Bears in Space began as a TV show inspired by Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace

For Garth Edwards and John Eyre, Bears in Space was an ever-transforming work of love.
bears in space key art interview

To bring a video game into the world is an act of tenacity and love, particularly for smaller, dedicated teams of developers. It requires patience, endurance, and a desire to crystallise sweeping ideas. For the Bears in Space team at Broadside Games, gestating the idea for their newly-released adventure over a seven year period taught deep lessons about what it takes to release a game at all.

According to John Eyre, cofounder, CEO, and lead artist at Broadside Games and Garth Edwards, co-founder, CEO, and lead programmer, coming up with the wild, quirky ideas backing Bears in Space was just the beginning of an unpredictable, wholly ambitious future journey.

Both Eyre and Edwards have been working on the game for so long that the original ideas and reasoning for the pitch – you are “Maxwell Atoms, a Spacetronaut turned extraterrestrial castaway, whose DNA has been merged with Beartana, the She-Bear” – has disappeared, leaving only a dogged ambition and dedication in its wake.

“It’s sort of lost to time,” Eyre told GamesHub of the original idea. “We originally had an idea to do a TV show. We were going to pitch it – it was basically Bears in Space – but it was going to be something along the lines of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace. You know, just real cheesy.”

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While a script was prepared, the idea never got its legs – and so Eyre and Edwards began talking about a video game instead, inspired by their personal hobbies and experiences. Edwards had a background in modding and making maps for PC games, and from these humble beginnings, Bears in Space coalesced.

“There was no romantic starting point,” Eyre said. “It just sort of happened.”

bears in space gameplay
Image: Broadside Games

Over weekends and in spare time, Eyre and Edwards began slowly chipping away at the ideas for Bears in Space, experimenting with gameplay, tone, and humour, and refining the script. The long, open-ended development time also allowed them to hone self-taught skills. Edwards learned Unreal Engine, Unity, C++, and more programming skills via Udemy and YouTube to expand the world of Bears of Space. Eyre also put thousands of hours into experimenting with new game development skills, spending time before and after work practicing.

Through the course of seven years, they motivated themselves by bouncing ideas, and by holding each other accountable. “Having someone working on it with you is a big drive, because you don’t want to slack off or fall behind when it affects the other person,” Edwards said. “We’re both motivated sort of people.”

Eventually the pair were able to transition to full-time work on the game, thanks to the support of the Epic Games MegaGrant, as well as from publisher Ravenscourt (a subsidiary of Plaion) and Screen Queensland. Beyond money being a motivator, it was in earning this support that Eyre and Edwards found the confidence to push forward.

“[It’s a] confidence boost, getting bigger grants,” Eyre said. “It said what we’re doing is something … We’re a team of three, and the three of us are self-taught.” Getting formal support served as motivation to push forward, and to continue creating with the knowledge that Bears in Space had major potential.

“When we first started out, we were just working before work, after work, weekends,” Eyre said. “That scope was very limited. I think we’d planned maybe four levels and were thinking maybe episodic at that point. It was much, much smaller. But then as soon as you get funded, you get this big runway – now you have time where you never had it before.”

Image: Broadside Games

“We were able to sit down and really flesh out exactly how far we wanted to go. It changed everything … It let us hire the concept artists to make Bears in Space more cartoony and wacky. It gave us more time, and confidence to continue on.”

Seven years and multiple iterations on, Bears in Space has finally arrived.

From humble origins, it launches as an irreverent, over-the-top bullet-hell shooter filled with slapstick antics, frantic gunplay, and vivid sense of personality that shines through. Panic may set in as you run and gun your way through its surreal environments – but with all the silly freedom that being a space bear with giant paws allows, there’s always joy brimming underneath the surface.

You can feel the dedication put into Bears in Space, oozing through the game’s pores (and its paws). For Eyre, Edwards, and their collaborations, the release of the game is the final stage in a long journey – but one that has been consistently motivated by a sense of fun, experimentation, and motivation.

At the end of the road, Eyre and Edwards want the game to do well – but more importantly, they want the opportunity to get more of their biggest, craziest ideas out into the world. Given this journey started with bears and space and transforming astronauts, the road only gets wilder and crazier from here.

Bears in Space is now available on Steam.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.