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Galacticare Interview - Brightrock Games explains what goes into making a cosmic hospital

We caught up with the creators of the wacky management title to pick their brains about how it came about, what went into developing its daft tone, and how they managed to incorporate the many different gameplay mechanics and systems.

Audio transcription

"Hello everyone and welcome back to another episode of Gamereactor interviews. Today I'm here with the wonderful guys over at Brightrock Games. I'm here with Mitch and Lee to talk about the upcoming Galacticare. Now I say the upcoming, by the time you hear this interview or see this interview, the game is probably either going to be here or very, very close to being here. So it's very topical we can say. So with that being the case, the first question I really want to throw to both of you guys is sort of a bit of a general thing."

"First of all, you know, how are you, you know, enjoying this sort of May summer day? Well, nearly May summer day. And, you know, what's the feel of the developer, you know, anticipated, excited towards the Galacticare launch?
Well, yeah, well, for the first time in what feels like, I don't know, seven months, eight months, there's actually sun outside. So it is, it is looking like a great day outside."

"And I'm in here talking to you, but that's, that's brilliant because to be quite frank, I'm really excited. I am really excited to get this game in front of people because, yeah, like we've been working on this for so long. It's, it's so cool to see this come together. It's so cool to hear what the reactions that we've had so far. So yeah, really looking forward to getting it in people's hands. Mitch, how are you feeling?
Yeah, I'm really looking forward to it. We've got all the character voices in, we've got all the arts looking beautiful, the soundtrack's awesome, the sounds are all in. I just can't wait for people to see the characters and just these fantastic worlds we've kind of created."

"Very excited. And before we get into the sort of specific set of Galacticare, let's talk a little bit about the sort of direction that Brightrock has taken. So you've come from the Overworld series and you've made this jump to Galacticare and, you know, anyone who knows Overworld knows, have seen bits of Galacticare, they're very different sort of ideas in regards to their setting. So what made you want to leave behind that sort of dungeon and fantasy setting for the, you know, for the cosmos in Galacticare?
Yeah, well, I guess like we started on like War for the Overworld in like 2011, I think that was when the Kickstarter was like so, so, so long ago. And yeah, like as we sort of like brought that project to its conclusion in like 2015 when it first released and that's far from the conclusion because it got years of post-release support. We were sort of like started thinking, oh, what do we do for our next game? And obviously like a big thing was just sort of like we really wanted to bring like back to life games and genres that really excited us, really pulled us in as developers and like as gamers all the way back when we were playing as kids. And now that feels so long ago. And so we sort of like looked at that sort of like catalogue of games that we really liked and went, right, this is something that nobody has done for a bit. And bearing in mind, this is back in 2015 when we were talking about this. Nobody's done this, but we really want to take it and make it something a bit more. So we'll go for like hospital management in space and we're going to fill it with kooky aliens and crazy diseases and all sorts of wonderful nonsense. And then we spent three years working at War for the Overworld and then went, oh, actually, we should probably make that other game. So yeah, that's basically how it happened."

"And talking a little bit about that tone as well, that humour that the game has, was there any particular things that you looked at as inspiration and going, yeah, I like the way they've done this sort of humourous style of things. That's what we want to see and transport into the world of Galactica."

"Yeah, I'll answer this one. So, yeah, I think there is a lot of like, especially kind of British authors and comedy, obviously, our writers in particular have kind of grown up on that old kind of British humour. So you've got some kind of like Monty Python in there, Red Dwarf, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, that kind of stuff. And really, even I think for myself, and this might be where Dante's kind of got it from, but Basil Fawlty from Fawlty Towers is definitely that kind of heel. It's really when you really listen to that character and that kind of British sarcasm and that kind of like that wittiness, it's really kind of where we got the kind of inspirations from these. But as well as like the kind of world building and the kind of art and stuff, we've definitely got some stuff from kind of Futurama was kind of a baseline of this kind of space world that was kind of known to us. You kind of look at Futurama and it's not too distant from what you could imagine this kind of future being and the aliens weren't too weird. And yeah, yeah, we really kind of got a feel from loads of different things, really. I was talking to the art director earlier about kind of direction and stuff and Men in Black, especially for some of the alien direction. And we've got Space Dumplings, which is a graphic novel. If you have a look at that, there's loads of kind of inspiration from there, especially in the colours that we've kind of built into this environment to characters. So yeah, loads. Lee?
Yeah, it's sort of like remarkable, really, when you when you start on like getting ideas for a game in like a sci-fi comedy game, you start to realise, first of all, just how much sci-fi stuff there is that you could just pull on. But you could walk outside and trip over 20 references to sci-fi in your daily walk, especially if you pass a comic shop like I do. And yeah, like just there's so many great ideas out there. And in many ways, it's it's a shame that you don't get more comedy in science fiction. And yeah, like there's all those great examples, as Mitch brought up, that we used as writing references and art references and like just wonderful to pull on, like an endless supply."

