How Bonsai Collective brought the characters of Luna Abyss to life

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From the very inception of the world that would come to be known as Luna Abyss, there has always been a clear vision. Bonsai Collective’s Art Director Harry Corr, and Creative Director Benni Hill, set out with a grab bag of influences and a set of aesthetic and narrative waypoints which underpinned the worldbuilding in its early stages. That vision remains integral to the game we have created. 

Caption: Tsutomu Nihei’s Blame! was a major influence on our art style and level design 

Building the world of Luna Abyss has been a process of extrapolation – building outwards from carefully defined core concepts, expressed in early level blockouts and key narrative beats, a core cast of characters to bring those beats to life. All good construction needs a solid foundation; ours was a sprawling brutalist megastructure, a sky within a moon, sufficiently strange as to pique the imagination. How did we get here? Where is here? These are the questions our protagonist asks, and who better to answer than an omnipresent disembodied head…? 

Caption: Beyond the decaying halls of Sorrow’s Canyon lies a vast alien landscape for Fawkes to navigate.

So how do you take something as vast as an alien moon and scale it down enough to understand where your characters fit, and how best to tell their story?

“We started with the cell,” says Lenny Ilett, a character designer at Bonsai Collective. “The game revolves around the axis of the cell, so it was pretty important to define those characters in the cell so we have something to work from.” For our primary characters – protagonist Fawkes, and their prison warden Aylin – the cell is the site of their most important interactions. It’s also a space of transition, literally and narratively – Fawkes returns here between missions to rest and process the events of the day. It was a useful waypoint in building the relationship between these two characters – how were they going to react to one another in this place of forced proximity versus out in the world, where their roles are more clearly defined?

Caption: Ellie: Lift guardian, train conductor, poet.

For the most part, building our characters was a back-and-forth process between the art team and the narrative team. Fawkes and Aylin were defined early on in the process, as the key characters in the story, but over time, and as the world grew in scale, it became necessary to expand our cast in order to tell the story we wanted. Here, art and story worked hand in hand. An example of this is Urien Caldecott, dubbed “axe cat” by the internet, who existed in concept for quite some time before receiving the character design treatment. Lenny describes the process of visualizing a character as chipping away at a block of marble, revealing the character in increments based on their dialogue, or their backstory. “You’re bringing words on a page to life,” Lenny says, of Urien, “but what does that look like? That’s something you have to navigate.”

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Official PlayStation Podcast Episode 462: The Clivecast

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This week the team chats with Ben Starr, English voice actor for Clive Rosfield, and Square Enix Localization Director Michael-Christopher Koji Fox on all things Final Fantasy XVI.

Stuff We Talked About

  • The Callisto Protocol Final Transmission DLC – first gameplay details revealed
  • Crash Team Rumble Character Deep Dive Blog
  • Final Fantasy XVI – Series Evolution Blog
  • Eternights Gameplay/Dating Blog
  • Interview with FFXVI’s Ben Starr and Michael-Christopher Koji Fox (starts at 10:35)
  • Final Fantasy XVI
  • Diablo IV

The Cast

Share of the Week: The Last of Us

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Last week, we celebrated ten years of The Last of Us by asking you to share moments from the iconic game using #PSshare #PSBlog. Here are this week’s #TLOU10 highlights: 

YouSpoonyBardd shares Joel’s broken watch in black and white

wingsforsmiles shares Ellie crouching and sneaking

_HypeDX shares Joel wearing a mask, leaving a spore-filled building

LukeKasinger shares a portrait of Sam

Dash_845 shares Joel shining a flashlight on Firefly graffiti on a wall

calisarah1998 shares Ellie and Riley looking at her joke book in front of the mall carousel

Search #PSshare #PSBlog on Twitter or Instagram to see more entries to this week’s theme. Want to be featured in the next Share of the Week? 

THEME: Joel and Ellie – The Last of Us
SUBMIT BY: 11:59 PM PT on June 28, 2023

Next week, we’re continuing the love for #TLOU10 and highlighting Joel and Ellie. Share moments featuring Joel and Ellie together using #PSshare #PSBlog for a chance to be featured.

