Interview: Speaking Quantum Break with Thomas Puha
Netguide had a chance to speak with Remedy Games' PR Thomas Puha about the studio's upcoming new game Quantum Break Puha had a lot of things to say about Quantum Break. This includes more details about the gameplay, the actors and how the live action scenes have been integrated. Quantum Break releases on April 5th, 2016 for Xbox One and Windows 10 PC.
How did the idea of Quantum Break first come about? Quantum Break first came about many many years ago after we had done Alan Wake. Sam Lake (our creative director) had an idea for a game called Quantum Break. There was actually a short story hidden within Alan Wake that was the original inspiration for the game. After we had done Alan Wake, we discussed ideas on what we already had. At the start, it was always about a time travel story. It used to have a much smaller live action component, but then we decided to go big with it and that’s what we did. What made you decide to make Quantum Break before making Alan Wake 2? There is a real simple reason for that. At that stage after shipping Alan Wake, we had several new ideas and wanted to pursue something different as the timing wasn’t right. We’d love to make more Alan Wake games, but you know there are financial reasons and we also have to find a publisher to publish and fund the game. Are there any gameplay similarities between Alan Wake and Quantum Break? Of course. A lot of the same people have worked on both Alan Wake as well as Quantum Break. There are even people on the team that have also worked on Max Payne 1 and 2 as well. I think in the combat, you can kind of feel the influence. With Alan Wake you had the fight with light mechanic but you didn’t learn a lot throughout the game. The combat was quite the same from beginning to the end so it turned a little bit boring. In Quantum Break we really wanted to make sure that the action stays exciting until the very end. There is a different kind of cadence to learn all of the different time powers and different enemy types. Definitely how to set the sort of atmosphere and the storytelling elements is what has been influenced by Alan Wake. How did you come up with the Time Bending ideas/powers in Quantum Break? Well it was a lot of trial and error. Early on we were like this is kind of a superhero story as Jack starts to learn these powers. We had different sorts of powers early in the game’s development. When we tried them, we were very unhappy with them we didn’t feel like they were fun to use. It’s like any game as you try out different things. There are things like stopping time in a localized area to stop enemies and explosions, those types of things are really fun. Then we understood that time powers were better if we force the player to move instead of being forced to stay in cover. All of our time powers encourage the player to be more aggressive. It’s not like your average third person shooter as we don’t want you to stay behind cover- we want you to run and use the time powers wisely. We have a lot of talented people trying different types of things. Was it your intention from the start to make Quantum Break different from other third-person shooters? We’ve gotten some criticism as people have been talking online that it’s just another third person shooter, but it’s not. I understand some of the trailers make it seem like a usual shooter, and some people feel that Jack has all these time abilities and is overpowered. Early on, yes, the enemies don’t understand you, but later on there will be more advanced soldiers that have their own experimental technology with them. These enemies can also warp through time and it will be more challenging. It is a difficult balance because we want players to feel powerful, but at the same time the combat has to be exciting. The time powers adds to a layer of gameplay that makes is not your average third person shooter. What inspirations did you have when creating Quantum Break? Remedy really likes popular culture. Our creative director, Sam Lake, really loves books and comic books. We all like movies and live action TV shows a lot too. If we make a time travel story, Back to the Future is an obvious inspiration. Something we also really like is the movie Looper which is a good time travel action movie. There is a lot of Remedy heritage as well. There are a lot of random objects in the game where you can find a lot of funny stuff. With live action, we strived for HBO quality. Can you tell us more about the characters and story in Quantum Break? The way the story starts n Quantum Break is that the hero, Sam Joyce (Shawn Ashmore), is invited by his old friend Paul Serene, played by Aidan Gillen, back to Riverport. Jack hasn’t been to this town for 6 years because something happened so he left. He goes there and meets Paul and Paul does this time travel experiment. Jack’s brother William (played by Dominic Monaghan), doesn’t get along with Paul so Jack and Paul do the experiment without him. The experiment however goes completely wrong, as you would expect as they never go right. It’s one of those things we Remedy said we like to take clichés but we like to call then classics as we make our own spin to it. Anyway, it goes wrong and there is an explosion and Jack gets caught in it and manifests these time powers. Paul Serene goes back into the time machine to try and save things, but he comes out and he’s now 17 years older. You know something happened during his time in the machine. A lot happens in just the first 50 minutes. Was it your intention from the start to cast more well known actors in the game? It was not about getting big name actors, it was about getting good performances. Early on we had a different lead actor (Sean Durrie) who is still in the game. We like Sean very much, but we had the chance to go bigger and we suddenly thought we could get guys like Shawn Ashmore and Lance Reddick. These guys fit the roles and they can get good performances. There is a cost to the actors, but they’re not too expensive as we don’t have to use them for months and months. It’s also because of our performance technology where we can capture the face really well and put that into the in-game characters. In Alan Wake, the facial animation was not great as we were disappointed by it.
