#EGXRezzed Interview: Bossa Studios Game Designer Luke Williams On I Am Bread, Worlds Adrift, VR & HTC Vive
Bossa Studios had put on an impressive spread at this years EGX Rezzed event (or #Brezzed as they are hoping to trend). The area was painstakingly built like a level of the teams latest game, I Am Bread, and everyone from the company, as always, were welcoming and enthusiastic. They’d successfully given out (and more impressively got folks to wear) a substantial number of cardboard hats sporting the games logo so it was hard to not know they were here. Much like a warm loaf from the oven the attendees were salivating and keen to come take a sniff as to what was baking.
Like a street urchin I stole some bready time from Bossa Studios’ game baker Luke Williams to talk a bit about the companies new game, I Am Bread, the success of the company in recent years, the in development epic new MMO game Worlds Adrift and his experiences of VR as well as the studios collaboration with Valve and its hands on with the new HTC Vive tecnology.
I Am Bread is another successful title by Bossa Studios. It’s also in a similar vein to your last game, Surgeon Simulator 2013, as it has gamers experience frustration (and possible anger) at trying doing something that you’d think would be quite simple.
…but then complete elation when you do succeed!
Exactly. I’ve been a big Surgeon Simulator fan and have been since I played it and met the team at Rezzed a few years ago. I’m not alone in being a fan as the game has generated a cult following amassing fans across the world on YouTube and all over social media (PewDiePie for example).
That’s why we’ve been able to do what we do because YouTube ‘got’ our game I guess.
In I Am Bread you play a slice of bread which has to fulfil its life’s dream of being toasted, right?
Basically you have to figure out how to become toast. The first level the objective is to get to the toaster but you do have other ways to become toast, and it’s just plonking that slice of bread in any environment we want and then the player figures out how to create or find a heat source – and that’s it! That’s the whole premise of the game. We found that where you put the bread is what makes it interesting.
How did the game come about? Did the physics side come first – was it some sort of fun tech experiment (like Goat Simulator) or was it just messing around with things that flip and flop?
The premise had a nice clear goal like with Surgeon Simulator in which you’d have to complete a heart transplant. There is an inherent understanding there so we don’t have to tell the player the instructions because it’s a heart transplant. You remove the heart and put a new one in and in the same way we say “become toast”. Everyone knows to move the bread to somewhere hot. That was a nice jumping point for me as, in a game sense, we could put the bread anywhere and you’ve got a level. The other side of that was if I was controlling a slice of bread how would it move, how is it going to move around? That was an interesting challenge. In the same way with Surgeon “how would I control a hand and an arm?” it was the same approach here. How would I control it? How would I control bread if it had to move? We went with controlling the corners. We tried waggling the controller to make it flop around and stuff like that and a few of them were too random, so we always wanted to make sure that it was something that players could get good at once they understood how to move it they could then be dexterous and be able to throw the bread over gaps, jumps and that kind of stuff. We like to play with physics anyway so it’s really satisfying to make nice flowing movements. I don’t think you could have animated the bread in any other sort of way. It needed to just react to everything you did in terms of pushing/pulling it around.
For those that haven’t played the game, I would best describe as movement to being similar Octodad. I found you needed to be conscious of movement and “be the bread”. Put your mind to it and think about where you wanted to go.
It’s an exploration, puzzle platformer game I guess. It’s a hard one to put into words – especially we’ve now added bagel racing. It’s a very strange kind of game. The core of it is that story of becoming toast.
It’s very fun indeed. I also wanted to talk about your in development game Worlds Adrift. I’ve been following it since it was announced and it looks amazing.
It’s my dream game. I get to do something that is stupidly ambitious and big but the tech by the Improbable team lets us do it with a team of five people. That’s the key thing. It’s way of Skies of Arcadia inspired. There is this little depressing trend at the minute with deep dark gritty survival games – which is great and do well for a reason, but what if you took that and made it an age of exploration. A colourful and exciting world. There are some elements we’ve kept from the hardcore survival like building an airship, but your character is fine it can come back an infinite number of times. You don’t have to feed them or make them survive in that kind of way, but your airships need fuel, to be repaired, you need to make sure they’re not taken out by other players or the weather, creatures, that kind of stuff. You can have as many people join your crew as you like or has room for (you can have respawners on your deck which is the only way you attach yourself to that ship). It’s keep that thing alive and see if you can travel to those silhouettes in the distance.
