One of the most surprising video game announcements in recent memory – honest! – is Bloody Good Time, a new eight-player multiplayer game “regrouping ambitious teen actors ready to kill for fame” from Scottish The Ship developers Outerlight, who have suddenly made their return to the gaming headlines. Bloody Good Time, launching today on the 29th of October and available on XBLA and from Steam, has the ignoble distinction of only being the second Source title to be published by Ubisoft, the first being the classic Dark Messiah of Might and Magic.
As perhaps evident from the trailer above, the game pits eight hopeful first-time auditioners against each other in an audition to the death on three different movie sets. The game’s cast of characters is a who’s who of movie caricatures, ranging from a surfer dude to a mall goth. Players will get their chance to off the rest of the competing aspirants in four different game modes: Hunt, Elimination, Revenge and Deathmatch.
Perhaps more important than these gameplay details is the puzzling fact that Outerlight have not had a corporate presence whatsoever for a longer while now, and though The Ship thankfully remains available on Steam, the game’s website is long since cybersquatted. Up until the game’s announcement, both these signs had been leading us to believe the company had gone under quietly. As delighted as we were to hear the news of a new game coming out from the company, these earlier signs of turmoil are unfortunately not all smoke without fire.
Earlier this month, in a Big Download interview with Outerlight co-founder Chris Peck, it was revealed that the company had actually been working on a direct sequel to The Ship, with Ubisoft as the publisher, yet corporate violence influence redirected and refocused the game’s design as Ubisoft was found wanting to distance themselves from the studio’s earlier title. In addition to this fact, Peck explained,
Outerlight has all but been dissolved. The team and the office are gone, all that remains is myself working unpaid in the hope to recoup some royalties from the game. It’s been a pretty brutal period, losing the team being the hardest part, as they were the biggest asset for the company, and we shared a lot of good times together.1
Gosh, what a sinister, sinister backdrop for what can only be described a feelgood game.
In any case, the first thing of note in the above screenshots is of course the game’s uncanny resemblance to The Ship – the exaggerated shapes, cartoony figures, the use of pastel colour, the character archetypes… while Valve has now boldly implemented all of the aforementioned in Team Fortress 2, back in the olden days of Half-Life 1, The Ship’s look and feel was actually quite a fair bit original. Equally notable is the mere fact that while Source remains extremely popular among modders, not all that many developers choose to license Source for their purposes. All that said, though, it’s not too surprising to see a Goldsource team moving on to the fairly similar Source.
There is an intriguing meta-level element to the game’s setting, too, given how Valve has been slowly inching towards introducing more and more filmic elements in their games as well as support for movie-making and machinima, which actually makes you wonder what happened to their currently-unreleased Source engine movie editing software.
The quizzical implications of the movie sets-as-levels and gamers-as-actors in the game do serve to add more layers to the game’s façade - here’s to hoping the game will utilize these intriguing relationships to its advantage. In an interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Ubisoft’s Nouredine Abboud in fact addressed the question of actors:
RPS: Why actors?
Abboud: Because they are the victims of an evil movie-maker who asks them to play in slasher movies, but for real, and awards points to the most ruthless killers. You know, showbiz can be cruel! And also because we wanted a setting that gave us the possibility to have varied environments and possibilities for disguises.”2
Right. Guess it won’t be the kind of philosophical meditation of agency that it could have… luckily, at least the game’s PR team took advantage of the unique setting with this series of cheesy B-film poster ads:
The Ship’s spiritual sequel, Bloody Good Time, is available on Steam and XBLA, right now. Hopefully you can all brush the behind-the-scenes aside and focus on the matter at hand - that is, blasting each other to bits with exploding remote-controlled rats!