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Compulsion Team
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Posts posted by Naila

  1. Optional Survival?

    Two of the most overwhelming comments we received from Early Access players were: “I don’t like survival mechanics” and “I like survival games, but I don’t like getting distracted from exploring a strange world and its strange people and rules by being punished for not finding enough apples or getting enough sleep”. It turns out that we’d done a good enough job in world building that the types of people who wanted to play our game had rapidly expanded and we needed to provide choice to players.  

    This is in some ways a good thing, because we couldn’t have done much to change the setting, but we certainly could work on the survival mechanics. There was also legitimate balance feedback - the survival mechanic rates were very intense at the beginning, and we really didn’t teach you much about the world. So you’d have a ton of players who were excited about a story, but then stuck in a punishing survival game. So, the first thing we did was tone them down and up the narrative experience. We spent the next couple of updates tweaking the mechanics, and then added a mode (birdwatcher) that would remove the survival mechanics completely, to test whether that would work. It turns out, it did - Birdwatcher was probably the most well received feature that we built during Early Access. However, this was just a first attempt - it still did not feel right.  


    When you give up permadeath and make survival mechanics optional, then a ton of content and lore didn’t make a lot of sense any more (and not in a good way). If your game is thematically about a city that’s hard to survive in, then the mechanics should reflect this. The big question for us was: how do we create a system that allows people to feel safe enough to explore the world and its characters, not get bogged down in “meter management”, but still think food, water and sleep is important?

    Hybrid Survival

    After many many months of research, redesign and community feedback, we settled on a system that makes the survival elements affect how strong your character is, but won’t kill you. We have removed a meter that fills based on the “value” of the food or drink, and moved to a buff/debuff system. When fully fed, hydrated, and rested, the player receives buffs for stamina recovery and maximum, for example. When hunger, thirst and sleep deprivation are high, the player is penalized in the same way. In between those states you’ll operate about normally. This doesn't kill you outright, but it makes combat and running away more challenging when you’re debuffed, and gives you advantages when you need it. For those players who prefer to play without those penalties, the new easy mode allows you to remove the debuffs (meaning you’ll never be bothered by a red debuff icon). You can also customize which option you want, with custom difficulty settings. This feels like an approach that solves what we and you guys are looking for: a system that gives you control over what you’re doing, doesn’t interrupt story moments or exploration, has thematic importance, but still is an important part of gameplay.  

    The primary gameplay loops of: survey terrain -> control terrain -> loot terrain -> repeat remain, as does crafting. You do all the same things as in the early days, and it is still the majority of the gameplay. And, for the survival purists out there, the more traditional, survival aspects will be back in sandbox mode (which will be an update to the game post release).

    Community Feedback

    The survival mechanics have probably been the most discussed and iterated on systems in the game - and that’s entirely due to community feedback. PAX, Kickstarter, Early Access and Game Preview were all essential to help make this game what it is, because it gave us ongoing feedback during the growth of the game. What started as a survival simulator punctuated with story moments in the form of cutscenes has evolved into a hybrid actiony-adventure story and survival game, with narrative woven intricately throughout every part of the game. Creating a flexible system that appeals both to players who enjoyed the survival mechanics with those who didn’t, while keeping these thematically consistent, was one of the toughest challenges of the project, and we hope you enjoy it on 1.0.

    Thanks for tuning in!

    Compulsion Games   

  2. Hi everyone,  

    This week’s journal will be on the notorious topic of Survival mechanics! To understand the evolution of the survival mechanic, we’ll need to go back to the beginning, when we first started conceptualizing the game.  

    At the beginning of the project, we had a few specific ideas of what we wanted for our game. The first one was that we wanted the game to take place in a procedural city - people had created procedural games before, but very few in urban settings (most in forests, space, etc). . The second idea we wanted to look at was a dystopian society. However, we did not want it to be bleak - it had to be a fun and colorful one. So with these themes locked down, we started thinking about why and what would a player be doing in a procedural dystopian city, and what would this mean gameplay wise?  

    This led to the idea of urban survival. We chose survival mechanics for two reasons. First, thematically it was super interesting - survival should be easy in a city because in theory there is plenty of food, water and shelter to go around. What if there wasn’t? What if it wasn’t safe? Second, we needed some simple but well understood mechanics since we already had so much on our plate with the procedural city and the social stealth (conformity) - the beginning of a game project is a lot about understanding what challenges we should tackle and what we should choose not to iterate on (risk assessment). With all these ideas fitting into one another, the game started to take shape and we loved the idea of having to survive in a happy dystopian city.

    Hardcore Survival

    At the beginning stages, we designed the game as a hardcore rogue-like survival game, meant to be replayed a lot with short playthroughs. We didn’t want a tutorial, and permadeath was mandatory - no saving! We wanted our players to learn by dying and doing better in the next playthrough. That went well with the harshness of our fictional world. We had a story in the form of cutscenes, and the player had to survive until encountering each of them, and we were pretty excited at the prospect of intertwining story and roguelike survival.


    Between PAX East 2015 and Early Access, things were going pretty well. We were receiving positive feedback from our Kickstarter backers and making tweaks to the gameplay. One important piece of feedback that we implemented during this time was to remove permadeath - a mechanic that is fun when you have short games but can be extremely frustrating as your play sessions get longer and more involved. However, players were becoming more and more interested in the world and story we were building - and that meant their priorities about what they were doing in the game was changing. And then Early Access happened, and that feedback exploded.


  3. Our goal in going to PAX was to show what we’d been working on for the past year, and to start building a community. To do this, we gathered the emails of those who were interested in We Happy Few but did not have time to stop and play the game, and we gave keys away to people who successfully finished one of our two demo encounters. We also also had a key-giveaway drawing for people who signed up for our newsletter.

    What did the experience mean for us as devs? It meant introducing the game to thousands of players for the very first time, gathering emails, helping players who were stuck in the game or had a question, apologizing profusely for bugs, and doing interviews with the media in the back of the booth. PR-wise, we worked with a specialized company (Evolve) that reached out to the media to tell them we will be at the convention, they then gave us a schedule of all the media that were interested in playing the game (which, when fully booked, meant around 12 to 15 appointments per day -- and that is without counting the impromptu ones).


    At the end of day 3, the convention closes at 5, but that’s not the end of the day for developers -- it’s merely the halfway point. Once the conference started closing, it was time for us to deconstruct our booth, pack the van, and hopefully get on the road fast enough that we wouldn’t get home in the middle of the night with broken knees and hoarse voices.


    Overall, it was an amazing trip. We got some great feedback on what worked, and what didn’t. And we had a lot of fun, watching people try over and over again to beat the demo. This was also when the comparisons to Bioshock started. While very flattering, this worried us quite a bit back then. It’s definitely a good thing to be compared to something as high-quality as Bioshock, but it meant that we needed to make a few changes. We needed to make a better game than we were making at the time.

    PAX East 2016

    By PAX East 2016, we were successfully funded on Kickstarter, were picked up by Microsoft for their Xbox One Game Preview program, and we’d moved to a bigger office (still a leaky one) and our team had increased to 24 people. We were really grateful for both the players at PAX, and our pre-alpha backers on Kickstarter, for all the fantastic feedback. The game had improved immensely as a result.  

    For PAX East 2016 we had a bit more budget than before. Some of you might remember the bigger booth with the giant masks we had that year. We’d asked a creative agency to come up with a cool design and build something, and that’s what they came up with. The plan was that they would send and build the structure of the booth -- and the super thin walls (important detail) -- while we would bring the TVs, PCs, props and giant masks. We also bought mannequins and some authentic 60s furnitures from thrift shops, which was great until it started falling apart. One of the very old 60s TV caught on fire out of nowhere in the middle of the day! Some of the chairs were crumbling under us!  

    This time we’d planned to have 8 stations and a private room for the media. And by private we mean a room made of thin, paper-like walls. This was still quite an upgrade from hiding behind the banners at the previous PAX 15 booth. By then we were already on people’s radar, and we had a very close relationship with our backers. Between greeting players, assigning them a station, answering all their questions, giving swag away, socializing with players in line, and answering media interviews, every single person from the studio who came down was needed.  

    Packing for this PAX was excruciating. Between really heavy mannequins, cool-but-unreliable 60s furniture, and extremely fragile props, it took 10 people and 2 hours just to pack the van. Then when we got to US customs, they turned us back because we forgot a black container (back in the office), which was on our famous list of items you need to have to cross the border.  

    But instead of driving all the way back to Montreal, we stopped in the closest (and smallest) town to the border, bought a black storage/seat, kicked it around in the dirt and keyed it to make it looked used, then grabbed lunch (to make it seem like we went all the way back to Montreal) and tried again at the border. Of course, Customs decided to make us unpack our van, which had taken 2 hours to pack in the first place. After a few minutes of witnessing us slowly unloading things to the ground, they decided it was good enough for them. They probably didn’t want to spend 4 hours with us and must have realized we were harmless geeks.


