Ready at Dawn co-founder and President Ru Weerasuriya missed the atmosphere that had pervaded the office's gaming space before work started on The Order. Back then, groups of developers would play Bomberman or Mario Kart late into the night, laughing, yelling and trying to outmaneuver each other. In short, Weerasuriya missed co-op.
That's one reason Ready at Dawn's new game, De-formers, is such a drastic shift from The Order. It's a cheery, multiplayer-only title starring a lineup of adorable boneless blobs that come in a rainbow of colors. The characters are called "Forms" and they use a variety of globulous moves to battle each other by rolling, jumping, shooting, dashing and throwing across a series of arenas. The Forms get bigger and stronger by consuming objects in the world -- and the remains of their defeated opponents. It's cannibalism combat in a 3-D cartoon.
Matches in De-formers are short, just a few minutes each. The game supports as many as eight players in a combination of local and multiplayer co-op, meaning you and some friends on the couch can jump together into an online game, or you can dive into a one-one-one round, local or online. There are no skeletons in the Forms' characters models; they roll, distort and stretch based on a physics engine that responds to the specific elements in each match. Plus, they're adorable.
With such an extreme shift from The Order to De-formers, Ready at Dawn should be nervous about disenfranchising its existing fans. Right?
"Not really," Weerasuriya says.
As he sees it, Ready at Dawn has pivoted plenty of times since the studio's founding in 2003. Its first game was a PlayStation Portable exclusive called Daxter, based on the cartoonish Jak and Daxter series. From there, the studio worked on both the God of War and Okami franchises before diving into The Order.
"We hope that people realize we make games for gamers," Weerasuriya says. "We've always looked to, 'What could be fun?' rather than, 'What should we do?'"
He says De-formers is a deceptively complex game that's easy to enter but hard to master, and it's executed with the same polish as The Order. There's no narrative in De-formers: Its focus is pure competitive fun, coming "soon" to PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.
Another reason De-formers is different is the partnership taking place behind the scenes: It's made in conjunction with GameStop's new publishing division, GameTrust. GameTrust promises a hands-off approach to publishing, allowing independent teams to create the games they want without bureaucratic influence. Insomniac's Song of the Deep is also part of GameStop's new program, alongside Trine studio Frozenbyte and Deadlight house Tequila Works.
Ready at Dawn owns the rights to De-formers, full-stop. This is the game Weerasuriya wants to make -- a multiplayer combat experience with an old-school couch co-op vibe. Basically, it's something that the entire Ready at Dawn office can enjoy.