How Bendy And The Ink Machine Lived Up To The Hype

TheButcherGang03
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Bendy And The Ink Machine: Chapter 3 had a lot to live up to. The first two chapters of theMeatly Game’s thriller about an animator trying to escape an ink-drenched nightmare became an instant success on release. Soon it had hundreds of thousands of downloads on Steam as well as fan-made YouTube videos with millions of views. Following up a massive hit is never an easy thing to do; fans want more of the same, but also expect something new and exciting. An underwhelming product can be a death sentence for a small indie studio.

“I was doing 20-hour days for a good two months with no sleep,” Mike Mood, CEO and co-founder of theMeatly Games, told Player.One. During the last month of development, theMeatly, Mood’s partner who prefers to be known by his in-game handle, would go to sleep at 5 a.m. and wake up at 7 a.m. for another round of work.

"when we deliver the game to fans, we want to give them the best that we can do.“

“This particular chapter was probably the hardest time of our entire lives,” theMeatly said. “I speak for the whole team on this one.” In fact, theMeatly had bronchitis throughout the entire four-month development, working on the game in between fevers. “I was having fever dreams of cartoon worlds,” theMeatly said. “I was starting to see texture problems in my room.”

Bendy’s third chapter, 12 to 15 times larger than previous chapters, was developed by only six people in about four months. TheMeatly wrote the script, designed the characters and created the levels, while others worked on VFX and additional programming work. “We pulled through and actually made it, which was unbelievable considering the scale of the game we were making,” Mood said.

It’s insane how such a small team made a game this large and popular, but that’s the way theMeatly and Mood wanted it. “I don’t want to say we’re control freaks, but we like very specific details,” theMeatly said. “When you look at a scene, there’s a specific reason for everything in that room. We could get other people involved, but when we deliver the game to fans, we want to give them the best that we can do.“

The first chapter of Bendy And The Ink Machine took five days to make and the second took six weeks, which suggests the game and its code were pretty rushed. During the latest development cycle, Mood remade the first two parts so they would hold up against the game’s newer chapters. “New ink VFX, improved frame rates and crazier endings were added to give the game a sense of polish it was lacking,“ Mood said. His programming work laid a solid foundation, which should make it easier to create the next chapters.

Even after the game launched, Mood and theMeatly couldn’t rest. Fans, myself included, were annoyed with the backtracking and fetch quests in Bendy And The Ink Machine: Chapter 3, so a patch was needed ASAP.  

“My weekend consisted of programming and working on a patch that we’re hoping to release in the next day or two,” Mood said. And since Bendy has no QA team, the developers were also play testers.

“When you’re the developer, you already know what you’re supposed to do,” Mood said. “We can run through the game in no time, but then we release the game and watch people play it in videos and we understand why people make these mistakes.”

Another unfortunate side effect of Chapter 3’s filler quests: it made players hate Alice Angel. She’s the omnipotent puppetmaster (think Portal’s Glados) that sends the players out on fetch quests to collect gears, turn levers, squish goo and chop up Bendy cutouts. These extra activities feel like they only exist to make the game longer.

“The goal was for people to not like her, but not until the end of the game,” Mood said. “We were hoping players would hate her by the finale, but that’s not how it turned out.”

Excusing its hiccups, Bendy And The Ink Machine: Chapter 3 is a testament to what a small team can create with enough passion and coffee. Mood and his team were so committed to creating their vision they cut nothing from Chapter 3 . The Projectionist, the dripping monster with a camera for a head roaming around that dark maze, almost didn’t make it into the final game. Being overwhelmed with work, the team nearly left out the best part of the chapter, but ultimately decided to prototype the experience instead. After seeing how eerie and fun the level was, they figured out a way to get it working.  

On top of running the business, keeping the employees’ checks coming on time and establishing Bendy as a brand, Mood and theMeatly had to make sure the game lived up to the hype.

“When we were making the game, we knew what would be going on in fan’s minds,” Mood said. Talks on chapter four have already started and Bendy theorists are going to be busy since “we might show people a bit more this time before release.”

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