Sky Pirates Unite!
It's always good to have ambition. Even with some notable successes behind you, it's important to keep your sights high. The developers at Bossa Studios have taken this to heart, and their next title is a radical departure from the norm. Known for the ever quirky and modest Surgeon Simulator and I Am Bread games, their new title Worlds Adrift, presently in closed alpha, aims to bring their talents for odd and endearing gameplay to the next level.
With its public release coming later this year, the developers invited the press to get some hands-on with an updated build of the game. Speaking with producer Herb Liu and game designer Luke Williams from Bossa Games, I spoke at length with them about their plans for this ambitious title and where they hope to take it in the future.
Set in a seemingly shattered world of floating islands and structures, Worlds Adrift has you play as an explorer who dares to brave the bizarre and intriguing environment to uncover lost ruins, rare minerals, while banding together a crew of versatile and diverse allies. As you build your own sky-ship to explore, you'll soon learn that the world is much more dense than what you originally believed, and the mysteries that remain to be uncovered will lead players to the stranger corners of the world.
Coming off of titles more modest in scope, the developers at Bossa began work on Worlds Adrift in 2014, and it gradually grew it their most expansive title.
"It just cascaded, really. We ended up with this huge kind of MMO open-world game," said game designer Luke Williams. "You're just a lone character in a shattered world, and you build your own sky-ship and set out into the sky, and you come across some exciting things."
Exploration is one of the key aspects of Worlds Adrift, and the developers at Bossa pulled from a number of influences to get that sensation across. From obvious influences from The Legend of Zelda, Minecraft, and the lesser known—and one of my favorite games ever—Skies of Arcadia. The developers wanted freedom and discovery as one of the key themes throughout the player experience, in addition to a fairly robust co-op mode where you can partner up with friends or naturally meet other players online during your journey.
Of course, if you want to travel across the skies, you'll need a ship. As you start, you'll have the basics: the parts and tools to construct your modest sky-ship, a grappling hook to maneuver around the islands, and the basic resources to survive. You're free to explore and harvest as you like from the outset. Unlike in other titles where you're gated behind arbitrary level caps, many of the resources and skills are available to you from the beginning. This was to allow for progression that felt more organic, as opposed to mining one set of minerals to get a better tool, which would then used to mine even more resources.
To benefit these systems, Bossa Studios implemented a brand-new physics engine. All movement, items, ship weight and steering, and grappling mechanics adhere to natural in-game physics. This was to allow players a greater feel for the game, but also gives a better and more intuitive understanding of its systems. During one section, my co-op partner and I were scaling the towering cliffs and structures of an ancient ruin. Using the grappling hook, we climbed to the top by swinging and hookshot-ing upwards as if we were playing as Spider-Man. It seriously felt challenging to get to top, which gave the traversal gameplay more of an element of skill, as opposed to just mashing buttons.
Worlds Adrift producer Herb Liu explained that these moments are what the game excels at and what players can expect when diving in.
"It's very much a freeform game. It's a massive, shared world, [so] you'll come across other players," explained Liu. "The core of the game of the game is the cooperation aspect, along with discovery, adventure, and exploration gameplay. We want you to build ships with your friends, and maybe make new ones as you explore the variety of islands."
In a very interesting move, the developers wanted the community to have a more hands-on approach to creating the amount of core content to find in game. In addition to procedurally-generated content, player-made creations will naturally be blended into the core gameplay. With the Island Creator tool available on Steam now, the developers gave the community access to the same map making tools they used for development. Once created, players can upload them to the game servers which will allow other players to explore your little corner of Worlds Adrift.
"Even in the alpha stage, players have made much of what we've seen in the world," said Williams. "These are these things you simply see in the distance, these are actual places you can explore, and the players have created these small stories that can be told from exploring the islands. Each one being handcrafted is something that's hard to do with a huge team of developers. You don't know what you're going to find. Just when you begin to recognize patterns, you'll come across this entirely handmade experience."
During my hour with the game, I could tell I was only scratching the surface of it. Even with the developers giving me a fairly in-depth crash course of the game's mechanics, there was still much more left to uncover. Initially it felt a bit daunting, but with help it made the experience enjoyable. There's a lot of charm in this game, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of what the developers, and the community that support it, continues to create. I was extremely impressed with what I saw. Even know the Minecraft formula seems a bit stale now, Worlds Adrift is certainly approaching it with a new perspective that I admire.