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Compulsion Games promises to continue making ‘crazy games’ following Microsoft acquisition

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What a major change means for the studio

We Happy Few screenshots

Compulsion Games, the developer behind We Happy Few and Contrast, was one of four studios recently acquired by Microsoft. That won’t change how they make games, Alex Epstein, narrative director on We Happy Few, told Polygon.

The team at Compulsion will “continue making crazy games,” he said, adding that’s why “Microsoft is buying us.” The only difference Epstein sees moving forward is having more time to create polished games.

“What we’ll be able to do is do everything with a little bit more polish, a little more attention to detail in the game,” Epstein told Polygon at E3. “The development of [We Happy Few] has been a constant case of triage; of like, ‘This we need to do, so we will do it. This would be nice to have, so we probably won’t do it unless it’s a hobby horse for some person or if I nag a level designer enough, you know, maybe I’ll get something.’”

Compulsion Games is a relatively small team. We Happy Few, a story-driven adventure set in post-World War II England, where everyone takes a drug called Joy to forget about past events, started with just six team members. They ended up with dozens more, and that still isn’t quite enough to give players the experience or AAA-level polish they may want from the open-world game. The hope is that Microsoft will give the team the opportunity to do that in future titles.

“I mean, we’ve, we’ve been trying to punch above our weight, right,” Epstein said. “You know, we started with six people in this game. We ended up with 40 people. Everybody else is 120 people, 500 people; we’re at sort of at an awkward, lanky teenage place where we’re good enough that people start to have AAA expectations of us. And then they’re like, ‘Why isn’t there a hundred hours of gameplay? Why can I get stuck in the landscape sometimes?’ We want to be able to have you never get stuck in landscape.”

Compulsion Games’ acquisition also means that, yes, the studio’s next game will be Xbox exclusive. (We Happy Few, which is being published by Gearbox, will be multiplatform.)

Epstein wouldn’t tease what Compulsion’s next game may be, but reiterated the team is hard at work on We Happy Few and working on ensuring people don’t get stuck in the landscape or, in my case, fly backward with outstretched, severed arms.

We Happy Few, which was delayed a few months ago, will be released on PlayStaton 4, Xbox One and Windows PC on Aug. 10. The game is available to play now in Early Access form on Steam.