Why was Shawn Ashmore a good fit for Jack Joyce? Well Sam Lake liked Shawn a lot and it became an availability kind of thing that we could get him. Shawn is an awesome guy as he’s down to earth, a great actor and he’s really into the game. He plays lots of video games and we said we definitely want to work with this guy. The way we cast his brother William played by Dominic Monaghan, we saw that they looked alike and they are actually friends in real life. How is the live action scenes integrated within the game? To explain on a high level, the game is about the heroes as it’s about Jack Joyce’s story. Live action is about the villains and Paul’s illusions. You actually get to see both sides of the story. The way this experience works is that live action is a part of the game as it ships with it. You play through an act of the game, you get a junction which is a short playable moment as you play the villain and you get to talk to all of his lieutenants and find out what Jack has been up to. Because of the time travel experiment, Paul has some unique skills where he can see into the future. Based on that, you have to make a choice as there are four junctions in the game and there are five acts in the game. You make a choice in the junction, and this triggers a 20 minute live action episode, that will reflect mostly the choice you made in the junction. You can skip the live action scenes if you don’t want to watch it. The game's story will still make sense when you skip it, but watching the live action scenes you will see the story as a whole. You couldn’t really make a 20 minute cutscene within the game, as that would not make much sense. We think live action is a cool thing. We know some people don’t understand it as they don’t want to sit down and watch. I urge people to give it a chance, but if you don’t want to see it fair enough you can just skip it. How much power were you able to get from the PC and Xbox One over the Xbox 360? On the Xbox One it’s a whole different thing compared to the Xbox 360. The facial animation is very complicated to do so definitely we can get better character performances. Then there are things people think less about which is the audio. We have super complex audio because you have the regular world, but when time breaks down, there is a whole different audio there. We had to think how does it sound when time breaks, how do weapons sound, how does speed sound and everything like that. We spent a considerable amount of processing power on that. As well as the visual effects on how time breaks. Our visual effects guys are amazing and did things that weren’t really possible before. Really, the main difference was to make better digital actors. Do you feel Quantum Break has the potential be a popular franchise? Of course we hope so. When you make these games, you don’t make them by thinking that this is going to be a one-off. It’s too time consuming and too expensive just to leave it as one game. We spent a lot of time setting up the Quantum Break universe as there are other stories to tell. There’s going to be a book out as well. It’s not a novelisation it’s a different story. We do think about these things, but we’ll let the audience and gamers decide. If it does well and makes a lot of money, then obviously there is more interest to see more. We do have a lot of ideas for a sequel, but we’ll see what happens with the first game. As Sam Lake said, they killed every character in the first Max Payne game and got stuck on ideas for a sequel. We definitely thought about sequel ideas that we can explore in potential future installments. Lastly, why should people get excited over Quantum Break? Well this game is a little bit different and it’s also something new. At its heart, it’s a really stylised third person action game, but it has got a really deep story. It’s got a story that the player can influence. The live action competent also changes depending on what you do. For a single player game, it also has a lot of replay value, because the story changes depending on what you do. You can go back and replay it to see some different scenarios. It is also like a modern blockbuster but with a deep story and players should give it a chance.