The History of We Happy Few

We Happy Few Hero image 2

Hello from Compulsion Games! We are 21 people based in Montreal, Quebec, who thought it would be a good idea to make a game set in a procedural city about a 1960s English society obsessed with drugs, denial and happiness.  We’ve come a long way – we are only a few days away from releasing We Happy Few on Xbox Game Preview – and we’re still working out exactly what that last sentence means.

It was mid-2013 when we started thinking about We Happy Few.  A couple of months before we shipped our first game, Contrast, we were asking ourselves “how can we make a bigger game, with the same or better quality, but keep our team relatively small?”. Linear games of the quality we wanted to make are usually done by much bigger person teams. So, this led us to think pretty seriously about procedural generation.

Procedurally generated games have existed for over 30 years. However, we felt like there were many procedural wilderness and procedural space games. We wanted to do something more unusual. What about a city? What kind of gameplay made sense in a city? Certainly not survival – it should be easy to survive in a city. Except… what if it wasn’t? Wouldn’t that be interesting?

At the same time, we began thinking about where and when this city might exist. We had some themes we wanted to investigate – retrofuturism, dystopia, decaying societies, masks, drugs, etc. 1960s England seemed to offer a really interesting setting – a time of great optimism for the future, set against a society dealing with some serious social problems and a damaged past.  We looked at films like “Brazil” and “Hot Fuzz” and TV shows like “The Prisoner”.

Once we had this setting, the final piece of the puzzle was to ask ourselves “What kind of story could we tell in this kind of setting?” We decided an alternate history, where we had freedom to control everything in the world, would be a great start. And many of you might say, “A story in a procedural game…what? How does that work?” Well, we’re going to show you – although not for a few more months. The story is going to be a great big surprise that comes with version 1.0 of We Happy Few. In the meantime, we’ll be working on the gameplay and improving our procedural world.

As a tease, we are really excited about what we’ve managed to achieve (you saw some of it at E3!) and we’ve even been able to create some interesting justifications for the procedural generation. What about a story about memory loss where you can’t remember your way home? Or even which house you live in? Or where you were yesterday?

This is We Happy Few.  It’s a weird and wonderful world, and we have had a blast creating it.  We hope you guys and girls will enjoy the first version of it on July 26.