Deathloop: interview with Dinga Bakaba, game director of Arkane Lyon

Deathloop: interview with Dinga Bakaba, game director of Arkane Lyon


Deathloop is a game that here on we have followed closely since its announcement, and after previews and tests we had the honor (as well as an immense pleasure, as you can read in our review of Deathloop) to be able to talk about the I play directly with whoever created it.

Thanks to Bethesda's invitation, we interviewed Dinga Bakaba, Game Director of Deathloop at Arkane Studios Lyon, to reveal some of the background to the latest effort by the French team.

The beginning of the loop

Aleksis, one of Blackreef's Visionaries It is undeniable: in the last period there have been several games dedicated to the sci-fi theme of the time loop but, clearly, the Arkane formula has very little to do with the rest of the titles on the market. The question that arises spontaneously and that we asked Bakaba, is what came first: Colt or the loop? "The loop was one of the first ideas but not the very first. Our main goal was to create an experience where the player could experiment with all the tools at his disposal, but at the same time follow the story at its own pace".

The developer in fact reiterated how, despite the day's reset, Deathloop is a story-driven game, with a beginning and an end. "The idea of ​​the time loop was generated so very quickly, with the four time slots and the four districts and from then on we kept that setting by working around it. What we did, however, was to try not to look too much at the work of others, to keep 'Arkane essence' intact ".

The human element

Wenjie is murdered by Colt An essence that, after trying the game, we can confirm to be actually intact. However, there are several elements that gain a lot from the narrative gimmick of the loop, starting with the characters. If Dishonored has always been a game driven by a very simple feeling, configuring itself as a sort of Steampunk Count of Montecristo, and Prey is clearly a sci-fi thriller of the body-snatcher vein but with cups and chairs, Deathloop has an extremely more connotation. amused and entertaining, despite dealing with very mature themes. "We didn't want to convey any message with this game, but one of Deathloop's most persistent themes is probably the immaturity of people. Everyone on Blackreef, except Colt and Julianna, always live the same day, an eternal vandal-based party. drugs and fun ".

But what we find interesting about all this, we pointed out to Bakaba, is the great humanity that emerges from the characters, through dialogues, chats and messages, almost as if they were a group of old people friends, each with their own preferences and dislikes in the group. We feel quite comfortable calling Deathloop a game about relationships, a narrative element that has relentlessly engaged Arkane.

"We constantly worked on the characters and the script of the dialogues. We initially started with very crude ideas about who the Visionaries were, then we gave them a story, a character, a place of residence on Blackreef, and finally we have pulled all the strings necessary to thicken both the plot of the game and their relationships. It is interesting to define the Visionaries as a 'group of old friends' because in fact there is a very particular dynamic of escapism between them. Come on, bring yourself to use your imagination and daydream, just live in your bubble of contacts, hang out with people who think like it, ignoring everything else, as the Blackreef Visionaries do ".

Don't put your finger between Colt and Julianna

Julianna prepares to deliver a nice hook to Colt And then there are Colt and Julianna. The relationship between the two is mysterious and the player does not know what the background of their relationship is, except that Colt does not remember them and Julianna does ... and Julianna carries a lot of grudges. The dialogues between them are magnetic, sagacious, in perfect balance between irony and drama. It is as if, we joked with Bakaba, the player was the unwanted spectator of an intimate moment of a couple, a bit like when you find two people arguing at the table next to you in a restaurant: you know perfectly well that it is rude to listen, and the conversation sometimes makes you a little uncomfortable, but the rough connotation of the situation inevitably attracts your attention. "I love the comparison you make! I think it all depends on Julianna's sincerity. She is always very honest in her reactions: if she laughs it is because she is genuinely amused by the situation, if she is angry, instead, you understand it immediately.

Colt, on the other hand, takes everything for a laugh, with Julianna he is never serious, and I think these two human aspects of the characters make the kind of relationship and conflict they live very believable. They are very important to each other because they are the only people on Blackreef who remember between loops and, as a result, become a mutual reference point ".

Julianna and the asymmetrical multiplayer

Colt and Julianna face off Julianna is not only a very important character in Deathloop history, but she is also the engine of Deathloop's asymmetrical multiplayer. In fact, the game puts us in the shoes of Colt if we want to enjoy the single player campaign and in those of Jiulianna if we want to try multiplayer: in this case we will invade the games of other players and replace the artificial intelligence that, by playing offline, would control Julianna. . For those who know a little about Arkane's history, they will know that the idea of ​​multiplayer invasion is something the team worked on for a long time during the development of The Crossing, a 2006 title that never saw the light, but threw the foundations for the future of Dishonored.

Seeing the same idea more than 10 years later, with the necessary modifications, can only arouse a surge of happiness and almost pride in the team, which he persevered until he was able to put his idea to work; however, one wonders how and when the multiplayer element was grafted into the development of Deathloop. "By the time you add even a pinch of multiplayer into a game like Deathloop you already know that you will have to pay a cost, in terms of time and effort in integrating it. Our priority, when we thought of asymmetrical multiplayer, was that. to create a story and a narrative that resisted an element of chaos that we could not control, because you will never know how a player will behave. For this it was necessary to work a lot on the characterization of Julianna, so that she was emotionally fickle and unpredictable. So you can justify both the player who invades and plays very aggressively and the one who hunts you from afar ".

