Wow, what a crazy few weeks it’s been! When we heard about PlayStation’s new Vote to Play feature we were really excited to be included in the very first line-up. To then end up winning the public vote was just amazing, especially against the other great looking games that were featured. It’s exciting to know that the PlayStation community is as eager about this release as we are! Grow Home was a dream project for the whole team – a real labor of love from start to finish – and we look forward to opening up that experience to a new audience.
It all started with an experimental character made from a collection of boxes and springs, controlled entirely by physical forces. The first thing we taught him was to how to keep his balance and walk, so we called him Walkster! This approach, which is called ‘procedural animation,’ gives the player an incredible feeling of freedom because the character isn’t limited to a set of pre-defined animations; Walkster could do things that we never dreamed of! The next thing we taught him was how to grab with his hands to pick things up. We quickly realised that by grabbing a solid wall, he could also climb, one hand at a time, making you feel every move. We saw something magical about the stumbling, imperfect way he ran around and the unique way that he could climb, so we set out to build a whole game around him.
The character and his prototype world were all made of simple boxes, and we saw a real charm in that as well. We needed to find an art style that matched this simplicity, and a character design and story that explained his unique movement. The colorful, geometric art style was inspired by some amazing modern illustrators. It let us prototype everything in the world very quickly, and gave our character some very satisfying, simple physical shapes to grab hold of.
The key to making this style look as satisfying as it does in Grow Home is in the softly reflective lighting effects. The light from the sun and the sky realistically bounces off the edge of every surface, creating a subtle, glowing outline everywhere you look. That’s the magic behind the look of the game – it transforms a simple looking art style into a game that really shines. Add to that a time-of-day cycle that constantly changes the color of the sky, an atmosphere that you can literally climb your way out of revealing a galaxy of stars, and the curvature of the planet as you climb higher and higher up through the clouds, and you have one great looking game!
Once we had something that started to feel like a game, we released it internally to the other Ubisoft studios all over the world. This was the first time that more than a handful of people from outside Reflections studio had even heard of our project, so it was very exciting! We treated it like a practice run for a full release, particularly wanting to learn how the news of the game would spread by word of mouth. This internal ‘launch’ of the game went really well. We received a lot of very positive feedback from all over Ubisoft, not least from the head office in Paris.
BUD Is Born
The character design also proved an interesting journey for us. The physical forces that control the character give him a quirky, slightly unstable look. For a while we thought that he should be an accident-prone, broken-looking robot – as if damaged by his regular falls to the ground while he was climbing and walking around. But then we saw that he also looked great with a huge, babyish head. It was while discussing the details of his ‘mother ship’ that our narrative designer Ian suggested we name his spaceship ‘MOM.’ This was our missing piece and we worked hard to build everything around it. By giving our little guy a MOM and emphasising his childlike qualities like huge, excited eyes and a great big goofy grin, BUD was finally born!
BUD became an excited toddler, running, climbing and stumbling his way through a giant garden all under MOM’s watchful eye – who couldn’t fall in love with him? We always wanted this to be a game that older gamers could play with the younger generations, so this was another perfect fit. Grow Home is a game with no pressure and no real enemies. You’re completely free to learn and progress at your own pace. Every plant and animal you discover has unique properties that make them fun to play and experiment with.
As you grow and climb the STAR PLANT you meet some crazy animals, many spectacular plants and ever more impressive views of the world that you’ve helped to create. From the tropical blue skies above a desert island, the serene sunsets while you glide peacefully on your giant leaf, onwards to outer space amongst gently spinning meteors, there’s so much to explore on your climb to the top.
We are so proud to see Grow Home make the move to PS4 and really excited that it’s going to be free to PlayStation Plus subscribers during September! Knowing that so many new people will get to play our little game is an amazing feeling.
We hope you enjoy it!
Learn more about Grow Home in these features: