Christofer Emgård (left) is a writer who started out in theatre and movies, and also spent time reviewing games in Sweden, before joining Ubisoft Massive (then Massive Entertainment) ten years ago. He spent seven years with the studio, working on titles such as World Of Conflict, before joining the Mirror’s Edge Catalyst project three years ago. Did you have any concerns about taking the project on in light of the first game’s criticisms? We had a pretty clear idea of what those criticisms were, and how to improve on them. I was brought on board after the project was greenlit, and they [DICE] knew that they wanted to know more about Faith, who she is, and why she does the things that she does. And also that she should be more involved in the world, and the choices she makes have more of an impact in that world. So it was pretty clear what the intent was, and then it was a case of trying to realise it. In among all that, Faith’s characterisation was already strong. How did you feel about getting to work with those foundations? Humbled! Despite the criticism of the first game, there’s no doubt that she’s had an impact on the industry just by being the way she is and looking the way she does. Going into her past and trying to understand her better has been one of the most enjoyable parts of creating the storyline for this game. I’ve worked with her for almost three years now, and she’s changed a little bit along the way, but I’m very happy with the outcome. Did the success of Lara Croft’s reboot and origin story have any bearing on your work? I wouldn’t say what Tomb Raider did specifically inspired us, but I think both [Crystal Dynamics] and us are approaching this in relation to what’s happening with storytelling in general. TV has evolved over the last ten to 15 years, and we have more complex character studies now. Way back, Lara Croft was much more flat – she was an adventurer with a curvy body, and her deeper motivations weren’t really that interesting to anybody. In all sorts of mediums we’re seeing that kind of simplistic character becoming rare – I even miss them in a way, because I think there’s a nice simplicity to that kind of storytelling. But I think with Lara Croft and for what we’ve now done with Faith, we’ve been inspired by that idea of going deeper into who these characters are, and thinking about if these types of heroes could exist for real. And if they did, what would be their background, and how would they function? Because obviously they’re involved in some level of violence and so on – how do they handle that?
How involved were you with the casting process?
Coming from movies and theatre, I love the realisation part – the acting and all that sort of stuff. I used to do more directing when I was at Massive, but we had a wonderful director called Tom Keegan working with us on Catalyst. He and I started on the project at almost the same time, so he’s been deeply involved in the script development process. When the time came for casting, he and I looked at all the actors for the different roles together and then made our picks. Usually when we find someone it’s pretty clear that they’re the right person for the role, but with that said, I think we were lucky this time around. We got a wonderful cast, and the chemistry between them is something I’m very pleased with.
In a game so focused on freeing the player, do you think there’s more friction between the narrative and open world play?
Yes, there is. That’s a constant… maybe it’s a tradeoff. But not necessarily. I work very closely with the game design team. The main impact that a game like this has on storytelling involves pacing. It’s up to the player: you play a main mission, and then maybe go out and explore for a while, or you go straight into the next mission. But as a writer I can’t know what your next choice will be. There are different ways to approach that.