killed by cheapshots because you spent all of your time trying to shoot enemies,” Kreuger continued, acknowledging that the developers could have improved certain aspects like aim assist, which should have been stronger.
Ultimately, everything came together and Housemarque “punched above its weight” to deliver a successful game, and working with Sony seems to have helped.
In other news, Santa Monica Studio has reiterated a 2022 release window for God of War Ragnarok, and PSVR 2’s playable demo at GDC 2022 seems to have impressed developers.
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