Post Script

In­ter­view: Sam Lake, cre­ative di­rec­tor, Rem­edy


“We used sur­face cap­ture for ev­ery in-game line – I don’t think any other game has done that be­fore”

Rem­edy adopts a ‘ready when it’s ready’ ap­proach to game de­vel­op­ment, fo­cus­ing its en­ergy on fewer projects and tak­ing its time with its cre­ations. Cre­ative di­rec­tor Sam Lake may ex­ude the same kind of thought­ful con­fi­dence, but his fre­netic en­ergy is a sur­pris­ing con­trast to the me­thod­i­cal Fin­nish stu­dio’s out­ward ap­pear­ance. Here, we dis­cuss the ground­break­ing as­pects of Quan­tum Break and the steep learn­ing curve they cre­ated. How have you en­joyed work­ing with live ac­tion? We’ve been do­ing lit­tle tests with live ac­tion as a com­po­nent [in pre­vi­ous games] and we wanted to take a big­ger leap in that di­rec­tion. It was chal­leng­ing and there was a lot of learn­ing along the way. Cre­at­ing a big game like this is an it­er­a­tive process. Not ev­ery idea you have will work, and part of get­ting to some­thing good means you some­times need to change di­rec­tion. Whereas with the tra­di­tional live-ac­tion pro­duc­tion method, once you’re be­yond the script be­ing locked, you’re in a very rigid sched­ule. So it took a lot of fig­ur­ing out to get to the point where we had a good plan for cre­at­ing both el­e­ments. Were there any seis­mic changes along the way? The orig­i­nal idea for the show was that it was dis­con­nected. We’d have a game and a show, and while the show would run par­al­lel dur­ing the same cri­sis and in the same place, we’d have a dif­fer­ent set of char­ac­ters go­ing through their own sto­ry­line. Along the way we de­cided to be more am­bi­tious and have cross­over – I felt if we could do this with an in­ter­ac­tive nar­ra­tive then we’re do­ing some­thing no­body has done be­fore. What ad­di­tional chal­lenges did that bring about? We kept push­ing the show sched­ule back. We agreed to shoot it as late as pos­si­ble to when we’d got through pro­to­typ­ing on the game side, had lev­els in place and scenes that worked. Only at that point did we lock the script and the branch­ing stuff. The fa­cial per­for­mances stand out par­tic­u­larly. Com­ing out of Alan Wake, the whole team felt the story we told would’ve been bet­ter if the fa­cial an­i­ma­tions had been closer to the ac­tors’ per­for­mances. So we made a firm de­ci­sion at that point that we would push our tech­nol­ogy and fo­cus on that as­pect. We cre­ated a sur­face-cap­ture stu­dio for fa­cial ex­pres­sions and built a scan­ning lab of our own for high-de­tail head cap­tures. And then, of course, a lot of work went into the ac­tual pipe­line of trans­lat­ing all of that data into some­thing dy­namic so that the an­i­ma­tors can tweak and pol­ish things where nec­es­sary. How did the per­for­mance phase go? For the mo-cap ses­sions we had hel­met cams, so all the fa­cial data was al­ready cap­tured, but the de­tail level you can get to­day with that tech­nol­ogy is not as high as we can pull off in the sur­face-cap­ture stu­dio. So we brought the ac­tors back for all of the close-ups and re-did the per­for­mances – they watched the mo-cap per­for­mance and then acted it out again. And when our ac­tors came to Fin­land to be scanned, we had them visit a den­tist where we took moulds of their teeth so that we could get a model that we could scan and put into the game. We used sur­face cap­ture for ev­ery in-game line as well – I don’t think any other game has done that be­fore. How dif­fi­cult was it to bal­ance all of the time-power dy­nam­ics in­volved in the com­bat? It was a long jour­ney! There were many pro­to­type time power ideas added or aban­doned, and slowly we got to where we wanted to be. Orig­i­nally the game was just frozen scenes, which is kind of cool but gets old fast. But in our en­gine, for a dif­fer­ent pur­pose al­to­gether, we had this state-record­ing func­tion for ob­jects, where you could cap­ture an ob­ject in var­i­ous states. That led to the idea of bro­ken time and in­di­vid­ual time lines for dif­fer­ent com­po­nents in a scene. I’m not the tech­ni­cal guy, but there re­ally is all kinds of in­cred­i­ble stuff go­ing on with the spe­cial ef­fects. Do any of the time-power ideas you aban­doned par­tic­u­larly stand out to you? With the state record­ing we had an early ex­per­i­ment with let­ting the player record a se­quence of game­play and then rewind it and play again with the recorded ver­sion of the char­ac­ter. But that ended up cre­at­ing a lot of game­play rep­e­ti­tion, and pushed the game into more strate­gic ter­ri­tory. For a dif­fer­ent game, I still think that was a re­ally cool idea, but we wanted this fast-paced adren­a­line rush, and that idea was hold­ing that back. How do you feel about con­cerns in­volv­ing read­ing emails – that it can break up the flow of the game? I un­der­stand it per­fectly, and it fas­ci­nates me: it’s a re­ally in­ter­est­ing part of hu­man psy­chol­ogy, this de­sire to not miss any­thing. But at the same time, it’s clearly not forced on you. If all of that was on your crit­i­cal path, you’d be re­ally frus­trated and would want to start skip­ping it, whereas when it’s made op­tional through ex­plo­ration, some play­ers feel com­pelled to search for it and not miss it. The idea was al­ways to add all of this in there be­cause it makes it richer and deeper, but I feel it’s some­thing for when you re­play the game. On the first playthrough you’ll be skip­ping some of it, but then you can go back and dig deeper.

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