    Once in Boston, we did the same dance of unloading the van and setting up the stations. Have you ever accidentally borrowed the strolly of a syndicated worker? Hell hath no fury.  

    This PAX was also a turning point for us, and to say that the booth was buzzing is a understatement. The line was at least 2 hours and went around the booth. We met so many fans, old and new, and were even surprised by some fantastic cosplayers!


    We haven’t officially been back to a convention since, except for E3 2016, where we didn’t have to set up since we were under the Microsoft booth -- which meant they had stations with our game already prepared, and all we had to prepare was ourselves and a demo version to show off to the media. Oh that sweet, sweet Microsoft carpet!  

    And that is the kind of preparation it takes to attend a convention and they are worth every bit of sweat and tears. Next time you will see us at a convention, the game will have launched and we hope to have a fun and weird booth, with really good carpet! (Looking at you Gearbox).  

    Thanks for tuning in!


  4. Hi everyone,  

    This week we will discuss all the preparations that go on behind attending a convention!

    As you know, we are a medium sized studio that makes video games. While crafting games is our main passion, it would be wasted if we didn’t put ourselves out there to show the games and meet players. Here’s what that’s like:

    PAX East 2015

    Early in 2015, we released the first concept art for We Happy Few, along with the very first 

    . This was the first glimpse anyone had of the game. We did not reveal what the game was about other than it involved drugs, masks, and memory loss. Along with the trailer, we also announced that we were going to attend PAX East and bring a demo with us.  

    To show the game just a month after having announced it was unusual for us. With Contrast, we took a year between announcing the game and showing it. But we always intended to show We Happy Few to the public early, and to have an open development. We knew that making a story-driven, first-person survival game in a procedural world was not going to be easy and that input from players was going to be crucial!  

    Bringing a demo to a convention requires working on a separate version of the main game -- a smaller, more controlled version we can customize. At the time, we were a studio of only 12 people, and the entire team focused on the demo. This doesn’t mean we took time away from working on the main game -- but it was an opportunity to improve our features and see how they were being received by the players.  

    Even a small booth can be a LOT of work! Once we’d chosen our location and booth size on the convention floor (in the Indie Megabooth), it was time to design our setup. There are more decisions to make than you’d think: How many stations (aka our own work PCs) do we want? PAX provides you two complimentary table for a 10x20 booth. With two tables, we could host 4 players, but then what about the media? We also had to think about costs: PAX has list of things you can rent for your booth for quite a hefty price, which means it is often better to just bring your own furniture; that is what most Indie studios do. We spent a while designing the floor plans to optimize the space to make everyone comfortable, while not blocking floor traffic and allowing passerbys to see the game. We also needed enough space for player lines, as well as a designated space for the media to play the game and do interviews. We will not tell you how many to Ikea and the hardware store this took -- let’s just say it is a good thing our studio is across the street from a Home Depot!  

    But, of course, it’s not enough just having a booth space -- it has to be appealing! Aesthetically, we did not have a fancy plan. We brought some props from an Uncle Jack shoot, made some banners, and brought some posters from Contrast (so players walking by would know we were the same devs.)  

    Oh, and going to PAX doesn’t just mean bringing PCs and furniture and setting up a booth -- it also means giving print shops a run for their money. Swag-wise, there are of course staples such as pins; they are easy, cost-efficient, and everyone loves them. (We decided to make bookmarks instead of fliers, because it’s easy to throw away a flyer but a bookmark can at least be useful.) Naturally this meant a lot of extra design work for the art team (Thanks, team!).


    Boston is about 6 hours from Montreal, and the best way to get there with all of this equipment was renting a van and driving. Since most of us only have a standard driver’s license, there was a limit to how big a van we could legally rent. We weren’t sure until the last box was shoved in the van if we’d be able to fit everything. The day of departure (2 days before the convention started) was a grueling Tetris-like process -- all the while knowing there was a strong possibility we’d have to unload and reload it all at the US border. To cross the U.S. border with so much material, you need what they call a “carnet” -- an official document listing every single item you are bringing with you. This means that if you decide to add a power plug our a mouse at the last minute and the US custom decides to check your now inaccurate list, they might not let you in! But once we’d crossed the border, we could finally relax, listen to our COO’s cheesy music, and practice our messaging for PAX. We were 7 people traveling, and we needed to all be on the same page about the messaging of the game, agreeing on what we could and could not share story-wise.

    The day before the convention starts is always really interesting. The convention center is in a frenzy. Indie devs go back and forth, bringing equipment on skateboards or whatever they can find from the loading docks, while the bigger companies all have cranes and heavy machinery building their stages and giant props. After finding our booth location, it was time to build it! Do you know how you can tell the big dogs from the smaller ones at conventions? The carpet at their booths! Companies like Microsoft and Sony have very thick, padded carpet while others will have a very thin one barely covering the concrete floor. This might seem like a small detail but after spending 3 days standing up on concrete, it makes a huge difference, and renting a proper padding underneath your carpet might be one of the most expensive items from the list of things PAX provides. It is not unusual for an indie dev to take a break and go enjoy a temporary moment of relief and bliss walking around the Microsoft or Sony booth. In our case, we ripped off our thin carpet and put some foam tiles underneath! (It helped, kind of.) Setting up the booth took a full day: we set up the stations, built the furniture, hid all the wires, set up the decorations, ran to a store because we forgot something (a couple of times), and -- oh, right -- had to make sure the game worked. And then the convention started.


  5. Sam  


    Hi everyone  

    Happy Joy day everyone! We hope you are all out there being responsible Wellies. I know many of you are looking forward to a release date announcement for We Happy Few. We are almost ready for that. However, as you may have noticed, last week we passed the original launch date of the game (April 13). So, after updating you on our launch schedule changes and the reasons why in January, I wanted to take a break from the retrospectives to give you a follow up on how production is doing.

    Where we are in the process  

    The team has been working very hard over the last few weeks, as we begin bug fixing and proper “beta” user testing. The last two weeks have been focused on two important aspects:

    • Playtesting the full game.  
    • Preparing “pre certification” builds for PS4 and Microsoft. 

    On the content and usability side, on Monday Gearbox began a two week playtest for playing through the full game. To get this build ready, we had to make sure that the content was finished (no placeholder content) and no “progression blocker” bugs were present in the game. We finished that up last Friday, and so far so good: no blockers have been encountered, and it looks like players are completing Arthur without too much difficulty! We have been receiving helpful comments on balance, onboarding and how people are using mechanics like combat, stealth and conformity. We also took a day off development to play the game (the whole team), and we have received a ton of great feedback from our team: animators, artists, designers, programmers, we all play differently and it’s important to see things from different perspectives. The next step for us is to review all of the feedback, to then decide what we can realistically achieve before shipping (and what we can’t).

    On the technical side, we have been preparing builds for a first round of testing from Microsoft and Sony, to help us prepare for final submission on consoles. It’s the first time these guys have seen the game, so they need to check a range of basic things: for example, does the game use too much memory (and crash), does it display properly on all TVs, does it copy correctly from the Blu Ray, etc. In order to do this we have done a significant amount of optimization work, from art asset optimization to code performance and memory tweaks, and we’re excited to say that the game is now running well on both platforms. It’s even running better on PC, so stay tuned in the coming weeks for updated (and final) PC specs.

    In the meantime, the rest of the team has been fixing hundreds of bugs, ranging from conditional progression blockers (eg if I spin around in circles 3 times, and lockpick the wrong chest, I’ll break the game) to minor art bugs (eg a chest is floating 10cm off the ground). In this phase, we prioritize inside each discipline, focusing on the serious and gamebreaking bugs first, then on bugs that cause player frustration, and finally on to cosmetic or otherwise less important bugs. Occasionally we create more - eg when fixing a bug or implementing changes required by optimization or player feedback - but by and large the bug database is reducing at a steady rate. That’s a good sign for release.

    Next Steps

    The next few weeks are a bit touch and go - the window for addressing feedback and fixing bugs is closing, so we spend a great deal of time prioritizing over and over again to make sure we’re addressing the right feedback. However, we are looking to be in good shape.  

    The next steps on the production side are getting ready for console submission, so it’s the QA team’s time to shine. We’ll be bringing them lots of coffee over the next few weeks.  

    I want to thank everyone for all of your comments, feedback, bug reports and (constructive!) criticism over the years. It’s been a huge process for us growing this game, and we’re proud to have had you guys with us all along the way. It’s (almost) time to get hyped.

    Thanks for tuning in!

