On our list of 50 VR games we can’t wait to play in 2017, Bebylon: Battle Royale certainly stood out. With babies (or characters that appear to be babies) engaging in vehicular melee, one can’t help but be curious about what’s going on here. At PAX South 2017, Kite & Lightning co-founder Ikrima Elhassan was excitedly demoing Bebylon for passersby and we jumped at the chance to speak with him about the game and get some hands-on time.
We had no idea what we were getting into.
The game is still a ways off from release for this year, so what we played was a very early build. Nevertheless, Bebylon is wild and exciting. In Bebylon’s science fiction future, humanity has discovered an immortality pill that stops aging, which includes newborns. In Battle Royale, we’re introduced to the society of Bebylon which was created by adults that still look like babies who grew tired of being ridiculed and not taken seriously. No one can die anymore in this world, so things like status, fame, and wealth are the focus of the inhabitants of Bebylon and they feed their ego through battle royales.
The battles themselves are the core of the gameplay and it’s essentially a party brawler in the vein of Super Smash Brothers. With ego and status as prime focus in the meta of Bebylon’s world, it’s hilarious to see that the core gameplay involves a great deal of trolling abilities based on popular culture. For example, when you use a powerful uppercut you take a selfie that immediately goes up on the fighting venue’s huge screen. As you are more narcissistic and show-boat during combat, your ego meter fills up and you are able to do even more powerful attacks. The audience is influential as well and, as you play to their excitement, you earn multipliers for cash and gaining followers (the game’s experience system) for the end of matches.
“The whole game, the subtext, is a bit of a satire on how everyone in society may be vying for attention all the time,” Elhassan explains. “The more terrible you are and the more terrible things you do, the more you get rewarded for it. For the game design aspect, we took everything that kind of annoys us or the worst of modern online behavior and were like ‘let’s make that the foundation of a game, what could go wrong’.”
With the third-person nature of Bebylon: Battle Royale, Elhassan seemed to expect the question of “why VR” but he and the team are taking a more immersive approach. Elhassan says, from the outside looking in and from screenshots, it’s third-person with a fixed perspective and seems like it could be a non-VR game (the team is considering a non-VR version).
“VR adds a couple things we’re really excited about,” he says. “From a pure technical fighter perspective, the depth perception VR gives you allows you to fight in this 3D arena in ways you couldn’t do before.” He goes on to reference games like Power Stone and Smash Brothers that have a fixed and limited space that, while it is 3D, is still on a 2D plane to a degree.
The arenas in Bebylon can change and evolve depending on in-fight events, even spinning around quickly which is something that affects VR users in a different way from someone playing on a standard screen.
“It allows, from a creative and design perspective, us to really mess with the sense of scale and the sense of environment as a new axis to move the emotional needle in different directions,” he said.
The controls seemed unfinished in this build, but the foundation of the gameplay was fun. With the fixed perspective, comfort wasn’t a concern at all but you do still get a taste of VR immersion when the map’s floor disintegrates and everyone falls down to a lower level. We’ll be looking forward to getting our hands on a more complete build sometime later in the year.