At Santa Monica Studio, creativity rules and it’s at the heart of everything we do. From our early Internal Studio beginnings (with Kinetica and God of War), to exploring genre bending games such as Journey and Hohokum (with the help of our External Development partners), our creative soul has defined us and has allowed us to consistently bring fresh, innovative experiences to the PlayStation platform. However, one does not step into these creative fires alone here at Santa Monica Studio. We are a tight-knit family and, where creativity is in our hearts, collaboration is truly where it all begins.
We recently held our second annual Game Jam within our Internal Studio, to bring together team members from all disciplines, in order to foster unique gameplay experiments and strengthen our bonds. Five teams were created and tasked with creating a gameplay project (psst you can play em, keep scrolling) in 72 hours under the following guidelines: incorporate the design theme of "SUPPORT", finish or abandon your project in 72 hours, use any tech at our studio's disposal, KEEP IT SIMPLE, and above all, have a crapload of fun. It is remarkable what a small group of talented people can accomplish in a short span of time when laser focused, and collaborating at full steam.
Every team had to begin their game jam design with paper prototyping: start with as simple an idea as possible, one mechanic, write down some rules on post-its (as few as possible), start playing. When it sucks, breaks, or stalls, then add, change or remove a rule. Repeat. Use dice, tokens, pawns, poker chips, playing cards, index cards, post its, markers, or whatever else could be foraged to design the game without code or art. Once the idea is locked in, then proceed to art and code production. Gameplay development really is that simple to begin with. An idea, rules, and paper.
Thus, we decided to share 4 of our fun gameplay experiments with you (and introduce you to the teams behind them). Full disclosure - each gameplay experiment will require a unique amount of effort to play, and we promise without a shadow of a doubt, you will hit some bugs!
To kick-off our Game Jam series, we proudly present one of the most unexpected gameplay experiments from our studio - Bumpkins! Also checkout: M'Urda Houseand Dendrites
It’s a HAZARDOUS HARVEST on the BUMPKIN FARM! Be the BULL or team up as the BUMPKINS in this fast-paced 1 vs 3 action game!
Connect (4) PlayStation Dualshock controllers (or any gamepads) via USB to your PC. You’ll need four gamepads to play the game.
Unzip the file and start the game by running Bumpkins.exe
At the instructions/lobby screen, every player must push button 2 (X button on a PS4 controller) to indicate they’re ready to play
When all players are ready, the game will start.
Players can move their characters around with the analogue stick (Left analog stick on a PS4 controller).
If you are the Bull you can activate your rush ability with button 1 (Square button on a PS4 controller).
Farmers will pick up vegetables by standing over them for a period of time.
The more valuable the vegetable, the slower it is to pick up.
The Bull can knock down the Farmers by running in to them.
Farmers can help pick up knocked down Farmers by standing over them for a period of time.
If the Farmers have all been knocked down The Bull will win.
If the Farmers collect enough vegetables they will win.
If Farmers do things together, such as picking up vegetables or picking up a knocked down farmer, they will do it MUCH faster.
However if the Farmers cluster together, they are risking being knocked down in one go by The Bull.
From left to right, Bumpkins was created by Santa Monica Studio Sr. Game Designer Jo Wright, Sr. Programmer Blair Halloway, Sr. Programmer Rupert Renard, Producer Ryan Mirales, Sr. Game Designer James Riding, and Producer Dustin Dobson. What inspired these zany minds to create dodgeball with farm animals, and will there be a Bumpkins 2?
TELL US A BRIEF HISTORY ON YOUR GAMING INDUSTRY EXPERIENCE AND WHAT EXACTLY YOU DO AT SANTA MONICA STUDIO?
Jo: I’ve been in the industry for >20 years now, as a designer. I’m now a technical designer here at SMS, working on our latest PS4 project. I work with designers and programmers on improving our tools and workflow. I love the problem-solving aspect of it, and also seeing how I can make my co-workers lives easier.