  6. To start, we completely reworked the quest and save systems (things that you don’t see in a playthrough, but which affect the stability of your game). This system changes quest tracking from a pure scripting-based system to a code based system, where the game knows at all times exactly where you are in any given quest. This made it much simpler for us to create encounters, because the systems and tools didn’t need to be recreated for each quest, and also much more reliable (because it wasn’t possible to introduce nearly as many scripting errors). We no longer needed to have complicated scripts tracking save/quest/item situations, and instead could focus more on gameplay and making cool things. While you guys couldn’t see any of it, this was a huge change that allowed us to create bigger, better, more complicated, and better realized encounters.  

    We also added a “puppet” system, which meant NPCs could have highly scripted behaviour, instead of their normal systemic behaviour. The puppet system allowed us to remove their systemic brains and give them specific actions to do, rather than having the two systems fight (which led to all manner of crazy shit). So, NPCs could now do normal game things, like patrol an area, rather than just wander off and do whatever the hell they wanted.  

    Finally, we introduced “conversation mode”, to address the visibility issue. Upon finding a new quest, conversation mode would now trigger, which means the player would enter a “cutscene” with the NPC in question. This led to a clearer understanding of the encounter as they would no longer just pop up on screen when passing near them (a pop up you would likely ignore). The system also allowed us to better match animation to the VO, and quest givers couldn’t be interrupted by other NPCs, or you, or even themselves. Aka, the game didn’t lose the plot as much anymore, and it was a much more cinematic.  

    These new systems required us to refactor all our old quests, but we did find time to add a couple of new ones. Throughout the rest of Early Access, these systems allowed us to build newer, bigger and better encounters, and really build out the weird and wonderful parts of our world. We could easily create little points of interest with the puppet show, we could create multi step quest chains with the quest state system, and tell a far better story with our (already delightful) VO and animation.



    Today, the game contains the encounters you have seen, plus the story of our three characters (both the main story and new sidequests). We’re almost ready to talk about it - that’s coming very soon now. Hopefully you’ll enjoy what we have to say.

    Thanks for tuning in!

    Compulsion Games

  7. Hi everyone,  

    This week we will talk about the evolution of the encounters and questing in We Happy Few!  

    We Happy Few began as a high difficulty roguelike survival game set in a urban city, with a story that could be found through small encounters. Like in Don’t Starve, if you die, it was game over. Every playthrough would teach the player something new to get further, and the game was meant to be replayed a lot, and so we planned to have a large number of small, systemic “encounters” that would teach the player about the world.  

    However, over time, we realised that players were more and more interested in the storytelling and lore of the world, so the encounters had to change into something more ambitious - something that much more resembles quests that you all know and love. This journal tells that story.  

    PAX 2015  

    The first version of the game, that had anything resembling encounters, was the PAX 2015 demo. We created the first two encounters for the community to try and find, which if they completed would grant them a key to the game. These were the Odds and Ends shop and the Butcher shop. All the players had to do was to find keys to open locked doors, but they had to navigate a series of environmental challenges to do so. At the time, we thought these would be the largest type of encounter in the game - a single, normal sized, house.


    However, this was really it. It was a sandbox demo, so other than surviving in a small procedural version of the Village, the player had no purpose, and there was no goal to the game yet.


    Our Kickstarter in mid 2015 gave some backers direct access to the pre-alpha right after the campaign, so it was important that we gave them something to do. For this version, the game finally had a purpose: escape Wellington Wells. The player would start in a shelter and wake up to a prompt informing him that he was a Downer and had to survive long enough find the hatch and escape the city. While this was just a pop up - a single message that said “get out” - this was the first glimpse of a quest system.  

    As discussed in previous journals [LINK], at this point the game still heavily revolved around a roguelike/survival experience. The exit hatch was located in the Parade District guarded by two Bobbies, and the player had to traverse the Garden District and the Village to get there. Along the way he could find the two encounters from PAX as well as some “points of interest”; smaller encounters that showcased unique situations in the world - think of something like encountering a space station in FTL, although in our world this might be a mad hatter’s tea party. This would give the player some items to help him survive longer, and a small bit of lore. Bridge encounters were also making their debut, to give players new challenges when crossing islands.  

    Apart from the initial prompt upon waking up, there was no other prompt or text. There was also no saves, so quitting the game or dying would restart the entire playthrough.


    Early Access  

    The Kickstarter feedback was pretty overwhelming - people gave a lot of feedback on survival, but also wanted to know more and more about why the world was the way it was. We realised quickly that we would need to up our encounter game. So, the Early Access launch in July 2016 saw a big change to encounters, as it contained the first encounters that could properly be called “quests”.  

    To begin, we started with Arthur’s real intro - we did this to help introduce players to the world, because Kickstarter feedback was “I don’t really know what I’m doing”. So, we added the intro, and then upon leaving the shelter, we added a new and fancy prompt indicating the player’s goals, which would then get tracked in their Quest screen. The Early Access “story” ended when Arthur made it to the hatch that would lead him to the Parade District - a temporary ending until the real one comes along.


    Once you were in the world, the encounters were much more fleshed out: they all had a developed background story, larger and unique locations,and full on dialogue with truly unique NPCs, all animated. We added a compass, dig spots and dozen of points of interests. We had enough quests to rotate some of them from one playthrough to another, which mean you might not have always gotten the same encounters two playthroughs in a row! We were confident that the game’s story and world was beginning to become what people wanted.


    However, we hit a snag: a great deal of feedback from the early access launch came in the form of “I don’t get it, where is the story?” While some of that related to the main story not being present, we also realized that many players weren’t finding our encounters. A prompt would appear indicating a quest had been added to your journal but it wasn’t always very clear where it came from, and most players would just walk on by. For example, Eric “Crazy Legs” Liddel would just run away from the player, meaning Arthur would just talk to himself for a while if the player wasn’t paying attention. If you didn’t spot Eric, none of that would make any sense at all.  

    The game was becoming much bigger, the player was now able to save and we introduced the second wind option, moving slowly away from the roguelike gameplay we originally envisioned. So, we realised that we had to go back to the drawing board.

    The Clockwork Update  

    The Clockwork update was a BIG one, that introduced a number of technical systems that improved the game on many levels (hence the name!). Due to the complexity of the game increasing, and the early access launch feedback, we had two goals: increase the reliability of our game systems, and increase the visibility of our quests.  

  8. We received a lot of feedback about how these things impacted the world, and worked very hard on expanding this for Early Access. There were two major improvements for the Early Access build: we added Arthur’s intro (the first and only bit of real story in the game), and added more interesting encounters. Arthur’s intro was huge as it gave a lot more context and information about Arthur and Wellington Wells. Redactor articles and Rat pinata aside, Arthur can venture in the offices next to him and find all kind of information about his colleagues, showable in a consistent journal format.  

    About a dozen encounters/quests have been added to this version, which means more singular NPCs. For example, Johnny Bolton has a penchant for spy movies/novels as made obvious by his “top secret” lair but also by the drawings inside it of different spy techniques.


    These encounters showcased the world and the depth of the lore, but we realised very quickly that we weren’t doing enough to draw your attention to them - many players thought there was no story in game, and that was because you could entirely skip over that side quest content (something we would fix and improve as part of the Clockwork Update).  

    The mailboxes in the Village now also contained letters written by the Wellies. From fan letters to Uncle Jack to conversations between two Wellies, they are great insight into a Wellie’s mind and what they are going through.


    In addition, Arthur now has much more of a voice and can speak to the Wellies and Wastrels! He mostly mumbles to himself about the world around him, sometimes wondering about the past, or as a way to warn the player about his survival status, or to point out some gameplay elements such as the fog rising up. We increased the amount of barks NPCs have. Not only will they give feedback to the player about their conformity but they will also mutter to themselves about all kinds of things - many of which are purely about atmosphere and narrative. The Wastrels will mumble mostly about the past and their guilt or how they are starving while the Wellies will remain cheerful about their day.  

    We also added phone booths in the Garden district. They do not distribute Joy but they are a great place to add posters. Some of them even contain phone messages the player can listen to.


    The updates during 2016 expanded on these processes - adding more and more lore, more environmental storytelling, more barks, and more unique situations. However, we also improved what we call “realization” of many side quests. With the Clockwork Update we added several systems that helped us improve encounters - most specifically the “Conversation Mode”, which brings black bars down and allows us to tell a better story inside an encounter. The NPCs have better voice acting, more atmospheric settings, and animation chains that give life to the character. We created a better map that showcased where all of these moments were. All of these efforts seem small, but the Clockwork Update was the first update where people realised “oh there actually is a narrative here!” This was a big step for us, and informed all of our internal story development as well.  

