Not many studios are famous for their weirdness. How many developers can turn the story of their games’ soundtracks into a real slow one? How many creative directors do a mini-striptease on stage and then dress up as one of the protagonists of their games? Only Remedy, the Finnish studio that worked on Max Payne, Alan Wake and Quantum Break, can afford it.

To get even more specific: how many independent studios that create blockbusters still exist? You will be forgiven if you have so far thought that Remedy was not independent. For the past decade, developers have been under the wing of Microsoft and have been making games exclusively for Xbox. But not anymore. Now Remedy has shaken off console exclusivity and decided to make games for other platforms, including PlayStation 4. During the Polish Digital Dragons conference we interviewed creative director Sam Lake to find out more about this new era for the studio. .

Out with the old man

Quantum Break was the latest ambitious work created by Remedy, in which some episodes in live action with a TV series style have been inserted between the various game chapters. Now it’s easy to look back and tease the studio’s ambition to put different media together but back in the days when Microsoft was introducing the Xbox One as a living room showpiece, it really seemed like a great idea.

“In the initial project of Alan Wake 2, which we presented to Microsoft, there was the idea of ​​doing it in episodes, but interspersed with live action scenes,” said Sam Lake. “They liked that idea in the specific. They made me understand that it was an innovation not to be missed, but that unfortunately they were looking for a new IP. They wanted it to belong to them. Alan Wake, however, is ours, so it was out of the question, it had to be something ‘ other??.

“If we think about it at the time Microsoft, which was only just getting started on Xbox One, saw the console more as an entertainment-oriented device. If you remember, there was a lot of talk about TV and live action.”

In the midst of Microsoft’s wave of enthusiasm for the console’s television aspect, Quantum Break was born. Later Microsoft was forced to change its mind regarding the project and, for this reason, decided to close the Xbox Entertainment Studios in Los Angeles, taking a decisive step back. However, Remedy’s path had already started. Fortunately, the Finnish studio had entrusted the shooting to an external company and, thanks to this, somehow Quantum Break ?? has survived all the changes Microsoft wanted ??. But the fight didn’t end there.

“It was very demanding and complicated,” Lake said. “In reality, the project was less ambitious at the beginning. But then we realized what Microsoft wanted: they wanted us to make a TV series with a different story and characters, All the time I kept telling myself that it was done, that if we wanted to do something new we just had to put all these things together and we would have some crossovers ??.

Little by little his obstinacy was rewarded and the project was transformed. But while games can change during development, TV series, which have a pre-established production, can’t. “I’ve never been in a television production and learned a lot along the way,” he said. ?? Our solution was to postpone as much as possible, so as to have everything ready from the point of view of the game and when it was running out … we could start putting everything together ??.

“Even then there were fun things ?? he added. Remedy would obviously have provided some unfinished assets, like a temporary construction site light in a certain place. ?? They really built it the way it was! ?? he says. ?? You can find it in the series in some places! ??.

Then he continued: ?? I am really proud of what we have achieved and the final result. Would I still do things exactly the same way? No. Now, however, I would have a lot of lessons and more ideas to be included in the project ??.

Inside the new

The ability to break free from the bond with a particular manufacturer, including being carried away by the decisions made on the spot by who owns the platform, seems like a good thing. It’s something to do with the freedom to make your own decisions, not to mention being able to finally reach the entire PlayStation audience.

“We worked with Microsoft Studios for ten years, making two great games. It was a logical and positive partnership. For Microsoft, the important thing was obviously the platform, but we are independent developers and ultimately when we leave this collaboration we just want the our games can reach as many people as possible and switching to multi-platform is the most logical decision for us ??.

This does not mean that in the future the door will remain closed for exclusive contracts.

?? It is difficult to talk about all this in absolute terms. There are so many things to take into consideration when making games: the creative side, the ambitions but also the fact that it’s a business deal that has to make sense. So never say never. At this moment, however, we want to go in another direction ??.

This direction he talks about, includes an IPO (initial public offering), suspended on the Finnish stock market. This is something that other independent studios, such as Starbreeze and CD Projekt, have done before, something that can mean money released from publishers, which in turn means freedom and power to negotiate with them.

“This is starting to happen in the industry,” Lake said. “There are examples of Starbreeze or CD Projekt, who have taken this step successfully. Thinking about the possible options and what indie studios used to be like, I noticed. that there are fewer and fewer of them around, we need to find a solution to make this reality possible ??.

