Hands-on: Biome

Biome - Sunrise Rain

Biome is a difficult game to pin down. If you imagined a free-form version of Wetrix that builds its rewards around a therapeutic click-and-see-what-happens next philosophy then you would be on the right track. That would also be one of the most pretentious things I have ever written, which is saying something.

Focused on a square of terrain the user clicks on patches of it and, as they do so, volcanoes will erupt, hills will grow and valleys will dip. Sometimes lakes will appear in areas and then rain will fall and flood everything.

Biome - Ice

It is a peaceful and beautifully simple game. There are no objectives save for seeing what might come of mucking around with the landscape and, as admitted by developer Tom Kail (winner of the Arcadian Rhythms award for most awesome hair ever), this isn’t really a game but more of a toy. Its abstractness reminds me a lot of Noby Noby Boy.

I am not going to write much more as the title is clearly in its early stages, though what we saw of it we liked and the urge to click one more time to see what would happen was compelling. Instead I will leave you with the interview we managed to record and transcribe talking about Biome, its future and what sort of games are awesome.

Biome - Meadow

 

This is AJ with Arcadian Rhythms. We’re here with a developer to talk about one of their games. If you’d like to introduce yourself and just say what you do?

Yep! So, I’m Tom and I’m the programmer and designer on a little game called Biome. Er, I say ‘game’, but it’s actually pretty closer to a toy. There are no objectives in the game, it’s really just about exploring and discovering this little box world and expanding on the scope [of it], and just discovering the things it can be.

Right! That completely kills my first question, which was: describe your game. So, how long have you been working on it?

We’ve been working maybe 3 months now, full time, and we’ve got another 5 or 6 months planned. We’re aiming for a sort of August release on iPad. We want it to be the sort of touch game that my mum can play, because there’s no real objectives or goals, it’s just something beautiful. You can stick on some headphones, tap the world and just explore it – just watching, like, a tundra move over to a forest with just a few clicks – it’s the sort of thing that people just seem to get really absorbed by.

Yeah. We [AJ and Potter] both did, actually. We played it earlier and really, really liked it. Watching things like lava appear out of nowhere and then rain would completely bury the entire world, and things like that. It’s a really cool little design and that’s why we wanted to do this quick interview, basically.

So, you say you’ve got more stuff planned? What sort of stuff do you have planned?

Oh, we’ve got all sorts planned! Um, I was about to say without giving too much away – but screw it, let’s give everything away! So, you probably notice at the moment the interaction is fairly random, like, what you click on doesn’t have much of [an effect]. It doesn’t do what you want it to do. What we really want is for the world to be shaped intuitively. The visuals and sounds are going to be procedural, but also the interaction. That’s a thing we’ve never seen in a game before: where your actions will change depending on what you’ve clicked; it’s totally context-sensitive. If you touch a fairly sort of sandy kind of world then it’s going to increase the amount of sand, it’s going to dry out and become a desert. Whereas, if you start touching the trees in a forest, it’s going to increase the amount of trees and you might end up with some wildlife that are attracted to those trees, coming into the world. And we want all of this to happen really, really quickly, and we’re going to play around with the in-game time as well. If you touch a tree, the world will advance by like a year and you’ll watch those trees grow, and the animals sort of migrate and move around. All this stuff’s going to happen just over a few seconds.

That sounds pretty damn awesome, to be quite honest. That’s really cool.

Moving slightly off of Biome – which is awesome – what other games have you noticed here? Because I saw you near the Hohokum booth, I think, earlier.

Oh my God! Yeah… I’ve actually still not had the chance to play it! I was just about to shoot off to get a go with it. I love beautiful looking games; that’s like a passion of mine. I should write a little blog called ‘Video Game Art Styles’ where I just collect really hot looking games. I’ve already got Cloudbuilt in there. That’s a really nice looking one.

Not that great to play, unfortunately.

Isn’t it?

Yeah, I tried it out earlier and wasn’t impressed. But it looks really nice.

It does! And, well, you’re attracted to the visuals – that’s something! But, yeah, Hohokum is one. I actually got 5 [minutes] in on some Titanfall just this morning and that was… actually awesome. I’ve not really got into first-person shooters so much since Call of Duty 4 and… they get it right. I understood the map really, really quickly, and I understood how to play the game. It felt good. And I’ve not been able to say that in a while, so I really enjoyed that.

Of course, all the games in the Leftfield Collection have been awesome, with absolutely nothing that I dislike. I love ‘different’ sort of games.

Did you try out Three Body Problem?

Oh, dude, that game! It’s so simple, as well! I remember playing games just like that on the web, but only with one thing to chase you. And it looks really nice; it’s pretty stylish. Yeah, it’s a great game!

What was your score on it?

I got 20. I spent a while on that one, but the highest score’s, like, 40…

Oh, has it gone up to 40 now? Goddamnit… I got 25.

Hey, that’s pretty good!

Well, yeah, I spent quite a bit of time on it as well.

Anyway, thanks a lot! I’ve really appreciated this interview and I hope everything goes to plan!

Thanks so much!