"And then you just bring in your own your own little flavour. And it really comes in and becomes something like unique and special.
And talking a little bit about the sort of hospital side of things, the medical side of things, Galactica stands out because you're not just curing regular ailments, right?
You're curing all these weird, kooky sort of strange sci-fi things that people, nobody's going to be familiar with them because they're very unique to Galactica. How did you go about creating these sort of things? Was there anything that you looked at and maybe had to draw the line and said, maybe this is too weird for us, even with Galactica? Was there anything like that that sort of took place with the game?
Well, I'll take a stab because like the thing about coming up with like crazy disease ideas is that it can really come from anywhere on the team. So like throughout this whole process, like, you know, like the six or seven years where this has been an idea and then evolved into actual pre-production and then into production and so on, like it has been like a constant stream of ideas. And it started really, really simple. Like, what about a guy with a barnacle on his head? Or what if a guy turns into jelly? And what if a guy is really flat or filled with space? And then like as those ideas evolve and you pull on more references, you get like, what if it's like a robotic brain implant that blows you up if you don't do your job properly? And it's going haywire. And what if like, what if a guy is literally melting from the inside out or being eaten by a virus? And yeah, like you just get so much."

"It's so, so fun. So yeah, ideas from anywhere on the team, constantly sort of pushing them, finding the ones that look great, because that's been really important for Galactica is like making sure that the conditions look distinct in the hospital. In a lot of these games, you get a sort of like, it is kind of easy to go and like make small minor changes to the characters. But we try and make sure that we always push some sort of like visual and try and limit the amount of times where you don't have something obvious about it."

"Plus, that with like seven species, seven species, that's a lot of like different versions to do. Like if we make one where a guy is like, you can see through to the skeleton, that's seven skeletons you've got to make. You've got to make a human one, an old one, you've got to make a visage. And like, that's that's huge for the production side of things, which, you know, I'm sure Mitch will have something to say about as well."

"The nightmares that that brings on. So yeah, Mitch, any thoughts?
Yeah, no, just kind of on the piggybacking off the back of the conditions and stuff is it might even come from like a wordplay like someone's we've got a like a reference from like Star Wars, for instance, is just a play on words of a popular movie."

"And thinking like, what would that what would that be like?
And yeah, it can be as it could be as weird as that or kind of just thinking about classic sci-fi.
Like we've got one which is hyperfreeze, which is obviously you think about when you especially like alien and stuff when they're in the cryopods and they've got this hyperfreeze."

"And then it's that kind of process of, well, how would you get rid of someone frozen?
Well, we've got a giant flame thrower. So that's the solution.
And on the back of that, the same room is is we've got hypersleep crust.
So obviously when you sleep too much, you get the crust on your eyes and stuff."

"So we've kind of got that as the as a whole body ailment.
So how do you get rid of like these big pieces of crust is a giant shotgun.
Obviously, you shoot these these giant bits of crust off.
So it's really like a it's kind of like a kid's playground of what is the weirdest and coolest and that visually appealing way of getting rid of these kind of diseases and ailments and really sorting them out."

"So, yeah, I think that's been the really, really cool thing about it as well.
It's like coming up with the solution to the problem as well.
Like that is that has been so, so fun.
I think that's one of the things that really appealed about making a hospital game as well."

