Leslie Benzies, former president of Rockstar North and producer of eight Grand Theft Auto games, is hard at work on a brand-new AAA action game. Along with hundreds of developers at his new studio, Build A Rocket Boy, he is developing MindsEye; Cinematic plot thriller with glossy realistic visuals, car chases and shootouts. But MindsEye is unlike any AAA video game you’ve ever played for one important reason: it’s exclusively available to play inside another video game, also in development on Build A Rocket Boy. This game is Everywhere, a free-to-play game that initially hits PC later this year, and is as far from GTA as it can get.
As part of my recent trip to Build A Rocket Boy’s HQ in Edinburgh, Scotland, I barely got to watch more than a minute or two of MindsEye in action. But I’ve seen a fair amount more than Everywhere, a platform that simply bills as big budget Roblox. To put it less simply, there are many things everywhere: a PlayStation Home-like social space, a third-person shooter, a racing game, and most importantly a game creation tool. While it will launch with several game modes and locations, the main feature of Everywhere is its set of comprehensive tools that allow anyone to create their own game or experience. Imagine Media Molecule’s dreams of a Fortnite aesthetic and you’re more than halfway there.
But where Dreams presents itself as something of a YouTuber for aspiring game developers, Everywhere has more of a Ready Player One atmosphere. Your customizable avatar is able to explore many worlds, starting with the city of Utropia; A bright city with curvilinear architecture that houses a variety of activity areas. The combat and racing areas provide fast-paced multiplayer action, while the collection area displays a personal catalog of items to use in your creative projects. Meanwhile, the entertainment district serves as a lobby for a variety of different experiences, including an art gallery and cinema. The space also points to greater ambitions for taking on Fortnite in its own metaverse. Will you be the stage for Ariana Grande’s next big virtual concert or Christopher Nolan’s movie premiere? Only time will tell.
The city is surrounded by a more traditional gameplay-focused open world that is divided into four different biomes: Valley, Lava, Forest, and Grassland. My demo provided very limited glimpses of these areas, but they promised to offer PvE and PvP activities based on Everywhere’s combat and driving mechanics. The third-person shooter feels straightforward, with blasts from energy weapons intertwining triple jumps and air dashes. Hot Wheels-ish driving, meanwhile, feels like the kind of arcade racing in which the only important button is the accelerator.
These two gameplay formats seem to serve as the basis for Everywhere; Seeds from which thousands of player creations can grow. And hopefully, they’ll grow, because right now all things pre-built feel like their bread and butter. Admittedly, I only saw a very tiny slice of what was on offer, but what I saw looked more like frameworks rather than compelling games in their own right. And thanks to its family-friendly art style, I can already see the “we have Fortnite at home” memes.
But community creations are likely to be the lifeblood of the platform. The ubiquitous Unreal Engine 5-powered tool – called ARC-adia – is used to create ARCs; Spaces for players can be as simple as a home-like social space or as complex as a video game level equipped with interconnected mechanics. Using something like a Lego approach, you can assemble your creation from a variety of pre-made components. Some of these may be considered “ready to level,” such as a hinged wall post. Others are just blank canvas shapes, ready to be superimposed onto multiple other shapes in order to build something recognizable. All of these can then be linked together with Boolean triggers that activate the systems – in the simplest terms, items can be programmed to do X if Y happens. It sounds like an impressively accessible system, but I’m not sure if it will hold up compared to the current creative mode in Fortnite and the amazing Unreal Editor for Fortnite launched in beta just yesterday.
Some examples of projects built with ARC-adia have been shown, including a time trial in which climbing platforms activate when a target is shot, and a massive robo-scorpion enemy that sweeps players aside and impregnates them with its fiery breath. But while I was able to literally see the effort that went into these creations as a developer tweaked them in real time in front of me, the results seemed pretty minor. I hope the hands of gamers everywhere come alive, but I’m a little concerned that these were examples provided by a team of experts already familiar with the tools.
Echoing dreams, creations can be turned into “stamps” (thankfully, definitely not NFTs) and shared for others to use in their own projects. A big boss can be dropped on someone’s battlefield, and a puzzle dungeon is connected to someone else’s level by a portal. These portals promise to be doors to collaboration and inspiration. A group of friends can link their levels via portals to create a multi-stage campaign. The fifth phase of that campaign could become a viral hit within the community, and then be edited for use in a hundred other creations. This is the dream anyway.
Viral creators may become the main attraction in the future (and they’ll be touted in Utropia’s entertainment district for all to see), but to start with the brightest star among the projects created in Everywhere, it’s probably the game built by Build A Rocket Boy itself. Wicked and futuristic, MindsEye may have little in common with the family-friendly glossiness of Everywhere, but it’s built with the same tools players will use. Moreover, its assets and mechanics will be made available to players to use in their own creations. Basically, you will be able to break MindsEye down into its components and rebuild it in your own vision. And with the game planned to release spin-off with different features in each installment (Episode II is set to be multiplayer, for example), that means several drops of new MindsEye assets are already in the works, along with any content planned for Everywhere.
I got to Build A Rocket Boy with no idea what was all around. After five hours in the studio, I left in a similar situation. It’s clear that the team has impressive ambition of enormous scope, with elements of Roblox, Dreams, and Fortnite evident to see in its many, many components. But the fact that it feels like something of a delusion made up of at least three other games made me question Everywhere’s focus and identity. It is a game creation tool but also a complete game ready. The shooting and driving modes look disappointing, but there’s also a seemingly impressive action game with AAA production values. It’s a social hub and entertainment platform that may or may not be the metaverse. It’s everything, everywhere, all at once, and I’m already worried her ambition might get too far out of her grasp. And with the seemingly more flexible Unreal Editor for Fortnite launching to an established audience of 500 million (who already spend over 40% of their time in player-generated spaces), I’m afraid Everywhere has already lost the race before it gets close to the starting line.
Matt Purslow is IGN’s UK News & Features Editor.
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