It Takes Two, the interview with Josef Fares

It Takes Two, the interview with Josef Fares

It Takes Two

Interviewing a guy like Josef Fares is an opportunity not to be taken lightly.

In public, he has always shown himself to be eccentric to the right point, extremely free in expressing his ideas and always extraordinarily comfortable with him, a behavior that is more unique than rare in the world of video games. After all, Fares is not the classic game developer: he knows nothing about programming but he has six films distributed all over the world as a director and often as a screenwriter, including Jalla! Jalla! from 2000, a feature film that was particularly successful also in Italy.

Also for these reasons, in preparing the questions to ask him we were assailed by some doubts: would he have confirmed his personality also in an interview? Would he be more or less happy to deal with topics other than his new game, get personal where required? Questions that have added to the usual ones that precede an interview of this kind: how much freedom would Electronic Arts, which publishes It Takes Two, have given us to touch on other topics? How much time will we have available? But above all, would we have been alone or in the company of other journalists? The writer started in print, when interviews were a strong point of the editorial offer while today they are rarely the most clicked content, a necessary premise to make you understand that those listed are details, for me, perhaps more important than it might seem. to today's reader. Depending on the case, you need to change your approach, and always have questions ready: if the appointment is with other colleagues, it is always better to prepare more concise questions, more on the topic, a different matter if you are face to face with interlocutor, without having to elbow to hand him one more. The beauty of these cases is that you don't know how it will go until the meeting takes place ...

From movies to video games, always against the tide

Josef Fares 3:50 pm, Thursday 19 March 2021.

We connect ten minutes before the appointment as requested by the PR , and we are waiting for them to give us the line. At sixteen o'clock we hear a female voice warning us that we are finally online. So we click on the program and the first thing we see is Josef Fares full screen, sprawled on a reclining armchair with an extremely comfortable appearance. We are not alone, there are those who listen to us and see how it is customary, but it is Fares himself who manages it.

Josef Fares: Friend, show yourself in the face, where are you?

For a few moments too long we had actually been silent, waiting for us to be given the go-ahead, which in our interview idea would have happened when all the others arrived. But the others who? We understand that it would be just us and him.

Oops, sorry, active immediately, I thought I had to wait for the ok. Just give me a second to run the program that allows me to record the discussion ... well, done, can you say something to do an audio check?

JF: Hey, what's up, my name is Josef, i talk like this and like that and you have to stop me ... I say a lot of shit - relationSHIT!

Get started to rap and ... perfect. Now we no longer have any doubts about who we have in front of us. That's Fares, as we saw him scream "Fuck the Oscar!" During The Game Awards 2017.

First of all, we are really happy to meet you Josef, after all you are a unique personality in the world of video games. We were looking forward to this interview.

JF: Thanks, friend. You too seem a "one of a kind"

Who knows, maybe in the end I hope so, but let's start, come on ... first six films as a director, then three games in the same position, how did you get into development of video games and what do you like most in this field?

JF: Yes, I made six films, from 2000 to 2010, but I've always been a huge video game fan. When I have had the opportunity, I have always talked about gaming in various magazines and media. At one point I got to prototype some ideas, small demos, with a group of schools in Sweden. The beginning of my career coincides with the demo of what would become Brothers. Of Brothers we made two demos and then the full game, and the rest is history. After Brothers, which was a great success, it was the turn of A Way Out and now we are here. The big difference from my past career is the fact that making films is much easier than developing video games. This is because by now we know everything about how to make a film: we know how to produce it, how to write it, how to make it. In video games we are all still learning new and fundamental things, especially when it comes to the scripts. How do you tell a story in a video game? It is more difficult to make video games also because they are interactive works; movies are passive, and you have full control over what the viewers feel.

It Takes Two, the protagonists From what we understand, you are not a programmer, you don't know how to write a program, do you? Do you think this particularity of yours has ever helped you? And in other cases has it ever made you feel inadequate for the role you were and are holding?

