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Made In Australia: We Talk Bears In Space With Broadside Games

Broadside Games bares all about Bears in Space

The early 2000s and PS2 era produced one of gaming’s most loved first-person series in TimeSplitters, and since its final release in 2005, the series has suffered cancellations, studio closures and IP shelvings. What made TimeSplitters so popular was its perfect blend of fast-paced gameplay, goofy and humorous narrative and cartoony aesthetic. TimeSplitters 2 is considered the series’ magnum opus, and Broadside Games’ co-founder John Eyre would agree, having got the game’s artwork as a tattoo. The Brisbane-based studio will release its debut title Bears in Space on March 23 (Australian time), a game TimeSplitters fans will no doubt find plenty of similarities. We caught up with Eyre, the lead artist and designer on Bears in Space to chat about the game’s influences, development process and what the future holds.

WellPlayed: You’re making a game called Bears in Space – what’s the elevator pitch?              

John Eyre: Bears In Space is a cartoony and absurd FPS Bullet hell adventure. You play as Maxwell Atoms after he’s had his DNA merged with that of the She-Bear Beartana due to an accident aboard your spaceship. Now stranded deep inside unknown space, you must blast your way through hordes of enemies and find your way back to Earth.

WP: How long has Bears in Space been in development and how much has it changed since early production?

JE: We’ve hit the seven-ish year mark. We’ve been working on the game full-time for around two and a half years. Before that, we were making the game before/after our day jobs and on the weekends. The core ideas and pillars have remained the same over this long period of time, but everything else has changed and has been iterated on to get it to where it is now.

WP: There are some obvious influences, such as TimeSplitters. But what are some of the game’s gameplay influences and inspirations?

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JE: Really wide and varied. We lean into a lot of what we enjoyed playing over the years from retro to modern games. We also watch a lot of movies and that would always spark some goofy idea that we had to jam into the game.

Some of the more obscure references might be:

  • Monkey Island, our salesman wears a very similar outfit to Stan, we even have a Dial A Bot item that you use to progress later in the game.
  • Crash Bandicoot 4, when that game came out, the art blew my mind and was one of the bigger driving forces in moving away from a more muted tone.
  • Brutal Doom, the way the weapons feel and movement.
  • Jazzpunk, this game opened our eyes to how stupid we can get in a game when it first came out many years ago.
  • Army Men, there’s a pretty important change up in genre gameplay that takes place in the later levels of the game that was inspired by it.

But really, the list is massive, we take bits of everything we found funny, stupid, or awesome over the last seven years.

WP: Bears in Space is a game that seemingly doesn’t conform to all modern trends. What made you want to develop this type of game?

JE: We wanted to make a complete single-player experience. We play a lot of retro games and pay homage to the games we grew up with. That’s not to say that we ignore the lessons of modern games though.

WP: Are there specific elements that going from self-published to being published has allowed the team to do or expand on?

JE: The big one is it gave us the money needed to work full time and plug some gaps that we couldn’t do ourselves. We are a core team of three so there are some limitations, but 99% of what you see in game was from the three of us which we are super proud to say (even the VO was mostly us!).

WP: We have to ask, what weed did you smoke to come up with some of the weapon designs?

JE: Drug of choice is caffeine. Nothing like waking up early, having a hit of coffee and brainstorming.

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WP: The bullet hell portion of gameplay does a lot to elevate it above simply being a ‘shooter with a silly tone.’ Was this an early decision, or something that emerged through iteration?

JE: Yep, we were playing a lot of shmups early on in development and made the jump to incorporate it into the design of the game. Our approach is a little less Hell and more Heck as we wanted the player to die from a thousand paper cuts more than an instadeath of some of the more gruelling shmups (there are options to make the difficulty more extreme if that is what you are after). We wanted to place the fun factor first above everything.

WP: Does the game have any accessibility options at all?

JE: Some and we hope to be able to add more post-launch, but we are currently stretched a little thin (see the small team size). The projectiles have high contrast that should be easily seen in any environment. The colours of the robots sit at a higher luminance and saturation value over all the environments, so we are hoping that also helps.

We also have the ability to set things like our Platform Helper mode. This makes the platforming (double jump, dashing etc) easier to complete as we place platforms, bridges, jump pads across all the difficult areas. This setting is also great for kids who might love blasting bots but struggle a little with those elements. There are also sliders for difficulty, you can change incoming and outgoing damage values. You can make it as hard or as easy as you like. Finally, there is a Respawn mode that allows for you to instead of dying, just respawn in the arena and continue fighting without reloading and starting fights again.

Ultimately, we thought it really important to allow the player to play the game how they want.

WP: What is one thing you’re excited for players to experience in Bears in Space?

JE: All of it. But more specifically, one of our pillars was to keep the player guessing when it came to level design. There are some absurd twists and turns and gameplay change-ups that we are excited about to see people experience.

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WP: How long are you expecting an average playthrough of Bears in Space to be?

This is a tough to answer since the game is jam-packed with secrets and collectables. If you only crit path the game 12ish hours? If you enjoy exploring and taking in a bit of everything 15–20 hours. To 100% it in 20–25 hours? We know where all the secrets are so it’s hard to time it!

WP: Did you ever consider adding co-op or a multiplayer mode, or has the vision always been a single-player experience?

It would be great, especially split screen, but it was out of scope with our team of three. Maybe in the future on our next game!

WP: Is a console release on the cards at all?

JE: Will depend entirely on how well the PC launch goes… So tell all your friends about Bears In Space!

WP: Is the Bears in Space universe one you can see the studio working with in the future if the game is successful?

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JE: Yep, we have plans for a sequel and side games. The absurdity and style of humour lets us go as wide as we want.

WP: Thanks for chatting with us and good luck with the game’s launch.

Bears in Space will launch on March 23 on Steam and Epic Games Store.

Written By Zach Jackson

Despite a childhood playing survival horrors, point and clicks and beat ’em ups, these days Zach tries to convince people that Homefront: The Revolution is a good game while pining for a sequel to The Order: 1886 and a live-action Treasure Planet film. Carlton, Burnley FC & SJ Sharks fan. Get around him on Twitter @tightinthejorts

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