Worlds Adrift: How One Studio is Tackling the “Dying” MMO Genre with Physics

Of all the dirges being played for “dying” video game genres, the one for MMORPGs has certainly been the longest and most hypnotic to listen to. It’s hypnotic in that the genre seems to transfix people from ever leaving it. World of Warcraft players are seen resubbing year after year with the hope of living the glory days once again, despite the fact that they leave disappointed every time. If one were to imagine the development of the genre itself as a boardroom meeting, it would be a boardroom meeting where no one is talking, and no one is coming up with any new ideas; managers are spinning in their leather chairs and interns are throwing paper airplanes into bins. They wait silently for some fresh sundance kid to speak up and whip some vigour into the group.

And one such team has something to say. The studio is called Bossa Studios. The game is called Worlds Adrift, a title appropriate for a game that breaks MMO conventions. Bossa describes the game as “a sandbox MMO where thousands of players explore a physical and persistent world with the freedom to set their own objectives” among mysterious floating islands that presumably hold their own secrets. The sense of freedom watching the gameplay trailer is palpable as the narrator promises that players will navigate the world with their own instincts and build ships fully governed by physics that demand careful consideration for shape and design. The video even opens with the statement “All the ships and islands featured in this video were designed by our players.” It may be mere coincidence, but they seem to be following the pulse of the zeitgeist. People want the genre to unhook itself from its common attribution of “cookie-cutter” and Bossa, being the developer of former releases Surgeon Simulator 2013 and I Am Bread, have the playfulness of a child, and the gleaming eye of the new kid on the block who has something to add.

CGM caught up with Olivier Derache Community & PR Manager to see what that is.


CGMagazine: I know you guys just launched Closed Beta—congratulations. How’s that going so far? Has anything unexpected happened yet?

Olivier Derache: We were a bit [of a] victim of our own success, players played about four times longer per session than we initially expected! We immediately worked hard on server optimization tweaks that would allow us to maintain a good experience. We’re already noticing that a lot of the new players who have joined Worlds Adrift for the first time are starting to share their stories. It’s absolutely fascinating for us to read these and discover how players are doing things in the game we never imagined!

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Worlds Adrift – gameplay images courtesy of Bossa Studios

CGMagazine: Where did the idea for Worlds Adrift come from, and why did you guys decide this would be your next game?

Olivier Derache: It’s in the DNA of Bossa Studios to make different games. So far, every game that we have released started life during game jams. Originally for Worlds Adrift, we had the idea of doing a game with caravans and travellers, but then we were inspired by the beauty of exploring the world in Zelda Wind Waker and Skies of Arcadia. The concept evolved and became a world made of floating islands and Sky Ships.

CGMagazine: Were you guys fans of MMOs?

Olivier Derache: Absolutely! A lot of people on the team play a LOT of MMOs! Personally, I used to work for several big MMO projects such as Black Desert Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic or Eve Online.

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Worlds Adrift – gameplay images courtesy of Bossa Studios

CGMagazine: With having a lot of experience with physics simulation games, was implementing that into a bigger game simply the next logical step? Why physics as the main crux of the game?

Olivier Derache: While we acquired a lot of experience with physics during the development of Surgeon Simulator & I am Bread, we were aware right from the start that creating a sandbox MMO that fully supports physics was going to be a gigantic task. This is why we partnered with Improbable and decided to use SpatialOs which allowed us to deliver our vision for Worlds Adrift.

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Worlds Adrift – gameplay images courtesy of Bossa Studios

CGMagazine: Considering the many attempts to bring fresh ideas to the genre in a “post-MMO” world—as they say—Worlds Adrift seems to be stepping in the right direction with an emphasis on freedom. It seems like you guys thought a lot about how to stand out and be unique. What were the discussions like on how to deal with longevity?

Olivier Derache: We realized that up until now, most MMORPGs share similar flaws. A level system that splits friends or forces you to replay dungeons, player driven economies that can go wildly out of control, combat that involves complicated stats to understand the impact you have—the list is long. We wanted Worlds Adrift to offer a new approach as well as making a significant contribution to the genre. We hope MMO fans will give it a chance and share with us their feedback.

CGMagazine: Where do you see yourselves in the timeline of MMOs as a genre—do you see Worlds Adrift as sort of a next step? Or do you not think in those terms at all?

Olivier Derache: We see ourselves as a parallel timeline; one that acknowledges the old classics but is trying to bring a fresh perspective. For us, we’re always going to try and create something new, and uniquely different. Us as a team and also Bossa Studios fans wouldn’t have been satisfied if we were following a traditional timeline and simply trying to recreate yet another MMO.

CGMagazine: I know the game just started its life cycle, but how do you see the game ageing over time? Will the game inevitably change or build on the sturdy foundation you guys have made now?

Olivier Derache: We’ve created the tools that allow players to craft their own stories. Everything we do is not just for the players, but [also] with them, and ultimately it’s our community that will decide how long the game will live. You can count on us to continue this journey with the community that already supports us and we will continue to build the game together. Now that we’ve entered Closed Beta, we will be focusing on bug fixes for a couple of updates, then will move forward with new features and will keep on making sure we’re creating the best game experience we can. In the near future, we plan to share a roadmap of what players can expect to see during Closed Beta, and beyond that, let’s just say we look forward to seeing where the skies take us.


Worlds Adrift is now available on Steam for Early Access, or from their game website.