CON­TROL

Thomas Puha talks to OPM about Rem­edy’s re­turn to PlayS­ta­tion with Con­trol

PlayStation Official Magazine (UK) - - CONTENT -

Rem­edy’s Thomas Puha dis­cusses the dev’s re­turn to PlayS­ta­tion with its new ti­tle.

Rem­edy last re­leased a game on PlayS­ta­tion 15 years ago – the rather ex­cel­lent Max Payne 2: The Fall Of Max Payne. But dur­ing that time the stu­dio’s been far from quiet, work­ing on many other projects, and per­fect­ing its style – not to men­tion work­ing away on de­vel­op­ing and re­fin­ing its very own North­light en­gine. So it was a pleas­ant sur­prise when, at E3, the an­nounce­ment trailer for Con­trol was one of the high­lights of Sony’s ex­cel­lent show­case.

A bit of a de­par­ture for Rem­edy, Con­trol is much more open-ended than its usual of­fer­ings. Tak­ing in­spi­ra­tion from the ‘new weird’ genre (think the books of Jeff Van­derMeer and China Miéville), it sees lead char­ac­ter Jesse ex­plor­ing a twisted and sur­real New York build­ing, The Old­est House, and fac­ing off against the su­per­nat­u­ral us­ing some im­pres­sive para­nor­mal skills of her own. We sit down with Rem­edy’s Thomas Puha to get the lat­est on the stu­dio’s PlayS­ta­tion come­back. OPM: Games like Max Payne, and Alan Wake on PC, are all pulpy feel­ing, clearly based around cer­tain gen­res. What was the aes­thetic idea be­hind Con­trol? Thomas Puha: We talked a lot about it with Sam [Lake, the game’s creative di­rec­tor] like what a ‘Rem­edy game’ is, and Rem­edy games tend to be based in re­al­ity. […] In Con­trol it’s set in the present day, and all the styles, the build­ing, the game takes place in is in New

York. We again, like, rule things into re­al­ity but then we have that layer of su­per­nat­u­ral and a lot of crazi­ness. I mean, the term we use is ‘new weird’ – that’s kind of been used around at the stu­dio quite a lot to de­scribe the at­mos­phere of the game. It’s def­i­nitely a lot darker than our pre­vi­ous games, and there’s a lot less hand-hold­ing for the player – it’s a much more game­play-driven ex­pe­ri­ence. OPM: So what is the think­ing be­hind mak­ing it more con­tained within The Old­est House ver­sus some of the more sweep­ing lo­ca­tions of pre­vi­ous Rem­edy games? TP: The Old­est House is this trans­form­ing build­ing. [In the trail­ers] you’ve seen that the house re­ally is a lot big­ger on the in­side than what you’re led to be­lieve from the out­side. So when you get in there it’s this trans­form­ing re­ally kind of open-ended place, and the Fed­eral Bureau Of Con­trol has been there for quite a while and are try­ing to con­trol The Old­est House. So there’s these con­trol points that were vis­i­ble in the trailer and in the demo. It’s a very, very unique set­ting. The kind of core of the build­ing is sta­ble, so let’s say you get out of the el­e­va­tor and ev­ery­thing kind of looks like an of­fice but still weird, but the deeper you get into the of­fice [part of the] house the cra­zier it gets. It gets very oth­er­worldly so we want to make sure ab­so­lutely that there’s go­ing to be enough va­ri­ety, es­pe­cially vis­ual va­ri­ety and in terms of lo­ca­tions. OPM: Given the shift­ing world, how does the more open-ended ap­proach used here com­pare to pre­vi­ous, more strongly struc­tured, Rem­edy games? TP: Com­pared to Rem­edy’s past, which has been su­per-lin­ear, this is a lot less lin­ear. We throw around the word ‘Metroid­va­nia’, which I think most peo­ple are not ex­pect­ing from a Rem­edy game. We have a lot of in­ter­con­nected spa­ces in The Old­est House – so as you get abil­i­ties like Le­vi­tate that you’ve seen in the demo you’ll be like “Hmm, maybe a cou­ple of hours ago when I saw those dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions, maybe I can now get there”. There’s a lot of that, a lot of things like that in the game. It’s also a game­play-driven ex­pe­ri­ence and what that means is play­ers can kind of play at their own pace. So, yes, there is a main sto­ry­line and the story mis­sions at­tached to that, but then there’s a bunch of side-mis­sions as well, and all of that is – this be­ing Rem­edy – all of those side-mis­sions are very much tied to the lore and they give you a lot more back­ground in­for­ma­tion on the char­ac­ters as well. And then on top of that there’s some other re­ally chal­leng­ing con­tent.