Blair: Let’s see: I worked in Australia for six years in various places on games nobody outside Australia has likely heard of (unless you’re an Aussie Rules fan!), and then somehow ended up here at Santa Monica Studio. I’m actually a multiplayer programmer by trade, and helped push Ascension out the door – but I’ve switched gears and now I’m working on AI tech for something on PlayStation 4.
Rupert: Before Sony Santa Monica I worked in Australia for about 6.5 years at 3 companies. At SSM I work on the engine/graphics team.
James:I started in the industry 2008 as a world builder on a small never released MMO. After that studio closed, I moved to another small studio working as a game designer on kid games. One of my favorites was a Pixar project called "Mater’s Tall Tales" which was a collection of mini games similar to Mario party. I then moved to Sony Santa Monica as a level designer in 2011.
Dustin: I am a producer at our studio, where my current focus is working with the level design group on a bigger PlayStation 4 game. Day-to-day I manage the level schedule, facilitate communication among the team, and help to remove anything blocking the designers from delivering anything less than their best work. I actually started in the industry as an artist, which is a role I returned to for the game jam.
Ryan: I started out in the Gaming Industry as a QA Tester and am currently the Gameplay & Systems Producer for the Internal SMS Team.
WHAT INSPIRATION LED TO THE IDEA FOR BUMPKINS? IT’S LIKE DODGEBALL ON A FARM...
James:We wanted to do something couch co-op, and easy for anyone to pick up and play. Simple ideas, limited mechanics. The idea of pulling up vegetables from out of the ground came from Mario 2. We decided we needed some opposition, and a human "Bad Guy" was easier than writing an AI. The idea for asymmetrical gameplay came from the game Evolve, we just stripped it down to basic elements and added uniform cooperation.
Blair: We talked a lot about class-based gameplay (I think Ryan is a huge DotA fan), and how we would balance that in such a short time. Which somehow led into us not balancing the game at all, but aiming to have unbalanced teams, and doing something with that to force the players into “supporting” one another.
Ryan: We went into our initial design meeting with the goal of making a Multiplayer game. I play a lot of LoL so I originally pitched the idea of a 4 on 4 game in which each player on a team played one of 4 roles (Shield, Magic, Arrow & Sword) and attempted to destroy the opposing team’s castle. Someone else brought up that they wanted to make it more asymmetrical, so we started brainstorming cool asymmetrical multiplayer gameplay. We then came up with the idea of 4 people working towards a goal while the 5th was trying to prevent them from reaching that goal. As we began to discuss the gameplay we decided it would be best if the controls were super simple (1-2 buttons) and it made sense for the 5th character to have a charge attack to try and catch the other 4 players. Charge let to Bull and then Bull led to farmers and then suddenly you have a game of dodgeball on a farm.
Jo: We went through a bunch of random ideas, and when we decided to do something multiplayer, I was pressing really hard for a game where you get the opportunity to fuck over your friends now and again. I love that duality in a game! Bomberman is one of my all-time favourites, and I think that was a bit of an inspiration. We definitely talked about the theme and cute factor of the game, and I think there was a conscious decision to make something that is not dark or hardcore, because its nice to do something completely opposite to your everyday work.
IF BUMPKINS WAS A FULLY REALIZED GAME – WHAT FEATURES WOULD YOU FOCUS ON?
Blair: If we extended it to be a split-screen or networked multiplayer game, we wouldn’t have to worry about keeping all the players on the screen, though, and make the playfield a lot bigger. I’m curious to see where the idea would go if the monster were forced to go hunting for the other players...
Ryan: I would make it so each of the 4 farmers had a unique ability so that the players have to synergize together better to succeed. This would make playing different farmers when you play multiple games in a row feel different and rewarding as well.
We wanted to do something couch co-op, and easy for anyone to pick up and play. Simple ideas, limited mechanics. The idea of pulling up vegetables from out of the ground came from Mario 2.
