Bossa Studios, the London gaming startup backed by Atomico and behind popular titles ‘Surgeon Simulator’ and ‘I am Bread’, is embarking on its biggest and most ambitious project yet.
Described as a “Community-Crafted MMO,” where players have literally co-built the game’s environment and will continue to do so, Worlds Adrift sees its wider public outing today via the Steam Early Access program.
The new game, which has been three years in the making and was born out of a Bossa Studios “game jam,” akin to the kinds of internal ‘hackathons’ many startups routinely hold, is attempting to pull off a number of firsts.
For starters (and probably most noteworthy to TD readers), it was the first game built on top of Improbable’s SpatialOS, the cloud-based platform for creating games and other virtual environments that need to go beyond the limitations of traditional server architectures.
Improbable raised a whopping $502 million last May from Softbank and existing investors at a $1 billion-plus valuation, and so — inadvertently, at least — likely has quite a lot riding on Worlds Adrift.
For the Bossa Studios team, the stakes are even higher. Improbable’s tech isn’t exactly proven and, in comparison, Bossa Studios is a smaller and much less well-funded startup attempting to punch way above its weight, even if the team has a lot of gaming industry pedigree.
In a video call with two of its founders, Roberta Lucca and Henrique Olifiers, they were visibly excited by the launch but conceded a large amount of pre-launch nerves. When the Worlds Adrift concept was first conceived during that soon-to-be infamous game jam several years ago, it was indefinitely put on hold due to being far too ambitious per the size of the company.
A chance meeting with Improbable some time later — where I’m told the two young companies were introduced somewhat serendipitously through having the same PR agency — it became clear that it might just be possible. In the coming weeks and months, Bossa Studios will find out if that bet, which meant redirecting all of the startup’s resources into by far its largest undertaking, has likely paid off.
The other first, explained Lucca and Olifiers, is the sheer open-ended, community-driven and ‘persistent’ scale of the game. Tapping into the ‘makers’ trend, early testers of Worlds Adrift have shaped the game itself via Bossa’s Island Creator tool. This has seen 10,000 designs submitted, and Worlds Adrift is launching with 300 ‘floating islands,’ nearly all of which have been created by the community rather than Bossa Studios staff.
Related to this and enabled by the scalable nature of SpatialOS, every aspect of Worlds Adrift is ‘persistent,’ meaning that an object’s current physical status persists in realtime, relative to how or when it was last interacted with, either by a player or the game’s own persistent physics. If, for example, a ship is blown up and its pieces scattered across the ground, it will remain that way indefinitely unless another player, object or the environment it resides in disturbs it.
In addition, the employment of SpatialOS means that players don’t need to be segregated into cohorts based on region and/or distance to a specific set of servers and instead can all play in the same world and at the same time.
“Every player globally will be able to interact with each other and every action by every player will have a lasting impact and be visible to every other player inside the game forever,” is how Bossa Studios explains it.
At scale, opened-ended, and with player versus player gameplay increasing exponentially as the Worlds Adrift launch ramps up, even its makers aren’t sure how these dynamics will play out.
“Offering an entirely user-generated environment, with a completely unscripted style of play, the sheer scale of its scope, and beauty of its design, is an invitation to experiment. Bound only by the laws of physics, the sky truly is the limit,” reads the game’s blurb.
On that note, I wasn’t able to play the game — yet — namely because it runs on Windows and I only have access to a Mac. However, Bossa have kindly invited me to their next game jam and to spend some time up close with Worlds Adrift and its makers. If I’m to join in on the jam, I’m ready to pitch my idea for an adventure game starring a guy in a wheelchair wearing a hat who has to navigate a dystopian future rife with inaccessibility, bureaucracy and government cuts, all the while holding down a job as a tech journalist-cum-private investigator. I think it could be a hit.