"Like there's there's not many genres where you can have a non-combat experience, but also like bring like, you know, you go and you go play like Doom or something like that.
One of my favorite games of all time. Very, very different from this game, to be fair.
But also I have three guns in my hospital, three or four guns in my hospital and they treat patients."

"It's like really, really fun. Absolutely. Joy to work with.
And, you know, Galactica kind of stands out in the sort of genre that it fits in, because it has a very core defined storyline that you kind of follow.
As you build up these various different hospitals throughout space and different parts of the cosmos."

"You know, what was that? What were the difficulties with doing that, should I say?
Because you often see it with the genre that there's often sort of a lack of a core narrative in many of these games.
But Galactica has that, you know. Where did the idea come from?
When did you decide early on, you know, that this was going to be the case with Galactica, that we're going to have this core narrative to follow and to teach people how to play the game and take them on this journey?
Hmm. Yeah, that's it's kind of hard to pinpoint exactly where that idea came from, I think."

"Like, I remember all the way back when we first started coming up with the ideas.
I remember coming up with like sort of like episodic names for like levels.
Like there was Galactica episode one, the Phantom Measles and then something like that.
And then that to me kind of launched the idea."

"Well, what if each level really had a core concept, an idea that it would build upon?
And then it started to slowly evolve over time into this idea.
Well, if we're going to do that, if we're going to build these levels to be, rather than, oh, you just go to X region of space and build a hospital, you actually, but beyond that, you meet characters there, you find out what they're about, you find out about the species and like and all these things."

"Like we may as well actually write the story, a little space opera to go along with it for a reason, why you're going from place to place and what the end results of your journey as a hospital administrator is, which I don't think is something that has been done.
And it's certainly not common in management games beyond sort of like, as I mentioned, going from going to X place or Y place and it's now your job to set up the thing you set up in the last place here."

"So, yeah, like we really wanted to sort of like push that.
And as I say, like a little space opera, fun characters. How can you say no to that?
And let's talk a little bit about the gameplay as well, because I think that we know Galacticare is very unique in its style, but it also fits into that sort of overall management sort of simulation builder sort of aspect."

"Were there any parts when you were creating Galacticare that you thought, I see how the industry and how other developers have done this part, but we can do it better.
Are there any parts that you thought like maybe this area of this genre needs to be tackled?
And these are the things that we want to make sure that Galacticare doesn't do, if you know what I mean."

"Like those sort of areas that the genre may potentially stumble with that Galacticare is looking to sort of rectify and overcome.
Well, I know that I have an answer, but I would love if Mitch has got one as well.
Yeah, I guess kind of following on from the point with the narrative, I think that really helps with the gameplay for this.
And that's really what solved me because I started a little bit later into development in the game."

"So they had the kind of story starting to establish.
And I remember being introduced to MC2 and I played Team Hospital.
I've played Two Point Hospital and a load of different management games.
And they've all got that kind of core aspect."

"And obviously we've got those core elements, but the narrative for me, which is what really drove the passion for me and thought, this is just awesome.
Like you've not just got a wave of patients coming in.
You've got to heal them and treat them."

"And then you've just got to kind of do that for an hour and a half, two hours or so on per level and continuously do that.
You've actually got stuff happening.
So like MC2 is probably still one of my favorites because that's the Burning Moon, which is this big festival about a moon exploding and people are going to celebrate it."

"There's a music festival. And you've just got that instead of just a random wave of patients coming in, you've got a story behind it of some people have been in a mosh pit and broken arms and limbs.
And that's why they're coming in. And the moon's exploded a little bit more.
So people are coming in with burns and stuff like that."

"And Metalhead as well is a really cool one.
They've been in a mosh pit, they're listening to metal music.
So they've got a metal head and they've got their bands on and everything.
And that to me is one of the core drivers of the gameplay of you aren't just, again, repetitively just kind of doing this your each level."

"We've got some different mechanics. We've got one in a prison.
So you've got to kind of you can't particularly hire in new new doctors.
You've got to work with a consultant who is a genetic, an evil scientist, essentially, and clone your doctors.
So you have a set of doctors that you start with."

