Talking filth with That’s You! creator Caspar Field
Sony and developer Wish Studios have brought the party game back in style with That’s You!, allowing friends to revel in each other’s silly sides.
The Internet is cool and all, but ask any veteran gamer to remember their favourite moments with a gamepad in hand and you can guarantee a friend was in the room. Multiplayer experiences, co-op or competitive, with your nearest and dearest are simply the best. Yet these games are now a rare breed. Despite a mini-revival in the indie gaming scene, “same-couch” gaming has been the unfortunate loser in the movement towards connected experiences and 60fps, high-definition visuals.
Enter That’s You! The game is a throwback to the hysterical laughter and unrivalled joy that comes with the best same-couch gaming experiences. Available now on PlayStation 4, and free till the end of September if you are a PlayStation Plus subscriber, That’s You! is an old-school party game. This genre, made famous by titles such as Guitar Hero and SingStar, transcends gamers by providing an interface and a theme anybody can understand. Even your rents can play it.
That’s You! is best described as a mix of the quiz game Buzz! and Pictionary with a modern twist. Up to six players use their mobile phones as the controller. They sync these via an app to the PlayStation 4, and as challenges are presented on the TV, they input their answers on their phones. Keep in mind that sometimes these answers are drawings, text, selfies or other such inputs made possible by these touchscreen enabled, multimedia devices.
Where the laughs stem from is through the ingenious nature of the questions. The subjects of each question are the assembled players, and the correct answer is the one that the majority selects. When the game picks out a single player and says, “What would you find hidden under this person’s bed?”, you can only imagine the kinds of drawings players send back to the PS4 for the vote. For a group of close friends who know each other’s best and worst moments intimately, it’s fantastic fun. You can read a more in-depth overview here!
Recently, I had a chance to catch up with Wish Studios CEO Caspar Field to talk about That’s You! Among other things, we discussed the risqué nature of creating a multiplayer quiz game where the players' personalities, insecurities and indiscretions are both the questions and the answers.
It has been a decade since the heyday of the peripheral-driven party game – think Buzz!, Guitar Hero, SingStar – why was now the right time to bring it back?
The games that we make are designed to bring people together much like a board game, so in this respect, we never felt like we needed to “bring them back.” They’re always popular if you can connect to the audience.
We’ve had a great relationship with Sony’s XDev (external development) team in Liverpool, UK, for years now. We’d been talking about what we could do that would offer something fresh in the party genre, and we pitched a bunch of ideas. That’s You! was one of the stand-out ideas, so we got started prototyping it back in late 2013. The game was fun right from the start, even in crappy blue-screen-yellow-text prototype form.
What were the biggest technical hurdles you had to overcome to get a mobile app and console game communicating seamlessly with each other?
There is a long list of the technical challenges that the team at Wish Studios needed to overcome in order to create That’s You! Just having dozens of test devices fighting on the office Wi-Fi was a battle to start with. Game-wise, as you can imagine, there can be quite a lot of data going around, and we add to that data by asking players to draw on their selfies and swipe them into the game. So that is a lot of detailed graphical information flying around that we have to manage and deliver quickly.
Our technical objective was to create an experience that "just works" so it’s very satisfying for us to see players taking a selfie, drawing on it, swiping it into the game and it appearing as if they were playing a card in a physical board game. There is an immense amount of tech at work under the hood that makes that possible, but for us it was critical that players never even think about it.
The biggest question mark around That’s You! is variety; how many times can you play the game before it starts getting samey? What are your plans to combat this over time?
Well, we packed in enough for around 50 games before you see questions repeat – and the really cool thing is that because the players are the answers, different combinations of people can play the same questions and have a totally new experience. On top of that, you can write your own additional questions and many of the games are creative activities like "draw something" or "write something." So it ends up feeling fresh every time. We’ve been playing That’s You! for over three years in the office and we still have a huge amount of fun with it.
Were user-generated questions easy to implement?
User-generated content headed in the same direction as all good ideas – straight into the game! Players can use the app on their phone to write their own questions, take photos and create drawings that get uploaded into the main game. The things you create are added at the start of the game and then automatically woven into the game as you play. We wanted it to be as low-friction to use as the rest of That’s You!
When I first played, my “friends” drew an awfully large amount of dicks as answers to questions. Were there any questions or situations you had to ditch because the responses just got a little too risqué? Can you give any examples?
Ha! Yeah, just a few. The early stages of development of That’s You! saw us get through a lot of risqué questions while we were figuring out what was fun to play. We realised that the game become more interesting when the questions were more suggestive and open to interpretation rather than just flatly crude. We added the Question Filter as well so that in situations where players want to avoid any potentially embarrassing questions, they can be easily switched off.
Much more than dealing with rudeness, we realised that it’s easy to write questions that just hit on the extroverts in the room. We fixed that by writing questions based on 12 classic personality archetypes – from Everyman to Joker, Rebel to Ruler – so that a range of people in the room could be the answer. Otherwise, you could end up picking the loudest, rudest, stand-out joker in the group for almost every question.
Is Wish Studios working on another PlayLink game?
Our second PlayLink title, Knowledge is Power, will be launching for PlayStation 4 on October 25. Knowledge is Power is a rapid-fire quiz game in which you use tricky Power Plays to hinder your opponents, slowing down their answers. It’s a character-based game, featuring Snapchat-style selfie taking, interlinked questions, touchscreen challenge games and, well, there’s a lot to talk about! Look out for a lot more info soon.