Exclusive Interview: Terraria Creative Manager David Welch

Since launching on PCs in 2011, Terraria has since been released on systems both big (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) and small (iOS, Android). With it now coming to the PlayStation Vita, 505 Games’ David Welch, the Creative Manager for the console and mobile versions, talks about how this new edition is similar, and different, from the others.

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For those who haven’t played Terraria, on the Vita or elsewhere, what is it?

Terraria is a 2D sandbox game with a focus on crafting, mining, adventuring, and building. It has a very 16-bit retro JRPG vibe, but the basic platforming and combat feels a lot like Metroid or Castlevania. It also gets a lot of comparisons to Minecraft.

Do you think these comparisons are fair?

Definitely. Terraria takes huge cues from both Metroid and Minecraft, while still very much having its own identity. The randomly-generated worlds and the crafting, mining, and building feel a lot like Minecraft, but since it’s 2D, the basic gameplay is very Metroid. The combination results in an experience that’s completely unique.

Terraria was originally made using Microsoft XNA, which is built for Windows devices and the Xbox. Without getting too technical, was it hard to translate the game to non-Microsoft platforms?

Oh, XNA…it was a great framework while Microsoft was actively supporting it, at least for PC. But it has a lot of idiosyncrasies. Ultimately the guys at Engine Software — who brought the game to Xbox360 and PS3 — had to painstakingly translate the C# code to C++ and write custom wrappers for the Sony platforms. The network code was particularly challenging. And then the team at Codeglue, the mobile developer, used that as a starting point for the mobile versions. Suffice it to say, the code has gone through some very interesting journeys.

So much for not getting too technical. Terraria has already been out on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PCs, and both iOS and Android devices. Why did it take so long to bring to the Vita?

The PlayStation Vita presented an interesting challenge since the physical controls and touchscreen incorporate aspects from both the console and mobile versions of the game. That took a fairly long time to refine. Additionally, cross-save and cross-play had some specific technical challenges associated with them, and required us to update the PS3 version of the game. Sony was very keen to support those.

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How exactly do the controls on the Vita version combine the ones from the console and mobile versions?

We did a lot of experimentation with this, actually. We found that some activities work really well with the Vita’s touch controls: switching between items and inventory management in particular. But other activities — such as movement, combat, mining, and building — still felt best with the precision of the Vita’s thumbsticks. We wanted to make sure we were playing to the system’s strengths, and taking advantage of everything it had to offer.

Is there anything that you considered adding to this version but then decided to save it for Terraria II: Electric Boogaloo instead?

Honestly? No. From a feature perspective, we put pretty much all the bells and whistles into it. Hopefully it’s worth the wait.

So are there any plans to bring Terraria to the PlayStation 4? Or the Xbox One? WiiU? 3DS? Virtual Boy?

Obviously, we’d love to put it out on every platform, but we also want to make sure we continue to support the existing versions.

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Lastly, since you released this game, how many people have given you terrariums because they thought they were being clever?

Sadly, no one. People really need to up their cleverness.

Seriously.

 

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