PAX East 2015 altered We Happy Few forever. That’s where Compulsion, a tiny studio operative out of an old gramophone factory in Montreal, debuted a eerie, drug-fueled pretension to widespread acclaim. We Happy Few was a unusual knowledge that plopped players inside a dystopian, 1960s English city called Wellington Wells, where adults were forced to cocktail pills in sequence to grin by a squalor. It betrothed procedural generation, presence mechanics and a despotic multitude with vigourously enforced rules. PAX players and critics hailed it for being stylish, unenlightened and big, like The Stepford Wives inside a BioShock-style world.
Problem was, We Happy Few wasn’t anything like BioShock.
“Talk about a existence check,” Compulsion owner Guillaume Provost says. “What a open and a press were revelation us they desired about a diversion wasn’t anything like a procedural, story-light, rogue-like presence diversion we were formulating during all. We were all vehement about building a story, a universe and a ubiquitous knowledge of finding that world, yet we knew full good from my time during [Dishonored studio] Arkane that those kind of practice compulsory a lot some-more income and a larger, maestro group to lift it off.”
This was a initial instance of fan feedback changing a unequivocally inlet of We Happy Few. Compulsion saw what resonated with players; Provost listened a fad over a game’s intensity account first-hand. So, a group pivoted. Compulsion ditched a prior approach, that would have resulted in an knowledge closer to Don’t Starve than BioShock, and it took We Happy Few to Kickstarter, earnest to strength out a story, mechanics and world. The debate asked for $250,000, and finished adult earning $334,754.
Plus, it held Microsoft’s attention. Compulsion sealed onto a ID@Xbox module and Provost finished adult showcasing We Happy Few on a Microsoft stage during E3 2016. It was a lifelong dream come true, he says.
“It’s a covenant to how most a diversion and group has grown that Compulsion now spends some-more income any singular month building We Happy Few than what a whole Kickstarter debate earned,” Provost says.
After E3, We Happy Few faced even some-more scrutiny, with intensity players clamoring for a immeasurable universe with a abounding story and low mechanics. They wanted — and approaching — a AAA-level diversion from an eccentric studio.
“It was a greeting of a fans that unequivocally gathering home how immeasurable a diversion could become,” Provost says. “It was also a bit daunting. Getting too most hype is a good problem to have, yet it can also backfire, and after examination a launch of No Man’s Sky that year, we delicately back-pedaled some of a hype and managed expectations with regards to a game.”
No Man’s Sky is a modern-day cautionary story for eccentric developers anticipating to make it big. After years of hype from Sony — including mixed showcases during E3, AAA-style collector’s editions, and a army on a late-night speak uncover circuit — No Man’s Sky came out and immediately unhappy many fans.
Sony and Hello Games sole a universe on a grand idea, yet for many players, No Man’s Sky simply didn’t perform a promises. Backlash was swift; players in a UK even alerted a Advertising Standards Authority and a diversion was investigated (and cleared) for selling fraud. The dirt is settling now, following a handful of game-changing updates, yet a doctrine for indie developers and vital publishers stays clear: Don’t guarantee anything we can’t indeed deliver.
Compulsion’s resolution was transparency. The group had already been pity weekly blog posts and videos updating fans on a game’s progress, yet they wanted to have a approach review with players. So, in Jul 2016, Provost and co. launched We Happy Few as an early-access diversion on Steam and Xbox One Games Preview. Fans went hands-on with a diversion and helped Compulsion fine-tune a mechanics.
Turns out, a lot of We Happy Few players simply wanted to ramble around a kitschy, terrifying city of Wellington Wells though worrying about survival, so Compulsion combined a violence-free BirdWatcher mode in March’s Maidenholm update. Fans were also preoccupied by Joy, a drug that keeps Wellington Wells’ adults in a incessant state of misinterpretation and forced happiness. So, Compulsion combined layers to a drug — with this week’s Life in Technicolour update, players are means to see a universe by 5 Joy-enabled veils: Normal, Crash, Joy, Overdose and Withdrawal.
“Finally, we’ve had a lot of feedback early on that a introduction to a diversion felt like a diversion apart, unequivocally opposite from a knowledge we get in a open-sandbox world,” Provost says. “We’ve taken that feedback unequivocally seriously, and accepted that a immeasurable infancy of a players wanted some-more of that experience, and reduction drifting erratic around perplexing to find equipment in containers.”
Plus, early players brought in some early cash. Pre-release editions of We Happy Few sole for $30 a pop, yet a finish diversion now runs $60 (anyone who purchased an early-access chronicle gets a full thing during no additional charge). Compulsion used some of that early income to sinecure dozens of additional gaming-industry veterans from companies including Sony, Square Enix, Ubisoft and Warner Bros. The growth group has grown from 7 people to about 40.
“Early entrance didn’t only assistance figure a altogether instruction and concentration of a game, it made a unequivocally fabric and makeup of a team,” Provost says. “It allows us to move a game’s story debate to a turn of sophistication and abyss that would have differently been out of reach.”
Which is where Gearbox comes in.
Provost and Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford have famous any other for a while, and they even talked about operative together when Compulsion was building a initial game, Contrast, for a launch of a PlayStation 4 in 2013. Pitchford is a former theatre magician, and Contrast‘s importance on noir-style sorcery held his eye, yet Gearbox didn’t have a edition height during a time.
Fast brazen to a days after E3 2016, where Provost introduced millions of video diversion fans to We Happy Few on a Microsoft stage. By this time, Gearbox Publishing existed, led by Steve Gibson.
“We had been actively courted by other publishers, and weren’t unequivocally actively looking for a edition partner,” he says. “The outrageous bearing a diversion had gotten by Microsoft’s press discussion meant we could expected penetrate it on a own, self-publish and grow a group and a plan organically by early access.”
But, Gibson was relentless. He flew a Compulsion organisation to Dallas, introduced them to a organisation and assured Provost We Happy Few would be in good hands during Gearbox.
This week, Gearbox Publishing and Compulsion suggested a final We Happy Few recover date — Apr 13th, 2018 — and a game’s cost increase, DLC sum and some final story notes. We Happy Few is no longer a story-light, Don’t Starve kind of experience; it’s blossomed into a nuanced, narrative-driven presence diversion with adequate drugs and scary dystopia to make BioShock blush.
There’s even a special Collector’s Set that runs $150 and includes a reproduction of a game’s Bobby mask, a light-up “You Look Smashing” sign, Joy alarm clock, vinyl soundtrack and other 1960s-themed treats. The Collector’s Set does not embody a game; Compulsion says that’s so early-access players can squeeze it separately.
Partnering with an determined label, jumping to a AAA pricing indication and announcing a $150 Collector’s Set: If Compulsion doesn’t wish to be a subsequent No Man’s Sky, it’s walking an infrequently identical path. However, Provost is assured he’s schooled from other eccentric developers’ mistakes — and, some-more importantly, he’s assured in a diversion that players helped create.
“With adequate appropriation cumulative to do right by a game, it feels like all a stars have finally lined adult for us to gleam on a universe stage,” Provost says. “If someone had likely this outcome 3 years ago, I’d have frowned skeptically, and told them to come behind to world Earth.”