How The Brotherhood is making something “new and different” with Beautiful Desolation

After pushing Cayne out of the airlock, Cape Town indie studio The Brotherhood launched its Kickstarter campaign for Beautiful Desolation, a new post-apocalyptic adventure game set in Africa featuring mullets, robo-dogs, and a spooky alien thing in the sky that’s almost definitely maybe probably not some kind of megabomb. Turns out that premise is something a lot of people want – the project was funded on Tuesday night, and the pledge-bank is now up to nearly $130,000 in pledge-munnies.

We talked to designer Chris Bischoff about the game’s influences, genre innovations, and “surprises” for South African players.

Beautiful Desolation is funded! Rate your hype level from 1-100.

It’s well over 9000!

Not many games feature an African setting, much less a post-apocalyptic one. Mixing that with an ‘80s retro-futuristic aesthetic is an intriguing choice…

How better to create a new and different world? We want to push our design and aesthetics into a new direction. Stasis and Cayne artistically borrow from many different places, and it is definitely our goal to make Beautiful Desolation unique.

Stasis and Cayne were obviously enormously indebted to films like AlienEvent Horizon, and even Blade Runner, and games like The Dig. Besides maybe the original isometric Fallout, though, Beautiful Desolation’s inspirations aren’t as conspicuous.

The two largest influences on the game from a design perspective are probably Fallout (my favourite game) and Star Control II (Nic’s favorite game). However visually, we’re starting fresh! That said, it’s post-apocalyptic, so the touches of Mad Max, Oblivion, and other dystopian science fiction films are definitely going to influence our thinking and visions.

… And why the name “Beautiful Desolation”?

When Buzz Aldrin first stepped on the moon he said “Beautiful, beautiful. Magnificent desolation.” It’s stuck with us as such a wonderful description of the beauty of our scarred lifeless moon. When we were describing our world we constantly used the words “beautiful desolation”, so when it came to finding a name those words stuck out.

This looks like a more open, and perhaps less linear sort of game than your previous projects. 

It’s a lot less linear than our previous games, yes. Stasis was extremely linear, while Cayne broke that linearity a little and played around with design that was based around a central hub. Beautiful Desolation will feature some replayability, by having a world that you’re free to roam around in. There will be some more linear aspects of the game, but having the freedom to explore the world is something that is central to our design philosophy in the game.

Have you considered adding in some RPG stuff? The Quest for Glory series, for example, mashed up adventure and RPG nicely.

It is something that we’re discussing. We’re still in an early prototyping stage with regard to the gameplay mechanics. When switching to a less linear design of the game, we’ve opened up many other opportunities to add in new and different systems. So watch this space!

You’re using custom miniatures and photogrammetry to produce a lot of the scenery in the game. You secretly want to make movies, don’t you?

YES, and it’s no secret! When I was younger, I wanted to pursue a career path in film miniatures. When Jurassic Park came along and changed the way that films are made forever, I turned my attention to computer graphics as a way to make those dreams come true.

The cinematic trailer includes a dramatic shot of Table Mountain. Are there any other recognisable landmarks or locations in the game?

Because the game is set in the far future, we have a lot of room to play around with landmarks. We are certainly going to take advantage of the fact that we have an actual geographic location to work with. So there will be surprises for people who are familiar with South Africa.

What’s the deal with the robo-dog?

“Pooch” is the nickname that we have for Nic’s dog, Chelsea. Every day Nic and I walk her along the beach, and when we were discussing the story of the game the idea of two brothers and their dog – it’s like the character was writing itself! POOCH will be a complex character, though. Instead of being a mere walking toolbox, she is a sentient artificial life form with her own story and quest in the world. It’s going to be a fun challenge to see where her motivations are at odds with the brothers, and how they are going to navigate around those situations.

The game’s two protagonists are brothers. The game’s two developers are brothers. Is this whole project just a passive-aggressive way to deal with some unresolved issues? 

Well, the conclusion is that the youngest is clearly always the one that’s right… 🙂

Will the player be able to swap between Mark and Don?

Yes, you will be able to switch between Mark and Don at different parts of the story. One of the things that we discussed, before we even had a setting, was a desire to include multiple playable characters to play as, and it’s something that I’m very excited to play with as a story mechanic.

What can you tell us about Beautiful Desolation that we forgot to ask?

“How does it end?” But you’re gonna have to wait a while to get that answer!


The Last of Us Part II Lego
The Last of Us Part II trailer, but in Lego