Inside the Community Deciphering Ex-GTA Boss’ Mysterious New Game
Joining the Everywhere community Discord is, for the most part, a conventional experience. You agree to a set of rules and get access to channels full of fans sharing everything they can find on this mysterious new game from the former president of GTA developer Rockstar North. Actually, he happens to be the first person you speak to. Leslie P. Benzies is the tongue-in-cheek name of the group’s Discord bot that welcomes new sleuths into the fold.
The strange thing about the Everywhere community is that its members are wildly excited for the game not based on what they’ve been shown, but what they’ve dug up themselves. Everywhere is, in the wider popular consciousness, barely more than a name and a set of vague ideas – but the sheer development pedigree of Benzies himself has led to hundreds of fans doing everything they can to find out about his next project.
Benzies was thought to be Rockstar’s “unseen mastermind” during his time at the studio, producing several of its most formative games and directing GTA Online, a game that is still growing its player base and increasing its revenue some eight years after launch. In 2016, he left amid some controversy to found his own studio, Build A Rocket Boy and has been working on Everywhere ever since.
The Discord is full of ex-pat Rockstar fans who are very fond of Benzies, with memes depicting him as a father figure ready to deliver unto them a new era of gaming innovation, and in one case, a custom hoodie with “The Benz” written on the back. That devotion has led to a mild obsession with discovering exactly what (ahem) The Benz’s next game will actually be.
Admins Nestor and Razor have been following Everywhere since its announcement in 2017, and out of grassroots excitement, they have built Everywhere communities, well, everywhere — across Discord, Reddit, Twitter and Instagram. With over 600 members in the subreddit, it’s a relatively modest crew, but that hasn’t stopped a steady flow of excitable headlines and URLs to obscure corners of the internet that might point to clues on the game.
We spoke extensively to Nestor and Razor about what they’ve found so far, and it creates a very intriguing picture of what sounds like an almost absurdly ambitious game. But before we get to that, it’s probably useful to hear what Build a Rocket Boy itself has already told us about Everywhere.
The Official Word on Everywhere
You might not even be aware of Everywhere yet – and you couldn’t be blamed for that. The game is in active development, but there have been no trailers or teasers just yet, never mind gameplay reveals.
Officially, we know that Everywhere will be some kind of MMO thanks to this job listing for a Vehicle Artist, which says the candidate will be responsible for creating “a wide range of vehicle assets to populate an immersive and large MMO experience.” The human faces we can see on the landing page for the game’s website also tease a realistic art style, with the official description calling Everywhere “a game, a community and a new world.”
“In the near future, technology has brought humanity to the precipice of a world shifting change,” it reads. There are those who want to use this technology to advantage only themselves, and those who want to use it to help all humankind. Will we look to the stars? Or stare only at our feet? Will we be inspired? Or live in fear?”
A handful of interviews were conducted to promote the game’s announcement in 2017, revealing vague but important details. Benzies told VentureBeat that the goal for Everywhere was “to create a platform where players can be entertained, and also entertain others while blurring the lines between reality, and a simulated world.”
“I see a future where we don’t reference single or multiplayer — we just choose when we play and if we want to hang out with others or we want to be alone,” he told Polygon. “We’re making “Everywhere” as seamless as possible so players won’t have to think about jumping from mode to mode — except when it helps the gameplay.” With all the pieces put together, the game starts to appear more like a living social platform than anything bound by typical video game genre convention.
Batting away inevitable Grand Theft Auto comparisons, Benzies told Polygon that Everywhere is “very different” from the series to which he gave a good part of his career. “There may be parts of our game that include satire but the tone will be very different and at times our players will be in control of how the tone is set,” he said.
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Ex-Rockstar North lead Matthew Smith, who joined Benzies in founding Build a Rocket Boy, described the game as “more like a social network”, and cryptically added that, “If a future President chose to make policy announcements in Everywhere, that’s something I’d certainly find interesting.”
Official channels have been silent for a good few years now, but as of 2020, it at least looks like development has been ramping up. Last September, Build a Rocket Boy raised $40 million in funding for the game from firms such as Netease and Galaxy Interactive. In November, the studio announced that the game had made the leap from the troubled Amazon Lumberyard engine to Unreal Engine to “create a game built on a foundation that will remain at the forefront of the industry for years to come.”
Overall it feels like we’ve heard quite a lot, but learned quite little. Thankfully, beyond these small, often disconnected official details, the Everywhere community has been picking up every potential puzzle piece of information it can find – from patents to hidden websites – and using them to slot together a potential picture of what Everywhere will be. How much of this will turn up on our screens, and how much is simply the experiments of a brand new studio, remains to be seen – but it’s clear that Build a Rocket Boy is trying to live up to its grand promises.
