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Twitch Plays Game Designer: Tiny Brains developer invites streaming community to work on next game

Above: Spearhead Games' Project Cyber in its early form.

Image Credit: Spearhead Games

It often takes hundreds of people to make a triple-A game. Indie studios tend to only have a handful of developers. Spearhead Games, meanwhile, has a couple thousand designers working on its latest project.

That company is currently working on a game known as Project Cyber. It is a physics-based competitive multiplayer title that the studio is creating with input from the online community at gameplay livestreaming site Twitch. Spearhead is giving away thousands of copies of its game to those who request access, and the studio plans to listen to and work in the feedback and ideas it gets from those players. This is similar to Steam’s Early Access portal, which enables developers to sell unfinished games that the community helps to test.

Spearhead released the following video to explain the idea:

You can request a copy of the game to contribute to the project yourself on Spearhead’s website.

“It feels like there are so many ways and channels that humans communicate together and exchange,” Spearhead cofounder Simon Darveau told GamesBeat. “We’re very close to having human beings be in some form of cloud, almost. For me, creating something will change considerably in the next few years. Since this is the future, we want to start experimenting with what will become a new way of doing anything.”

Spearhead is best known for releasing Tiny Brains on the PlayStation 4, which it developed like a standard piece of software with a design document and a rigid process. With Project Cypher, the studio set out to do something very different. It is building the game without a final goal in mind.

“We don’t have a design doc that we did before we started, and that defines what the game will become,” said Darveau. “Instead, we’re going for something extremely organic. We build something. We analyze the first step. Then we make the second step based on the results of the first.”

All throughout those steps, people are looking in and chipping in their own thoughts. Every weekday at 4 p.m. Pacific (7 p.m. Eastern), Spearhead broadcasts from their office. They show off what they’ve developed in the past day, and they play with the community. They then gather feedback from the livestream’s chat.

Right now, Project Cyber doesn’t look like much. It has placeholder art and few animations. It is a 3-on-3 digital sport where players must use their abilities and weapons to get a disc into their opponents’ goal. The Spearhead team sorta decided on this basic framework — they knew from the start that they wanted to make something competitive — but gamers will have a big role in the development from this point forward.

“We had started working on the general direction of the game — we have early prototypes, and we have a playable build right now that’s actually up on Steam already,” Spearhead cofounder Malik Boukhira told GamesBeat. “We’ve started distributing keys so people can play around with what we have. But from now on, we want people to be more involved in what happens. It’s still very early. We’re still only a couple of weeks in development. At this point, anything could happen. Any influence could have a huge impact on the game.”

It’s rare to see software at this early stage of development. Project Cyber is more a prototype than an actual game at this point. We asked Boukhira and Darveau if they were scared to show off something like that to the public.

“Developers are still shy about showing off a work in progress,” said Boukhira. “In triple-A it’s for marketing reasons. They’re afraid of backlash — but we fully embrace that. As long as people are aware that this isn’t final, but rather a very early version of a future game, then I think there can be a very enriching interaction.”

“The one thing to be afraid about — the game right now isn’t what we could call a game,” said Darveau. “It’s like the core gameplay. This is really a game in progress. This is what it looks like when you’re a dev and you interact with your game. This is everyday life as a developers … so we were kinda scared to release it because it looks like a broken game.”

To deal with that, Spearhead is making it very clear that this isn’t the final product. They also aren’t charging for the game. Fans can go request a Steam code from Spearhead’s website if they want a chance to experiment with the current build. The game will update as the studio releases new features.

So, when will Spearhead finish Project Cyber? Well, the studio doesn’t think this will take an inordinate amount of time.

“We’re quite fast developers,” said Boukhira. “We did Tiny Brains in only one year, including online, PS4, and all that. We can react very swiftly to a lot of things.”

With a 40,000 people potentially sharing their ideas for the game, Spearhead will have to work very swiftly indeed.

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Twitch is the world’s leading video platform and community for gamers where more than 60 million gather every month to broadcast, watch and talk about video games. Twitch’s video platform is the backbone of both live and on-demand ... read more »

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