Interview: Creator Reveals Inspirations, Atmosphere, and Technology of Replika
DualShockers recently had the pleasure and the privilege to speak with Biodroid Entertainment’s Bruno Patatas, Creator of Replika, in an in-depth interview that shines light on upcoming Action / Strategy game for PSN with a cyberpunk theme and a dedicated focus on single player experience. We found out a lot about the game and the universe it takes place in during this interview including the inspiration behind the story and atmosphere, the implementation of Stereoscopic 3D HD, what it’s like working with the PS3, and much more. We hope you enjoy this interview that should bring Replika out of its shrouded mystery and give some intimate insight on the game as well as the creative process behind it. We even got to learn about some of the technology in the game including the LIFE engine. Bruno was a great sport with our bombardment of questions and gave us a great read in response!
DualShockers: What is the main concept / philosophy behind Replika’s game-play?
Bruno Patatas, Creator: Replika is a third-person action strategy game with unparalleled action and depth, featuring puzzle solving, world exploration, stealth based combat system and dense storyline. The game at its purest core is a strategy game, but the games’ structure and key ingredients are set up to give the player several choices, combat situations and most importantly… making the player feel a deep connection with Replika and become immersed in the world we created.
DS: How did the storyline come about and what can we expect from it?
BP: Replika besides being a game is also an intellectual property (IP) that we are creating. We want to see Replika in other mediums besides videogames. So for us it’s critical that all the universe of Replika is detailed to the maximum, in what we call the “Replika Bible”. Everything created with the name Replika needs to adhere to the story, timeline and characters defined in that document.
Regarding the game you can expect a very dense storyline with allusions to military, psychological and religious concepts. It’s more mature than what players are used to expecting from a game and it deals with very deep and philosophical questions.
DS: What influences (if any) were there for the team making Replika, and what was done to ensure the originality of the upcoming Action / Strategy title amongst its peers?
BP: Every project is made of influences. Since a very young age that I am attracted to cyberpunk, dystopian stories. When I started envisioning Replika and creating the main story line there was always five books in my desk: “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”, “1984”, “Fahrenheit 451”, “The Cold War: A New History” and “Simulacra and Simulation”. For me those are the main references. There are also authors like Jean Baudrillard, William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Neal Stephenson and Rudy Rucker whose books have been “invisible advisors” during Replika’s development. Those are the fathers of the cyberpunk movement, and in the case of Baudrillard his views on post-structuralism and post-modernism can be seen reflected on Replika’s story. There is one quote of him that has been in my mind since the day that I came up with the name Replika: “It is always the same: once you are liberated, you are forced to ask who you are.” I think that’s an amazingly powerful sentence and it sums up perfectly what Replika feels after her “awakening”.
Outside of the literary field I have numerous references of films, myths and philosophy. It is not by chance that the government of Volgan Empire is called ‘The Septagram Council”. The septagram is a symbol of synthesis and mystery. It also refers to the seven elements of the Universe, as seen in the Philosophy of Equalization, so it’s a very strong symbol. There are also a lot of influences and references from Gnosticism, Existentialism, Nihilism… I incorporated in Replika’s story a bit of a religious background. For me that’s what made masterpieces like The Matrix and Evangelion stand out, the religious references. Whether people want it or not, religion is part of our humanity. In the case of a videogame or a movie it adds that extra layer of “reality” to a fictional story.
Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Paprika, Evangelion, Music from Goth/Cybergoth to Minimalist like the works of Philip Glass, all that are influences that shaped Replika.
My main objective when we started the development of the game was to be able to transmit to the art team all these references in terms of look and feel, and I’m quite proud of them because they were able to give life to a fantastic world.
The originality of the game can be seen not only in terms of story and the fantastic dystopian universe we created, but also in terms of gameplay. I can’t reveal much but the way the levels are built and how you progress in the game are very different of what you are used to seeing.
Taking in consideration all the references I mentioned earlier, one thing that was paramount for me is that the player needs to have moral choices to do during the game, and based on his decisions that will affect gameplay and how the story is revealed to him.
