It did not take long between the announcement of Grow Home and its release. If Driftwood will be able to understand the gameplay, you may have videos of this curiosity. Meanwhile, here are the launch trailer, a Q&A and some screenshots.
Q. How would you classify the game in terms of genre? What will the players have to do?
Grow Home is a 2km high, vertical adventure where players will grow and climb a giant Star Plant starting from sea level until they reach a space ship in low orbit.
The game is based around a fully physics driven, procedurally-animated character called BUD (Botanical Utility Droid). You can indivualy control each of BUD’s hands to grab, pull, push and climb, with total freedom in how you explore your world.
The vertical journey takes players through a series of floating islands, each with unique features, plants and animals to discover. Each path is individually defined by the player as they grow their Star Plant towards the space ship, creating a unique vertical playground in the process.
BUD’s mission is to grow the Star Plant to maturity in order to harvest its seeds. Players will need to climb their way up the giant plant to reach and trigger growth from new shoots. From here it’s a wild ride hanging on and trying to coax it to grow where you want it to. Ultimately, you need it to reach new sources of energy to help it grow ever taller, eventually into space!
Q. Could you tell us a bit more about the art direction choices you made?
This is a very different game to any we’ve made before at Reflections – we feel that the character movement is very childlike, playful and naïve, so we needed an art direction to match. This led us to investigate simple, geometric shapes and bright colours. Another consideration was our tiny team size and tight schedule, so we needed a style that was very fast to work with. We were inspired by origami designs, paper cut-out and collage styles and especially the recent wave of ‘low poly’ digital illustrators whose work was a real inspiration.
We wanted to make a clear distinction between our mechanical character, BUD, and the organic alien world of plants and animals that he explores. We did that by making BUD out of square shapes, while the plants are all triangles. We knew that this geometric landscape of flat surfaces had to feel solid, and for that we would need some sophisticated lighting. Inspired by Pixar films like Wall-E, this mostly comes from bounced light along the edges, giving everything a real sense of its shape, even out of the sun or moonlight.
Q. BUD the robot is the main character of the game – could you say a bit more about him?
BUD is a very child-like robot, both in his appearance, his movements and even in his chirpy vocalisations. We always liked the concept of a somewhat naïve robot adapting to and exploring a strange world. BUD is doing these things, but he also has a job to do in this alien landscape. He’s a galactic gardener with the ability to climb on any surface. This comes in very handy when he has to scale a gigantic alien plant.
Q. What were your inspirations to create the Grow Home universe?
The Grow Home universe has a science fiction theme and was inspired by a lot of 70’s/80’s British TV. A lot of the Si-Fi around that period was incredibly creative on very tight budgets. This definitely mirrored our own development cycle. We were constantly looking for simple but effective ways to deliver story and humour. This lead to the creation of MOM (Mobile Omni Mind). MOM is an AI computer that is part of BUDs spacecraft. MOM has a direct line to BUD and communicates via text and images. This helped to deliver tutorials, narrative beats, and also add a little personality and humour to the quest.
Q. What would you like to be the emotion that people will keep in their mind after finishing Grow Home?
The game is a journey through emotional states and really keys into our innate fear of heights. In the beginning you are learning how to climb, each move slow and deliberate. Your confidence builds as you get better but you soon become aware of the ever increasing distance to the ground below you, leading to some heart stopping moments.
Confidence grows again and then most of the challenge comes from the risks you take as a player - those daring Hollywood-style jumps and cliffhanger moments. It might be safer to grow and climb everywhere, but once you have a glider or parachute to use if you fall then you’ll begin to push yourself to take bigger and bolder risks.
And if your not into risk taking, well…you can always create your own zany organic sculpture with the Star Plant, stand back and admire your handy work as the sun sets.
We hope people finish this game with a real sense of achievement, either in having conquered the heights of the Star Plant or from admiring their creation.
Q. Last year Ubisoft published two major games with small development teams, Child of Light and Valiant Hearts. You have clearly taken a different path with this game – can you explain the philosophy behind Grow Home and how it compares and different from these other titles?
The idea for the team really came about from wanting to challenge how we make games in Reflections. We’ve got a track record of developing massive AAA games and a strong technical heritage, but we’re also a lot more than that. We received the opportunity to experiment on a smaller scale, with some very challenging constraints and the mindset of creating actual product and not just blue sky research and development. The team itself is a mix of very experienced game developers and bright new graduates, each with a broad range of skills but the ethos to help out in whatever way we can.
Grow Home is a very different type of project to Child of Light and Valiant Hearts. While both of those are still small team developments by Ubisoft standards, we are tiny in comparison. Grow Home was created in 8 months by a team of 8 people – three programmers, a producer, artist, game designer, level designer and audio designer.