GTA’s veteran producer Leslie Benzies left Rockstar a few years ago and founded Build A Rocket Boy. The company finally revealed teasers for “Everywhere”, but along with Benzies’ statements, they brought up questions instead of answers.
People don’t usually think about a game with a birds-eye perspective and pixelated graphics when they think about GTA. They think of a living, vast open world with colorful NPCs (non-playable characters) and a whole life going on inside it, so much so that the player might even feel like an extra in a game where they are the main character.
The people who can remember the gaming legend’s humble first steps have their own children now, and GTA has come a long way since its beginning. Looking back, it seems natural for the franchise to engrave its name into gaming history since it’s been innovative and unique from the start. But when the legends have such a long past and so much history behind them, it’s easy to forget all their details, and when a franchise is this big, it’s easy to forget the ones who made it so. Houser Brothers usually come forward regarding GTA, but Leslie Benzies also have a share in the franchise’s final shape and its acquired status in the industry.
Benzies had a falling out with Rockstar Games a few years ago and founded Build A Rocket Boy after parting ways. Since then, the company has been mostly silent except for establishing offices in various locations worldwide and acquiring investments from companies led by NetEase.
Recently Build A Rocket Boy revealed teasers for Everywhere and Minds Eye. The trailers created much speculation, but Benzies rejected most of them. Eurogamer interviewed Benzies in an attempt to penetrate the smoke screen around Everywhere, but this interview sounds like it raised more questions, yet again. First, there are speculations that the game would include cryptocurrency and NFTs, which Benzies and his team straightforwardly denied. These rumors were started after a job posting that mentioned them. Mick Hocking, The Chief Development Officer at Build A Rocket Boy, stridently rejected the speculations, saying they have nothing to offer that they need.
The game seems like a rival to Roblox. Above anything else, its name implies such a concept, but its teasers and statements from the company also encourage such a deduction. Again, according to Benzies, the studio is not very keen on the term “metaverse”.
Build A Rocket Boy Founder Leslie Benzies:
“We’re trying to make more than a video game here. We believe the world of games is changing. I always find the word game underwhelming for what’s actually happening in the industry. We’re trying to make a place where people can come to play, where they can build, and where they can share their experiences. When you ask the younger generation these days what they want to do when they grow up – [and where] I would have said train driver, fighter pilot, doctor – a lot of the younger generation now say ‘make video games’. And so we’re taking that responsibility. We think it’s our job to allow players to do that… We want them to build what they want to build, we want them to own it, and we want to give them the tools to build these super high-end, AAA-type experiences.”
Ultimately, there is a teaser that gives the impression that a game with cryptocurrencies and NTFs will be launched, but it doesn’t have them. A game that has Roblox and Fortnite on its sight as rivals, but it’s not fond of being metaverse. And a game industry veteran who helped develop game industry staples, who has found a company that has been mostly silent for years, and who sounds like a riddler.
“It’s a lot of things to a lot of different people,” he told me. “I’ve seen tiny little mobile games describe themselves as a metaverse, and I’m not sure they are… We don’t really call ourselves a metaverse, and I think if you were to, then games have been metaverses for a long time. We try to shy away from that.”
Everybody loves a good revenge or love-hate story, the story of a man or woman who leaves a giant company after working there for years, slamming the door, and then facing the giant triumphantly after years. Benzies definitely have the potential to be the protagonist of such a story. He has participated in creating game industry’s cornerstones before. There is no reason to believe he cannot do it one more time.
“Everywhere is for players, MindsEye is kind of, for us – for our egos. We don’t want this company to turn into a sequel company – [where] we make the same thing again, but it’s prettier, and it’s faster, and it’s more of the same. Each of our episodes allows us to be creative. Just from experience, building the same thing bigger and better all the time, it’s exciting, but you need to keep your team engaged. You need to have new gameplay for them, but also new gameplay for players.”
Everywhere gives the impression that it can be the “MacGuffin” of such a comeback story. It looks and sounds ambitious. Very ambitious for people of caution, actually. Such ambitious projects have very few options before them. They either leap forward and pioneer the industry to frontiers that have never been explored, or they turn out to be huge disappointments. The third option is the most mediocre and probably the most disappointing: They never come to be and fade into oblivion. A magnificent failure is still a failure, but it’s at least magnificent, and it’s a closure.
Benzies is not alone in this endeavor. He and Build A Rocket Boy have the top mobile game company on their side. NetEase has invested a hefty sum of money in the company, and one would think NetEase couldn’t be where it is now by investing in pipedreams. Benzies talks in riddles and reveals more about what the game isn’t, more than what it is.
It’s not uncommon for creative, sophisticated geniuses not to make sense to us ordinary folks. The masses usually understand such people’s intents after the fact, but they still benefit from the results of their endeavors. And history usually remembers those who aren’t afraid to fail. Since Everwhere is planned to be publicly playable at some point later this year, we won’t have to wait long to see if it will be a revolutionary leap forward or a mediocre failed attempt.