(Image courtesy of PHL Collective)
Video game studio PHL Collective probably didn’t expect the 2020 difficulty spike, but the 22-person company just released its largest project to date all the same.
On Oct. 9, the Old City-based company released Ben 10: Power Trip, a Cartoon Network-licensed open world game where players can roam around, complete tasks, find collectibles and battle enemies in a non-linear fashion. The storyline includes characters from the show “Ben 10” and is aimed at a younger audience (with an E10+ rating).
The relationship with Cartoon Network has existed pretty much since PHL Collective started in 2013, founder and co-owner Nick Madonna told Technical.ly. The company recently worked with the cartoon empire on a VR experience at the Cartoon Network hotel in Lancaster, and it’s also produced Tom and Jerry Colossal Catastrophe with the classic characters in a Halloween-themed game.
But the release of Ben 10: Power Trip, which the studio worked on for about two years, is its largest project so far, Madonna said, because of the scale of the game. And it’s the first PHL Collective game that involves a release in stores and that’s played in a gaming console.
“When this opportunity presented itself, we felt we had a pretty good understanding of what the fans are looking for,” Madonna said. “We could give the fans of Ben 10 something they hasn’t existed before and give kids an onramp for a great first step into open world genre.”
The game doesn’t follow a fixed point-A-to-point-B arc, said Bren King, art director and co-owner. Players can roam the map, where they’ll face puzzles, events and trinkets to create lively game play, he said.
The lead up to a project launch is pressure filled for any developer, but back in the spring, as the team was hitting their deadlines and working through bugs, they were forced to go remote because of the pandemic. Whereas they’d typically gather around consoles testing the game, they needed to do so remotely, at home.
There were also plenty of technical challenges, King said, like dispersing the tech to test the game on its different platforms like PCs, Xbox or Switch: “Every digital platform has their own set of requirements.”
“It was stressful at the time, but it’s a testament to the team we had and being able to reconfigure and hit all these milestones,” Madonna said. “It taught us a lot of lessons about how we’re able to adapt pretty quickly.”
The founder said it’s an accomplishment to be a Philly company releasing a major game in stores, as the city’s not really known for being a game developer town (though the indie scene is strong). The company had to finish the game in the spring so that there was time for manufacturing and marketing, and on Friday, King and Madonna went to GameStop to see the project on shelves for the first time.
“It’s the first one we can see in a display case,” King said of the release last week. “It’s been a sigh of relief, people getting to see this project, and seeing the reactions from the kids, how much they’ve enjoyed it.”
The team also spent Friday celebrating by watching players on Twitch and hearing positive reviews.
“We were seeing exactly what we were going for,” Madonna said. “That’s the last thing a developer wants — to spend all this time making a game and nobody likes it.”-30-
Making the right moves: Queen & Rook Board Game Cafe plays on through the pandemic
Nerd Street Gamers is opening 3 of its Five Below esports facilities this month, including one in Nicetown
This Drexel prof says Twitter is uncivil. So he’s projecting your tweets on a building
Nerd Street Gamers is building a massive HQ and esports campus blocks from City Hall
Sign-up for daily news updates from Technical.ly Philadelphia