Video games can show players fantastic places, be it Batman's Gotham City or alien worlds in need of exploration. But sometimes going bigger isn't always better.
That's the idea behind the Polish video game studio Varsav's forthcoming "Bee Simulator." Players take on the role of a plucky drone that seeks to gather pollen from plants in a Central Park-inspired area while also trying to save the hive from humans and other dangers.
"The main message of the game is to show how our world looks from the bee's perspective," Łukasz Rosiński, the creative director of Varsav Studios, told MNN.
Be a bee
Coming up with the idea of doing a game about bees isn't exactly what many people think of when it comes to video games, but Rosiński took inspiration from spending time with his infant daughter.
"The idea to create 'Bee Simulator' was born in very interesting circumstances," Rosiński said. "[A] few years ago, when I was reading my then 2-year-old daughter the book 'Bees' by Polish author Piotr Socha, I came to the conclusion that here I have a ready scenario for a potentially very interesting computer game!"
The idea isn't particularly far-fetched, either. The life of a bee involves completing various tasks in what to humans would be a spectacular world: A much bigger version of our own. It sounds like a natural fit for a video game.
"Bee Simulator" has a few different modes of play, all the better to entice players, like different flowers with all kinds of pollen. The first is what Rosiński calls a "story-driven campaign with many interesting quests that player must achieve to be able to finish the game."
In this mode, players assume the role of a plucky drone that goes around a park collecting pollen — in the game, some plants have "better" pollen than others — while fending off attacks from bees' natural predators, like hornets and wasps, with its stinger. Humans also pose a risk as they want to cut down the tree in which the drone's hive is located. (You can also sting the humans; no need to always "bee-have"!) It's up to the drone to save the day. There's an easy mode for children and a harder one for adults, one that boasts a combat system.
The other two modes of "Bee Simulator" involve less narrative and more relaxing fun. An exploration mode allows the player to zip around the park at their leisure, exploring and simply taking in the sights. The third mode is one that allows two players to compete or cooperate to complete various challenges.
It may sound low-key for a video game, but it fits snugly into a larger movement within the gaming industry, one that Rosiński and his team were inspired by when creating "Bee Simulator."
"As I have been actively playing games for about 25 years, I have seen many very successful indie games based on a unique idea and perspectives," Rosiński said. "Perfect examples are games like 'Flower,' 'Limbo' or the Polish 'Superhot' and 'The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter.' None of these games needed a giant budget to interest a huge number of players."
Given the inspiration tied to a young child, it should be no surprise that "Bee Simulator" is designed with youngsters in mind. It has two difficulty levels. One is easy, for new players and children and a hard setting for more experienced players.
"I personally think that 'Bee Simulator' could be an ideal first game for a 'newborn player,'" Rosiński said. "We have tested, for example, [at] PAX West [a video game convention in Seattle] that the easy mode mechanics are easy enough to be played by 5-year-old children, that normally do not play [many] computer games."
As a result of the easy controls and the game's approach to its story and play, "Bee Simulator" is intended as a family-friendly experience. Parents can play along with their kids, and not have to worry about about particularly violent or otherwise inappropriate content.
"Bee Simulator" is also intended to be educational for players of any age who are interested in learning about bees.
"From the beginning of the development process of 'Bee Simulator,' we cooperated with beekeepers in Poland to make the game an interesting simulator and balance arcade elements in the game," Rosiński said.
"We have also researched many books and articles regarding bees, and we attended two seminars regarding bees [at] Polish agriculture universities. The educational aspects of the game shows the role of bees as key pollinators, the fact that bees are dying in many regions of the world, we also present [how bees run] the hive, the way that bees communicate and their natural enemies."
"Bee Simulator" will release on Steam, the computer platform for legally downloading PC video games, sometime in Spring 2019. The game will also be released on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch after its Steam release.