“This also stems from the fact that we want to find the means to partially finance our games and with them retain ownership of the brand. It would certainly give us the opportunity to do some long-term projects, not only on the title in development, but also to work on more things to have more games coming out. Would it give us more flexibility and the security, once we are seated at the negotiating table, to be able to say what we want, what are our plans and how can we make everything work ??.

The new Remedy games

Remedy currently has a staff of 140 and is working on two games: CrossFire 2 and P7. Most of the studio is working on CrossFire 2, which is in full production, while P7 is still in pre-production.

CrossFire 2 is the sequel to the huge free-to-play game CrossFire, created by the Korean company SmileGate. Remedy is not working on the entire sequel, but only on the story mode of the title.

“We are applying the typical Remedy method,” said Lake. “They sought us out for our storytelling skills, for our ability to build characters and for our prowess in creating the game world. We are making a mode. story for their great CrossFire 2 title ??.

No release date has been announced yet, and it’s not up to Remedy to do that.

Project 7 (P7) is the typical big Remedy project we are all used to. It has a publisher, 505 Games, and will be a third-person action game with some intriguing mechanics that will ensure its longevity.

“We are planning to keep an important storyline, characters and game world, as we have done in the past, but we want to take other paths as well, so that players can spend more time with the title,” Lake said. ?? that they don’t stop and play it just once and finish it in a couple of days. We are exploring new ways to broaden this area without losing what we feel we can do really well.

What about P7 instead? While unveiling the game at Digital Dragons, Lake explained that Remedy has managed to get a good reputation for making current action games. So I asked the studio if it will ever move away from this genre.

“Never say never! ??, he replied. ?? Whenever we have a new opportunity, a new project, an idea, we question ourselves. Is it essential? Is there a reason why this new idea does it. Would you make it better? Always be strict about your principles and question them when necessary. I would not define this attitude as our weakness, but rather, I feel it more as a strength of our study. There are a lot of people who are expect that kind of experiences from us ??.

It will be interesting to see how far Remedy goes in mixing different media. Max Payne used comic strips to tell the stories, Alan Wake was a novel within a novel, and Quantum Break used live action TV series-style episodes. What could P7 do?

In any case, Remedy is careful not to say too many things in a hurry. P7 may already have its own definition, but at the moment it’s still in pre-production and Remedy likes the idea of ​​being able to freely modify and creatively evolve your ideas along the way.

“We don’t want to talk about the game too soon, have we already made this mistake with the previous titles ??, said Thomas Puha, the Remedy press officer, ?? we talked about it too soon and then the wait was very long. we want it to happen more ??.

“Is it always a voyage of discovery?” Lake added. “We believe this is really an iterative process. If we happen to end up in a dead end or if something happens during exploration and prototyping. unexpected, we are happy. We hadn’t planned that particular thing, but a possibility has come up that we have to consider. We believe that, in order to make good games, it is necessary to have some flexibility ??.

“The problem is that if you speak too soon or present your project immediately, if you have new ideas or discover something new and want to change it, people will end up disappointed. This is ours. way to make good games, we have to be brave enough to change them to make them better ??.

What can you tell us about Alan Wake 2 instead?

“We can confirm to you, and it is better that everyone knows, that P7 is not an Alan Wake 2 ??, categorically reiterated Lake. This does not mean that the idea of ​​Alan Wake 2 is dead.

“I would love to do that! ?? said Lake. ?? We are not working on Alan Wake 2 at the moment. Alan Wake is ours, I feel he still has his value and I would love to make another Alan Wake, but these things, you know, they are much more than just creative ideas, behind there is also a purely economic aspect to take into consideration. Are there several issues to settle before making it possible?

In 2015, Remedy shared some concept videos of Alan Wake 2, which date back to 2010. Footage that was good to show because, as Lake said: ?? The project has evolved so much to date, that showing these footage can not be considered a spoiler in the least ??.

He also added: ?? Whenever we had a project ready and we brought it to the editors to talk about it, it seemed that it was neither the time nor the right place to realize that particular concept. And this for so many reasons, I’ve always felt it as a compromise, as if we weren’t making the Alan Wake sequel we wanted ??.

“For us Alan Wake is precious and, if and when we do, we want to make it on our terms, to create the true sequel he deserves, not just a compromise. And unfortunately we haven’t gotten to that point yet ??.

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