I’m not one to drink the Kool-Aid of a game that is months or more away from even having a playable demo, but it’s hard to not take a sip of what it is Bossa Studios is brewing with Worlds Adrift. The folks that created Surgeon Simulator and I Am Bread have stepped out of the QWOP-like genre that they helped popularize to make something innovative and potentially game-changing within the MMORPG genre. I wrote about World’s Adrift for Indie Haven a while back detailing much of it’s early development. The short version is that this is an open-world airship building game that involves swinging around on grappling hooks with friends. I managed to get ahold of Henrique Olifers, co-founder of Bossa Studios, and asked him about development. He responded to me via email and cleared up my questions about development. One thing that wasn’t clear was the makeup of the current team working on Worlds Adrift. Sure development of this game was separate from that of I Am Bread, but having people working on two games at once seemed like a risky proposition. Olifers said that the current team working on Worlds Adrift game will be made up primarily of studio veterans that will be working solely on this project in order to ensure members don’t have competing priorities.The one exception will be Luke Williams because of his experience with the prototypes for both I Am Bread and Travellers, which is the game that eventually turned into Worlds Adrift. “We have a lot of talent at the studio, some of it skilled in traditional MMOs and other types of large-scale games,” Olifers said. “This gives us an edge when confronted with some hairy design and technical challenges, so we think best to get these out of the way now, right away, and then scale up the team when the problems are more production-centric rather than conceptual.” The other mystery that cropped up was Bossa Studios’ relationship with Improbable. I had trouble figuring out exactly what role Improbable would play in the development of Worlds Adrift and wanted to clear that up. Olifers could not be specific about what exactly Improbable would work on, but the one thing that’s clear is that Bossa Studios could not do this game without their help. Olifers first met some representatives at Improbable in early 2014 through a common friend. He came away impressed with the tech they were building, and their approach to solving the problems MMORPG’s have had for the past 10 years. “It dawned on us that we had a shelved playable prototype, codenamed Travellers, that we mothballed because we thought it beyond our capabilities,” Olifers said. “It was too complex, too big a game, that would require a large team to pull off; something that did not play well with the way we’ve built the studio. But if the Improbable platform was to become what was expected, this game would be perfect for it. We could do it with a team of the right size for us, and more: we could make it even better than we originally envisioned. So we kept on talking, discussing both platform and game, and at some point decided to partner to make it happen once the technology was mature enough. The result became Worlds Adrift, and our partnership is one that makes it possible from a game design, production and technological points of view.” Bossa Studios is taking a risk in working on an MMO at a time when they have such a low success rate and a fractured player base. Olifers was open about the challenges of entering into the MMORPG space right now. “There are many, many reasons why MMORPGs were and still are not the “in” thing to do,” Olifers said. “Most importantly is the fact they’re all the same, going after the same players, doing the same things, just dressed up differently. Massive games that diverged from this formula like Eve or World of Tanks are successful in part because they’re unique and address their niche. Second to that is the fact it’s difficult to solve many game design challenges in massive multiplayer due to technical limitations.” The innovation that makes Worlds Adrift worth the risk is the promise of making an MMORPG inside of a persistent multiplayer world where the environment is left in the players hands. Every crashed airship, pilfered resource and commandeered item will be the same for all players. The game even purports to eschew a leveling system and implement skill based game play. Bottom line is that Worlds Adrift is leaning toward more of a Grand Theft Auto or Assassin’s Creed style open world than World of WarCraft. The partnership with Improbable is what allows Bossa Studios to tackle a project like this one. “This is where the Improbable platform comes in, removing from the equation issues such as sharding, instancing, non-persistency, server load and so on,” Olifers said. “It enabled us to create a truly unique MMO that has none of the tropes of MMORPGs, thus putting Worlds Adrift in its unique space, thanks to its unique design features. Internally, we don’t even call Worlds an MMO, as we force ourselves to stay away from all the established solutions and features.” Traditional MMORPGs have been around for a long time, employing systems like leveling, choreographed events and scripted NPCs. I wondered if there was any risk in alienating the fanbase in making a game without all of these things. Olifers said that there would be a risk in not forgoing these things because there are a lot of companies doing traditional MMORPGs and a couple doing them very well. He went on to say that there was no need for Bossa Studios to walk into that space. “What I can tell you, with my player hat, is this: once you are in a massive online environment where you can shoot an arrow — a physical arrow — that can be dodged by good reflexes or deflected by another object; when you can swing at an enemy from the top of a tree and push him from the edge of a floating island into an abyss; when a flying ship comes crashing down into the ground with parts flying all over the place and hitting players, taking down trees, leaving salvage behind in its wake… there’s no turning back.” “When instead of a two-dimensional scripted character you have instead to deal with the unknowns of other players changing the world around them with every action of theirs, things move at a completely different pace. It feels freer, plays better, bigger, more dangerous, more unpredictable. It’s exciting precisely because it’s new” It sounds like the game isn’t targeted specifically toward traditional MMORPG players and if the game delivers on its promises on gameplay, than the audience will be a much broader one. The danger in innovation is that there may not be enough players ready to embrace a game like this. To mitigate that Bossa Studios adopted a more open approach to development. Open Development process has become a buzzword to mean that players have a more active role in the development of a game. It’s purpose is to build attract a loyal audience by allowing players some control over the development of a game. Olifers cleared up how the folks at Bossa Studios take in and implement player feedback. “What open means to us is validation, feedback, fresh ideas and nudges in right directions. A tangible example was our third or fourth video which covered harvesting and crafting. It wasn’t so because we place a lot of emphasis on these systems, but because we happened to be working on them during the week before the release of the video. It was poorly received compared to the previous ones: players thought we were making a survival game, that it was ‘Minecrafty’ and so on. It informed us that gathering and crafting should not be critical, that survival is not something that most our players will be particularly interested in — at least not if done like someone else has done before. Not that we planned for Worlds Adrift to be a survival game, but if during a design meeting someone ponders ‘should we make the players thirsty, should they need food now and then?’ the answer is ‘no, let’s focus our time on making ship-to-ship combat better’. We’ll still have gathering and crafting, but now it takes a complete new form from our first go at it. More about this soon, though, but we already know the new solution it’s way better. It was the right thing to do and it was the players who told us so.” While Worlds Adrift is a long way from finishing up, I asked about the pay model for this game. I wondered whether Bossa Studios may go with a monthly subscription or free-to-play as is the case with many MMORPG’s or maybe a one-off purchase. “We’re not finished on this front yet,” Olifers said. “What we can say for sure is that we’re closed to the possibility of allowing pay-to-win, anything that unsettles the balance of the game is off-limits. There are good free-to-play examples around on Hearthstone, DOTA2 etc. that avoids these problems, so we’re trying to come up with something new based on the concepts and rules we deem important for players’ experience in the game. I was intrigued by Worlds Adrift after learning a little bit more about it and the responses Olifers gave to my questions only piqued my interest further. Bossa Studios has a strong sense about what this game needs to be and how to implement it, the only real question is whether they can deliver on the promises they are making.