Compulsion Studios is a Montreal-based studio that became a part of Xbox Game Studios in 2018. However, the team was actually founded in 2009 by an ex-employee of a fellow Microsoft-owned developer (Arkane Studios
) called Guillaume Provost. The former project lead took a risky leap in the post-financial crisis era, but the Compulsion Games team got up and running with work for hire on Darksiders
(2010), Arthur Christmas: Elf Run (2011 — iOS, Android), and Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale
This was all to help raise funds for the team's first major title, the platformer Contrast
in 2013. It's initially a 3D experience, but when you jump into a shadow you can run across the shadows on the walls. Manipulating scenes using light to your advantage is key. Provost wrote the script while working for Arkane Lyon and took inspiration from that French city. Layered on top of this were the "1920s Burlesque and Vaudeville era with some more classic film-noir elements from the 1940s," according to an interview with Game Informer
. The game was received with moderation, sitting at a 65 on Metacritic
and garnering criticism for some of its unintuitive platforming and lack of polish.
Compulsion Games — Contrast (2013)
Contrast gave the Compulsion team a lot to think about over the next few years of development. The size of the team tripled from five to fifteen, with the struggle of Contrast's development helping Provost realise that procedural generation would be a neat trick to help ease the burden of development (thanks, MCV
). The concept of 2018's We Happy Few
was influenced by the passing of Provost's mother just before the release of Contrast. Out of this spiral of emotions came the dystopic British setting with its drug-fuelled society of citizens who had made some horrible mistakes in an alternate reality World War 2, and who were trying to enforce forgetfulness. Released into early access in 2016, when the game finally launched the general impression was a little more positive, settling on a Metacritic of 64
. The strength of the setting was heavily praised, with the technical aspects and some of the gameplay systems heavily criticised.
At E3 2018, Phil Spenser announced that Compulsion Games had been acquired by Microsoft alongside Ninja Theory
, Playground Games
, Undead Labs, and the talent for the creation of new studio The Initiative
. Since then, the talent at Compulsion has doubled again for a rumoured third-person title