Publisher Ubisoft is not always seen as the most gamer-friendly company in the industry. There has been a steady stream of complaints against the publisher’s DRM policy and online client uPlay. Meanwhile, much-loved series such as Assassin’s Creed have faced criticism over an annual release schedule - particularly when it results in the game-breaking bugs of highly-anticipated titles like Assassin’s Creed Unity.
There are, however, a few reasons why Ubisoft has yet to fall into the infamous territory of EA. In spite of all its flaws, the publisher promotes independent thought from within the company. This has often had a positive result, with the creation of games such as Child of Light and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. Although these games have not been as big a commercial success as Ubisoft’s flagship triple-A franchises, there has been critical acclaim and perhaps more importantly a sense of real originality from the independent productions of the publisher’s developers.
Along these lines, Ubisoft has revealed the next title in the line of its independently-created titles. The game is called Grow Home, a vertical adventure inspired by the likes of Wall-E and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and created by a team of developers at Ubisoft Reflections. Grow Home was revealed in a blog post by Ubisoft, and is set for release on PC on February 4.
The player will control BUD, a Botanical Utility Droid tasked with finding new species of flora to oxygenate his home planet. BUD then finds the Star Plant – a “giant beanstalk” that BUD must help reach maturity, in order to harvest the seeds that it produces. Gameplay will consist of climbing the Star Plant and helping it to grow as you go. BUD can then explore the stalk as it both becomes a ladder to BUD’s space ship and grows outwards, creating offshoots to reach explorable areas.
The growth of the Star Plant is procedurally animated. Producer Pete Young explains that the Star Plant is “a living thing,” and that the development team has “created such an organic and irregular world" that traditional forms of game animation would have a very hard time coping with. Somewhat uniquely, players controlling BUD will be able to control each of BUD’s hands individually, and due to the procedural nature of the game, BUD can grab on to anything in sight. Along the way, teleportation pads and flower parachutes will help BUD as he gets higher and higher up the stalk.
Grow Home actually started off as an in-house experiment in procedural animation, before becoming a fun toy that the team at Ubisoft Reflections put together on the side. However, the team realised Grow Home’s potential, and kept working with it until it was launched for all Ubisoft staff to play. Eventually Ubisoft’s management saw the game, and decided that Grow Home was more than worthy of being worked on as a commercial title. It’s certainly an interesting concept. Here’s hoping that the end result is as impressive as the idea itself.
Grow Home will launch for PC on February 4, 2015.