THERE’S A LOT LESS HANDHOLDING FOR THE PLAY­ERS – IT’S A MUCH MORE GAME­PLAY DRIVEN EX­PE­RI­ENCE.

OPM: What is Jesse Faden’s main goal in ex­plor­ing The Old­est House? TP: It’s very much Jesse’s jour­ney – the main char­ac­ter’s jour­ney – that’s what the story is very much about. Jesse be­comes the di­rec­tor of the Bureau right at the be­gin­ning of the game. All of that gets ex­plained, so it’s im­por­tant to re­alise that the mis­sion of the game is not to be­come the di­rec­tor, you be­come the di­rec­tor very, very early on. But it’s about then ac­cept­ing the re­spon­si­bil­ity and fig­ur­ing out Jesse’s mys­te­ri­ous past and the sorts of things that drive her. OPM: If you start off be­ing the di­rec­tor, does that kind of get you into the plot and ac­tion quite quickly then? TP: We had a lot of back-and-forth on Quan­tum Break’s be­gin­ning, which was very slow-paced, and had a lot of set­ting up. Which was very de­lib­er­ate. This gets to the point a lot faster. OPM: At one point in the demo we saw some­one watch­ing a fridge, which seemed to hint at a side-quest. How do those things tie in to the broader pic­ture of Con­trol? TP:

