Where the Bees Make Honey developer Brian Wilson chats with GamingBolt about the upcoming puzzle adventure.
Where the Bees make Honey has looked like an intriguing project base on everything that we’ve seen so far. Combining a vibrant and beautiful visual aesthetic with the promise of varying puzzle design based on levels that you can rotate and shift around, it’s looking like it holds the promise of great design, while its focus on the themes of childhood and imagination promise a unique narrative experience as well. Curious to see what the game is all about, we sent across a few of our questions to developer Brian Wilson, and spoke about a wide range of things- read our conversation below.
"The concept came about when I was first learning how to 3D model. I fell in love with the idea of being able to create worlds with secrets in them. At the time, I wasn’t quite capable of making that happen but I knew I wanted the worlds to rotate like Rubix cubes."
How did the concept of living through childhood memories through these unique rotation-based puzzles come about?
Well, the concept came about when I was first learning how to 3D model. I fell in love with the idea of being able to create worlds with secrets in them. At the time, I wasn’t quite capable of making that happen but I knew I wanted the worlds to rotate like Rubix cubes. So, when I actually started trying to develop the game years later, I really made it my goal to achieve that rotation mechanic.
You’ve said that Where the Bees Make Honey doesn’t necessarily fall into any particular genre but is more of an experience unto itself- can you elaborate a bit more on that?
Initially, the game was planned to only have four puzzle levels, one for each season, and short story cinematics at the beginning and end. However, when signing with my publisher Whitethorn Digital, I knew I needed more content either way. Whether that be more puzzle levels or different kinds of content, at the time I thought the game was just a little too short. No one pressured me into making more levels, but personally, I set a standard for myself if my game was going to be on consoles.
In terms of the genre variation, I believe this is the power and reality of being an indie. I created such a framework in Where the Bees Make Honey, that I could get away with having four different kinds of gameplay and have it still make sense. Ranging from the first person, third person puzzle levels, driving a toy monster truck, to controlling a rabbit. I don’t think this would fly if the game started on a larger scale and had to make a certain amount of money.
How much variation can players expect from puzzle design in the game?
The puzzle levels all contain three honeycomb pieces which need to be collected in order to progress. Some of the pieces can be collected linearly in order, and some are individual. This was an interesting design challenge for me because each of the four puzzle levels needed to differentiate without too much overlap. Something I restricted myself with was to have all of the levels fit on the screen. This meant that in those levels the camera doesn’t move or follow my character Sunny.
Where the Bees Make Honey sports a vibrant and beautiful art style- was there anything in particular that served as an inspiration for you to land on this aesthetic?
Thank you! The art was the one aspect I went into development actually knowing and understanding. I’ve been a photographer for nearly a decade before this, so working with the camera and post-processing effects within Unity was second nature to me. Being a photographer and artist, in general, has allowed me to develop a sense of style in terms of knowing what I think looks good. Art was the one area where I truly felt like I was expressing myself. I knew I wanted to achieve a stylized look as I think it matches the dreamy reflection levels I have.
"Designing around the seasons forced me to think, what does Winter sound like? How can I make this level feel like a Spring day?"
How much of an impact will the different seasons have on levels?
The differences are obvious in terms of the audio and visuals. I always wanted to create something influenced by the different seasons because the hard parts are done for you. Designing around the seasons forced me to think, what does Winter sound like? How can I make this level feel like a Spring day? I grew up and still live in Western Pennsylvania where we experience four very distinct seasons each year. The seasonal levels still function and interact the same way in the game.
How will the first person sections of the game function?
The first person sections function just how you would expect. They have some simple interactions and some not so simple interactions, which I do not want to spoil!
How is the game split in terms of its puzzle sections and first-person section? Will players be spending a lot of time playing as adult Sunny?
No, you only play in the first person at the beginning and end. The rest of the game consists of the third person puzzle levels and the gameplay variation I was talking about.
Where the Bees Make Honey’s design and levels seem reminiscent of Captain Toad– was that a game that you took cues from during development?
Good observation. My answer is yes and no. Like I said, at the beginning of development I just wanted to rotate the worlds in some way. I honestly didn’t know what I was capable of as Where the Bees Make Honey is the first game I’ve made. When I got further into development, I used Captain Toad as some of the inspiration as the game fits so much information on screen. Nintendo as a whole does an amazing job of designing complex levels and puzzles while displaying them in seemingly “simple” packages. It’s really difficult to design something smart that comes off as simple. Yet, it’s easy to throw a bunch of stuff together to patch a hole in the wall while showing the duct tape, glue, and brick.
Will the game will feature Xbox One X specific enhancements? What can players expect if they are playing the game on Xbox One X? Is 4K/60fps on the cards?
On the Xbox One X, the game is enhanced by 4K and dynamic HDR.
"We have access to the Switch development kit and plan to test it to see if it’s possible here soon."
And how will the PS4 Pro version turn out in terms of resolution and frame rate?
We have worked as hard as we can to make sure the two versions are as similar as possible. However, both consoles have their quirks which need to be individually addressed. Unfortunately, porting from the development PC to the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro is not drag and drop and everything works.
From a development perspective, how do you find the Xbox One X to be and how do you compare it with the PS4 Pro?
I can say that the Xbox One/X are basically computers so getting the game optimized from our development computer to them was a more streamlined process.
How is the game running on the original Xbox One and PS4, frame rate and resolution wise?
We will be running 30 fps on all versions of the consoles. 30 fps actually fits with the games cinematic quality and allows it to feel a little more like a movie and less like a soap opera. In terms of the original consoles, they admittedly don’t look as good compared to the 4K HDR version but I think that’s expected.
Any plans to bring the game to the Switch?
Yes, well I hope. We have access to the Switch development kit and plan to test it to see if it’s possible here soon. If it is possible you’ll hear an announcement from us and if it’s not possible then you won’t!
Next gen is coming sooner or later. From a development perspective, what is your biggest expectation from PS5 and Xbox Scarlett?
That’s a good question. I think the pro versions of the Xbox and PlayStation created this half step for the next generation. For the PS5 and Scarlett, I think we are obviously going to see even more power but also (hopefully) a focus on cloud-based services. Remember when the original plan for the Xbox One was digital only and cloud-based and then they did a 180 on that?
Do you think cross-platform will be one of the defining features of PS5 and Xbox Scarlett?
Maybe, I think once and if it all works together it will become the norm and that’s really interesting for Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo.
"I don’t think VR is quite there yet for consoles – in terms of just being able to put on the headset and it works. I’d be surprised if Xbox will ever have their own VR headset."
What is your take on Sony’s reluctant policy on cross-play with Xbox?
The longer I’ve been in this industry the more I’ve learned that developing is far harder than it seems. With that being said, I don’t think Sony is hesitant on if they want but rather if they actually can.
Do you think Microsoft is missing out by not investing in VR? Furthermore, do you think the next Xbox will lack VR support?
VR has been another interesting component to this generation about halfway through its cycle. Sony really went all in and I think the PSVR library is great. However, I don’t think VR is quite there yet for consoles – in terms of just being able to put on the headset and it works. I’d be surprised if Xbox will ever have their own VR headset.
What is your take on the ongoing drama of loot boxes and microtransactions?
I think the big companies really pushed (aware or not) to see how far it could be taken. So it was cool to see the community or fans of those games push back and speak out when loot boxes became intrusive to the games experience. I’d like to think the drama is getting better, but I guess it depends on what games you are playing. The thing about indies games like mine is we just ask you to pay $10 and that’s it!