What the Community’s Found
Beyond the bold blurbs above, there really wasn’t much to go on for the superfans in the Everywhere social media community, before a set of patents blew the metaphorical doors off earlier this year. Nestor says that a user known as Wolf first shared a link to these documents in the Everywhere Discord. The community gave them a thorough investigation, posting their conclusions to Reddit in February of 2021.
Before explaining their findings, Nestor and Razor were clear (as we should be, too) that these are just patents — it’s possible that none of this technology will make it into the final game. But that hasn’t stopped the community from getting very excited about it all, and creating its own vision of what Everywhere could be.
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“If the [patents] are correct, Everywhere will be a multiplayer open world, set in the near future, where players will be able to buy their own vehicles and objects, create minigames and interact,” Nestor says. “It is inevitable to think of Ready Player One, where there were different worlds with different games, and you could dress as you wanted and have the car or motorcycle you wanted. Virtual reality will also play an important role in the game, but I don’t think it is necessary to enjoy it.” These ideas summon inevitable Roblox comparisons, another game with its own metaverse nurtured by player-built games and spaces.
Many outlets have referred to the game as a “GTA Killer,” but after studying the patents, the community doesn’t see that as a fair comparison. “I think it will be a very, very different game from GTA — there’s no sense in calling it ‘the GTA killer’, as it’s not here to kill anything,” Nestor says. “It will be an open-world MMO, but nothing to do with what Rockstar has created so far.”
Razor echoes Benzies’ 2017 comments, saying they don’t believe that Everywhere is “looking to replace GTA.” Instead, they argue that Benzies is trying to build a reputation for his new studio separate from his existing legacy, adding new mechanics and content as-yet-unseen in the industry.
Part of this innovation includes the minigames mentioned by Nestor, which, if the patents are to be believed, feel like a key pillar of Everywhere. It’s thought that they would be accessible via in-game virtual reality glasses. This feature is seen in the patent drawings where a user in a lifelike setting dons a visor peripheral and enters a surreal metaverse.
“In the patents, we see a moment in which the in-game character, in the third person, puts on virtual reality glasses,” says Nestor. “That serves as a transition to enter a different world, where, according to patents, everything can be different, from visual style, gravity, physics etc.” Razor calls it “a good syntactic way to justify some things ‘out of the ordinary.’”
As for the makeup of these two disparate worlds, Nestor has ideas: “I think the first world will be something similar to GTA Online and the second world will be the one that looks like Ready Player One, where you can create worlds and games for the enjoyment of other players, and access them through doors or portals.”
Build A Rocket Boy’s patents also suggest a unique approach to monetisation in Everywhere. “If the patents refer to Everywhere, we are going to see microtransactions to be able to buy in-game objects, but not only that, since a system is named to be able to make purchases in the game of real objects, in real life,” Nestor explains.
The patents suggest that players will be able to examine purchasable objects, including clothing, vehicles, food and even kitchen appliances in Everywhere. One drawing depicts a product advertisement on an in-game billboard, with players able to select it, see its attribute benefits and purchase the asset on the move. Razor notes that the functionality of purchasing real-world objects in-game could shake out similarly to Nintendo’s Amiibo figure collection, which are toys that can be bought in real-life but also have effects within virtual software.
Another critical feature seen within the patents is a means to broadcast media content from within the Everywhere platform. “We can see Netflix with friends in a cinema (perhaps with VR, to make it more immersive), or Spotify music on the jukebox that you have bought in an Everywhere store, for example.” Razor compares it to Garry’s Mod – which has embedded cinemas already – and says that players may have to log in to their streaming account APIs within Everywhere to watch the content. It’s worth noting that Fortnite is already riding a similar wave, debuting trailers from Tenet and Star Wars within its virtual playspace.
This idea appears elsewhere in the patent in the form of an in-game screen that would let players spectate content while playing Everywhere. Nestor compares it to watching another player’s game via the television in your virtual room in GTA Online. Razor refers to a patent drawing that shows a player in one world observing another player engaged in a military shooter. This could be one of Everywhere’s minigames or even an esports event beyond the game, thanks to the screen’s potential versatility.
Perhaps the most curious patent seen by the community is for another multiplayer game that could be an Everywhere minigame or exist as a separate project. This game is perhaps best described as a musical battle royale that uses the attributes of music tracks to dynamically change the game’s scoring system and incur environmental events.