    During 2017, we mostly increased significantly the amount of content available in the game. We were able to add more interesting characters, that had relationships to each other, without spoiling the main story. We are very proud of that, even if we had to redact a few important pieces of information in the process.



    Nothing in We Happy Few is one dimensional. Everything is layered or contrasted, from the architecture to the signs and the characters. If you look at the environment, the old is mixed with the new, the line between what is real and what is fictional is blurred, after all, one of our main themes is the fallibility of memory and denial. You might see a poster representing something but later find a newspaper clip that contradicts it completely. Our game is a satire full of humor, irony and over exaggerations but we wanted our characters to feel like real people with their own stories which is why we have over 200 notes to pick up and 20,000 lines of dialogue.  

    Our latest word count is north of 200,000 words, making Wellington Wells phenomenally rich in history and interesting people, and we hope that you enjoy exploring it!

    Thanks for tuning in!

    Compulsion Games

  9. Hi everyone,  

    This week we will touch on the evolution of environmental storytelling throughout the development of We Happy Few! Don’t worry, this won’t spoil the main story before the release of the full game, but instead will focus on the many ways there are to tell a story outside of cutscenes and the central story, and how our writers extraordinaire, Alex Epstein and Lisa Hunter, approached it as the game grew bigger.  

    Since our game is procedural, environmental storytelling is key for submerging the player into our vibrant world. It was particularly important during Early Access, because we didn’t want to spoil any of the central story but wanted to introduce the world and its eccentricities. Before we start, let’s define story and narrative: story is what happens to the main characters, narrative is everything that makes you care about the world and its people.  

    For those of you joining us now, We Happy Few takes place in 1964, in the fictitious city of Wellington Wells, England. In our alternate history, the citizen of Wellington Wells are hooked on a happy drug called Joy, in order to forget a traumatizing event that happened in the past. Living in blissful denial, the Wellies do not take kindly to anyone not taking their Joy, as they view them as a threat to their happiness. We Happy Few is the tale of three people who no longer want to partake in this make believe society.

    Inspirations and challenges  

    British culture has been an inspiration not only artistically, but also in the writing of We Happy Few. There is a parallel between the way our narrative is written and how many famous pieces of British literature are structured. Much like in a Dickens novel or Shakespeare play where a huge cast of characters are all interrelated in non apparent ways at first, but all become connected at the end.  

    One of the ways the game grew with each milestone (Kickstarter, Early Access etc.), was the addition of quests (or as we have called them in the past, encounters). More quests meant more characters, therefore more lore to expand on and more depth to create - a tree whose branches just keep on growing and intertwining. However, we can only do so much with dialogue - only through environmental storytelling such as notes, poems, newspapers, song lyrics, snippets of conversations, posters and graffitis can we truly communicate to the player the depth of our world. A world is much more believable if you can uncover the relationships, hopes, insecurities, dreams or grudges of its individuals. A quest feels less like a quest when the player’s emotions are involved.  

    One of the challenges our writers faced was Early Access. We Happy Few was always going to have a core story, and we wanted to try a new approach, creating a survival story based game in a procedural world. However, we felt that that new approach required massive input from the community, hence why we went on Kickstarter and Early Access. But, we couldn’t add any story to our Early Access, as it wouldn’t make any sense to spoil our main story before the final release. Everything is intertwined in We Happy Few and adding lore to the world without saying too much about the main story was a struggle.  

    Another challenge our writers face is the conciliation of gameplay and narrative. Some gameplay design decisions might not fit at first with the world we are creating, but this doesn’t discourage our writers. There is a rule in improvisation that is called the “Yes, and.” rule. This means that when presented with a new idea or concept, you never say no to it, you say “Yes, and.” If our design director wants a box in the middle of a district that spawns random items, at first this might not make sense to the narrative department. Why would it spawn random items? The writers will not shut down the idea, they will expand on the idea and create a reason for it to exist in our world. As in game, gameplay comes first.

    Chronological progression  

    During the early stages of the game’s development, we did not focus heavily on narrative. Our focus at the time was about creating the story, the characters, and the world lore in general. Not much can be taken away from our world other than it is taking place in a quaint and odd English town with strange folks, a little reminiscent of Hot Fuzz and The Prisoner.


    We also weren’t sure yet what we would need to do on this front - as you will see, feedback and enthusiasm from players made us expand our plans on this front . 

    PAX East 2015 contained the first environmental narrative in the game - a couple of small encounters that contained no dialogue, no written material, but a story told through props and staging. One of these was the first version of the “Odds n Ends” shop, which was locked up, alarm sounding, and no way in - unless you found the secret passage out the back. Inside you found a dark building, discoverable with a torch, and dead bodies strewn around the floor. A story that you could discover through lighting, layout and props alone.


    It turns out, players found these parts of the world the most interesting part of what we were building. This was the first indication we had that we would have to expand the story we were telling, and focus more heavily on these moments (and less heavily on a systemic world). So, in the first playable Kickstarter build, Arthur starts with someone else in the shelter, Mrs. Stokes! Mrs. Stokes unfortunately did not stay for many versions but at the time, but the player could find a piece of her diary next to her where she would describe her breakdown as she was slowly getting off her Joy. This is the very first note we added to the game, which we expanded significantly after this point. It had voice over acting at the time, from Arthur’s voice actor, but we opted not to do that in favour of a journal based system.  

    It was also the first implementation of Uncle Jack through the radio and on televisions, which was a huge step forward in setting the tone and the rules of Wellington Wells.

    NPCs then also had some barks (voice lines they “bark” at you while you’re walking around), mostly for gameplay reasons to give feedback to the player about their conformity status. However, we made sure these were themed appropriately to enhance the feeling of a living, complete world.  

    This was also the first implementation of the newspaper. Mostly good news! The Garden District also makes its first appearance with its war torn houses and strange graffitis. The Village now has billboards showcasing Uncle Jack and other propaganda posters highlighting a victorious past or a bright future ahead.


  10. A Familiar Look  

    Once we figured out the metrics, and felt confident that the spaces and concept would work, we could begin work on the first “real” houses! This is the first step from pre-production into production, as we focused on creating a build for PAX.


    We built filler houses, interactive houses, and “shops” for the show. You can see on the left an example of each. On the left is the filler house - houses designed to blend into the background, and not draw your attention. In the middle is the interactive house - lights around the doors to indicate there is something worthwhile inside. On the right is a shop - the first “encounters” in the game, which were designed to be special. During PAX we only had two: the Butcher and the Odds & Ends shop, which both had a small challenge to get inside and unlock a reward. If you found the reward, we gave you a key to We Happy Few, to help us test as we went forward.  

    Once we finished PAX, we realised that a lot of people were excited about what we were doing. We realised we needed to improve the quality of what we were building, as well as the scope, and our next step was Kickstarter. One of the tiers gave people access to the in-development branches, the first of which looked like this:


    On the left is a Village house, very similar to the one in the picture above. However, it looks very different because the lighting in the game dramatically affects the appearance of the 3D art. The Kickstarter build had a very sickly green feel, that we thought was an okay start but wasn’t really what we wanted.  

    On the middle and right are the exterior and interior of the first Garden District houses! We had realised that we needed a larger environment diversity, so rather than have dilapidated houses in the Village (which had been the initial plan), we created a new biome - an area full of this stuff. You can see that the inspirations are fairly similar, but are abandoned/destroyed as a result of WW2 and neglect. The art of this area was intended to evoke the loss of tradition and history.  

    Early Access  

    After Kickstarter, we realised that we would need a significant amount of investment and testing to create the game we wanted, so we chose to go onto Early Access. We knew that the houses would require a big upgrade.


    You can see that the style of the houses has remained consistent. However, the quality of the assets and placement has increased dramatically. Hurray! Finally something that was beginning to look good. We added substantial foliage, improved textures, and gave more character to the Garden District buildings (which were lacking before Early Access).  

    The lighting changes we made also presented this art far better, so that the detail wasn’t lost in the gloom. Overall, we were very happy with how the game looked for Early Access. However, we weren’t quite done yet! One thing you can notice about the houses in the above shots is that they don’t blend in brilliantly with the environment yet - they still look like they’re being plopped in sporadically. So we decided to improve that, along with the ongoing improvement of the house art to match the quality of the other areas of the game (that we have kept quiet about).


    And here’s where we are today?


    If you’re looking closely, you’ll spot a few changes to the houses. The first is that Village houses now come with alleyways - an improvement we made to allow for better Village hide and seek with the Bobbies, and also more controlled access to the back of houses. We also improved the interiors, with new interior layouts and stealth improvements.  

    For the garden district, we changed how the buildings were laid out so that they are more like older English cottages, and blend in better with their environment. We added more variation and opportunities for stealth and vertical gameplay.


