We recently had the chance to chat with COO and Producer for Compulsion Games, Sam Abbott about We Happy Few, which has just finished it’s Kickstarter Campaign, eventually reaching $334,754 CAD of their $250,000 goal. Compulsion Games most recent title was Contrast, which was released in 2013.
We Happy Few tells the tale of a plucky bunch of slightly terrible people trying to escape from a lifetime of cheerful delusion. Set in a drug-fuelled, retro-futuristic city in an alternative history 1964 England, you’ll have to blend in with its other citizens, who don’t take kindly to people who don’t abide by their not-so-normal rules.
With We Happy Few was successfully funded through Kickstarter, how happy are you to have had such a positive campaign?
Very happy! From a creator’s perspective, Kickstarter is scary. You build up for months to this one moment, and the first-day kind of decides whether you’ll succeed or fail. It’s a bit like initial reviews on release, and we are all very glad it’s done well.
You decided to set the game in 1964 England, is there any particular reason you opted for that particular era?
When we create games, we look for settings that allow us to explore things that interest us. Our art director, Whitney Clayton, wanted to make a game that included the retrofuturism, fashion and design influences of the 60s, but we didn’t want to end up blending in elements from the 50s or 70s. So, mid 1960s it was. And we liked 1964, as it set a nice parallel with 1984, and the whole retrofuturistic dystopia theme.
During the game, players take the control of Downers, with Wellies on the opposite side, can you give us a little insight into the two sets of characters?
The Wellies are your regular citizens of Wellington Wells – happy, law-abiding citizens, who dutifully take their Joy every day. Joy is the miracle drug that keeps you happy, although there is also the occasional psychotic episode and fairly comprehensive memory loss as side effects. Wellies do their best every day to stay happy – including chasing down and beating those who aren’t happy; the people who are off their Joy. These people they call Downers. You play as a Downer, and you’ll need to escape the happy throngs of murderous Wellies.
The world changes within We Happy Few following a death or game restart, how did you come up with the concept for this and what kind of changes can players expect to encounter when playing the game?
The tech/gameplay idea came first – we wanted to create procedural cities, because we hadn’t seen it done before, and it sounded like an interesting mechanic/challenge. The world changes completely – the terrain and roads all generate randomly, meaning that houses and other things of interest are placed in different locations. The loot available in each place varies, and the challenges you face to progress through the game will also change between playthroughs.
With players getting one life, what tips would you give players to help them survive within Wellington Wells?
Be careful! Wellington Wells has a bunch of very strange rules, so pay close attention to how people react to your actions.
During the game players have the ability to craft various items, do you have a particular favourite?
Oh, right now the psychedelic syringe is pretty funny. I don’t think anyone has really figured out how to use it properly yet, but they’ll like it once they do!
Every character within the game is so beautifully designed, how much fun was it creating the Downers, Wellies and NPC’s?
I’m speaking in Whitney’s and our character artist Tito’s voices here, but “very fun”. I personally love the criers – the terrifying old ladies who will scream bloody murder if they catch you doing something you shouldn’t. They’re hilarious and terrifying, doddering bundles of rage.
Taking the ‘Joy’ Pill has its glorious wonderful upsides while helping players blend in throughout the game, but there is also a downside to the pill, can you explain a little about the effects of taking one in-game?
Right now, coming down from a regular amount of Joy uses up a significant amount of your food and water reserves, and people become more and more aware of you when you’re in withdrawal. However, you can also take too much, in which case you’ll overdose, hallucinate, and wake up in an unfamiliar location 24 hours later. It’s not the best idea when your time in the game is limited!
Uncle Jack is an amazing character to have. Can you explain where the idea came from to have him appear through the TV’s in the game?
In our last two games, we have been very keen to incorporate some aspect of performance – in Contrast it was original songs, in this we wanted to blend media. Uncle Jack was created as a way of trying that out, but also had the advantage that we could create a lot of great content, freeing up our animators to work on gameplay and narrative animation.
The game has similarities to Fallout and Bioshock, are you happy with such comparisons and were they an inspiration when making the game?
They’re very humbling, that’s for sure. I’d be happy with the comparisons, but it’s a problem because we aren’t those games, nor is our team anywhere near the size of those teams. We don’t want people to buy the game thinking “I’m looking forward to this 40 hour linear narrative experience” and end up with a procedural game that really isn’t that linear
When can players expect to get their hands of We Happy Few?
We haven’t set a release date yet, but people will be able to continue contributing to our crowdfunding campaign, and can still get access to our pre-alpha. We’re setting that up right now, and should have some slacker backer functionality set up within the next few days. Otherwise, we’ll be looking at full release sometime in 2016, with Early Access potentially between now and then.
Huge thanks to Sam Abbott for taking the time to chat with us, below is the announcement trailer for We Happy Few.