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With 'SOS,' Outpost Attempts To Move Video Games Closer To Performance Art

With 'SOS,' Outpost Attempts To Move Video Games Closer To Performance Art
From Uproxx - March 16, 2018

Outpost Games latest release, SOS, may have first popped up on peoples radars when Snoop Dogg decided to livestream his playthrough, but its taking the concept of the Battle Royale game and doing something different with it: each round of SOS is designed to be a performance, as well as a video game, and it might be the first game fully designed with the concept of an audience (other than your fellow players) in mind.

The conceit of SOS is simple. Take a group of players ostensibly on a Survivor-style reality show, drop them randomly on an island, and have them duke it out for the three totems that allow you to be airlifted to safety. The setup of each round features some short audition moments, where youll use your voice to improv who your character might be and how they might act in the show. Which is the game.

The game incorporates Outsposts Hero system, which allows people to spectate and provide real-time feedback via emojis and other praise signifiers. The people who garner the most fan love in a round will get a special shout-out at the end, and it will affect their game ranking, which will reward you for being good at being entertaining and a personality, rather than just good at playing the game better than someone else.

We spoke to Wright Bagwell, CEO and co-founder at Outpost Games, at an SOS event in Los Angeles, and he explained the difficulties of making a game like this, and how much a game can change during development.

UPROXX: To start with, tell me about the development process for SOS.

Wright Bagwell: Well, when we started the company, me and the other co-founders, we talked a lot about how what got us into games in the first place was Quake, and the Quake community. So I was a Quake modder and a Quake hacker, a level designer back in the day, and he was one of the top-ranked Quake capture the flag players.

And I think both of us always really loved being part of that community, because Quake was more about the players. Quake was about all the creative people who were figuring out, building new maps, creating new gameplay mods, doing early Machinima, all those kinds of things. And it just felt like the community was really the star of the show.

And in the past 20 years that Ive been making video games, one of the things that sort of left me a little dissatisfied is in making single-player games. I worked on the James Bond franchise at EA. I worked on Dead Space. I was the creative director for Dead Space 2. Then I went over to Zynga and I worked on FarmVille. I was the design director for FarmVille 2. So Ive been at both ends of the spectrum. Ive done a lot of different things.

But all those games are primarily single-player games, and theyre designed as content to be consumed. So they treat the player as consumer, not as performer. And when we started Outpost, we just kept coming back to, like, Man, you know that Quake community still to this day really inspires us. We always think about it. And we looked at the emergence of the Twitch phenomenon, the emergence of YouTube stars, eSports, and all these kinds of things, and we thought, Okay, well, nows a time where you can really, seriously make a business out of players being performers.

And we also looked at DayZ. I was playing a lot of DayZ. And I instantly fell in love with it cause it broke every rule about game design that I learned over the years. When you make single-player games, its about making sure that people are always entertained, that theres too much repetition, you have to give them very clear goals and rewards and all these things. And I just love that DayZ was unapologetically hardcore, and that you were really drawn into it because you always had this idea of, like, Man, I wonder what crazys**t Im going to see. I wonder what kind of crazy antics that me and my friends might get up to in this game.

So we thought about the Twitch phenomenon, we thought about the communities and performers from the Quake scene that got us into games, and then I looked at DayZ and I thought, If you could package this game up in a way that felt like a TV show and take all these elements that make it so magical but make sure theres a beginning, middle, and an end to every episode, if you will, with a big, climactic ending, then I think what you could build is a game that feels like an improvisational kind of TV drama.

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