The team at 10tons have been releasing Sparkle titles on PC and mobile for some time now, but with their arrival on Xbox One and Playstation with Sparkle Unleashed, we felt it was a great time to catch up with one of the team for a few questions. Jaakko Maaniemi seemed like the ideal choice!
Please introduce yourself. What is your role at 10tons and on your Xbox One digital title, Sparkle Unleashed?
I’m Jaakko Maaniemi, and my main role at 10tons is PR Coordinator. So I do PR and community management. But I also handle a lot of distribution stuff, and produce and design games, and I did just that on Sparkle Unleashed.
It’s been noted by many of its similarities to Xbox 360 favourites Zuma and Zuma’s Revenge. Were these big influences in your development and what is it that sets Sparkle Unleashed apart from the other ‘match 3 marble’ titles?
Marble shooters as a genre go way further back than Zuma and Xbox 360. It’s pretty much agreed that it all started from Puzz Loop / Ballistic in 1998, and it’s been a fan favourite action puzzle genre ever since. Sparkle is our franchise in the genre, and it’s been very popular both in casual PC game channels and on mobile. Since Sparkle 2 we’ve been able to have the franchise on consoles as well, and the games have become even more popular. Zuma games have influenced Sparkle, but Sparkle Unleashed is actually more like the well known Luxor games. To be specific, Sparkle and Sparkle 2 had the Zuma type core gameplay, where the marble shooter thingy – or Orb Slinger as wel call it – is fixed to a location, but rotates 360 degrees. In Luxor type games, the Orb Slinger doesn’t rotate, but slides left and right at the bottom of the screen. We made Sparkle Unleashed as a Luxor type spin-off of the Sparkle series after Sparkle 2, as we received so many requests to do just that. Some fans just preferred the sliding type marble shooter. And thus Sparkle Unleashed was born. As for standing out, we feel Sparkle games have always had the distinct look and feel, signature powerups and awesome audiovisuals that please any fan of the genre – and Sparkle is very much a genre franchise, so adding real time strategy or perhaps 4X elements wouldn’t probably serve the fans well 🙂
What made you settle on the special powers that have been included? Were there any that didn’t make the cut?
Most of the powerups are derived in quite straightforward fashion from Sparkle 2, which in turn had many of the powerups seen in the original Sparkle. This is very much intentional, as a part of what fans recognize Sparkle games from are the powerups. We added the powerup unlock and selection system to mix things up a bit, as you do, and it seems like players enjoy it. That said, we always experiment with new powerups – I think Orb of Decay is a new one – and add ones that serve a specific purpose. Some new ideas end up doing too much of the same as some existing powerup to be really worthwile additions.
There doesn’t seem to be any form of multiplayer included. Was it something that was ever on the agenda? If so, why didn’t it get included? We would have loved to see some form of online leaderboard included so we could compare our fastest times with our friends.
Yeah, we’ve heard this before. All Sparkle games have originated as a multiplatform games primarily targeted at PC casual games market, and secondarily mobile. In neither of these markets competitive leaderboards are in very high demand. But we can totally see how a console gamer with some casual inclinations might want leaderboards, so we’ll definitely keep it in mind if we ever make more Sparkle games – which we very well might, at some point in time. Unfortunately the leaderboards are something that really just didn’t occur to us before we were ready to release the game, and it was difficult for us to see it ourselves as we of course had had the game finished for a year.
It’s been pretty much a year since we first heard of the game as an Android title. What made you jump from mobile to console and Xbox One in particular? Has it been the ID@Xbox scheme which has made the dream become reality?
Sparkle Unleashed, like indeed all Sparkle games, have been initially launched as PC and iOS titles. Both of these platforms have had a strong casual game market, and we’ve done well on them even if Sparkle games are really on the edge of the casual envelope due to the fast pace and considerable challenge they offer. But we’ve had a good run there, even if especially PC casual game market has been shrinking in recent years. Luckily Sparkle games are intense enough to work really nicely on consoles, and we’re delighted daily by the great feedback we get. We’re still a bit surprised how incredibly well Sparkle 2 was received on Playstation 4, and that further reinforced our belief that there are a lot of Xbox One gamers out there who will really enjoy Sparkle Unleashed. And thanks to ID@Xbox, we’re just about to find out! We couldn’t be happier the new console generation is also about smaller titles and about a wider range of games than the previous one.
How many hours of gameplay would you expect the average Xbox One gamer to find in Sparkle Unleashed? Once the story mode has been completed, is there much replayability to be found?
It depends how hardcore you’re going to go at it. A quick completion of the Story mode will probably take roughly five hours for most. But that’s not half of it. There are two additional difficulty modes unlockable for the Story mode, and I’m pretty sure less than 5% of gamers will be able to complete the Nightmare mode. It’s just super hard. Then there’s of course the Survival mode, and five starring all the levels will certainly take a while. You can easily sink ten hours into the game and still have challenges yet to be completed.
Do you have any plans for either a Sparkle Unleashed 2 or any downloadable content for this one?
We’ll see! Downloadable content is quite unlikely, as we’d just rather make a sequel. That’s largely a product of the price range the game is in. That said, we don’t have plans for more Sparkle titles at this time, but as the game is indeed the single most successful franchise we as a company have, I’d say Sparkle 3 is likely somewhere down the line. It’ll be at least a couple of years though, and we’d probably target the title almost exclusively for console and PC gamers.
…and finally, are there any other Xbox One games that you guys have in the pipeline and we should be keeping an eye out for?
We are working on more Xbox One releases! We have something coming from our existing console catalog, hopefully this year, but we’re also working on brand new games. We will soon release the first details of Neonchrome http://www.neonchromegame.com/ , and everyone interested should definitely sign up for the newsletter!
Thanks go out to Jaakko for being kind enough to take some time out from the launch of Sparkle Unleashed in order to answer our questions.
Sparkle Unleashed will be available for Xbox One, PS4, PS3 and PS Vita real soon – you never know, it may be out as you read this!