Sos Sosowski's <i>Mosh Pit Simulator</i> is a broken, buggy mess of a game. And that's OK, as we find out in a conversation with the uniquely minded Polish developer.
Sos Sosowski has a plan, and it's a brilliant one. So many video games come out carried on the shoulders of acclaim, their press packs bulging with quotes along the lines of how this game, above all games, is the best game. You need this game like you need air. Not having this game will make your life unbearable. FOMO, and so on. But Sos laughs in the face of these best games; for him, and many other people for that matter, they're all much of a muchness. So many best games, but so very few genuinely terrible ones positively revelling in their awfulness. So he's on a mission to make the worst of the worst.
The Polish developer is currently bringing Mosh Pit Simulator, made for virtual reality, to a state of something like completion, not that its broken looks – legitimately terrifying and twisted avatars abound, all elongated extremities and jiggling arses – are going to be glossed into anything approaching conventional wisdom on what represents "finished" assets. The official trailer for the game is pure nightmare fuel, immediately scarring the viewer for the foreseeable while simultaneously giving away very little about what the game actually is.
'Mosh Pit Simulator', trailer
"The game is going to be a collection of short vignettes interluded with cutscenes forming a – hopefully – coherent plot," Sos tells me over email, "but the aim is to get some fun stuff in, as opposed to creating a cinematic movie experience. For example, [there is] a level in a supermarket where everything flies all over the place, a level on a wing of a plane, and one where you have to drive a van but they (the weird stretchy people) keep getting in from the back, so you need to push them out but then the car goes all over the place. I have a plot in mind, but I want to keep it a secret just a while longer, especially since it will probably derail into something completely different, as most of the game has."
Mosh Pit Simulator began as, says Sos, "a short game where you play against someone else, in VR, over the internet, and have to punch their face to win using inverse kinetic animation, with hands and head connected to a tracking system". But a few generous adjustments to the physics later, and something entirely different was born: "I cranked up the punching force too high and applied a really simple wobbly walking mechanic to the enemies, which resulted in the first gif [of the game] that exploded all over the internet. I would never have anticipated that extent of reaction. I was thinking back then about jamming together a short game to see if it gets popular, and if it's something I wanna spend more time on; but in the end, it was obvious that I should just keep making this."
'McPixel', launch trailer (2012)
And this is far from unprecedented: Sos has form when it comes to making what are, and let's not fuck about here, Really Bad Video Games. "I'm mostly known for a game called McPixel, which has just had its fourth anniversary. It's a game about peeing on aliens, kicking people in the crotch, and explosions. McPixel is a parody of MacGruber, which was a parody of MacGyver, and is also a parody of old point-and-click adventures where you could only do that one thing designed by the scriptwriters, and you couldn't progress until you figured out what was going on in their head. McPixel continuously throws you into a number of different situations, 100 of them, where you have defuse a bomb in 20 seconds.
"I've made over 100 games so far. And I mean games, not prototypes. They might be small, full of bugs, and overall bad, but given the constraints around the creation circumstances, they are their own kind of things. Most of them have been made at game jams, within 48, 24, or 12 hours. Some have been made in one or two hours. And some have been made in zero hours, during the Zero Hour Game Jam, that I happen to host.
"I also made a game where you have to bang your head against the keyboard to the rhythm of the music. And a game where Stalin and Marx are a gay couple and have a baby on Christmas, but they're paranoid about social workers taking it, so they shoot sheep and the three wise men with a shotgun. And a roguelike that you need to play with a printer. And a game called Kill All the Kittens and the Dead Ones Too, where you have to kill all the kittens, and the dead ones too."
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All of these are bad games. Some of them are so bad as to be as good as unplayable, which I suspect is sort of the point. Sos is also one of the makers of DOOM Piano, a physical set-up where you play 1993's id-made shooter using a piano. It's impossible. It's gloriously dumb and fun and wonderful to watch people try to be good at, but it's impossible. This unlikely combination of classic instrument and iconic video game is as good a manifestation as any of Sos's constant desire to innovate in areas that the games industry en masse isn't bothered about: in the margins, the gaps between sense and spectacle, where imagination is unchecked because doing so is boring. Mosh Pit Simulator isn't boring. McPixel isn't boring. The same certainly can't be said about the state of triple-A series like Halo and Assassin's Creed.
And the passion has always been there for Sos – this has never been about making a name for himself, carving out a reputation at the fringes of indie gaming, or gathering a decent wedge of cash to go beside a respectable level of infamy.
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"I've wanted to make games for as long as I can remember. When Poland and Germany opened their borders in the early 1990s, there was a boom of people going to Germany and bringing electronics back in, and these were absolute novelties, even though they were old and derelict in Germany itself. My father would go to Germany, bring back VCR, TVs and stereos, fix them up and sell them. And sometimes he brought computers. I was amazed by the concept of these machines. But computers were not a thing here in Poland.
"My first PC was an old 1980s Schneider PC XT, and I remember my father having to go to the police station, which was the only place that had a working computer at that time, to copy some games on floppies. I had guidance from a local math teacher, who would give me programming books and software, thus getting me into making things early. I was super fascinated at the concept of being able to create my own things that run on a computer. Later, I had this book describing Commodore 64 assembly functions, and I started making my own games; and later still, I got my PC back and the dial-up internet started to become a thing at that time as well so I was able to learn things much easier than using books. I would make games in C using Allegro library or OpenGL."
Those early experiments would lead to an expanding portfolio of software, largely created during downtime from teaching at a public school, and a short stint as a programmer on an MMO. He reached the final few contenders for a position at Frictional Games, and took the Amnesia developer's budget for a recruitment-process practical task to make Thelemite, "my first full-time indie game". Game jams followed – he's a regular participant in Ludum Dare, "definitely my favourite jam, a melting pot of creativity bringing together industry veterans and newbies alike" – and here we are today, with Mosh Pit Simulator, a social media meme magnet in the making, and ostensibly his attempt at putting out the worst game of all time.
"I would love to hold the title of being the creator of a game like that, the worst game ever," he concludes. "I don't really care about Mosh Pit Simulator itself being the worst ever, though. And the problem is that the worst game ever must become popular, to be recognised as such, and thus the line to balance on is really narrow. I might not be a bad enough dude to make a game as bad as that. But Mosh Pit Simulator will have a lot of bugs and glitches in it, to let the player toy around with, instead of constraining them to a set of things that only I chose to be allowed. I intended to let the players explore, and break the game as they please."
Quite how the player will be able to break Sos's new game any further than it already, quite evidently, is remains to be seen, but I know I'm going to be having a go regardless. Just as Wreck-It Ralph reassured us that being the bad guy doesn't mean you have to be a bad guy, Sos is a games-maker who knows that the dumbest, most buggy, ridiculously fucked bits of software imaginable can absolutely provide hilarious good times. When they're not stirring night terrors enough to properly shit the bed sheets, anyway.
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