    And finally, just because we think it’s cool, here are a couple more concepts that we created along the way, to help the artists visualise what things could look like:


    Developing the houses was a highly iterative process - a constant balance between scope, ambition, quality, and gameplay constraints. Dealing with that inside the procedural world has been a complicated process, but in the end we are quite happy with the result. It’s unique, and we’re confident that there won’t be anything else quite like it.  

    Thanks for reading!

  11. Hi everyone,  

    In this week’s retrospective, we are taking a look at some of the houses in We Happy Few. As most of you know, the game takes place in the south west of England and more specifically a set of fictional islands called Wellington Wells.  

    During the pre-production stage of the project, we settled on 1960s England as the setting for the game, and began research on architecture, music and artistic inspiration, and recent English history (as it would have been at the time). Our Art Director Whitney is particularly interested in architecture and atmosphere, and how it contributes to creating a unique and interesting experience. She spent a great deal of time researching architecture (even spending some of her vacation time in a trip to the UK, to understand how the game should feel).  

    Architecture is an important facet of We Happy Few, but it’s a pretty big topic! So in this weekly, we will only touch on the subject of houses, as along with the Wellies and their masks, creating houses was the first step towards building our world.

    Inspirations and early concept

    When creating the first concept, Whitney looked in a great deal of detail at the concept of “contrast”, if you’ll pardon the reference, as it was a major theme in 1960s England. It was a time of great social change, where the traditional past clashed with optimism about the future, young culture vs old, etc. We took this symbolism and exaggerated it to fantastical levels all throughout We Happy Few.  

    We wanted a contrast between different houses, but also between their interior and exterior. Our Village houses reflect the symbolism of rejecting history for an idealistic view of the future, and our Garden District houses contrast with the Village by showing the other side of the coin (it’s not like England was always pretty and mod - only parts of the world were that happy idealistic reality).


    The exterior of the Village houses were inspired by two styles, the Tudor houses from The Shambles, York and the stone houses from Haworth. The outside is old, crumbling, historic, and reflects real history. The inside is clean, modern, overly cheery, blissfully rejecting history and looking towards the future. The inside has inspiration from minimalist, mid century designers such as Robin Day and Arne Jacobsen. To maintain consistency, the Garden District houses have similar exteriors, but would have older interiors.  

    A little note about the stone - it's stained dark grey from the soot, back when england was heated by coal.

    First steps  

    Believe it or not, but a world like We Happy Few doesn’t start out very pretty. The first buildings we put into the game were shells designed to test metrics - something our level designers could look through and figure out concrete things like “how much space to we need to move around, how will the AI walk through the areas with you” and then more esoteric things like “how should these spaces feel”. We started with these houses because in those days, we didn’t anticipate that we’d have anything bigger than a house.  

    Here is a picture of a very early prototype for the world, which we have never shown before! This is one of the first procedural prototypes.


    Most of the houses are attempts to match the level design requirements with the artistic vision - how do we create the thin, terraced houses that we wanted for the art, but also have interesting gameplay areas?  

    You’ll also notice in the left hand pic the first two early art prototypes. The building on the corner was an interactive shop - the precursor to the Butcher today. The second building from the left is the first “filler” house - houses that we created to fill space, because we didn’t want every house to be interactive, so that the world would “feel” more like a city.  

    This was a gameplay decision we made because we wanted a sense of scale to the city, but if we made everything interactive, we’d have to make each individual house have much, much less loot (given that loot density is a function of size of the island, and the rough amounts of items we want you to be able to get). You’ll notice that other games do this - if you think of the Witcher 3, relatively few houses are enterable. This is a trick many games use to balance space, size, density and workload (because if we made every house enterable, we’d have to have many, many more variations) required to build a game.

  12. The visual side was the easiest, as it evolved naturally alongside the world. For example, this was what it looked like on Early Access launch.


    However, the gameplay side took a bit longer than we had hoped to iron out. It became a challenge to balance how drug dependency worked in real life versus in the game. During Early Access we did develop two important additions: the withdrawal and overdose states. Crash became the very long term side effect of prolonged Joy use, and withdrawal the short term side effect of “coming down” from Joy. Overdose limited your abilities in game, but only happened if you took too much Joy in a very short time. One thing we did do was change the prototype bar into a status icon:


    A surprising element that became clear over time was how the community spoke about Joy. In addition to the community’s enthusiasm for all the silliness surrounding Joy, some feedback was from a more sober angle (pardon the pun). We had several people write to us explaining how they saw Joy as a representation of modern antidepressants, which helped them think differently about their depression and issues they were going through. These comments appreciated how we were discussing issues like mental illness, or prescription drug abuse, or even less overt issues like the “facebook culture” of always showing the “best side of you”.  

    As developers, we want games to be fun or engaging. However, occasionally we stray into real world topics, and when we do it’s important to treat them with nuance. So, treating the concept properly, while still making an interesting mechanic, was constantly on our minds throughout development.

    Current Version  

    As many of you who have played the Life in Technicolour Update will know, that final Early Access update was focused on Joy. We wanted to amp up the visuals, including by manipulating more of the world itself (and not just the lighting), and by making the positive and negative stages more visually distinct. We also changed the audio to give a more hallucinatory experience, eg Wellies laughing when they attack you (if you’re on Joy). This led to the final version of the Joy visual effects:


     We also wanted to make sure the transition itself was suitably interesting:


    At our current stage, we have (finally!) settled on the Joy mechanics, and in particular we have finalised the lore reasons and mechanics behind the long term side effects of Joy on the player characters, which we’re very happy about. “Crash” as a concept made some sense, but not in the way we wanted. We now believe Joy makes sense within our world, and properly fits as a unique element of the game. Without wanting to give away too much, this is the final Joy HUD icon in various unordered states, which we hope you like:


    We’ll leave it to your imagination to figure out how this will all work for the final game.


    Joy remains a core part of We Happy Few, and there’s a lot more to it than what we’ve mentioned here. During development, we have seen a great deal of enthusiasm for Joy (maybe a little too much for some folks…), and we hope you will enjoy it in the final version.  

    So, that’s it for our first retrospective! If you are curious about a specific part of how the project or the studio have developed, let us know. We’ll do what we can to respond.

    Thank you for reading, and don’t forget to take your Joy.

    Compulsion Team

  13. Hi everyone,  

    Welcome to our new journal format! As we approach the final release of the game, our weekly journals will be looking back on development, at the evolution of individual parts of the game. Think of the next few months as a gigantic recap on the growth and change of We Happy Few over the past four years.  

    To start, we chose something that hopefully you’re all aware of: Joy! Why it exists, how it changed during development, and where it is now. For those of you who are just starting to learn about We Happy Few, Joy is the fictional drug that the citizens of Wellington Wells take to be blissfully happy and ignorant of their past. It’s manufactured happiness, in convenient pill form.

    Joy: Why make a game about happiness?

    When we began development on We Happy Few, one of our core pillars was survival based gameplay, in an urban setting, with a procedural world. We wanted to expand on the traditional survival gameplay (food/water etc) in an urban setting, and one idea was to incorporate fictional drugs into the survival loop - pharmaceutical drugs, not illicit ones. We also had themes we wanted to explore, like memory loss, dystopia and ghosts of the past, and artistic inspiration from 60s culture (eg psychedelics).

    Joy was born initially out of the desire to make the narrative and lore of the world more fun than your regular dystopia. The typical vision of a drab, controlled society like 1984 was less interesting to us than something like Brave New World. So, Alex (our narrative director) derived from these gameplay concepts the idea of society obsessed with happiness. If people were obsessed with happiness, we felt like it was because something bad had happened in the past; a trauma that they wanted to forget. The idea was born that citizens would voluntarily take a special drug, Joy, that kept them happy. That way, they wouldn’t need to worry about “that nasty business in the past” as Alex would probably phrase it. This was very organic and took years to develop completely, during which time we iterated on both gameplay and narrative, cross inspiring from both in the process.


    We also wanted to incorporate this into gameplay, so that there would be a new mechanic for the community to play with. Because we were building a dystopian world, where everybody wanted to ignore unhappiness, it flowed pretty well that Joy would help you “blend in” with all the regular PCs. That’s roughly how Joy began in early to mid 2014, which as many of you know, eventually became this:


    Many of the other aspects of the game have become iconic because of their relationship to Joy - for example, our Downers are very specifically people who have gone off their Joy. So in one sense, We Happy Few began with Joy.


    The first implementation of Joy was, as most prototypes are, pretty bare bones. It was more important to build the other building blocks of the world, so we didn’t get around to this until early 2015, around about the time of our first demo at PAX East. There was a simple joy pill that you could pick up in the environment, and use either in your inventory or in a quickslot. When you did this, a small meter appeared on screen, which reduced over time, and while active allowed you to conform a little bit. That was it!