JF: Oh, no, no, no. I don't know how to do it. Yes, it happened. When I work on a film, I know exactly what I can do, from the point of view of photography, how I want a set, the kind of lighting I had imagined ... sometimes when I turn to my team and say "I want to this in this way ", they answer me things like" we are not so sure that this is possible ... ". I can try to convince them, but not as confidently as I would on a movie set. And in my opinion sometimes they even cheat me, but I counter them with taste. It is funny. We have a really good relationship with my team, sometimes we discuss some things about the game being worked on, but it's a really nice relationSHIT ... ship.

Yes, he seems to have trouble not playing puns with shit, but that's also what got us into "shitntonia" right away.

We have read some of your old interviews noting that you have no problem pitting yourself against the loudest players. For example, you say that those who say A Way Out have a bad ending are basically paying you a compliment. Or, you often repeat that you don't want to work too long on a single game, so you don't like to make them as gigantic as is often required. Don't you think that the big publishers are a bit hostage to these fans, or presumed such, who are basically nothing more than a minority of the public?

JF: So that's the way it is. Everything we do we do to ensure that the public can then enjoy it. But there is a big difference between adapting your vision so that the audience likes it, and adapting it so that the audience understands it. Do you understand the difference? It is Right to adapt the vision, the work, so that it is understood, but it must continue to be your vision, not theirs. Developers also want something new, fresh, but if you start adapting your work too much to match the demands of the public, I think you end up creating not-so-interesting games. You have to believe in your vision.

Thanks for the answer, you have to believe in it but you have to make yourself understood.

JF: Exactly, you should put it backwards, like: precisely because I respect the public, I make sure to remain anchored to my ideas. Rather than pissing you off like a chicken.

It Takes Two, a cooperative session Tell us more about the video game enthusiast Josef Fares. What kind of player are you? Your games make us think that young Josef must have had a lot of fun with his brother (the actor Fares Fares). Is that so, or were you the only one playing in the family?

JF: My brother also played a lot, not as much as I did, but he was really into it too. He is now an actor, he doesn't work in the field of video games, even if he did something about it, in A Way Out for example (he is one of the two brothers). My younger sister also played, often with me. As for me, I have a young daughter and I intend to make her the most convinced of the hardcore gamers. I seriously think that video games are now a fundamental thing. If I happen to enter a house and not see a console under the TV, mmm it doesn't make me think well of the owners ...

Oh yes, it happens to me too, "these are strange, I don't trust ... ".

JF: yes, yes, yes, it's like walking into someone's house and finding out that he doesn't have a bathroom. It's strange. Anyway, I try to play everything, but the games I like the most are action adventures, my favorites include Half-Life 2, Mario Galaxy 2, Mass Effect 2 ... there are a lot of 2 actually.

Actually this passion for sequels is strange, for those who have never developed any. JF: ... it Takes Two !. But come on, it's true that a follow-up is sometimes useful, it helps to improve a formula that you may not have had the opportunity to express at its best the first time.

JF: it is true, it is true ... It may be true, but you do not follow!

JF: (laughs) I'm not saying it will never happen, but for now it's much more fun trying to do new things all the time. For example, we are already working on the next project and it will be something completely different, new.

We understand you perfectly, if we were in your role, we would do the same thing always trying new things.

JF: Great, good, that's talking! You'r my man, Francesco!

Do you know what happens? Lately, many have been asking us for an opinion, for example, on Hideo Kojima, on whether or not he should develop a sequel to Death Stranding. And the answer is always "but why should he? There's nothing to add, let him do what he wants".

JF: Great, that's what I think, something new, and when you create something new you learn something new.

Co-op games distinguish your production, will it always be like this? And what would you like to do that you haven't done yet?

