Hello Uplay Gamers,

Last week saw the release of Grow Home, a project created by a small team at Ubisoft Reflections now available on Steam and in the Uplay Shop in which you take control of BUD (Botanical Utility Droid) on his journey to, well... you`ll see.

We took the opportunity to ask Pete Young, the Producer of Grow Home a few questions about his team and their unique game. This is what he had to say...


Who are the team behind Grow Home?

It`s a team of 8, which includes three programmers (Andy Buck, Daniel Bradshaw, Alexander Brown) and one each of artist (Jack Couvela), game designer (Andrew Willans), level designer (Justin Lim) and audio designer (Lewis Griffin), with an associate producer (Anne Langourieux) to hold them together.

The team has a mix of experienced triple-A developers and newer developers who have a great knowledge of the indie game scene and bring fresh perspectives to the development process.

What connects us is a love of games, a work ethic and a passion to take risks with gameplay. At Reflections, we are also lucky to have a wealth of specialists around, which means that it`s a very healthy and inspiring environment in which to work. We benefitted from the insights of other team members to push the game to its full potential.




What is Grow Home?

Grow Home is a 2km high, vertical adventure where players will grow and climb a giant Star Plant starting from sea level until they reach a space ship in low orbit.

The game is based around a fully physics driven, procedurally-animated character called BUD (Botanical Utility Droid). Procedural animation frees you from the confines of predetermined gameplay and allows players to experiment and explore the world by taking direct control of each of BUD`s hands to grab, pull, push and climb to the top.

The vertical journey takes players through a series of floating islands, each with unique features, plants and animals to discover. Each path is individually defined by the player as they grow their Star Plant towards the space ship, creating a unique vertical playground in the process.




What do you expect players to feel when playing Grow Home?

The game is a journey through emotional states and really keys into our innate fear of heights and desire to explore. In the beginning you are learning how to climb, each move slow and deliberate. Your confidence builds as you get better but you soon become aware of the ever increasing distance to the ground below you, leading to some heart stopping moments.

Confidence grows again and then most of the challenge comes from the risks you take as a player - those daring Hollywood-style jumps and cliffhanger moments. It might be safer to grow and climb everywhere, but once you have a glider or parachute to use if you fall then you`ll begin to push yourself to take bigger and bolder risks.

We hope players finish this game feeling a real sense of achievement, either in having conquered the heights of the Star Plant or from admiring their creation.


Where did the idea for Grow Home come from?

Reflections had been experimenting and playing with procedural animation. There was something about one of those early demos, one of the toys we created had a charm and personality, a real character that many people connected with. They enjoyed how they could influence and guide it around the test environment.

We developed this character into BUD, the robot in our game. Players love that the robot can climb and they are able to control his hands individually. It`s a really interesting and different experience.

We wanted something in the game that could adapt into any terrain and that the player could create and climb. This is where the Star Plant came from.

Creatively, our references are always slightly irreverent. We love the Hitchhiker`s Guide to the Galaxy and Wall-E, the lonely, naοve robot exploring a new world. The team`s true drive has come from creating brand new gameplay - the freedom the climbing in the game gives players contrasts among the dangers.


What is it like working in a small team with a large indie influence compared to that of a large AAA team?

Having a varied and diverse set of projects brings plenty of benefits to the studio. Grow Home is just one aspect to that, one where we can experience a different side to development. In Grow Home we`ve kept the team very small and very personal, meaning we each get to experience every aspect of the game`s creation - all disciplines, all phases, all of the time.

It`s also one where we`ve been able to be extremely inclusive, involving all of our studio and the wider Ubisoft group in being part of the development in one way or another - we`ve constantly shared our game with them and gotten some great feedback in return. The most amazing part is having that level of creative ownership and the agility to react and respond extremely quickly to new ideas or what we see in these play tests.


Have you learned anything from this game that you could apply to future projects?

There are several learnings from this game that allowed us to develop some new techniques, new mechanics, under very specific constraints. Small, highly agile projects enable you take risks and be explorative with your whole approach to development. This extends far beyond games design as you start to challenge established processes and development lore.

It`s this kind of know-how that is definitely going to help us moving forward. The research on the climbing and the sensation of vertigo are interesting concepts too, but the experimental spirit we had is really something that we`d love to spread throughout the studio and our other projects.


.................................................. ............................


A big thank you to Pete for answering our questions and for the budding adventurers out there, we hope you enjoyed this short Q&A and we wish you all the best in your journeys with BUD.

.............................................

The Uplay Team