Xbox One Exclusive Quantum Break: Lots of Insight and Info on Game and Live Action Show from Sam Lake

During a masterclass lecture held at the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie in Paris, that DualShockers attended, Remedy Entertainment Creative Director Sam Lake talked more about Quantum Break, providing insight, information, and even some interesting anecdotes on the development of the game and on the production of the live action show.

  • The concept of freezing time that was part of the ideas for Alan Wake 2 eventually found its way into Quantum Break‘s time stutters.
  • In Quantum Break there’s a small live action clip that gives a glimpse into what’s happening in the world of Alan Wake.
  • According to Lake, Quantum Break is, more than Max Payne and Alan Wake, a conscious effort into looking at what are the elements that make a Remedy game, and taking all the learnings that the team had through the years, and using them to create a new experience.
  • For Lake, everything needs to serve a purpose. He needed to figure out what the role of the show is, what the game is about, its different components, and the story that supports these elements. Features can’t be there for their own sake. It would be easy to just make a list of features, but they need to have a purpose.
  • In most games, the choices you get to make are “on top of the experience,” not “inside the experience.” To Lake, it’s really, really important that in Quantum Break those choices are part of the fiction. They are a power that the villain has. He knows that he’s making a choice and that there are different options, just as the player does. This adds another layer to the experience, and layers are important. There’s no wrong choice, but the player gets to decide what kind of perspective he takes into making these choices. If you’re playing the bad guy, you can roleplay him and figure out what would be the smartest choice for him to make, or you can empathize with the hero and make a different choice.
  • There have been a lot of learnings along the way of creating a game interatcing with a TV series. The production models of a game and of a live action show are very different. You could say that they’re not compatible. It took a lot of figuring out and “workshopping” for it to work correctly.
  • Remedy had a bigger writing team than ever before for Quantum Break: Lake, Mikko Rautalahti from Alan Wake, and two new writers that were hired for the purpose. On top of that, there were several narrative people at Microsoft involved in the process, and then separate writers at Lifeboat Productions in LA managing the show. It took a lot of work to nail everything down and figure out what was the role for the show, what was the role for the game, which characters are overlapping between them, and so forth.
  • The show was shot quite late in the process (a year ago), so by then the story was already figured out and locked down. The show team took a lot of material from the game, looked at prototypes and environments, and from those they built the sets for the series. The costumes were created after looking at the game’s character models.
  • After the show was shot, special effects were created based on the game’s VFX. At that point things were flipped around: if there were discrepancies between the show and the game, the game’s developers looked at the show and tweked things on their side to create continuity. It was a complicated process. It would have been much easier to just settle for making two separate entities, but the team felt that it was the right kind of ambition to push them as close as possible. It’s something that was never done before, and Lake feels that they succeeded.
  • When the sets for the show were created, not everything was finished on the game side. Some elements of the environment were in whitebox state (basic models with no textures), and one funny example is one particular lamp: in its whitebox state, it kind of looks like a minimalist design lamp, and the show team actually build it like that, and it can be seen in a couple of scenes. It wasn’t meant to be like that, and Remedy intended to finish it afterwards. Yet, they really wanted to get the “whitebox” one shipped to their offices, but they don’t know where it is.
  • As part of their prototype materials, Remedy had different looks for Jack, but in the background they were doing the actual casting for the series. After figuring out the characters, they started to think about who they’d like to play the role, and Shawn Ashmore was already among the choices for Jack. They got lucky, because he was available with the right timing.
  • Only after they actually got Ashmore, they started thinking about William, who is his brother. They realized that Dominic Monaghan and Sean Ashmore kind of look alike. They wanted some comedic aspects in William as well, and noticed that in Monaghan’s past roles there was some of that. Only afterwards, they found out that the two actors knew each other, and at some point in the past they had speculated on the fact that it would have been fun to play as brothers.
  • Certain key roles had to be found first, and then supporting cast had to be selected based on them.
  • Lake feels that there are ways to improve even further after Quantum Break. They have discussions about that among the team, looking at what worked perfectly and what was difficult and why. It’s a constant learning process. They don’t know, for the moment, what the opportunities will be the next project, and there are always surprises. When you create a prototype and show it on a screen, it might not work, but it might lead to a different idea. On the other hand, the team creating the technology might show you something, and it immediately gives you ten ideas. At times, there are just accidents that turn into ideas: the poltergeist objects in Alan Wake were originally a bug of the physics of the engine causing objects to fly around aggressively, and that inspired the team. It would have been easy to just fix it, but the creatives noticed that it looked scary, so they thought it was a good idea to actually put it in the game.
  • Lake was asked about a possible PC version of Quantum Break, and his answer was “no comment.”
  • First and foremost Quantum Break is a game. The TV Show is simply a feature of the game. Lake is a huge fan of today’s TV shows. Their quality is “phenomenally high,” with great storytelling, and it’s a wonderful source of inspiration. Yet, Quantum Break is a game, and for Lake the challenge is to learn from TV shows and making their episodic format even more exciting. He also looks at the characters, to bring elements from them into his games to make them more interesting,believable and memorable.
  • Lake feels that live action has a place in the future video games in some form. You can do “cool stuff” with it.
  • Creating a triple-A game brings certain elements with it, and one is that action normally plays a big part. From a marketing perspective, that’s necessary to capture a big enough audience for a a big budget game to make sense business-wise. As a Creative Director and Writer, he feels that the challenge is to find ways for everything to click into place, and if action is needed, then the story needs to support it and provide a reason for it. It works on a high level, but then it also means that a lot of iteration and work is necessary on the details. At times the story needs to take a back seat to make room for an action scene, and some times the action needs to take a step back to make room for a big and important story moment. It’s a balancing act. At times creators aren’t fully successful in finding the perfect balance, but that is always the goal. He always strives to find that balance, so that those two elements “talk to each other” and create something powerful together.
  • Some members of the team went to Lake during the last couple of years asking “why did it have to be a time travel story?” That’s because it’s very tricky. There have been moments in which someone found plot holes or problems, and they had to go back to the drawing board to fix them. By the very nature of time travel, it seems that our mind isn’t best suited to figure out its logic: in some ways it just “feels wrong.” The development team worked hard to make time travel interesting and cool, but not too complicated.
  • The idea of time travel came from the idea of pushing Remedy’s storytelling forward, and having an interactive element so that the player could make choices. Then the necessity of creating a big blockbuster spectacle brought about the idea of having time as a bigger element, and actually break time so that it’s dangerous and exciting, and the team could create those big and spectacular moments. Then they decided to give the protagonist time powers to have a super hero origin story, and Quantum Break is very much about that.
  • The goal of storytelling for Lake is to engage the player emotionally. Some emotions are easy to convey with action, like excitement and fear, and then there are more sophisticated ones like happiness and sadness, which the team still tries to achieve, even if that’s a more difficult task.

The Video Game masterclass event in Paris was organized by Jeux Vidéo Magazine and Cité des Sciences.

[On-Location Reporting: Morgane Bouvais]

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Giuseppe Nelva

Hailing from sunny (not as much as people think) Italy and long standing gamer since the age of Mattel Intellivision and Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Definitely a multi-platform gamer, he still holds the old dear PC nearest to his heart, while not disregarding any console on the market. RPGs (of any nationality) and MMORPGs are his daily bread, but he enjoys almost every other genre, prominently racing simulators, action and sandbox games. He is also one of the few surviving fans of the flight simulator genre on Earth.

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