    However, we had bigger plans: over the year since coming up with the idea, Joy had become something that also altered your vision, to make the world seem a happier place. So by the time we launched on Kickstarter, Joy came with visuals that made it very clear when you were on Joy, and off Joy. We also needed to have a negative aspect to taking Joy, otherwise it was overpowered. So, we developed the concept of a Joy cycle, including a crash, which would be more intense the more Joy you took.


    So, this was a start, but several issues became obvious very quickly:  

    • First, the visuals were a prototype just like the gameplay was, and really not what we wanted. Over time we would need to improve them, particularly as the Joy effects would need to change alongside environmental changes. 
    • Second, the benefit of the mechanic was clear, but the downside was immediate and not particularly challenging - it didn’t require the player to make strategic choices over the long term about when they took Joy. Plus, as all of this became more complicated, we would need new ways of displaying this to the player on the HUD. 
    • Third, how could we add this long term disadvantage, but maintain the lore that this was a society that could perpetually take Joy? (Aka, why could NPCs always take Joy but you would eventually crash?) 

  14. Hey everyone,  

    It’s February already and we are feeling the love in the studio! If you are on our social media then you might have seen that we are reposting love songs from the 60s and all the beautiful fan art you’ve been sending us. Keep at them as we really enjoy watching all the peculiar and funny scenarios you are creating!


    Fan art by X-Razorbeard 

    Engineering Team - Matt, Serge, Michael, Lionel, Rob, Evan, Maarten, Céline and Guillaume (sometimes)


    Hi people ! This week I have been working on skills again, as the list got finalized at about the same time we finished Arthur's content. I can't really reveal more than last time I talked about them, but I can at least tell you, we're going to have character-specific, survival, combat and stealth skills. Highest-tier skills will make your adventure in Wellington Wells a lot easier/more fun. Of course when working on skills, you interact with so many features that you're bound to find plenty of bugs. So I also have been fixing plenty of bugs this week. And with that, I really think the game is coming together very nicely !


    We're approaching the time when we have to send a build of our game off to Microsoft for them to approve of before they let it on their systems (technically this is called submission for certification). One of the features that is a big requirement for their sign off is achievements, and so this week my task was to go through and add these into the game. It's quite a fun adventure to visit all the different systems in the codebase to add the callbacks. Anyway, the logic is all there now. I won't spoil what the achievements are but I think there's a good mix of mainline progression rewards, and ones that push you to find the more interesting missable moments.


    This week was all about extending and integrating our new island system. Integrating took a bit of time because - as with any procedural system in WHF - we never simply replace one system by another, we keep the old system as well as the new one and add an options to choose which one is active. This allows us smooth transitions and extensive testing.  

    In this case, this was a good thing because while the new system has some interesting and important new features, it was lacking one from the old one. So, I extended it a bit to cover that. I also realized that our shore outline would have to be redone along the way. Doing that now.

    Animation Team - JR, Rémi, Vincent, Mike P, Jules, Raph and Franzi


    Sup folks, not much to report on my end. Worked on a bunch of Animation Chains for a whole whack of encounters this week. These are where we take our bank of animations, and chain them together inside conversations with NPCs. Mostly this week I revisited and polished up some of the chains so that they seem like a bit more normal conversations and interactions. That’s pretty much it. Exciting, I know. So that’s it for me, tune in next week, Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel.

    Narrative Team - Alex And Lisa


    This week most of the LD’s moved from Arthur to Sally and our third character. So our intrepid and peripatetic Sally, [name redacted], and I, got into some sound studios – one in Montreal, one in New York, where she’s appearing in a play – and recorded 169 encounter lines and barks for Antoine’s revision of the Sally playthrough. I’ve also been writing lines for Adam’s revision of the third character’s playthrough. Fortunately we have to record Allan Cooke for a secret project next week, so we’ll get those done along with.  

    We’ve been getting a lot of feedback from playtesters over at Gearbox. It’s really exciting to hear people saying the narrative works, and they’re intrigued by the characters, and they feel real, and the dialog is convincing. You never know for sure until you hear back from players. Having access to Gearbox’s QA people and their playtesters has really helped us.


    This week, I’ve been making sure that things I’ve written over the past few years are actually in the game, and that environmental narrative is in the right places and makes sense. This means turning my mindset from writer to player.  

    At this point, I can probably reveal that SOME of you fans on the forum were 100 percent correct about the identity of Miss Thigh Highs. We were anxious to keep our secrets from getting out too early, so during the past year I seeded stories of other female characters in the environmental narrative, just to throw you off. I’m now trying to make sure that all those stories “pay off” and feel satisfying and meaningful when you play the game. A couple of the “red herrings” have actually turned out to be among my favorite Wellies. Hope you enjoy them!

    Art Team - Whitney, Emmanuel, Tito, Marc-André, Sarah, Guillaume, Cary and PH


    This week, I’ve been working on a myriad of small to medium to big tasks. I’ve been working with Cary to go over 7200 material instances in the game to write every sign in the game in text form. This will be super useful for people playing in other languages than English. They’ll be able to understand the signs scattered across the world.  

    I’ve also been polishing up multiple locations and tying up loose ends. I’ve also spoken to Maarten about the possibility of having volumes inside buildings that affect the amount of light visible (with a transition) and thanks to his magic coding skills I already started to implement it across the game.  

    That’s it for me! Polishing work from now on. A lot of small tasks and details that will make the overall experience better.


    Hey folks! This week I did a bunch of environmental narrative for some up and coming seeeeecret locations! So secretive! So exciting! That's all I'll say..:)


    Thanks for tuning in!  

    Compulsion Team

  15. Design Team - David, Hayden, Antoine, Adam, Ben, Eric, Roxanne and Benji


    I’m back from Christmas vacation, and it’s straight back into overdrive here. We’re continuing our blitz to finish up Arthur’s story mode, and being really careful about whether we REALLY need this thing, or whether we can live without it. Personally, I’ve been reworking the flow for the 3rd hour of the game to clear up confusion, and streamline the player to his objectives. I’ve also been playing with this awesome tool that Matt made (draw road shapes and it appears on the overworld map). As you can probably guess, my test case was to draw a giant dick.


    What Adam said, but for different parts of the game. Although similar parts of the anatomy.

    Ninja Department  

    Clara (Do I have to state my name everytime? I’m the only one in this department for Christ’s sake) Editor's note: Yes you do.

    Hey guys,  

    The ninja department is alive. Working in the shadows, as always. (Literally. My screens are blocking the lights from the windows. It's dark in there. For the better.)  

    Since I've been back from Christmas holidays, I went back to editing for my greatest pleasure and to put together the short Sally sneak peek that you probably saw earlier today. I love doing those. Not only do I get to explore storytelling and tease you guys, it makes for lovely collaborations within the team; I get to work with people that I actually rarely work with:  

    Benji was nice enough to spend some time adding console debug for me to go to specific cinematics (and avoid a lot of swearing on my part), Celine looked over builds, Emmanuel did his Emmanuel stuff and made everything look amazing, Valentino handled sound recording, Cord wrote and talked and threw ideas to my head and we played that pleasant game of bouncing ball with the edit ("won't it look better if? Shouldn't we try this? What about that?")  

    Those little pieces of videos work pretty much the same way we make this game. With a lot of people, coffee, Digestives(cookies) and collective effort. Hope you enjoyed it. See you!

    Thanks for tuning in!  

    Compulsion Team

  16. Animation Team - JR, Rémi, Vincent, Mike P, Jules, Raph and Franzi


    Hey folks! As the great Groucho Marx once said: “One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I'll never know.” It’s been an interesting week. Been working hard on cutscenes for you guys. Still working on the same one from last week, which is part of Arthur’s first island, so there is that. Now I know what your thinking to yourself. You’re saying: “ Self, why does Mike take so long to make cutscenes? Shouldn’t this take, like… I dunno, like 2 hours tops!?” And although I don’t disagree that I could slap together something in two hours, I’m pretty sure you’d want to slap me back if you had to suffer through that while playing our game. So until they invent a magical “Animate” button, you’re all just going to have to bear with me while I try to work my magic for you. Well this post kind of reminds me of Seinfeld for some reason. ... Well that's it for me folks, tune in next week, Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel!


    Well… It’s finalling time! That means a lot of reviews and spreadsheets filling, to keep track of all the polish we need to do. I won’t lie, there’s a lot… We really want the baby to be pretty!  

