What makes FuturLab’s early-access Steam hit PowerWash Simulator so appealing, aside from the ability to draw dicks everywhere? Just look at it. The moment you turn on your sprayer, you’re treated to instant, obvious results. Kotaku recently spoke to PowerWash Simulator design director Dan Chequer about the joy of instant visual gratification and the powerful allure of getting things clean.
There’s nothing quite as satisfying as removing dirt to reveal the clean surface underneath. It’s a truth cleaning supply and equipment companies have capitalized on for decades, with commercials showing off paper towels absorbing spills or vacuum cleaners suctioning up crisp, clean lines in filthy carpet. We asked the team at FuturLab how they went about designing cleaning as a fun game mechanic. Part of the answer is that cleaning is already fun. Maybe not the whole lugging equipment about in the hot sun or spending hours crawling about on your hands and knees, but the instant, ongoing gratification is a blast. Literally, in the case of power washing.
“It became apparent to the team very early on that the act of cleaning was going to be fun,” said Dan Chequer on how FuturLab went about transforming power washing into an entertaining interactive experience. “Our Development Director Kirsty Rigden has always loved games where you see immediate visual progress such as de Blob, and she was the first to champion the potential for a power washing game.”
De Blob, the 2008 puzzle-platform game from Australian developer Blue Tongue Entertainment, is about restoring the color to a black-and-white world. You take on the role of a cartoonish blob that has the ability to absorb paint and apply it to the buildings of a sprawling metropolis, bringing color to the city one district at a time. As in PowerWash Simulator, the results of your actions are instant and impactful.
The difference between De Blob and PowerWash Simulator, aside from the conflicting motivations, is that De Blob has enemies, timers, and other dramatic features to make it more like a game than a complex version of Microsoft Paint. Though PowerWash Simulator includes a Challenge Mode so you can race against a clock or clean with limited supplies, for the core game FuturLab purposefully avoided such complications.
“The appeal is very unusual for a game, as enemy threats and time limits are deliberately absent,” said Chequer. “We wanted to create an experience that players could relax with and approach at their own pace. The one word we hear more than any other in our feedback is ‘Satisfying’, which is exactly what we were aiming for.”
That’s not to say PowerWash Simulator is without complexity. Players have to juggle nozzle sizes and strengths, picking the right detergent for different surfaces, and deal with layers of filth with differing levels of toughness. The developers literally added layers of complexity to dirt in order to transform the simple, satisfying act of blasting away grime into a more complete game.
That said, PowerWash Simulator is still in early access. FuturLab is regularly adding new content. The most recent update, released on July 7, added the aforementioned challenge mode, three new jobs, and revamped the soap system to ensure players weren’t wasting their in-game funds on excessive amounts of detergent. Another big change in the update was the ability to properly go prone to reach dirt closer to ground level.
“Prone has been in the game since the very start, but we used to call it ‘crouch’, which was a little confusing as it was very low! So in the most recent update we have added the ability to actually crouch,” said Chequer of this convenient new tweak. “This provides a middle ground between standing and going prone, which really helps with spotting dirt on places such as the top of car wheels.”
Yes, PowerWash Simulator is a game in which we, as players, get very concerned about our jets of water reaching the tops of car wheels. I’m already thinking about those spotless rubber treads.