Suf­fice to say, even though Con­trol is a very game­play-driven game, a lot more of a sys­tems-driven game than what we’ve done be­fore – at the end of the day it’s game­play that keeps peo­ple play­ing, but then the story and how ev­ery­thing con­nects… we can be con­fi­dent that we can get that right, yeah. We know how to do that stuff so we can kind of talk about it less, but Anna [Megill, nar­ra­tive lead], Sam [Lake], and the rest of the writ­ing team… we’re mak­ing sure that ev­ery­thing is con­nected so when you do play the side­mis­sions they’re not just gonna be ran­dom stuff like pick up this and that and it doesn’t tie into the greater theme of things. We def­i­nitely want to make sure that ev­ery­thing is con­nected and that peo­ple who want to know more can do it if they want. That whole world­build­ing is some­thing that’s re­ally key, and what we’re try­ing to do is not take away con­trol, and you’re go­ing to have to stop and lis­ten, but say like “Hey, some­thing in­ter­est­ing is hap­pen­ing here, if you want you can go see it, you can go lis­ten, you go find out more.” It’s more sort of layer-driven. OPM: It’s in­ter­est­ing to see things like side-quests in a Rem­edy game, es­pe­cially as you say they’ll tie into the lore! Con­sid­er­ing that, what are some of the main themes that all of that will be ty­ing into? TP: There’s the clear sort of… we’re us­ing bru­tal­ist ar­chi­tec­ture. If you look at The Old­est House it’s straight lines, it’s very sparse, very clean. Then you have the Hiss [the en­emy] – it’s not like a sin­gle per­son or any­thing like that. So there’s or­der and chaos, and that’s the two sorts of con­flict in the game. OPM: At one point in the demo Jesse clearly says “I walk be­tween two straight lines”, is this her ex­plain­ing the world of Con­trol is not as or­derly a place it looks? TP: Yes, so it’s very much about or­der and chaos, and con­trol and los­ing con­trol. Hav­ing an agency that kind of deals in very volatile things that are hid­den from the pub­lic eye and not re­ally know­ing what they’re deal­ing with. So on a the­matic level that’s def­i­nitely some­thing that’s deeply, deeply in there. I think fans of Rem­edy ex­pect that there’s go­ing to be a pretty deep story and there’s a lot more go­ing on. But on a very, very high level it’s like, okay you be­came the di­rec­tor, and you’ve got to learn, and you’ve got to take on the Hiss. On a very high level that’s what it’s about. But then there is some­thing pretty ab­stract [too], so yeah it’s a very in­ter­est­ing jux­ta­po­si­tion. OPM: Max Payne in­tro­duced the bul­let-time dive to the gam­ing world. Rem­edy’s al­ways adding new twists to com­bat in its games. What are some of the unique as­pects of fight­ing in Con­trol? TP: Early on we talked about how the gun is al­ways the easy choice, right? Like, sure it’s not easy to make a head­shot feel re­ally good – like in Destiny no mat­ter how many times you shoot a Ca­bal head, the pop just feels re­ally good. We re­ally wanted to chal­lenge our­selves [with Con­trol’s com­bat] – let’s make the abil­i­ties re­ally im­pact­ful, and get­ting the abil­i­ties to feel re­ally good. Like Launch, where you grab ob­jects and throw them – you have to get the phys­i­cal­ity right. How does it work when I look at ob­jects, do you have to kind of point at what you pick? – which kind of goes against this be­ing an ac­tion-driven game. A lot of work has gone into that. You kind of look around and you see the ob­ject that you kind of feel you want, but we should be able to pre­dict that too – and then you grab it and then you get to throw it, and that has to feel right when it im­pacts the pos­sessed Bureau troops or the Bureau agents you’re gonna fight against, that has to feel re­ally good. Peo­ple re­ally like shoot­ing guns in games, so we re­ally want to chal­lenge our­selves so that the abil­i­ties would give you that same sort of a pow­er­ful feel­ing. We’re still work­ing on it for sure. OPM: We re­ally en­joyed the va­ri­ety of Hiss. There’s the ba­sic Hiss you can use a shield and fling things at, then you have the Hiss that do pirou­ettes in the air, and then ob­vi­ously the boss Hiss at the end of the demo in par­tic­u­lar. TP: And that’s like kind of a mini-boss! We’re go­ing to go very crazy with ac­tual bosses. When we built the demo I was like okay, the take away for peo­ple will be like “That’s a boss fight.” It is and it’s not. They will be a lot big­ger-scale and epic than what you saw there. That was kind of to give you sort of a taste. OPM: To those who loved the look of the Con­trol game­play demo, what would you high­light for them to ex­pect with the fin­ished game? TP: It’s just great that, you know, Rem­edy’s com­pany strat­egy is to be multi-plat­form, so it’s just great to be out on a PlayS­ta­tion plat­form [again]. That es­pe­cially is great. It was def­i­nitely fun to have the trailer in the Sony brief­ing [back at E3], which was very, very cool. The demo’s a demo – it show­cases cer­tain as­pects of the game but it’s far from be­ing a fin­ished prod­uct. It’s very fun, so once you get to play the fi­nal prod­uct you’ll prob­a­bly be sur­prised at how dif­fer­ent it ends up be­ing. And how sort of more open-ended and less lin­ear than what we’ve done in the past.

Thomas Puha’s been in the in­dus­try for 20 years, but Rem­edy’s his home now.

Mid­dle “The Jan­i­tor did it” is quickly be­com­ing the new “The But­ler did it”. Left Lev­i­ta­tion is but one of Jesse’s pow­ers. Right Boo, hiss – it’s the Hiss!

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