It looks mind blowing. It looks like the fun elements of resource gathering, exploring and construction found in Minecraft, mixed with some engineering of, I envisage, Kerbal Space Program…
It does have elements of Kerbal but we deliberately rained back the physics. We could have done it like that but if the engineers were off-centred it would just crash. We knew that wouldn’t be our game. Kerbal is building it, seeing if it would fly. We wanted to build and fly and have enough room with the physics to do it better. If you lose an engine it will lean but it’s not going to spiral and break to pieces. It had to able to fly early on because our game is about exploring. And yeah, your ship can get fucked basically, but not in a complete and disastrous way every time because we want you to keep these ships for weeks and weeks and when you do lose them and when they are battle scared they have history on them. All the bits are physical and when they fall off they fall into the world and you can pick those back up, or find other peoples stuff and put that on your ship and that has a history as well. “Oh that’s that engine we found back on the other side of the world” for example and you have that attachment and want to keep this thing running.
I know Worlds Adrift is evolving and you’re keen to get people involved with thoughts and feedback from what’s being shown which is great. The game is multiplayer, exploration and think it’s going to be epic in scope. Do you have any goals as to when you’d like to see Worlds Adrift released? Perhaps on Steam Early Access first?
Potentially. We’re going through Alpha’s and Beta’s this side of the year with maybe an open beta later this year, but we’re really just playing it out and finding our way with the technology – and it is an unknown technology. It’s new and taking us a while to get what we want out of it, but we’re getting to the point where we were “Yeah, this is actually coming together and we have a game now”. We’re looking forward to getting people in the game and playing. We have play tests for hours and we just crash into each other and dicking about. We’re getting stories coming out of it also, and it’s still rough. For example everyone is playing the same character and we don’t have our final character model yet but it’s good that we’re having fun and people are excited by it.
I’m excited also and very much looking forward to it. I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk to you Virtual Reality and the recent news of Bossa Studios’ collaboration with Valve. I’ve said often to people that you guys switched me on to the Oculus Rift when I got to try it out at Rezzed a few years ago with Surgeon Simulator 2013. I was blown away and went out and purchased a developer kit (even though I wasn’t a developer, just so I could play Surgeon Simulator in VR). It’s been a long delay without a final or consumer version of the technology and then it was announced recently that Valve had teamed with HTC to bring out the Vive. Part of that presentation included your company name on a slide that said “These are the great companies that are going to be helping us develop this technology”. How did that all come about?
We’ve always had a good relationship with Valve since Surgeon Simulator (that’s why we had the Team Fortress 2 content). Surgeon was in fact made before any sort of VR presence but we’d already made a sort of VR game accidentally with the hand and view, in a confined space. It was perfect for VR but when the Oculus came out we jumped straight on there and *snaps fingers* “Shit, we’re definitely doing that!” Valve knew we had experience with VR, we have a game that works with VR and was already launched on Steam as a VR game. So they came to us with some really early prototypes and for the last couple of months had (the Vive) in the office and been testing the alien surgery stuff. It’s nice because it includes all the zero-g content and been building on that. It’s a pretty amazing bit of kit.
From speaking with some of the guys at the Bossa Studios stand here at Rezzed the Vive sounds to be a leap from the Oculus.
It has some amazing tracking with zero latency which is what the amazing thing is. It’s so surreal that everything you do without that blurring or refresh, it’s just there and that’s the key difference. The technology for tracking is pretty amazing.
I just wanted to close off by saying the BAFTA awards are being held here at Rezzed and it’s great that Bossa Studios have been nominated for a fourth year in a row – that’s an amazing achievement.
Thank you. It’s a busy time indeed.
Thank you for talking to me and I’ll let you get back to your living room/kitchenette stand and wish you best of luck with everything.
I Am Bread is available now on PC. Worlds Adrift is aiming for beta later this year.