    Other than that I’ve been working on a sort of ‘light NPC’, to put spectators in the background of some encounters. Real AI characters are super versatile, react to all sort of stimuli and, you guessed it, take a lot of processing power! Sometimes we just need to have some sort of crowd with very basic behaviour, and using generic NPCs for that would be a bit of a waste. So I’ve been putting together a simple object that only can look at something and ‘cheer’. Actually, cheering can be any kind of animation, it’s all customizable. So you can use that object to have a crowd of wastrels that cheers on demand when you get punched in the face, or a crowd of posh wellies taking pictures and taking notes! The script only has to call a function and they all ‘cheer’, with some random offsets and animation speed, so that they don’t look (too much) like robots!  

    Of course this has to be used in a controlled environment, where the player can’t interact with those fake NPCs, or they’d just look at you very insistently, looking like the complete idiots they are.


    Hi! I’ve started this week by doing some animation for the Jubilator. After this task, I moved to our POI (point of interest) animations, which are the random activities that Wellies and Wastrels can do about town. We had some issues with the animation and now it’s fixed! So our NPCs can pick their nose/ear, cough and sneeze in total tranquility in Wellington Wells. During the time I had left, I went back to polish combat animation, especially the fist attack! I will share some GIF of them next week for sure. See you then!


    Hey guys. After recovering from the plague that's been slowly knocking down Compulsion team members over the past month, I was back and ready for a week of reviews and meetings! Not the most glamorous of all things, but very productive as it makes our goals very clear. Aside from that, I've technically been finishing the last cinematic I owned except for one special case... which is crazy! Sure there's other shots to fiddle with (still secret!!) and a little bit of polish and fixes to be done here and there, but looking back and to think that I went through all of those scenes, it makes me really happy and proud. Hope you enjoyed the little sneak peek in the announcement today ;) ......Sally who?

    Engineering Team - Matt, Serge, Michael, Lionel, Rob, Evan, Maarten, Céline and Guillaume (sometimes)


    Hello ! Lots of fixes were done in the last two weeks concerning Stealth. There was a funny bug where asleep NPCs could see you even if their eyes were closed. Additionally, when spotting you, they were so surprised that, most of time, instead of just falling from the bed like a normal person, they would fall through the floor and disappear in the abyss of the world. I'd never thought Arthur could be that scary. Jokes asides, we also fixed some weird NPC behavior when throwing objects. Now they’re properly distracted, leaving the path clear for you to progress. There are still a lot of tweaks and fixes to make the stealth experience nicer but it is progressing quite well.


    Happy Friday Ladies and Gents. I’ve spent a good deal of time this week sitting in meetings with a large number of the team and reviewing all our mechanics for combat, conformity and stealth in order to see how “done” we are. Fortunately the feedback is “just balance and polish” for almost everything, which seems like a good stage to be at. One thing that has been given a bit of additional love is the Quickslots, which are very important to the game and have received a lot of valid criticism from players and the team. So this week I have rejigged this design and implemented a new system which allows you to have 4 slots assigned to use at all times, and the list of things that can be assigned is a lot larger and more up to you.



    Hello world! The goal for me this week was to polish a special fight with the Jubilator by implementing a custom behavior for it when the player leaves the arena. For that I needed to implement a new mechanism to acquire position from a level in order to feed the behavior of a NPC. That effort will also serve to polish another encounter as the goal is to support specific realization (aka NPCs doing unique things) while still running systemic characters. Rapid iterations with a gameplay animator has been key to achieve that within a week which makes me particularly proud!  

    If you are curious to see how what I am talking about looks like in the editor, here is a screenshot of the new subtree that handles that fight with the Jubilator:


  17. Hey everyone,  

    In case you missed it, this morning we released an official announcement that we were delaying We Happy Few to Summer 2018 and as a thank you for being so patient we also teased the new female character player. You can see the video and the announcement we posted here, along with a little taste of the story. We also talk about it in more depth in this week’s production update below.  

    Otherwise, it’s onwards to release for us! This week we wanted to make it a good one, so it’s a bit longer than average.



    Hi folks - if you haven’t already watched the video about the new release window, these next few paragraphs will probably make no sense. Here it is again if you haven’t seen it. We hope you like meeting Miss Thigh Highs.  

    G, Whitney, Alex, Matt and I have been on the project for four years now - we started January 2014. The rest of the team have joined us since then, bringing together their enthusiasm, skill and determination to create a game we’re very excited about. Regardless of whether we’ve been on the project for 4 years or 3 months, today’s decision is a tough one, as is any that involves critically assessing the work you’ve done.  

    To elaborate on what I said in the video, once we finished getting the major content into the game, we reviewed how it felt when it fit together. In particular, we noticed that the game had a good pace throughout Arthur's story, except the beginning - that was some of the first content we built a long time ago, and after refining our tools and world, it just didn't cut it any longer. It wasn’t structured well, and we were not doing a good enough job of introducing the world (the lore behind the Wastrels, the Garden District, Arthur, and all that good stuff). We also weren’t sufficiently introducing the game’s mechanics. In retrospect, this is something we should have done better on the Early Access launch too, but hindsight is always 20/20.  

    In any event, we didn't think the early game was shippable (among other things), and looking at what we're building now, we are confident that was the right decision. The new intro island is shaping up to be just as weird and wonderful as the rest of the game, as it should be.  

    The review was a little while ago, which is why you have seen weekly updates mentioning the revised tutorial island for the past few weeks. It has taken us some time to come to conclusions about what to do design wise, line up funding, organise a new production schedule and release window, in order to be able to make this announcement. Gearbox has been supportive all the way along - I appreciate some of you have had some skepticism about our partnership, but we can only reiterate that they have been excellent partners, and are doing a fantastic job at supporting us while we make We Happy Few the best it can be.  

    To look ahead, 2018 is still a very exciting year for us. We’re in finaling mode, so no more new things, just polish and bug fixes to go. I’m very proud of the team for creating something so unique, and we’re all very much looking forward to getting the game in your hands as soon as we can.

    Art Team - Whitney, Emmanuel, Tito, Marc-André, Sarah, Guillaume, Cary and PH


    This week, I continued the work on the posters and graffiti for the Garden District. Early tests were quite good, now I will have to place them everywhere.


    Then I started to remodel some old rubble piles for the player to loot. Those piles have been there for a long time and we want another look for them. Pipes, shiny things, rubbles, dirt, bricks... these have to be intriguing for the player to pique his/her interest. I’m working with David and Whitney towards this goal. Here’s a sneak peek at some chunk of mortared bricks I’m working on.


  18. Having recently reached our “content complete” milestone, the team has conducted a thorough review of the game, beginning to end. You can listen to Guillaume and Sam chat about it in the accompanying video, but bottom line: the team has built some amazing content, but we need more time to polish than we anticipated.

    As a result, we will now be releasing the game this summer.

    We have also received feedback that some Steam players felt the new pre-purchase asking price didn’t mesh well with the game being categorized as Early Access. Given all the content we have yet to reveal to the public, we can see their point. That being said, we’ve done a huge amount of work and the scope of the game is substantially increasing over what’s there right now, which is a very unusual situation for Early Access games, especially as we have a retail release on the way.  What you guys see right now is definitely not what we see internally.

    So, we find ourselves caught between Early Access (where it’s important to have a price that reflects the current game) and the eventual release of the full game with increased scope (which we believe reflects a traditional retail game). We had anticipated that Steam players would be okay with pre-purchase still granting early access, but since we won’t be offering any additional early access updates beyond August’s “Life in Technicolour”, we think having this labeled Early Access and charging the price of a larger game caused more confusion than we had hoped.  

    We want to make sure everyone who plays the game is happy, so alongside our revised release date, we are doing two things:

    1) Enabling refunds for all players who purchased on Steam, past and present, regardless of playtime. We’ll continue working to make sure 1.0 is great and something you’ll be happy buying.

    2) Temporarily disabling the buy button on Steam as of February 1st, 2018. We don’t want new players to have the same frustration, so we’re temporarily disabling the option to buy on Steam, and will re-enable the buy button once we’re closer to launch when more info and materials on the game will have been released, giving players more clarity on what they can expect in the full version of We Happy Few.

    So, that’s it for today.  We’re going to get back to making We Happy Few. Thank you once again for all your ongoing support.

