Cul­ture mas­ter

We get in­volved with Re­bel­lion’s 25th an­niver­sary game jam, and find out just what the Sniper Elite 4 stu­dio can cre­ate in only three days

Games Master - - Contents -

Re­bel­lion’s 25th an­niver­sary game jam un­leashes a game about clean­ing up cat poo on a space sta­tion.

Where is it fun­nier to put the cat s***?” asks Re­bel­lion lead de­signer Steve Bris­tow. “The du­vet? Or the pil­low?” We point to the pil­low and an icon for ran­domly ap­pear­ing fae­ces is put in place. It’s al­ready a strange day, and we’ve only just ar­rived at Re­bel­lion, where the team is cel­e­brat­ing its 25th an­niver­sary with a three-day game jam. Ev­ery­one in the of­fice is tak­ing part, and there are T-shirts ev­ery­where em­bla­zoned with the theme, Nate Crow­ley’s book, 100 Best Video Games (That Never Ex­isted).

En­com­pass­ing such bizarre ti­tles as Wether­spoons Fetish Party, Vin Diesel’s Weasel Ea­gle, and the in­fa­mous ar­cade ti­tle known only as ‘The Clown Game’ where play­ers must drip their blood into a con­tainer to play, the book is packed with bril­liant yet lu­di­crous games. Re­bel­lion was in­volved in bring­ing the il­lus­tra­tions to life, mak­ing the book a per­fect theme for the game jam. This is where the cat poo comes in. One of more than 15 mini dev crews, Bris­tow and his team are re­spon­si­ble for Look, Are You Com­ing In Or Not? This fea­tures a man on a space sta­tion look­ing after a furry friend while try­ing des­per­ately to main­tain oxy­gen lev­els and stop rogue paws from press­ing the self-de­struct but­ton. So, er, why choose cat fae­ces as en­ter­tain­ment?

“This im­me­di­ately grabbed my at­ten­tion,” grins Bris­tow, open­ing the book to read the de­scrip­tion aloud. “‘Bal­anc­ing the claus­tro­pho­bic horror of space with the mad­den­ing fu­til­ity of cat own­er­ship.’ I think if a game de­signer can’t be in­spired by that sen­tence then they need to go and look for another job be­cause the first line I read of this book was that and I was al­ready laugh­ing. But also – and this is the ge­nius of the book – there’s part of you that thinks that it would ac­tu­ally work.”

As game jams go, there’s se­ri­ous tal­ent at work here. Re­bel­lion is re­spon­si­ble for the Sniper Elite se­ries, the Nazi Zom­bie Army fran­chise, VR game Batt­tle­zone, and up­com­ing mummy co-op shooter Strange Brigade. If teams so de­sire, they can craft their games in Re­bel­lion’s en­gine, Asura. Be­fore it even got to that, though, Bris­tow cre­ated a top-down pro­to­type in GameMaker to see how things would play out. “You’ve got var­i­ous me­chan­ics,” he ex­plains. ”You’ve got oxy­gen lev­els and a CO2 scrub­ber, and you’ve got an air qual­ity bar, food bar, wa­ter bar, and an en­ergy bar. You need to main­tain your en­ergy bar or your char­ac­ter starts stag­ger­ing around.”

De­struc­tion derby

This is a busy plate spin­ner even be­fore your fe­line friend ar­rives and starts um, drop­ping the air qual­ity. “The ver­sion of the game in the book that Nate con­ceived is a de­lib­er­ately pre­ten­tiously writ­ten med­i­ta­tion on lone­li­ness,” says Bris­tow. “I think if you say ‘per­son on space­ship with cat’ you kind of au­to­mat­i­cally have that. I love that idea.” This is clear in the ver­sion the team has gone on to build in the Asura en­gine. The fans of the space sta­tion hum, and the full ex­pe­ri­ence is in first-per­son with but­tons to press and cat fae­ces to punt

“try to Stop rogue paws from press ing the self-de­struct but­ton”

out of the air­lock into space. Sud­denly we want to play a game that sounded like a joke 15 min­utes ago.

Wan­der­ing across the of­fice we join Re­bel­lion head of cre­ative, Tim Jones, and head of art, Chris Pay­ton, to look at their project. “We’re work­ing on Work Kitchen Anec­dote Bas­tard, where you’re try­ing to get your cof­fee out of the kitchen and to es­cape the te­dious bas­tard who is pour­ing loads of anec­dotes at you,” grins Jones. “It’s a very Bri­tish thing where you’re not want­ing to up­set the per­son who’s talk­ing to you, even though you re­ally want to get away from them. We kind of wanted to ex­plore ‘what does hap­pen if you re­ally up­set this per­son’ so we’ve taken that to an ex­treme…” Jones shows me two me­ters on the screen. One is the un­pleas­ant col­league’s emo­tional state and the other is your suc­cess at es­cap­ing the kitchen.

What hap­pens when the talk­a­tive col­league snaps? “You can get away but if you wind him up too much, he’ll go into full-on rage, dis­ap­pear out of the kitchen and back to the of­fice where you’ll have to see how many of your col­leagues still re­main liv­ing,” chuck­les Jones. “In this of­fice, bang­ing your head on your desk is the mode of pro­duc­tiv­ity. The fewer peo­ple left alive to bang their heads on the desk… the lower the pro­duc­tiv­ity and the lower your score.”

Crow­ley’s magic

There’s some­thing beau­ti­ful and wor­ry­ing about the sit­u­a­tion, but we man­age to grin, es­cape, and grab a quick sec­ond with the man who started it all, Nate Crow­ley. How does it feel to have his cre­ations made real? “It’s re­ally odd to have a whole ware­house full of peo­ple mak­ing your brain playable,” he smiles. “It’s like a fever dream but a nice one. There’s a lot of peo­ple talk­ing about how to make a cat on a space sta­tion more ir­ri­tat­ing, but it’s an hon­our re­ally.” It turns out that it’s an hon­our to wit­ness too.

Look, Are You Com­ing In Or Not? is a game about try­ing to look after a cat in a space sta­tion. Trick­ier than it sounds…

Crow­ley’s book came about after he tweeted he would cre­ate an imag­i­nary game for ev­ery Like.

Louise Blain

Cod­ing, de­sign, au­dio, and even pho­togram­me­try were all done in-house by Re­bel­lion’s devel­op­ers. The book’s au­thor Nate Crow­ley was roped in for some au­dio voice work too.

Work Kitchen Anec­dote Bas­tard: all the awk­ward­ness of a tea break but with more mur­der­ous psy­chopa­thy.

The team only had three days to build their cre­ations but had all the tools of Re­bel­lion at their dis­posal.

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