All the elements, script, art, music, sound fx get together to provide an experience to the player that I believe it will be one of its kind. I think of Replika not only as a game but as a great cyberpunk experience, that’s why I wanted since the beginning to have people involved in the development process that are not from the game development industry like Pearry Teo (director of The Gene Generation and Necromentia) Replika’s Creative Consultant that is bringing on board all his filmmaking expertise, not only for cinematics but also for character development and story.
We are also developing new groundbreaking technology to add extra layers of realism to the gameplay. Together with a Portuguese University, IST, we are developing a tool called Life Engine that is a game engine for metabolic modeling using DEB. The Dynamic Energy Budget (DEB) theory has become a fundamental tool in modeling the metabolic behavior of organisms. On the other hand, the videogame industry is striving for more realism in its products. And that’s why Biodroid and IST joined forces. As we say “Life Engine – creating artificial life for scientific and entertainment purposes”!
DS: We’ve heard from the team that the game will support Stereoscopic 3D HD, was this an afterthought or decided during the fundamental phase of development and how will it add to the game? How was the experience of working with this cutting-edge technology as it is still emerging in the gaming entertainment industry?
BP: The decision of supporting Stereoscopic 3D HD was made right in the beginning, when the concept behind Replika started to take shape. We do not want to use stereoscopy only as a graphics gimmick, but as something that will enhance gameplay. The player will be able to play the game in standard HD TV’s, but if you’re playing with S3D you will have access to new gameplay elements and the whole visuals will truly reflect our view for this dystopian world. Since we are working with such a new and cutting-edge technology it is very important for us the support that we are having from Sony since the very first beginning. In our point of view, Stereoscopic 3D is the next big thing, without doubt.
DS: Replika has a strong rebellion theme, how will this be expressed in the title other than the art style and story?
BP: The rebellion theme is the main focus on the second half of the game. The rebels, people fighting for mankind’s free will and spirit, will be critical for Replika’s success during the game. Unfortunately, I can’t go into more details right now.
DS: Will there be multi-player planned for this title, if so is there anything you can tell us about co-op and/or online capabilities at this point?
BP: Replika is a single player game only. The experience and immersion we want to provide to the player can only be achieved through a single player perspective.
DS: Up to this point, Biodroid seems to have been a very Nintendo-centric publisher (with games seemingly geared to a younger, softer audience). With Replika appearing to be a break from form, how long has Replika been in the Biodroid think-tank? What other dark goodies are you guys keeping from us?
BP: Something like Replika has been inside my mind since I was a teenager. When we created Biodroid three years ago we knew that one day the opportunity of developing our own intellectual property would arrive. When a set of conditions were met we started working first on the story and things then evolved naturally. We have a lot of dark, psychologically heavy and disturbing goodies floating in our heads and it will not be long until we can share a bit more about our next projects.
DS: Also, what brought the team to Sony’s platform with this title (or vice versa), how has the experience been working with the PlayStation hardware, and what are the chances of a cross-platform release down the road?
BP: It was mainly a matter of fitting the IP with the right target hardware. I always loved PS3 because of the fantastic games you have on PSN. Flower, PixelJunk… I love how PSN is such a fertile ground for titles with new gameplay concepts.
Working with the PlayStation hardware has been a great experience. It’s a very difficult platform to master but the power of the machine is immense. The fact that Replika’s Software Architect before joining Biodroid worked at the Sony R&D Division that developed PlayStation 3 is a huge bonus for our side 🙂 .
As it is right now Replika is a PlayStation 3 exclusive.
DS: As Biodroid is already possessing experience publishing games w/ motion controls via the Wii, can we also anticipate an incorporation of Sony’s Move?
BP: There are no plans for Move support. I firmly believe that if you are doing games for motion controllers like Move or Kinect you have to plan that on the game design since the beginning. You need to target your game specifically to take full advantage of it. With Replika there is nothing regarding gameplay that would be improved with Move support.
DS: Was it always the desire to have a female protagonist? What makes this protagonist a deep, unique, and interesting individual within her world specifically?
BP: The question of why Replika is a female protagonist will only be revealed in the end of the game. If I told you the answer, that would be a major spoiler haha!!