WHY ARE GAMEJAMS IMPORTANT TO OUR STUDIO CULTURE HERE AT SANTA MONICA STUDIO?
Dustin: The team is allowed to get out of the normal routine and do something different for a short time; try out a crazy idea, explore new tech, and in my case, dusting off an older skill set. Where big projects can take years to accomplish, turning a game jam game around in just a couple days helps everyone come back to work the next day re-energized. And lastly, it connects different people together that may not interact much in their professional roles.
Rupert: It’s almost like having a working vacation, you still show up to work Monday through Friday but you don’t do your normal tasks, you get to work on and learn things you wouldn’t normally. It’s surprisingly refreshing.
Jo: You get to make something very quickly! Having the chance to work with other team members strengthens our team as well as improving us as individuals, and similarly, playing a different role on the team from normal increases your knowledge and understanding of development and your teammates.
James: As a level designer I work on one level for weeks at a time. It takes months for a level to go from concept to playtests, it’s a marathon. Game jams allow me to explore the other aspects of game design I love. Also the fun part of making games is watching players enjoy them. Watching people play and have fun is a refreshing reminder why we do what we do.
IF A TEAM OF 5 CAN COME TOGETHER IN 2 DAYS TO CREATE A GAME SLICE, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THOSE ASPIRING TO BE GAME DEVELOPERS? WHAT DO GAMEJAMS ILLUSTRATE TO THOSE ASPIRING?
Dustin: There are so many great tools and resources available today, for free, that the barrier for entry is lower than ever before. All it takes is an idea, the willingness to dive in, and the drive to see it through.
Blair: Well, Unity’s pretty awesome. Seriously. None of us knew it, really, before we started on this game, and we were forced to pick it up really quickly. But you can. And that’s the really interesting thing – a few years ago I feel I would have had to write 10x more code just to get something on the screen before you could even start working on the gameplay itself. Now, you can just decide “today, I want to make a game”, go and download Unity or Unreal or what-have-you, and actually Be Doing Stuff really quickly!
Blair:And the difference between “professional” and “indie” game development is really small today, if it even exists – I’m pretty sure there’s an “Export to PS4” option in Unity, and it used to be getting your game running on a console at all was one of the hardest things to do. Now you just click and it’s done. If there is a difference, it comes down to who you want to work with, and what you want to do – do you want to work on a small team, and work on many things? Or, do you want to work with hundreds of people, and maybe specialize a bit more?
Rupert: Get something up and running that you can iterate on easily, that’s the key, quick iteration. You want to bring your coworkers in as often as possible to show what’s changed to see if it’s gotten better or worse, and take the appropriate forward steps from there.
James: Aspiring game designers should Make things, iterate and find the fun. Bumpkins is a simple idea we tuned and iterated on it, changed some rules and found it the fun. Game jams don’t do a ton of pre-production, or R&D. You have to get the game going, and then be flexible enough steer it in the right direction.
Jo: That team work is the most important thing. You can’t make anything in 3 days or 3 years if you can’t work well with others.
Ryan: Download Unity today, take an online beginner class and make it happen!
For the first time in our studio history we are permanently installing a piece of incredible fan art in our lobby, forever. This amazing LEGO craftsmanship from @steponabrick is among the highest quality caliber of fan creations we’ve ever seen. Thank you so much Marius Herrmann for visiting our studio all the way from Germany to bring the incredible magic of your work to us. We can’t stop staring, it’s gorgeous.
We've partnered with Gaming Heads to create these Kratos and Atreus Exclusive Mini Figures. The two-pack includes a 3.5-inch-tall Kratos figure and a 2.75-inch-tall Atreus figure -- perfectly sized to display virtually anywhere. With Kratos holding his Leviathan Axe and Atreus with his Talon Bow at the ready, these figures are surprisingly detailed. They've also made an exclusive Bronze version that looks straight out of Tyr's temple.