Based on the patent wording and drawings, Nestor has ideas how this idea could work in motion. “Personally, I imagine it is a battle royale in which the music will alter EVERYTHING. When the song reaches certain moments, things will happen on stage (volcanoes or storms are mentioned), or when the speed of the music advances, the players can go faster etc. The song would be chosen by the players before starting each game through a vote.”
To pull every part of this ambitious experience together, both admins believe that there will be some kind of Everywhere companion app accessible via a browser or through smart devices. The official Everywhere website alludes to this, saying that “through both website and in-game challenges, your player will evolve and your place in Everywhere will become clear.”
Brilliantly, through some URL tinkering, the community has even found a hidden page on the game’s website that seems to confirm how this will all work.
After signing up to the site, and clicking your account name in the top-right, you can then chop the end of the URL that reads “edit” – which takes you to a progress hub (shown above). It explains that this page will eventually let players manage their settings and attributes in Everywhere, which can be developed by completing challenges in solo or co-operative play.
Challenges will improve a ‘Tenacity’ attribute, with a separate unexplained ‘Kinship’ skill listed underneath. The page also introduces a global currency called ‘Artas’, which players can earn, with “new opportunities” to bank more coming soon. Everywhere might still be a mystery, but the fact that Build A Rocket Boy is building up its backend services already seems to tell us quite how in-depth a project this is aiming to be.
At this early stage, this is quite the motherload of information for one small community to stumble upon, and it’s likely Everywhere fans’ finds will only grow in detail and interest as the Build A Rocket Boy marketing machine revs up.
The Future of Everywhere – and its Community
The fact that a community this dedicated to the tiniest of details already exists speaks to quite how exciting – and tantalisingly mysterious – Everywhere feels. And that’s down to the pedigree of the people making it, most particularly Benzies himself (who is personally listed as the sole inventor of those patents).
Nestor says that they’ve been following Benzies since the widely publicized lawsuit between Benzies and Rockstar exposed his “behind the curtain” role in crafting some of their favourite games. “I think many fans delved much deeper into Leslie’s story. Sam and Dan [Houser] did a spectacular job, they are two of the best developers in the history of video games, but Leslie was a bit in the shadows,” Nestor explains. “He was the mind behind GTA Online, and also the one who saved RDR 1, according to Sam Houser’s emails.”
Razor echoes that idea. “When I found out that Leslie was leaving (or was being fired) from Rockstar, I was upset, because although he was always working in the shadows, it is thanks to him that we have games of this immense quality. When I found out that we was creating a new video game, I immediately became interested in it, because as [Build A Rocket Boy] described it in the first interview they gave, it seemed like the ideal game for me. It was just my favourite developer creating my favourite game – what could go wrong?”
“Our excitement for the game is comparable to what people had in mind when [Hideo] Kojima left Konami to start a new project,” Nestor continues. “Why were we so excited for Kojima’s new project but not so much about Leslie’s one? I mean… Kojima made Metal Gear, which is one of the biggest sagas of all time, but Leslie was the one behind GTA 3, Vice City, San Andreas, GTA 4, GTA V, RDR 1, etc.”
There’s an early sense that Build A Rocket Boy’s Everywhere is aiming to be unlike anything we’ve seen before. The truly unanswered question is that, with so many ambitious ideas in the pipeline, when is it going to come out? Starved of official details, the folks over at /R/EldenRing were forced to make their own version of the game to control their hype – are we seeing the beginnings of the same thing happening with Everywhere?
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One of the latest finds from the Everywhere Discord was a strategic company report from December 2019, which included some telling financial statements. “The goal of a game launch in Q4 2021 remains viable,” the document reads. “However, given the ambition of the game and the complexity of the technology development, there is risk that the game will need more development time to complete.”
Build A Rocket Boy wrote this pre-COVID, so it’s fair to say that the viability of a Q4 2021 launch for Everywhere has most likely changed. In a blog post written in March 2020, the studio wrote that the transition to working from home has gone “quite well,” with the team’s effort during the pandemic described as “nothing short of inspirational.” In any case, if the studio initially planned to launch the game later this year, it suggests that development must be quite far along.
That’s only likely to push the Everywhere community to find more. Even with precious little to work with, this community is putting together a picture of the game we’d never seen before – as much a testament to the community’s ingenuity as the studio’s imagination-stoking ideas. That community will only grow with time too, as what we’ve seen so far suggests that we may hear more about this project soon, perhaps in a more official capacity. Until then, we can be sure that the Everywhere community will be doing its best to find out more about the new baby from their beloved Benz. We’ll certainly be watching.
IGN reached out to Build A Rocket Boy for comment on this story, but it didn’t get back to us before publication.
Jordan Oloman is a freelance writer for IGN. Follow him on Twitter.