I’m Josh: resident Brightrock robot, creative director of Galacticare, and primary author of these blog posts. Over the coming months, we’ll be diving into the features, characters, gameplay, world, and development of the game.
We’ll give you insights into what Galacticare is, why we made it this way, and how we’ve grown along the journey.
The post you are about to read focuses on the past, and what brought us here as a studio. We’re going to take a stroll through the last few years and talk about our road from War for the Overworld, to the inspirations for Galacticare, and squeeze in some updates from the studio.
For those of you unfamiliar with our history, I’d like to start by providing links to a few blog posts, videos, and interviews.
- Some of the biggest Dungeon Keeper fans assemble to create War for the Overworld (Eurogamer, November 2012)
- Update #1: 31 Hours & £21k (WFTO Kickstarter, December 2012)
- A Year in Retrospect (WFTO Blog, February 2014)
- State of the Game (WFTO Blog, April 2015)
- The story behind War for the Overworld's messy development (Eurogamer, July 2016)
- Rocky Road: How Good Communication Can Save a Bad Launch (Rezzed, 2017)
We’ve not provided much of an update from the studio since then - so let’s dig into the past few years and the road to Galacticare.
We first started talking about Galacticare (or “Project Star Wards”) in 2015, shortly after the initial release of War for the Overworld. Although we still had a long way to go in order to fully realise our ambitions for WFTO, we couldn’t stop ourselves from theorising about future projects in parallel.
A very common request from our fans during (and after) the development of WFTO was that we revisit other legendary Bullfrog and Lionhead titles. Theme Hospital was at the top of that list, both for us and the community.
However, we wanted to do more than create another spiritual successor (not that there’s anything wrong with that - we just wanted more of a challenge!), our desire was to push the boundaries of the management game genre and create something unique.
So, we had a hospital and a broad goal. What next?
Let’s consider the core building blocks of the hospital management experience: patients, diseases, and treatments. What better way is there to push the boundaries of these concepts than by setting the game in space? Aliens, exotic diseases, crazy treatment technologies?
However, an exciting setting alone isn’t going to push the genre forwards. For that, we needed to go deeper. What other elements did we want to add to the mix? What else did we want to look at for inspiration?
There were many answers to that question, and throughout our team’s discussions the overarching theme was that we wanted to create a much more cohesive experience than the genre typically provided.
As opposed to traditional management games, we didn’t want to create a series of independent, semi-sandbox levels with no interconnection. We wanted to create a longer adventure that you, the player, are actually a part of. We wanted you and your capabilities to grow as the game progressed. We wanted you to feel like you were inside a real (albeit ridiculous) universe.
This led to us exploring numerous gameplay systems and narrative features to build up the rich connective tissue which binds together the systems, content, and stories of Galacticare. We’ll be exploring plenty of these systems and features on this blog over the coming months!
Another key goal was that each level should feel like an episode of a comedic sci-fi anthology. We wanted everything to feel characterful - not just the doctors, patients and mission givers, but also the rooms and everything else, all the way down to the individual conditions that your patients are suffering from.
In order to achieve this, we needed to continue our strong use of voice talent that started in War for the Overworld. Every character and all dialogue in the game will be fully voiced. We’re happy to announce that we’ll have several returning cast members from WFTO, along with a few newcomers - the first of which is Ben Kearns. We can’t wait to reveal more of the cast!
We also wanted to evolve the gameplay side of things. We’re bringing a mix of god-game and RPG mechanics into the hospital management genre by giving the player an ever-growing arsenal of tools and unique hero characters. This is the area we’re most excited to talk about in this blog, so keep your eyes peeled for more updates.
Updates from the Studio
However, the future remained mostly on the backburner until we released patch 2.0 for WFTO in 2018, at which point we moved most of the team over to Galacticare. And then for a while, we stuck our heads down and worked in peace and quiet - until 2020, when the Coronavirus pandemic turned the world upside down.
We switched to remote working as soon as it hit the UK, thinking we’d only be home a few months. As we’ve all since learned, the universe had other plans.
Over the next few months we evolved and reinvented many of our practices and processes. We had to rethink how we reviewed each other's work - no longer could we simply walk across the office and peek over a shoulder. We were also able to change how we approached meetings, as it became more practical for team members to listen in whilst still being at their desk and working.
Although we already made extensive use of Slack, the video calling features weren’t able to keep up with our needs. We also spent some time with Google Meet and, eventually, moved over to Discord. The permanent voice channel structure was a huge hit within the team; it let us easily stay in contact with each other, demo our work using screenshare, and even communicate with our development partners.
Towards the end of the year we made the decision to go remote permanently, and decided to donate the remainder of the lease to our neighbours on the floor below us - the wonderful Clocktower Sanctuary (a frequent recipient of GamesAid funding) - as they needed additional space to maintain social distancing whilst continuing their vital work.
Going fully remote has given us the benefit of being able to freely recruit from further afield. As a result, several new faces (and one returning face) have joined the team!
Something we knew we wanted to do this time around was work with a publishing partner. While we enjoyed the experience of releasing WFTO solo… it was a lot of work, and publishing a game really does distract from its development. We spoke with quite a few publishers over the years, many of which we admired, but could never find a set of terms that we were comfortable with.
We had resigned to the fact that we wouldn’t be able to find a publisher that we’d be happy working with… until CULT reached out to us last year.
We immediately hit it off, they wanted the same things we did - to make cool things and have fun. Within a few months we’d signed a deal.
And with all that, we were at long last finally ready to announce the game! Which is exactly what we did a few months ago:
Eager to learn more about Galacticare? You’re in luck!
Today we’ve published not one, but two blog posts. The second is a deep dive into the gameplay, narrative, and visuals of some of the alien species in the game.
Want to help us improve Galacticare?
We're starting to ramp up testing and, just like we did with War for the Overworld, we'd love to get the community involved in giving us feedback on bugs, balancing, and everything else in order to help make our game as good as it can be.
Recently we've opened up very pre-early alpha builds to a small group of community testers, and we'd like to slowly grow this group over the coming months. If you'd like to get involved please head on over to our sign-up form.
Game development is hard. We’ve been lucky to do it in the company of an amazing team, both in the past and now, and seeing the project we’ve dreamed of take its final shape is incredibly fulfilling - but ultimately, the thing we most look forward to is getting our game in the hands of the players we’re making it for.
It’s been incredibly exciting to share bits of Galacticare with you over the past two months, and we’ve been amazed by the reception so far. We hope this has been an interesting insight into some of our goals for the project, its history, and where things are going from here.
Until next time Director,
- Brightrock Games
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