In late 2013, fresh-faced indie developer Compulsion Games caught my interest in a big way with their shadow-platformer Contrast. After eagerly awaiting details on whatever they decided to do as a follow-up, I was elated by their February announcement of We Happy Few.
I recently had a chat with Naila Hadjas and Sam Abbott, Compulsion’s Community Developer and Chief Operating Officer respectively, about what we can expect from We Happy Few in terms of development time, crowdfunding, and how you can become involved.
Save/Continue: First of all I want to say how much I’m looking forward to We Happy Few. Having just been enamored with Contrast, I’m keen to see how Compulsion has evolved, and what new ideas and mechanics you lot have in store. Now let’s get started! Can you tell me what We Happy Few is in 5 words or less?
Compulsion Games: Thank you! We are excited too. Hmm, Drug-fueled Dystopian Urban Survival Roguelike!
S/C: Brilliant. In contrast with, er, Contrast, which was a predetermined world with various areas to explore and become familiar with, We Happy Few will feature a procedurally generated world that changes each time you play, as indicated in your ‘roguelike’ response. Does this mean the town of Wellington Wells will change every time you play, or are there different areas to the town that will alter throughout a single playthrough? And what made you want to take this route?
CG: Yes, the town of Wellington Wells will indeed change in between each playthrough! We’ll be showing how this works when we launch our Kickstarter campaign. We made the decision to develop the game procedurally for one main reason: it helps us make bigger and better games than we could otherwise. Creating a procedural game means that we can just make it bigger as we see fit – we don’t have to figure out where additional content goes, we don’t have to expand/contract the narrative, we can just slot it all in. And it adds a bunch of replayability to the game, which we think is a great thing.
S/C: You mentioned the Kickstarter campaign there – have you got a ballpark timeframe you can give me on when that will be launching? Are there any special perks you can tease and tantalize me with? Crossing my fingers for a soundtrack, myself.
CG: We haven’t decided on the date yet, but we are working on the campaign right now. In fact, we’ve actually just asked our community what kind of perks they would like to see! We have a whole bunch of ideas but some of the most popular ones are: an Art book/Posters, a soundtrack, Joy drug candy (I am not sure we can do this, seems like we would get in trouble) and being able to leave your mark in the game (the name of a shop, a street, designing your own character/item).
S/C: I actually checked out an indie zombie game at PAX Australia last November, and they were promoting the game by giving out prescription pill bottles filled with breath mints. They were labeled as the kind of drug used in-game and made out to look like medicine, but they also made sure to state somewhere that they were actually just mints. Perhaps you could run with that kind of idea!
CG: Oh really? That is very interesting and worth taking a look into, thank you!
S/C: Now I know you opened an alpha (or pre-alpha?) build of WHF for PAX East attendees to try out, and those who completed that build gained access to the beta that will happen later on. In addition, Compulsion has said there will be opportunities for those unable to make the event to get in on the alpha and beta testing fun. Can you elaborate on that? How can someone like me get in on the early days of We Happy Few?
CG: Well, it’s not a sexy answer, but we’re thinking about including it as one of our Kickstarter backer tiers. We also may go onto Early Access at a later date, so if people don’t feel like contributing to the Kickstarter, they can always wait to see what comes out on Early Access (if we go down that route).
S/C: Hey, pre-Early Access access would certainly tempt me into backing at that tier. That’s about all I’ve got on We Happy Few for now, but I wanted to ask – do you think Compulsion would be interested in returning to Contrast in the future? A sequel is the obvious leap there, but the shadow platforming would also lend itself greatly to
time trials or other such challenges. Contrast’s story was definitely engaging, but I could easily play an entire Contrast spin-off purely comprised of puzzles and challenges that utilize the shadow platforming feature.
CG: Maybe one day. One of the things about the studio is that we always want to be doing different, new things. So, the challenge for us is to think of a way to return to Didi and Dawn’s story in a way that’s building on what we did before, and also give us a bunch of new challenges/creative opportunities.
S/C: Regardless of what you lot get up to, I’ll be looking forward to it. For now we can all just keep our eyes peeled for We Happy Few’s pending Kickstarter. Thanks so much for your time!
CG: You’re welcome, thanks for asking!
Compulsion has also just started posting weekly development updates for We Happy Few. The game is expected to release sometime within Q4 2015 or Q1 2016 for Steam, with console releases potentially to follow, depending on the success of the upcoming Kickstarter.