Brainwash Gang’s creative director and producer Edu Verz talks to use about the unique upcoming sandbox simulation title.
2017’s action platformer Nongünz was one of the most interesting games of the year that sadly slipped under the radar a little bit, but it put developers Brainwash Gang on the map. The indie studio is coming back next year with its next title, Damnview: Built From Nothing, which looks even more unique. On the surface, its distinct visual style and its concept as a sandbox life simulator with anthropomorphized characters has instant appeal, but dig a little deeper, and you see that it’s attempting something ambitious and thought-provoking, as a commentary on society and social structure. It’s a very interesting concept, and owing to that, we recently sent across a few of our questions about the upcoming game to Brainwash Gang. Creative director and producer Edu Verz reverted with some truly insightful answers.
What kind of insight would players be able to gain about social structures by playing this game?
Our idea is that players get to observe all social strata by working in different jobs, starting from the lowest part of society to the top. We hope that all layers of society will be represented in a more or less obvious way so that the public can be reflected at some point.
With respect to how we will do it, it will be a function of how much money you have, the obligations you carry or the house you live in. But the most important thing is how the citizens relate to you or what opinion you give to them according to your status.
Would you say that video games as a medium are suited to telling stories that deal with such topics?
I think all the media are correct to express your ideas or reflect how you see society, for example. I think in a sense everything has already been said about what video games and interactivity can bring to the cultural development of society. Like many other times the origin of this has been the entertainment and profit of those who developed products for the medium, but over time has become an open market for revolutionary ideas with the medium and society itself.
We have been doing things of this kind for years, now with the focus of a certain press is a question we are asked, but we have always been there f**king the system and what we do not like. Now with the responsibility of making a commercial product, there is a certain respect towards the public, we believe that by making people swallow our ideas we would not be doing our job well, that’s why we want to represent society as we see it, without propaganda or puppets.
"I also believe that these political decisions on the part of the big companies move in a concrete direction, to be taken more seriously culturally, perhaps to cover more public or simply to raise the value of their product and focus on a more mature public willing to pay more money for a cultural product. But those are my ideas without any kind of foundation (like everything I say, basically)."
It seems like such a game could have only come out of the independent scene. Would you say that working as an independent developer gives you more freedom?
In fact, the criticism of the system is quite present in AAA titles, if you take a look at games such as Ubisoft have – for example Watch Dogs – where there is evidence of technological dependence.
For some time now the tone of response has become a selling point, so there are hordes of angry gamers spitting negative comments towards the big companies, personally I am not clear if these companies try to wash their image bearing in mind that after all are a neoliberal company that squeezes consumers as if they were cows.
It doesn’t help me if a character is feminine, if behind them they are using mental tricks to make you spend more money if they continue to avoid associative movements on the part of workers in the industry and so on. In that sense, I don’t think that even the public that applauds this kind of gestures is aware that EA or whoever, is making these decisions only so that part of the public does what it does, applaud a detail. I see it as ridiculous, they are still macro-companies willing to do whatever it takes so that people don’t question more important things than the genre of the protagonist.
I also believe that these political decisions on the part of the big companies move in a concrete direction, to be taken more seriously culturally, perhaps to cover more public or simply to raise the value of their product and focus on a more mature public willing to pay more money for a cultural product. But those are my ideas without any kind of foundation (like everything I say, basically).
What does the core gameplay consist of in this game?
Basically, it’s a game of management, driving, and action. You have to manage your day to day going to work, eating going from one place to another, a kind of life simulator in which we can advance from a professional and social point of view.
Is there an endgame here, or does the simulation just go on indefinitely?
In principle there is neither a closed end nor a marked objective, it is the player who decides when he has finished his playing time. Conceptually it is similar to Minecraft, there is an end, but almost nobody points in the same direction as objective.
Is there a scripted story for players to follow? If so, how exactly does it work?
A closed story as such will not exist in Damnview, what we will do is to develop a situational narrative, i.e,, if you’re in X site with preconditions, such as having a job Y, it will activate a particular event. It’s a more organic narrative that we think fits better in this game than a linear story.
"The greatest influence is real life, we try to make a simulator of life and keep an eye on what happens in the world is our greatest inspiration. With respect to playability, we liked how Stardew Valley turns unimposed tasks into a friendly challenge and in a sense we have transformed that into a kind of GTA."
What are some of the major influences you drew from when making this game?
The greatest influence is real life, we try to make a simulator of life and keep an eye on what happens in the world is our greatest inspiration. With respect to playability, we liked how Stardew Valley turns unimposed tasks into a friendly challenge and in a sense we have transformed that into a kind of GTA.
But conceptually Damnview is a kind of mixtape of ideas that we’ve been dragging from game jams games or from our previous commercial game Nongünz.
Basically, we are trying to put together all the pieces that we think are important to describe society.
Is there a character creation system, or do players get to choose from some preset characters?
There’s a character creation system, but it’s random. A lot of people have already expressed their disagreement with this measure and we’ll try to get to a middle ground, but we find it interesting that you can’t choose your gender, race or body type and that you have to deal with that during “your life in the game”.
For many people, it will be like a kind of leftist punishment but for many people, it will be interesting to deal with a physical condition that they may see as disadvantaged or unattractive, in any case, it seems that this decision is going to bring problems no matter what we do.
What can you tell us about the progression system in the game?
With regard to progression, we have a lot of doubts. We don’t want progression bars to define how rich or smart you are in the game. We don’t want social relationships to be based on spending time with a person or giving gifts, few games have tried to innovate in this and I understand that it is because being something so basic and yet complex can become really confusing.
The interesting thing for us would be that if you have a girlfriend, for example, she can leave you simply because she doesn’t think you fit as a couple. A lot of people would find this confusing but if we want to represent “real people” many times there are external decisions that are not tied to what you can do. It’s going to be something really challenging to explore and develop because we don’t want to stay in the typical video game cliches.
The result will be seen all at once with respect to how it works for the audience, it’s going to be at least interesting.
"With respect to that I have already commented before that many times the passion blinds us in that the big companies continue being that, big companies, with shareholders meetings, forecasts and, above all, lack of scruples. If they do what they do it is because they know that there is a great mass of people who are not going to ask themselves certain things."
What is your take on the ongoing drama of loot boxes and microtransactions?
With respect to that I have already commented before that many times the passion blinds us in that the big companies continue being that, big companies, with shareholders meetings, forecasts and, above all, lack of scruples. If they do what they do it is because they know that there is a great mass of people who are not going to ask themselves certain things.
On the other hand, I am glad to see that there are some people who do not accept these practices, but the reality is that they do not care. Obviously, I don’t have the absolute truth about anything, I’m ignorant, but I think there are good ways to do things. DLCs can be a great way to expand a game, and you can support the studio by buying its expansions. I hope there’s a breath of fresh air that moves the industry into something less abusive to the consumer.