Surgeon Simulator 2013 has been a runaway success for London-based Bossa Studios, and it all sprouted from 48 hours infront of a screen, a boat load of caffeine and a lot of laughs.
At this year’s Rezzed indie and PC games expo we got a chance to talk to Lead Artist James Broadley and 3D artist – although known as a 4D artist on Bossa’s site – Jack Good about what made Surgeon Simulator 2013 the success it is and what some of their favourite moments of development have been.
TheGamersHub: So, first things first, what led to the creation and design of something as surreal as Surgeon Simulator 2013?
Jack Good: Well, we came up with it at the Global Game Jam and the theme was ‘Heartbeat’. We just thought what can we do with heats and heart surgery just seemed like a fun thing to do. We then started talking about Trespasser and QWOP and all these weird games and started tying the ideas together a bit.
James Broadley: The control mechanism, which is the fundamental thing that makes [Surgeon Simulator 2013] so fun, came from one of the criteria [of the Global Game Jam] to use 10 keys. So we tried to fit that in and that was almost a stepping-stone for us to have the control scheme where each finger has its own button.
TGH: Ah, yes the rather intuitive yet clumsy as hell one!
JB: Yeah it’s somewhat intuitive but really clumsy. It’s really quite harsh, but that’s just part of the fun.
JG: Heart surgery is too hard; our game is just being realistic.
TGH: So how difficult was the implementation of Razer Hydra support and Oculus Rift support?
JG: Ah, I really wish Tom [a lead programmer] was here [at Rezzed] as he’s the one who implemented it, but we had a build with the Hydra really quick, like in a day. Then it was just a matter of fine-tuning it so the elbows didn’t act strange. They do still act strange, but it’s enough to where it’s just funny!
JB: The difficulty also came with adding an extra arm as we obviously had one arm rigged, but we had to make it work like it’s not two random arms. We actually have an entire skeleton behind the camera. Only the arms are skinned, but the rest is there to make it work.
TGH: Did you ever expect Surgeon Simulator 2013 to get big from the initial groundwork at Global Game Jam? Did you see it going viral and even becoming anything more than that 48-hour game?
JG: Well we made it thinking it’d be a great laugh in the office, just something that they’d find funny and not much further than that. The first sign that it was something that people liked was when other people laughed.
At Global Game Jam you’re awake for 48 hours and working, you’re sleep deprived and will pretty much laugh at anything. So when we demoed ours we couldn’t really speak because everyone was just laughing at it and shouting, “Use the hammer.” That was the first sort-of sign that we had made something fun and interesting. But even then we never knew [how big it would become].
JB: Yeah, no one would. It was madness, just madness.
TGH: Yeah, it’s understandable because – even though you said it draws upon influencers – it’s incredibly unique.
JG: We never got back and thought “how can we market this,” it just spread by word of mouth and then hit YouTube.
JB: One of the nicest things of that first week [of SS2013’s release] was when one of my younger cousins, she went to a party and her boyfriend went into one of the rooms and they were sat there playing it. I just thought “we’ve made it now, we’re the cool kids.”
TGH: Has Bossa Studios ever thought about SS2013 to other platforms in the future?
JB: Errm, well we’ve talked about stuff but nothing is planned at the moment.
JG: It really is also down to the control scheme. It’s a challenge to take it across, but its core to the game.
JG: I imagine that Move could work quite well though.
TGH: So, the big news for Surgeon Simulator at Rezzed is the addition of a Team Fortress 2 expansion. So what led to that coming about?
JB: Well again that started back at the Global Game Jam
JG: Yeah, at the Game Jam we pulled up the Meet the Medic video from Team Fortress 2. So that’s really how we wanted it to start looking.
JB: If you look at the heart, it’s the only original asset from Game Jam.
It’s about as close as you can get in a half day to the heart in the video.
TGH: So the expansion is almost like homage to its roots?
JB: Pretty much yeah, it was pretty easy to get the rights too.
JG: It was just a meeting with the guys from Valve over drinks with and Enrique, our boss, and he mentioned it and they loved the idea. They were like “yeah that’s amazing,” and they’ve just been amazing.
They said that they just really wanted to play it when it came out, they were asking for steam keys so they could play in the office. That’s just such an achievement to get them so interested.
They were just easy going with the Team Fortress stuff. They were sending over assets and I really hope we get to work with them again, it was really good.
JB: Team Fortress is just such a big thing and they could have been protective over their own IP but they just seemed really trusting. We could have just butchered it – which is kind-of what we’ve done!
TGH: So, you must have seen some amazing things from fans, but what’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve had the pleasure of seeing someone do on Surgeon Simulator 2013?
JG: My favourite one is where a guy has a pen across his knuckles.
JB: Ah yeah that one!
JG: And then he somehow gets it between his fingers and stars spinning it around between them and it flies up and he grabs it.
JB: How in hell, that man is just a god. I can’t even do that with my real hands.
TGH: No, nor can we – we’re definitely not that dextrous!
JG: We’ve seen other things too. One guy posted a screenshot of him stacking floppy discs up on their edge perfectly. It was on Reddit with people saying “you are a god.”
TGH: Ah, yes we spent far too long trying to get a floppy disc into the PC earlier.
JB: We’ve seen people flip them and catch it too. Crazy.
TGH: Do you ever find yourself just going on YouTube just to watch people play?
Both: [Look at one another] Yeahhh…
JB: There are just so many videos on YouTube about the game, some weird ones too.
JG: There was this one guy who had re-skinned Bob to look like Spider-Man.
JB: But he didn’t look anything like Spider-Man
JG: There’s been a load of other re-skins and I think people just get creative with it. Because it is a fan-built game, they just make their own fun. We’ve just loved watching the videos more than else.
JB: I think it’s just by accident really as, if I’m honest, it’s just been down to the sharing thing of these videos. The ‘share me on Facebook’, ‘Share me on Twitter’ etc., it just feels like a shared-game even if you haven’t played it yet. People are doing it naturally instead of being forced into it so it carries more weight.
TGH: It’s just one of those games where every time it’s funny. Any time you play anything can happen and it’s just hilarious.
JB: Yeah, it’s just funny to watch, even if you hate games.
TGH: We especially liked the small touches, such as being able to draw with the pen on a pad in the middle of surgery.
JB: But it is hard to draw!
TGH: Indeed, I didn’t really manage to do anything but a few messy squiggles
JG: James did draw an amazing penis though.
JB: I did draw an amazing penis.
JB: It was Tom’s idea to implement the drawing in and so I thought that everyone would just be drawing cocks. So I decided that I’d be the first one to do it.