"And instead of hiring new ones, which you'd normally do, you have to then clone them and then expertise them.
So you've got special kind of inventory items which will help you change their expertise.
So each level, I believe, has a different gameplay mechanic, which makes it unique.
And you're doing different things which really kind of drive that."

"And yeah, the consultants, I think, Lee will tell you about the consultants, but they are there are another big driver, I think, really bring this game.
Yeah, Mitch, Mitch, like totally guessed what I was going to go for.
I think he was kind of trying to narrowly avoid it by leading."

"It's like really good, good stuff.
Yeah, I think consultants are like probably like the big sort of like core system.
That was one of the things that we felt was going to like add here and do something differently.
So and the reason for that is it sort of like intersects in a bunch of different areas where we felt like we wanted to iterate and evolve upon, not just just the hospital management genre, but a little bit of management in general."

"Like over over time, and we've seen this in a lot of games and a lot of genres, like meta progression has become quite a big, big thing where you go.
It used to be like you play Commander Conqueror and you'd you'd you'd go go down, deploy your MTV, build your base or whatever."

"And then you do the same the next level and nothing would carry over.
And you just sort of like you do that over and over and over again.
And over time, we've added these gameplay design has sort of like added in these metal elements where you go from level to level and you take something with you."

"And our answer to that, like one of multiple answers to that, in fact, because there is multiple systems.
But this is one that's center is the consultant system where throughout the course of the narrative, you meet special doctors of one of each of the alien species who have special mechanics, special abilities.
And rather than them being a single doctor that you temporarily have in a level, you bring them with you throughout the campaign, you level them up, they gain new abilities."

"And you also learn a little bit about their narratives and their stories.
So in each level, they are narratively important when they're first introduced.
And some of them reappear in later levels that they have a role in that level.
And Mitch kind of mentioned like Dr. Odious, Dr. Odious."

"He's a prisoner in this massive facility built by the Ode, which is one of the alien species.
He is an Ode himself. And the whole thing is cloning.
So they never die. But he's done it like in the most sinister way possible where he's cloned himself endlessly.
So the prison is just filled with him. And in the prison is loads of sick versions of him that he has to heal."

"But also the way he likes to heal people is by killing them and then cloning.
So you get this basically like supervillain who travels with you throughout the campaign who just goes, right, I'm going to kill this patient now. And I'm going to revive him.
It's just like so, so much fun. And that's one of those systems where I think that we're really excited because it intersects."

"We wanted these map progression. We wanted more like gameplay decisions about who you deploy and what you do.
X and Y within the scope of the hospital itself. And then we also wanted the narrative component.
And like this trifecta of things is what the consultant system sits in the middle.
And then all the other things we've kind of added and built upon kind of sit in each of those little areas."

"So it's a great representation overall, I think. Absolutely. And you mentioned it there as well.
I think one of the key things that stands out for me as well, when I was getting an opportunity to check out a bit of Galactic Air, is the voice acting. You know, you gave us a great example of it there a moment ago.
But there's also a variety of other more well-known voices as well in the cast, including Matt Berry takes up quite an iconic role."

"So what was that like working with Matt Berry? How did that come about? How did you manage to land Matt Berry for Galactic Air?
We don't work with... I don't know who this Matt Berry character is.
But we work with a guy called Ben Kearns, who has a certain distinct flavor to his voice.
And he voices a character called Dorian Salazar. And he certainly sounds like a certain famous actor."

"And he does an incredible job. The fact that you've gone and said, oh yes, Matt Berry.
I genuinely thought it was. I genuinely, genuinely thought it was.
It's been incredible. He would love that.
Oh, please do tell him. He's excellent in that. Excellent."

"But no, carry on. Sorry.
But in general, voices and the flavor and life that voice brings to your game cannot be understated.
Especially with real voice actors.
One of the most fulfilling moments on this project for me personally, I've been a little bit involved in narrative."

"I've done some voice acting myself.
The point where this came together, where we'd written the script, we put it in front of a voice actor or all the voice actors.
And we had them read it aloud.
And then they not only bring their own performance to that and their own flavor to it, but they also bring it up and bring it to life and inject a soul into it that previously wasn't there."

