If you played any of Bossa Games’ weird and wonderful games – the likes of I Am Bread and its spiritual successor I Am Fish, and the brilliant Surgeon Simulator series – you’ve probably thought to yourself: just how did this idea get off the ground?!
Being a studio that deals primarily with what many would classify as ‘indie’ games, Bossa is always looking for new ways to discover its next game. One such tactic that has proven invaluable for the studio is the growing practice of game jams. This creative practice set the stage for a new initiative for the company – Bossa Presents. More on this later.
“Game jams are very much in our blood,” says Henrique Olifiers, the studio’s co-founder. “We started jamming at the very beginnings of the studio, back in 2012 soon after we launched our first game, Monstermind. Just a year later, in 2013, the concept of regular jamming paid off, with Surgeon Simulator coming out of its prototype born at the Global game jam, where a couple of our teams took part.”
For those unfamiliar with the practice – the term has its origins in music and sees game developers come together to create game prototypes over a set period of time. Sometimes these are held like a competition – with a publishing deal for the best game at the end of it, other times they are more of a collaborative effort, with designers offering feedback on each other’s work. Some organised by Bossa Games have even involved external collaborators including voice actor Troy Baker and YouTuber Ashens.
“Game jams teach us that most ideas that are great on paper don’t pan out once they become playable,” says Olifiers. “It creates a sense of collaboration and ownership that permeates the entire development of a game once it gets picked up for production. You’re far more involved in the success of a game you helped conceive than a project that came from somewhere else, giving teams an edge, an incentive to make the best games they possibly can.”
Bossa has a good reason to believe in the process – every major game the studio has released originated from a game jam. “Surgeon Simulator, I Am Bread, Worlds Adrift, Hogwash, Surgeon Simulator 2 and most recently I Am Fish, all came from game jams,” Olifiers tells us.
The studio has now set up a special home for game prototypes called Bossa Presents. This area acts as a hub for prototypes, where players will be able to try out games and offer feedback.
“The games in the current jam are focused around exploring our new strategy as a studio, rather than our previous jams where a theme is used as a catalyst for the creative process,” explains head of production, Jeff Lindsey.
“Bossa Presents is essentially a testing platform of our game jam prototypes, a way for us to find out what game players are most excited about,” he continues. “Our goal is to find gameplay gems and reduce the chances we might end up working on something that doesn’t resonate with a community of players. The best way to do this is to get the games into players’ hands for real.”
So far the project looks to be incubating some brilliant titles. Room of Doom is a raucous party game set in a variety of increasingly dangerous deathtraps involving lasers, pools of acid, and tentacled creatures. This is sure to be a hit with fans of games like Fall Guys, Overcooked, and Gang Beasts.
Then there’s Project Meru, a fantasy adventure that transports players to a gorgeous world ravaged by an environmental catastrophe. This game will see players team up to survive its harsh yet beautiful world by gathering resources and crafting machines to assist your struggle for survival.
Darkseekers is a chilling first-person survival-horror game in the style of titles like P.T. and Resident Evil VII. The game plunges players into a Lovecraftian post-apocalypse where they can team up to uncover the terrifying truth that has befallen the world.
They Come At Night is a first-person shooter game where players must build and defend their own fortress in the fantastical land of Indar. This innovative game mixes elements of strategy, tower defence, and building to create a truly unique co-op experience.
Finally, we have The Few. This co-op survival game will see players traverse various biomes as they try to survive a barren and unforgiving landscape. Players will explore isometric levels as they scavenge for supplies, set up campers, and recruit survivors as they try to make it in a never-ending world of environmental puzzles and combat challenges.
The jam that produced these fascinating projects was conducted over two intense but rewarding weeks, with teams self-organising their development projects which were overseen by Bossa. Teams were assembled with five to eight members, with each taking on additional responsibilities alongside their core roles in the development process.
When the games go live, players can rate them on game design, theme, art style, innovation, and perhaps most importantly, fun. The prototypes are currently going through some last stages of polish before being released to the public, but the excitement among the Bossa team is palpable.
As for when we’ll see one of these prototypes materialise into a full-length title, there are many variables at play, and Bossa understandably won’t commit to a release window.
“It varies widely depending on the depth and breadth of the concept, how much it relies on content and what we feel is needed for launch,” Jeff Lindsey tells us. “The two leading concepts that emerged for Bossa Presents are both multiplayer cooperative experiences, and both make very creative use of an in-game day/end of day cycle, but very different in almost all other aspects. One is action-oriented with peaks and troughs in intensity, and one is a more evenly-paced progression that pushes your group dynamics and resourcefulness. In either case, I can definitely say that it will be more than a few months!”
For now, you can head over to the Bossa Presents section of the studio’s official website to get a first look at the candidates on offer. You can also join the Bossa Games Discord to have your voice heard on all the studio’s games.