JF: But do you know how much more there is to say about it? Besides, my group and I are literally the only ones doing things like that. And I am referring to writing and conceiving a title from the beginning with the co-op as the main modality. It Takes Two! it just can't be played alone, it's just not possible. It's not that you have the campaign that you can tackle alone, and then the co-op mode. It's a game designed for co-op from the very beginning. And creatively there is still a lot to explore, to invent: how to create stories for two players, how to implement interesting dynamics between the two players and so on. I'm not saying we'll always play co-op games, but we certainly have a lot to say about it. I also think that my three games are still three very different games. Brothers is a sort of single player game where the co-op is very important, the only similarities are the possibility or the obligation to play together. Did you play them?

Of course, all of them.

JF: Do you follow me from the beginning then? (laughing)

How could it be otherwise, Brothers was a huge success it was impossible not to play it. Brothers I finished it with my brother (white lie! N.D.R.) I played a Way Out with a friend ...

JF: and who will you play it with It Takes Two !?

With my daughter!

JF: wow, and how old is she? (starts ranting on phone)

Seven years old, do you think the game might be okay for her?

JF: wow, wow, look (shows the phone to the room) she's my daughter, she's only two months old, I'd like to play with her too but maybe it's too early. So your daughter plays, is she good?

Here the expression changes, she is really interested in the father-daughter dynamics, as if she wanted to know her future.

JF: But did they give you a game code?

Yes, sure. Just downloaded, but I still have to start it.

JF: Which console do you play it on, Ps4 or Ps5?


JF: Perfect! You will love it, trust us.

It Takes Two, a setting Next question, is there crossplatform multiplayer support?

JF: There is between Ps4 and Ps5, Xbox One and Xbox S, XM, XS, or as they called them.

(We laugh out loud) It's impossible to name them all without make a mistake!

JF: Yeah, they made a big mess with the names.

But how did he come up with it, why?

JF: Xbox Series MAS, so every time I feel like saying.

In Italian it's even worse, when you try to say the name you sound like Super Mario trying to speak in simlish. Next Question, it's better: What do you think about services like Game Pass, games like yours do you think can work within an all you can eat service or do you think they could suffer from it?

JF: Look, I think Game Pass is a great service in a sense. I'm scared of a couple of things that might happen, like the Netflix Effect, when you have too many things and ultimately don't watch anything.

Like when you spend a whole night choosing and then eventually go to sleep. ..

JF: Exactly, another thing that scares me, but I'm not sure about, is how this will affect the creativity of the developers. For example, money has to come in somewhere, and the risk is that it will cause developers to slip in too many microtransactions. If your vision changes, you need to worry. We will see what happens in the future.

Give me one last question, this time about the longevity of the games. How long does a game have to be in your opinion to be perfect? We know you've complained a lot about the fact that fewer and fewer players make it to the end credits of a game ...

JF: Right, man, let me tell you this. A game must be long enough, no longer. They always ask me about replayability, but they don't realize that people don't even finish these games the first time. This is a serious problem for this industry. You don't have to wonder if a game will be replayable, but if you will finish it once, and whether or not you have enjoyed finishing it. For some reason, people value their free time in a very strange way. They tend to think that more hours of play is automatically a good thing, the question one should ask is what value I do for my free time. A game must be a great experience. I understand that paying $ 60 for three or four hours of gameplay can be annoying, but there are several solutions to this. For example, take The Witcher 3, one of the best-selling games of recent years: only 30% of those who bought it finished it, the rest at one point said "goodbye". And who cares about replayability when the problem is getting people to finish the game for the first time. This should be our main problem to solve. How many times do you replay the games?

Very few times

JF: I will have replayed five games in my entire life

Same number too.

JF here, in fact. I would actually like to replay some of them as well, but how many are that good from start to finish? And then I give up.

Thank you Josef, from the heart. Hopefully next time we can talk in person. We are not fans of these remote interviews: we need to touch people, hug them.

JF: Thank you, thank you, yes, you are my friend, too, italian way!

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