Bossa Studios is a name that people might not have been that familiar with this time last year, but then came Surgeon Simulator 2013. At this years Eurogamer Expo I caught up with Imre Jele, Creator-in-Chief and one of the Co-founders of the studio to ask how the last twelve months have been.
Geez that was a year ago?! Every year is just amazing, we were here with Monster Mind two years ago, last year was Merlin, and this year is Surgeon. The big shift for us was that we knew we wanted to make multiplayer and core games, and now we’re doing core games, we’re doing what we’re good at and we want to make games that are different and Surgeon is an example of that.
If you know your Bossa history then you’ll know that Surgeon Simulator 2013 was created by four guys from Bossa, Tom Jackson, Jack Good, Luke Williams and James Broadley during a 48 Hour Global Game Jam. Imre told me the feeling was that this “would never be made by any other publisher so we should totally make it”, but did they ever expect it to take off in the way that it has?
The professional answer is “yeah we knew, we always knew”, but the honest answer is we didn’t have a clue. No one sets out to make a bad game, you work your ass off and you really try your best, often against the odds. Sometimes you make it, sometimes you don’t. With Surgeon what helped was that in the business we hold a game jam every month, we take two business days out every month and get everyone involved, we also send out people to external game jams all the time, we support them because we know that real innovation doesn’t happen in the board room, it comes from grass roots, trying and failing and trying again.
With Surgeon we thought there was something special so we put it out there, we put a lot of effort into the community, but you must have a good game first, the two created a perfect storm with the big YouTube’rs ‘PewDiePie’ covering the game and then it exploded
The most humbling experience for us has been the user response, we have over a million different videos on YouTube, some with 7 million views. It’s just crazy, humbling, you think these people actually care, and that’s why you do the job.
Surgeon Simulator’s success has been backed by Bossa’s ever present and friendly community team, and their attitudes towards Social Media. I asked Imre how important this interaction is with their fan base.
There are two things here:
One they deserve it, they’ve paid for the game, and they deserve the chance to interact with us about it. And secondly even if they don’t buy the game, but they like it, then they are mates already as we like the same games, and I want to talk to those people.
I can make a game, but I’m not going to make it successful, the players are going to make it successful so anything and everything I can do to help them enjoy the game then that’s my job to do. It’s hugely rewarding, it’s also very functionally useful, but it’s rewarding as I don’t have a middle man, I don’t have a publisher, I’m talking to my audience, and if they ask me a question then I’m going to answer it.
Deep Dungeons of Doom has a 4.7 rating on the iTunes store, and if someone tweets me saying they’ve got stuck in X place, then the team gets on it straight away to look at it, they help us, and I think for a new generation of game developers this immediate connection is very important.
Ahhh Deep Dungeons of Doom (DDoD for short). This little gem from the studio snuck out earlier this year. It’s a retro style arcade dungeon crawler that has clearly gained quite a few fans despite having to share the spotlight with ‘Dr’ Nigel Burke and Bob.
We wanted to do something that was very retro, pixel art style, and we have some friends in Brazil called MiniBoss, and they showed us a prototype, so we put a team behind it. I grew up playing the old school types of games like Eye of the Beholder, Defenders of the Crown and the Dragonland series. I always like the arcade action titles like Ghosts and Goblins. It’s a proper old school style game, but we wanted it to fit the platform, you don’t want to be fiddling with buttons on your phone so we made it just attack and defend.
Surgeon becoming so big has overshadowed it slightly, but DDoD is out there, we’re still working on it, we’re very proud of it and we’re still getting it out there on new platforms.
In the three years since they were founded, Bossa has released titles on Facebook, PC, phones, and now they are looking at tablets. Imre showed me two things they are working on, first that they are looking at a way to bring Surgeon Simulator 2013 to the tablets, but then he also showed me their newest experiment ‘Time to Live’ which has been designed specifically for tablets. So what comes first in the great minds of Bossa? The games or the platform?
I personally want to make games you can access on all platforms, my dream is to make games that it doesn’t matter how you play, maybe not the same game, but you can always interact with the same universe. There is something about touch controls though, you’re not moving a mouse to interact, you’re moving the universe yourself and that’s really satisfying so tablet is a focus for us, and will continue to be a strong focus for us.
We had long discussions about what to do with Surgeon on the iPad, we had a moment where we thought let’s do something smaller, clever, it would still be a good game, but the more we thought about it we realised fans would disagree, they want the full surgeon experience. And that’s very difficult as it’s not designed for touch controls, the clumsiness of Surgeon is part of its charm, and if we develop something that’s super tactile, really smart, then that detracts from the experience so we are working on it, but we can’t and won’t release it until we’ve got it exactly right, I don’t want people massacring me on Twitter if we release something bad.
Time to Live is a multiplayer online game, you start with an empty arena with 6 players who each have 120 seconds to live. If you run out of time you die, every now and then things appear on the ground, as you step on them certain things happen, they slow you down, they deduct time, and they can add time. Every 20 seconds a screen pops up to pick a card, each card starts at the same amount but becomes cheaper the longer it’s on screen, but someone else might get it first, again some cards will help, some will damage others, and what you end up with is this crazy panic, it’s awesome.
The arena you start with eventually gets blocked off, and you end up with this tight corridor with people pushing and shoving each other, we’re also looking at different maps with environmental effects like jumping pads, and I’m also hopeful for user-generated maps which would be very cool.
It’s worth mentioning here that both these titles were still in very early development, but they show the wide range of ideas that the technology can help create. Another piece of technology that Imre, and everyone else at Bossa, is very excited about is Oculus Rift.
I was around for VR the first time, I still have a VFX-1 helmet, I could have bought a car with that money and it was really bad. I think computers have caught up now, and as a company we supported Oculus from day one of their Kickstarter, and with Razer Hydra, we also run a VR workshop, I think this is the future. There is a question of will this pick up, and for me movement controllers are fine, but when you play a well-made game on a good VR, especially the HD one, it’s just amazing, it’s really such a different experience.
Bossa Studios celebrated its third birthday a few weeks ago, they have achieved so much in a relatively short amount of time, so where does Imre see them progressing and growing. Are Triple A titles the end goal?
I had a conversation a few years ago with some people who wanted to make an action game, and I said if you’re not willing to put 10 Million on the table and then set it on fire – don’t even start. If you spend too much it becomes very risky, and I know that for us we are very cautious about how we grow. We have about 30 people in our team, and that’s great as it gives us the flexibility to work on multiple projects.
We’re lucky to have such a brilliant team behind us, the journey of Bossa so far has been amazing. We’ve made some awesome games, we’ve won a bunch of awards, and when you look at in perspective of where we’ve come in three years, it’s fantastic.
Surgeon Simulator is currently available on Steam and Deep Dungeons of Doom is available on iOS, Android, Kindle and Ouya.
And you can find lots of lovely information about Bossa Studios and the games they have made, by clicking right HERE
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Tim Bowers is the ex-Editor of Zero1Gaming, he also occasionally writes when he's able to string sentences together. He can usually be found waiting for Nintendo to remember about Samus Aran.