ID@Xbox Blog

Ultratron – Behind the Scenes with developer Puppygames


“We gathered in our millions around the Consoles of our cities to hear the announcement. Whole families turned out and stood out in the plazas waiting for the rumblings from inside the machine to herald its latest edict for the good of humanity. We stood in silence, until a deep red light flicked on from a scanner situated near the top of every Console, and a laser scanned over the suspended crowd, surveying. Counting. And then the Console spoke the words of Central Nexus.

 “All humans are to report in an orderly fashion to their nearest RecycloMat Facility. Transportation will be provided free of charge by Central Nexus – your friendly system overlord. There is no need for alarm and recycling is painless. Central Nexus wishes at this time to thank you for your peaceful co-operation in this hazardous waste recycling operation and wishes you continued happiness and contentment for the remaining duration of your current form.”


And so begins the lamentably silly story of Ultratron. You, as the player of our delectable 80s throwback, assume control of an avatar representing the last surviving human, somehow missed by the RecycloMat Conformance Patrols. In Ultratron, your brain is handily transplanted into a nifty little battle-suit, and your mission is simple: blast Central Nexus into atoms, and avenge the human race.


Ultratron was conceived of many years ago as an experiment in minimalism called Puppytron made in a rather unusual programming language called Java. It then grew into a very retro version Ultratron with rather more tarted up graphics. And then finally it got all hi-res and fancy-pants, and sprouted all sorts of crazy powerups, big bad ass bosses, upgrades, dots, fruit… you name it, we threw it in the mixing pot to see what would emerge.


Many ideas we tried and threw away. Many ideas just evolved from their original forms into something completely unexpected. We plucked a whole bunch of little things out of a whole bunch of 80s arcade games and eventually they all stuck together like perfect pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, everything in perfect balance. And now, courtesy of Curve Digital, we’ve finally made it to Xbox One.


Many people will compare the result to Robotron 2084. This is flattering, but really about the only similarity between Ultratron and that arcade classic is the last four letters in the name. Even the dual-stick controls in Ultratron aren’t anything like the old arcade classic. Most importantly, neither is the difficulty. Those old games were designed to punish you and gobble up your coins as fast as they could. Ultratron has been made in a different era – an era where we can choose from a million things to do at any one time, and spend as long as we like on anything.


Ultratron starts out very, very easy and relaxing – accessible, we like to think. Like slowly boiling a frog, you won’t notice how after playing it for half an hour your palms are sweaty, and your eyes are fixated, unblinking, on the neon insanity exploding in front of you.


We live in interesting times.


Shortly after the human race was entirely recycled into the lids of toothpaste tubes, Central Nexus’ garbage collection routines determined a sudden fall in demand for toothpaste, and had them all incinerated.