Soda Drinker Pro Is Coming to Xbox One
Around five years ago, Cambridge resident (he lived in Somerville at the time) Will Brierly woke up in the middle of the night, thirsty for a soda. It was then that it dawned on the software developer that he needed to create a first-person video game where the entire premise would center on drinking soda, and collecting “bonus soda” points.
“It just came to me,” said Brierly, fresh from a trip to PAX East, where a following of fans of his video game Soda Drinker Pro flocked in full costume to meet the man behind the interactive soda-guzzling game.
Soda Drinker Pro is billed by Brierly as an “FSP,” or “First Person Soda” game that gives the vantage point of typical First Person Shooters like Call of Duty. But instead of guns, users are armed with a fizzy soft drink as they navigate hundreds of levels and collect points.
As if having a fan following wasn’t exciting enough, Brierly is now celebrating news that his unique game will be available to play on Xbox One in September, complete with real-time simulation using Xbox’s Kinect feature. Being Kinect-enabled, players will be able to lift a can of soda to their face in real life, and the actions will be mimicked on the screen in the game. The game is being made available through ID@Xbox, a self-publishing program for independent developers.
Fascinated by the fact that a simple creation like Soda Drinker Pro went from a computer game developed in Brierly’s spare time, to a full-on cult-classic with international interest, we decided we needed to find out what other new features are underneath the cap for the upcoming Xbox release.
What’s going to be different now that it’s going to be on Xbox?
It’s definitely going to be adding a lot of content, and to the Kinect port. We are still integrating that, and adding in a bunch of new levels and all of that. The actual core gameplay isn’t going to change as much as far as the fluid dynamics and simulation aspects to it. Just trying to stay realistic on the simulation side. But there’s something a lot of people don’t know about the game.
In the second level of it, if you stand next to a rock for like a minute, it actually unlocks an entire full game that’s like 10 times bigger than Soda Drinker itself.
Is it still the Soda Drinker game?
It’s something completely different. It’s all really pretty, hand-drawn artwork. It’s a beautiful game in itself. A lot of people call it a mini-game, but it’s actually way bigger than the game itself. It’s like a secret game.
What do you do in that game that you don’t do in Soda Drinker?
In that game (called Vivian Clark), you start out as a raindrop, and you fall from the sky, and whatever you land on you become. So if you land on a bird, you become that bird, or if you land on a plane, you become that plane. Then you’re flying around, and then depending on what you do when you’re the plane—say you crash into the ground—that’s going to hit a building, set it on fire, and blow it up or whatever, and that’s going to change all these other aspects in the world. So depending on what you do in these different places, it’s like a million different worlds all connected to each other, and they all interact with each other in different ways. It’s a completely different aesthetic to the game and it’s way bigger than Soda Drinker itself. That’s where a huge amount of the work is going, it’s making it so—we want to make it so it’s just like nothing anyone has seen before.
When playing Soda Drinker, you can grab a can of soda and it will mimic the actions on the Xbox, right?
You have a funny name for this type-of-style game.
Yeah, usually a First Person Shooter is called an FPS. But this you can walk around and drink a soda, so First Person Soda—FPS.
This game’s been out for a long time, but the buzz has continued to grow.
Yeah, so it was made a bunch of years ago, and it was just five levels. I was seriously thirsty one day and I thought it would be neat to make. I didn’t really show anyone or do anything with it at first, and then it ended up that a guy was putting on a festival in Providence, and he had heard about the game and asked me to give a talk about it there. From there things just started getting crazy, and people started playing it. It went from five levels, to 20 levels, to over 100—and then Oculus Rift support.
Wait, what’s that?
It has Oculus Rift support. It works with virtual reality now. All of this crazy stuff has happened. I would have never, ever expected it. Somewhere in the middle there we started building Vivian Clark into it, because it was a game I had been working on for awhile, and decided we needed to just slip it in to make it a game inside of a game—like a secret passage.
After all this time, did you ever expect it would become an Xbox game?
I didn’t expect it—I’m psyched that’s happening—but the way it started was I was talking to someone and I was joking around about how cool it would be to see it on a console, because it’s neat how far it’s gone so far. My friend said, ‘let me introduce you to someone at Xbox,’ and from there, he had already heard of the game before, so it was just nice. I’m excited. It’s really an honor to be part of this.
When does the game actually come out?
It’s looking like September, but we have a lot of work to do. Right now, there’s a lot in this Vivian Clark world, there’s so much stuff there. It’s a lot of work.
How many people are working with you?
It’s mostly my brother and I. There’s also a couple of artists—Matt Mozzone and Nicole Duennebier—who have chipped in a lot of work with me too. Nicole, she has got a bunch of stuff in galleries, and she did the album cover for one of Amanda Palmer’s albums. She really is just up there. Same with Matt. He has done a bunch of gallery stuff and a bunch of movies, stuff like that. He’s really good, and they’re both good friends. I love their work.
So it’s just the four of you working on this and getting it ready for the Xbox release?
Yeah, but the other thing is we are bringing in a lot of guest developers and artists for Vivian Clark. The way the game is built, is it’s, like, hundreds of different interconnected roads, and game fields, so we have other studios that are really good that are making worlds for it.
When Xbox picks up a game like this do they fund it so you can work on it full time?
Not yet. With that stuff, as far as what’s happening, we are funding it at the moment. Right now, we are all working our own regular jobs and doing this at the same time, which is what makes us super busy. But at the same time we will hopefully have some sort of deal set in stone very soon. Because the way this works, we have to work on these games 24-hours a day.
That much work?
I mean, hopefully it’s not 24. Maybe 23. It’s one of those things, I feel like there’s such—you can do something really neat here, and I want to make it something that people will really love. Whatever opportunity that presents itself so I can make this [happen], that’s the key. These things don’t happen all the time.
Going back to the game, are you going to retain the aesthetic that’s going on right now? It has that retro type of feel.
With Soda Drinker, it’s going to be the exact same aesthetic as before. There’s a very specific style I used to make those levels. I’m left-handed, but I do all of the artwork with my right hand using the mouse, so it comes out all funny looking.
Is that your trick?
That, and there are a bunch of others things you have to do to keep it consistent. You have to do it so you get a free, but weird-looking spirit in this. You’re not thinking too much about it. You crank it out, and don’t think about it and just do it. And in the end it’s just, ‘do I think it’s fun or funny?’
It sounds like you have had a lot of fun with it.
That’s the key. It’s a game that’s not, you know, it’s not like you are trying to get the highest score. It’s like, the idea is just about having fun, and bringing whatever you want to the table with it. That’s the key, having fun with it. Simple, and nice, and it’s cool.
Cool enough to build a fan base at PAX East, too.
Oh yeah we had a booth at PAX, it was amazing! We had one last year and at that time people were still learning about [the game], while this year lots of people already knew about it and were coming to see it so it was extra fun! People brought us giant replica Bonus Sodas, I saw about 4 people dressed up as Bonus Sodas, it was nuts! And still lots of new people learned about the game this year too. It was definitely an incredible experience.
Even though you have fans, do you ever worry that someone is going to yell at you for promoting soda drinking?
[Laughs] You know, you can drink Seltzer water too. It might happen. I got a couple of angry letters once from someone who was really mad that this game was out there, and it’ll happen, but I think, you know, don’t drink too much soda. Regular water is good. Drink soda in moderation.