towers may be Sensible Object’s greatest challenge. They must stack well, but not so securely that towers rarely fall, and they need to be suitable for mass manufacturing. The game’s difficulty and flow exists within those pieces’ final physical form. As such, the animal, element and ability blocks are undergoing constant prototyping, and their various iterations litter Sensible Object’s studio space. Many are marked with neat pen lines, as the design team play cosmetic surgeons dissecting their abstract animal creations. Elsewhere, ideas like the potential to incorporate soft Plush-style creatures abound. “I think of the pieces as being like a chaotic Lego,” explains company founder and CEO Alex Fleetwood. “They are designed to be interestingly weird to play with and put together.” immediately impacting the evolution of the digital world the player-gods co-govern. And on the next turn the demands of starving species onscreen may very well force the evolution of the tower’s construction. In Fabulous Beasts, the relationship between physical forces and pixels is ever potent, and it’s made the game a darling of crowds at numerous game expos.
But while Sensible Object is a relatively new entity, Fabulous Beasts has been around somewhat longer. Alex Fleetwood is the studio’s founder and CEO, having spent time at Hide&Seek, the acclaimed UK outfit that specialised not only in videogames, but in designing for play in real-world spaces. After Hide&Seek’s closure, Fleetwood spent some time in rural reflection.
“I came out of [Hide&Seek] wanting to really focus on one project, and set things up in a sustainable way,” Fleetwood explains. “I went camping in Northern California for a bit, made lots of fires, looked at the stars, saw a few bears, that kind of thing. And I think in a way that does all feed into this game that we’re making. Fallow periods can be quite good for the brain. You do need to let it all sink in sometimes.” Some of Fleetwood’s reflection centred on a Hide&Seek creation named Blocks, and an idea that just wouldn’t go away. A purely physical game used as an installation promoting PlayStation Move, Blocks saw players stacking cubes, pairing symbols on their sides.
“There was something about that game,” Fleetwood remembers.