"You hear it and it makes you feel good.
And then this is the first time you hear a lot of these things said aloud.
And it's just sort of like, yeah, it's genuinely a joyful experience.
And it cannot be understated in my mind how important it is to have a broadcast with a lot of different fun characters and different voices being portrayed and just how much flavor that brings in."

"It genuinely has been amazing.
I mentioned Ben.
Ben is relatively new to this space, and he's done an incredible job, not just as Dorian Salazar, but as several other characters."

"And then we've had the opportunity again to work with Richard Ridings, who we worked with on War for the Overworld, previously from Dungeon Keeper itself, which was an inspiration for War for the Overworld, and also Daddy Pig from Peppa Pig."

"What are you going to do?
I get to work with Daddy Pig.
And every time I go and meet the guy, wonderful fella, absolutely nails it.
And we've got Lani, who we've worked with in the past as well, and she is Lani Minella."

"She is absolutely amazing.
You go and read her website and just her list of credits.
I grew up listening to this one in my video games.
And to have the opportunity to work with these giants, and then also so many new and upcoming voice actors is just absolutely wonderful."

"There is not a single person who I have heard the voice of who I don't want to hear more and who I don't want to work with again.
Genuinely, the most important part for me has been Ben.
I just went all over the tangent. I apologise for that."

"No, no. It's fantastic to hear.
As a sort of penultimate question then as well, Galacticare isn't just launching on PC, but it's come to console as well.
And that's not a big thing. Games come to consoles as well as PC all the time."

"But for a management simulation game like Galacticare, there are often occasions in the genre where the process between PC and console isn't as seamless and intuitive as other platforms and other genres and games.
So how have you gone about suiting Galacticare for consoles?
And what sort of systems have you introduced for that version to make it feel as authentic and as fluid as the PC version would be?
Yeah, definitely. It's really exciting having it on console."

"Especially seeing it on a big screen if you've got a nice big TV.
Seeing all these bright, vibrant colours on your TV and just sitting down on your sofa and playing this.
I think it's actually been, in terms of controls on a controller, because obviously these kind of games typically it's keyboard and mouse because you're obviously placing things down."

"But we tried it for the first time.
I remember we all plugged in the gamepad and we were like, right, it should work on gamepad and we all played it.
And the amount of us that said, this is actually really good."

"This is brilliant on a gamepad.
And we have people on the team who, just like every time, they're like, can I play it on gamepad?
And we're like, yeah, obviously you can play it on gamepad."

"We want as much as people to play it on.
And we were very, very surprised.
It was probably one of the biggest development surprises we've had on this where we've just been like, wow, this actually really works on a controller."

"So having that has just been really nice.
Obviously that then going on to PlayStation and Xbox and other things hopefully down the line would be absolutely brilliant.
So, yeah, like I said, it's just felt quite natural when we've had this gamepad in our hands."

"And, yeah, we've really worked on it to make it feel as kind of natural to the player as it would be with a keyboard and mouse, really.
Yeah, I think on that, just to pick up on Mitch's point, beyond just sort of like it's definitely an important experience for people to feel like they get a natural feeling experience."

"And I think that one of the decisions we made really early on when we went to go, hey, maybe we should bring this to console as well.
And as our first ever console game, like our first ever game that uses a controller input, it's actually like a unique, distinct challenge to kind of learn everything that's involved in, well, what actually does that mean?
Like it's already hard enough to consider one input method, never mind two, three or four."

"And like one of the decisions we made was essentially, right, we're not going to treat this as something that is going to be keyboard and mouse only.
We're going to design with the idea that this is going to have to work with both things."

"And where we need to, we're going to make specific accommodations or make specific adjustments when you use one or the other so that they always feel like they are natural.
So it never feels like the, one of my feelings as a PC gamer, primarily PC gamer, is when I see a game that's launched on console, it was obviously made on PCs because nobody sat there programming on a console or on a phone or anything like that."

"It was made on PCs by people who use PCs and the PC plays like garbage.
And it feels like you've just been gypped out of a great experience that you would have enjoyed because every moment it's getting in the way."