    Compulsion Games

  19. Art Team - Whitney, Emmanuel, Tito, Marc-André, Sarah, Guillaume, Cary and PH

    This week I modeled some kind of giant TV show set inspired from the 50s. I worked with Level Designer Eric to get something that will be fun and interactive for the player. Then I worked with Level Designer Benjamin on a wrecked car that the player will scavenge to collect special loot. Then I started to implement some posters and flyers into the levels that Sarah and Whitney have beautifully created. Trust me, they are amazing! These pieces of environmental narratives will help a lot to give backstory and context for players. Adding these details here and there is really time consuming but the results are without doubt worth it for the player experience!  
    And one more thing, I did it! I managed to finish The Witcher 3 during the holidays, 3 years after the release. But I’m not totally over with it because I’m now playing the expansions. Will see if I can finish them before the end of 2018.  
    This week, I am back from Christmas vacation! The harsh weather I have been experiencing made me question why anyone with a sane mind would decide to come live here in Canada. -37° Celsius (-35° Fahrenheit) is freezing cold.  
    The entirety of my week was aiming toward finishing the tutorial island and tweaks/bug fixing of other areas of the game.  
    I’ve been shuffling a lot of minor tasks that, together, add up to a lot. I did some polish on the grass, houses and hooligan camp of the tutorial island, did tweaks to the Mystery House & [a spooky redacted] encounters, fixed terrain SFX issues, did some new flag variants, added environmental narrative and fixed minor collision in bugs in some encounters such as The Church of Simon Says. I also did some new optimised materials that will be useful when placing posters on the Garden District buildings.
    Basically, I was everywhere, doing the much needed task of finishing up a lot of small important details in order to mark stuff as “Finished”.  
    Heyo! New year, new art (same Sarah)! I hope you had a restful, happy holiday. This week I worked on brand new posters, graffiti, and propaganda, all for the tutorial island! There's lots of new opportunities to push the story in this place, and to get familiar with the world. We explored some long forgotten ideas that Alex drafted ages ago (including the attached image text below! A bad apple spoils the bunch, don't cha know!), as well as new concepts and scribbles, thanks to Lisa! And of course, as ever, lots of Wastrel graffiti. Here's a little doer I made this week! Have a great weekend! 

    Publishing – Steve, Jeff, Mike C, Austin, Meredith, Elisa, Kat, Kelly, Nicole, Sean, Mike M, Elliot, and Simon (and more)

    Mike R

    Hello Everyone! My name is Mike. I am the Creative Director of Marketing at Gearbox Publishing. I spend my time leading and collaborating with artists of many specializations, bringing marketing content to life. You may have already seen my work – the We Happy Few Re-Announce trailer was the first trailer I directed since joining the team in June. You can also find me for a split second playing a guitar in the Trailer Audio Behind the Scenes video. Fun fact: They used that clip in reverse, so that’s me playing… but backwards!  

    On to the update - Whew! Fun break! I hope everyone had a fun and safe end of the year. December was very productive, planning for the development of some exciting trailers and other marketing assets in the coming year.  

    With the aforementioned planning finished, we are well prepared for the best part of the process – MAKING COOL STUFF. I can’t wait to turn these paper ideas into something you all can see. 2018 should be a fun year!

    Thanks for tuning in!  

    Compulsion Team

  20. Engineering Team - Matt, Serge, Michael, Lionel, Rob, Evan, Maarten, Céline and Guillaume (sometimes)


    I’ve been getting back into the swing of things after the holidays with some easy repetitive bug fixing. It’s nice to have some quick tasks to complete to get you back into the working mood. I also picked up a task to give some love to our special pickups, and create some effects that activate when you have the pickup in your inventory. The mission rewards for certain big encounters; the Simon Says Medal, Holy Yam, and the Adulator pickup you get from the Newspaper office quest, all now have a lasting bonuses to help you on your journey through Wellington Wells.

    My favourite was the Holy Yam. Once you have the Holy Yam, you will magically start finding more yams than you would before. Were they always there and you were just not seeing them, or does the Holy Yam have the power of creation in its starchy grasp?



    Happy new year everyone! This week, I’ve been working on the Jubilator : that big machine that cleans up the Village over the night. Be ready to run if you get caught by it during curfew! I also spent time with the level and game designers for the fight that occurs within an arena where you learn how to beat them.


    I was moving islands around this week. The current system wasn’t as stable as we wanted, and on a few rare occasions islands could collide, producing very strange worlds. So I went back to the whiteboard, armed with a pen and math, I tried to find a solid way to place the islands, and then I built a prototype to see if my thinking was correct (spoiler : it was not). Still, after a few back and forth, I converged on something and the new system seems promising. Picture (warning : programer art.).


    Note that not all of these are islands, nor are they necessarily representative of the size of an island.

    QA Team - Lee, Stephanie, JP and Alexina


    Hello folks, this week I’ve been mostly working on compiling a tracker in our database and a test plan to keep track of blockers, conditional blockers and crashes for some upcoming playtests that we’re doing this month. Besides that, the usual QA shenanigans of bugging/vetting, testing new features and helping players on our support forums. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and a good start to the new year.


    Hello folks, back from Holidays and back to work. Much of this week was spent preparing for upcoming Playtests. Not much else to add beyond that. Typical QA stuff as mentioned by Alexina consists of 70% of our work.  

    Enjoy the attached image; this animation is not in the public version but now the Wastrels go to the bathroom. Of course it wouldn’t be real game development without bugs so here is a funny one.


  21. Hey everyone,  

    Most of the office is now back at work after a much needed holiday break and we are ready to take on 2018!  



    Hi everyone, happy new year! From everyone here at Compulsion, we hope you’ve had time over the new year period to relax and check out some great games.

    Since November, we have been reviewing game mechanics, playthroughs and all of the nitty gritty details that go into making a game. Many of us on the team have been in almost constant review meetings, going over everything with a fine toothed comb, deciding what’s working well, what isn’t, and what needs improvement. One initial decision we made was to improve Arthur’s first two hours, which we have spoken about in the past few weekly journals.

    We’ve now progressed into different type of decisions, for example, which features to keep and which just aren’t interesting enough. For example, we just don’t think the gifting function is great as it is currently implemented, and the time we would need to improve it is better spent elsewhere. So, we’re restricting gifting to Bobbies only (which already have good realisation), and probably renaming it as “bribery”. We will post more about what we’ve been doing on this front, and the big picture calls we’ve had to make as a result of all of these changes, next week.

    Narrative Team - Alex and Lisa


    We’ve all been scrambling to rebuild the first two hours of Arthur’s playthrough so it functions as a better tutorial while also being more spectacular and “sticky.” We’ve also rejiggered the order of islands you’ll have to cross, and fixed the logic of your interactions with a certain very important person. So for me, that means writing and recording about 500 new lines of encounter dialog.  

    Meanwhile we’ve been recording barks to clarify why exactly NPCs are pissed off at you. Altogether, let’s say I recorded about 1100 lines of dialog in five recording sessions with actors in London, LA, and somewhere in New Zealand.  

    Also, in my copious free time, I’ve been reworking the scripts to Top Secret Project #1. I realized that it was impossible to get into the head of Top Secret Person #1, so I gave her a troublesome person to talk to. This really has opened things up.  

    Wot I Did Over My Winter Vacation: I suck at vacation. Lisa is much better at it. But either way, over the break, Lisa and I did a lot of research and kicking around ideas for Top Secret Project #4. Some of this is quite a bit in advance. But we like to have time to write, then realize the writing is broken, then reformulate. As all pro writing monkeys know, writing is rewriting. We think you’ll be really excited ... sometime ... in the future ... forget you even read this.

    Design Team - David, Hayden, Antoine, Adam, Ben, Eric, Roxanne and Benji


    Well, this week and the last few have been 100% dedicated to making sure Arthur’s playthrough is the best it can be. We restructured some things, changed a bit of the narrative, fixed a ton of bugs, rearranged some things, made a few schedules, excel sheets, had some meetings, and got fat(ter) over Christmas. So far it’s turned out a lot better than where it was 2 months ago. It’s starting to shape up into the game we wanted to make. So that’s cool. That all said, I think every game I’ve worked on has scared me until the last like 3 to 5 months of production. It’s like a broken mess, until it’s not. Then it’s like, “oh hey, this is cool!”.


    This week, I added quest rewards to all Arthur’s playthroughs quests, including adding skill points everywhere, and added a bunch of recipes so all our new clothes and weapons are spawning. I also worked on our ambient civilians (what we call “AI Decorators”), to make sure Wellington Well is full of life.

    Animation Team - JR, Rémi, Vincent, Mike P, Jules, Raph and Franzi


    Hey folks! Hope you all had a great holiday. I’m back and working on some sweet ass cutscenes. We are working hard to make your immersion into our games as wicked as possible and so this week I’ve worked on a little cutscene that’ll make getting bullied in high school because you were wearing the wrong clothes, look like a walk in the park. Like one of the instructors on my Basic Training said, “If you want to stay out of trouble in the army, look at everyone else is doing, divide by half and do that.” I still don’t really know what he meant by that, but save it to say that we will try our bestest to prevent the locals from playing whack a mole with your skull! That’s it for me, so tune in next week! Same Bat Time same Bat Channel!


    Hi all! I’m starting this new year with a task I haven’t done in a long time, polishing my animation. I’ve done the majority of the NPC attacks and I must say, it’s looking great! I am sharing some of them with you today and will bring you more next week. I hope you will like them!









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