Class Project Generates Buzz

“Where the Bees Make Honey,” Brian Wilson’s dreamlike and emotionally resonant indie videogame, is now available on Xbox, PlayStation and PC platforms.

Student’s videogame now available on Xbox, Nintedo, PlayStation, and PC platforms

Photographers often talk about the “golden hour,” the period just after sunrise, or before sunset, when the natural light is redder, and warmer, and more directional.

“That was the look I wanted,” said Brian Wilson, a senior in Penn State Behrend’s Digital Media, Arts, and Technology program, and the creator of “Where the Bees Make Honey,” an indie videogame that was released in March. “I wanted it to look like those perfect summer evenings we had as kids.”

The visual design elevates “Where the Bees Make Honey,” particularly among indie videogames. GameSpot called it “absolutely gorgeous.” Damien Smith at “The Video Game Autopsy” called it “utterly magical.”

“If ‘Where the Bees Make Honey’ isn’t enough to make you believe videogames are indeed art,” Smith said, “I don’t know what game ever will.”

The game follows Sunny, an office drone whose four-season daydreams filter nostalgia for creative play through a distinctly adult perspective. Wilson, who grew up in Hermitage, Pennsylvania, developed the story after revisiting a lake where he had played as a child.

He built one of the game’s puzzle levels for the final in his Art 168 course. His method of moving players through the level – allowing them to rotate their view of the puzzle, twisting it like a Rubik’s Cube—rewards exploration. It’s a big reason the game is now available for PC, and on the Xbox, Nintendo, and PlayStation digital stores.

“I liked the idea that you could have a cube, and if you could somehow rotate it, you would see a new secret—maybe a door on the other side—that would lead you deeper into the story,” Wilson said.

The Rubik’s move also reinforces the game’s emotional pull: By focusing on Wilson’s created world, with its waterfalls, cliff walls, and rock bridges, rather than its central character, and her quest to collect honeycombs, the game offers a wistful look back at childhood imaginary play.

Wilson shared a beta version of the game at Penn State Behrend’s 2018 DIGITFest, a two-day digital media conference. There, he connected with Dr. Matthew White, assistant teaching professor of game design, and owner of Whitethorn Digital, an Erie-based videogame publisher.

White also has worked at gaming companies, including Volition, which developed the “Saints Row” games, and PlayStation. He thought “Where the Bees Make Honey” was a good fit for his company, which will publish five games this year.

“First of all, it’s gorgeous,” he said. “Every image in the game could be framed and put on a wall.

“Brian also has a story to tell,” he said, “and that’s what sticks with you. There is an element of nostalgia to the game, but it’s more than that. It’s about how you can’t fully appreciate the magic of childhood until you have had some time to look back on it.”

With the game finished, Wilson, who will graduate in December, is instead looking forward: He already has an idea for a second game.

“I definitely will develop another one,” he said. “That’s just how I express myself now. There is no other way of explaining it: It’s in me, and I have to do it.”