"It feels like it was never designed with that in mind.
And that was so important for us for Galactica to make it feel like it was designed with those input methods in mind and to do it for both at the same time is a unique challenge."

"And I think, not to blow our own horns, I think that it has worked.
And that is through the combined efforts of multiple people like on UI, on design side, like Mitch in production and the programming team and everyone who's been involved, like it has taken a lot of work to get it there."

"And hopefully when people get it in their hands, they will feel it feels like as natural as if it had been designed just for that platform.
That is my hope."

"And people have been saying it feels great.
Fingers crossed.
Well, as a final question then to round out the interview, let's talk about the future of Galactica."

"What's the future hold for this game?
The universe is a big place, right?
Let's not deny it.
It's a big place.
There's a lot of illnesses I'm assuming that we can cure if it comes to that."

"So what's the future hold for Galactica?
Do you want to head that out?
Sure.
Well, again, I'll take a shot.
Well, as you say, the universe is a big place."

"I think that with Galactica, we've established one of the, when I've worked with Dante, our lead writer, who has been responsible largely for establishing the core idea underpinning the universe."

"One of the exciting things is that it is not just the surface level.
It's not just a surface layer and nothing underneath it.
There is a lot that we can pull upon."

"There's a lot of core concepts and story threads, and the universe is designed from a bottom-up narrative layer to be a living, breathing thing with characters who actually inhabit it."

"That's been very important to us.
So in regards to the future, then I'm sure at the very least, we're going to support this game, you know, as we have our previous games with updates and content and some things just to keep people, free content just to keep people happy with it and make sure that the game's working as well as it can and feels great."

"And then beyond that, we have some ideas for new story content, new levels, new arcs for the characters to go on, like the aforementioned Dorian Salazar may well get a returning triumphant little campaign of his own."

"We may also visit some of the stories of the other characters like Heal and Medi who are very much the core cast.
I know that we've wanted to have some more time with them and their specific own challenges and their stories."

"So there's a lot of story that we can pull upon and continue to expand upon.
Gameplay-wise, we've had loads of ideas over the years that we could pull upon."

"Different kinds of game modes or different mechanics that are formed by the wayside can't quite make it in for release, all these sorts of things that we could potentially look at again, maybe find some space for them."

"And then maybe beyond that, I could keep going, bitch.
Stop me if you want me to stop.
No, I think you've nailed pretty much most of it.
I think there's also with these stories, we've obviously then got loads of new conditions we'd like to explore."

"We've got ones that we've got an extensive list of conditions.
When you look at the path of X inside the game and look through and all the species that can have these conditions, there's just loads and loads."

"And there's loads that we've also shelved because we've got too many maybe head conditions or ones that kind of do this.
But I think with the expansion of new levels and stuff, we're definitely going to have new conditions, new rooms to treat these conditions as well."

"And yeah, new game modes.
I know Josh, our creative director, is really, really heavily wanting to go down new game modes and getting people to try new things in the genre and really push the boundaries of it."

"We've got this core game with this story, the narrative and the characters and everything, and really just pushing it further and exploring those different avenues."

"Like Lee said, we've got loads of ideas for levels and art and stuff that we've just said, we could do this, we could do this, and we could make this.
And it's them bringing that all in and saying, this is what we've got. That's awesome for later."

"And we've got it all in a big, big place to rummage through together and talk about.
But I think that's one of the nice things about this place is it's not just me making the decision or Josh or Lee."

"It's as a team, collectively, from concept to end, it's everyone's input.
We're all sat there together talking about things, saying this would be a really cool idea and talking that out."

"And you'll see inklings of each person throughout the team in this game in some places.
In places they didn't even directly work on, you'll see their inspiration in that."

"So yeah, hopefully see that in the future as well in anything we do.
Well, there we have it.
The future seems to be very, very bright for Galactica and for the very team, including both Lee and Mitch over at Brightrock Games."

"So stay tuned for that.
By the time you see this interview or by the time you're hearing this interview right now, Galactica may be either here or very close to being here."

"So be sure to go check it out on PC and consoles.
And otherwise, stay tuned to your local Game Retro region for more of our excellent interviews.
Take care, everyone."

"Thank you."

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