The Callisto Protocol returns with Final Transmission DLC – first gameplay details revealed

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Since the end of The Callisto Protocol’s main game, things have gone from bad to worse inside the penitentiary. The virus that’s been wreaking havoc inside is threatening to escape the prison and it’s up to you to retrieve Mahler’s data and transmit it off-world. It’s not going to be a walk in the park. You’re going to have to fight tooth and nail to make your way through monster-infested corridors, where new abominations await. 

When it comes to battling Biophage, players need reliable tools to survive. The Stun Baton is a great blunt instrument, but new threats call for new gear. According to Lead Systems Designer, Paul Guirao, the team behind The Callisto Protocol listened to fan feedback and decided to add a new melee weapon to the game. “We wanted to give players something more powerful than the Stun Baton,” Guirao explained.  

The result is the all-new Kinetic Hammer. With its design and shape, you can feel the power and weight behind every swing. It has light and heavy melee attacks that hit harder than the Stun Baton, but that’s not all – Guirao explains, “Holding down the heavy melee button produces an even more powerful attack. But mastery of the heavy charged mechanic can be tricky… you become the ultimate badass once you’ve mastered it. It’s one of our favorite weapons because it obliterates everything it touches.” As a bonus, a successfully executed charge attack also creates a powerful area-of-effect.  

However, the thrill of wielding the Kinetic Hammer is only fully realized when pitted against worthy adversaries. Final Transmission introduces a new enemy type and boss for players to square off with. 

With twistedly agile corruptors and brutally powerful two-headed brutes lurking around every corner, not to mention the hard-to-kill Security Units, Black Iron Prison was always a treacherous place. But now a new enemy is stalking its halls: the Biophage Robot, or the Biobot as the developers affectionately call it. This terrifying foe is a combination of Biophage and UJC Security Units, and a deadly reminder that Black Iron is still as dangerous as ever. 

How Final Fantasy XVI respects the series’ past and embraces the future

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Developing a new numbered Final Fantasy game is a balancing act. Players have expectations of what they’ll encounter but still crave elements that change up and build upon established series traditions. But even those have to start somewhere: many elements commonly associated with Final Fantasy as a whole–Chocobos, Moogles, summons, and beloved job classes and abilities–were, at one point, completely alien to the series. Finding a delicate balance between tradition and innovation is always challenging, especially so with Final Fantasy XVI, the first numbered game in the long-running series to fully eschew menu-driven battles in favor of real-time combat. 

From Active Time Battle to fighting in real-time

Elements of action gameplay have evolved in Final Fantasy over time, beginning with the implementation of the “Active Time Battle” system in Final Fantasy IV. This upped the pressure on players by forcing them to respond quickly and consider the order in which enemies and allies would be able to act. Waffling on crucial decisions could prove costly, as foes would continue their onslaught no matter how long it took you to input your commands. (If you want to check out the genesis of Active Time Battle, you can play the Final Fantasy IV-VI Pixel Remasters now available on PlayStation.)

Final Fantasy IV (left) and Final Fantasy XII (right) 

Active Time Battle would serve as the mechanical basis for most numbered Final Fantasy games going forward, with the positioning-driven open-field combat of Final Fantasy XII and the dynamic, on-the-fly role-swapping battles of the Final Fantasy XIII saga building on many of the concepts ATB solidified. Final Fantasy XV moved many of the typical menu commands to face buttons, shifting combat in a decidedly action-focused direction. 

Final Fantasy XV (left) and Final Fantasy VII Remake (right) 

Even with this gradual evolution, many modern Final Fantasy games, notably the Final Fantasy VII Remake series, still use some hybrid of menu- and action-driven gameplay. FFXVI going full-on action-RPG surprised many hardcore fans, who wondered how this may impact the “essence” of Final Fantasy. To talk about developing FFXVI to evolve the franchise while satisfying existing fans, we sat down with producer Naoki Yoshida and director Hiroshi Takai to dive deeper into their process. 

Action and drama make for great stories

Yoshida’s love for Final Fantasy blossomed from the very beginning of the series. “Final Fantasy I was an important gaming experience for me,” he says. “I bought it on launch day, and I remember how confused I was when I booted it up and there was no title screen. Then you leave town and cross the bridge, and up comes the Final Fantasy logo! I was blown away that a video game could feel so cinematic, and that’s


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