Julianna in the shadows, ready to shoot Colt And whoever wants to help you eventually, we add. . We haven't forgotten what Bakaba said in May, when we saw the game's first closed-door presentation. "Exactly. If you want in the game you can also help Colt as Julianna, but the story doesn't 'break'. It is as if Julianna woke up one morning and said 'Do you know what? loop ... we might as well change the cards on the table a bit. Today I want to help him, so, to do something different! '. Ideally the ultimate goal for us was to create an unpredictable multiplayer element that was capable to strengthen even more the narrative tension of the single player campaign, and I must say that it was very hard! Reflecting on The Crossing instead helped us to define the roles and the right position of Colt and Julianna. First of all because invasions only occur in areas where there is a Visionary to kill, so this aspect had to be carefully studied. Secondly because we could not have two protagonists: one had to be the hero, Colt, and the other an additional entertainment element that does not overwhelm was never the protagonist. That's why Colt has three chances before dying and Julianna doesn't; this makes multiplayer more challenging, but always reminding players that everything revolves only and only around Colt. We didn't want to create multiplayer that was competitive, we have always been convinced of that right from the start, but rather provide an enjoyable, fun and even creative online experience. Because it is clear that those who play as Julianna will have to use her knowledge to push Colt out into the open. "

Deathloop is a roguelike / Roguelite?

Colt uses the power of the Binding tablet on some enemies Interesting then was the reflection, almost semantic, had with the developer on the concept of "beating the game", in reference to the totally different approach that each player, both in the role of Colt and Julianna, can adopt by playing Deathloop. " It is curious because in English you 'beat the game' when you find a trick to overcome a certain obstacle and continue, but in French we say 'complete'. Our goal has never been to create games that fight against the player but rather experiences that put him at the center of everything and provide him with useful tools with which to continue, experiment and have fun ".

To which came the question spinosa: Deathloop is a roguelike / roguelite or not? We launched ourselves and gave Bakaba our personal vision of the question, which leans towards no. That of repetition through the loop is yes the mechanics behind the game but, for who writes, Deathloop is a game with a time loop but focused on breaking the loop. It is true that the more you progress the more you acquire items that will enhance Colt, but the real power over Blackreef is knowledge, and so does the game ( literally, during the tutorial.) The developer replied, “Here are two answers to the question. The first is 'maybe' in the sense that no one forbids playing Deathloop as a roguelike. You can ignore the Remnant mechanic (which allows Colt to bind objects to itself between loops ed.) And lose everything after inventory early in the morning ... but in the end it's still one of many ways you can choose to play Deathloop, you don't have to. So I don't even feel like calling him such ".

An Eternalist falls under the barrage of Colt's machine guns" But then there is the second answer, which is that of the community: if roguelike / roguelite fans will find in Deathloop the same pleasure that other games belonging to the genre have given them, and will define it as such, then that's okay with us too. It's always hard to fall back on the labels because you don't want your game to be flattened by terminology, also because the closest thing to Deathloop is Dishonored and Prey. Of course, on the contrary, we didn't even want Deathloop to be a Dishonored reskin, but to keep its originality. Surely the players will understand what Deathloop is when they have it in their hands ".

" Regarding its roguelike essence, I would add another thing: Deathloop is not a game based on difficulty, understood as the power of the enemies or damage inflicted by weapons. There is no difficulty level of the game because the difficulty is you who resist loop after loop, never giving up. Also because getting to the end of the day is not that complex: you can visit an area, take an object and then go out, you have the possibility to skip entire time slots. We didn't want to create a frustrating game that forces you to eat the dust every time the loop restarts, which is also why Colt is a character full of humor. We wanted it to be a motivating and enjoyable experience, while dealing with very mature themes (violence, drugs, etc.) ".

Lessons from Arkane games

Lady Boyle is attacked at her Masked Ball from Corvo It is clear that every team learns a lot from the development of their games, and from a title like Dishonored it is impossible not to draw some lessons. To explain Deathloop here on, the writer has always used the mission of Villa Boyle of the first Dishonored. The player is asked to participate in a masked ball and understand, by investigating inside the villa, which of the three Boyle sisters is the target to be eliminated (and which changes procedurally in every game ed. .). The concept behind Deathloop has always seemed like this to us but, rather than applied to a single mission of the game, it is extended to the whole campaign. "It's funny that the feeling that Deathloop gave you was this because, in effects, when we started development, we went through all the absurd ideas we had for Dishonored, and we thought 'what if we take one of the many follies and extend it to the whole game?' ".

And as Dishonored and Prey left something in Arkane, we asked Bakaba what Deathloop taught him and the whole team. "First of all, that players like to revisit the same places, if they have a good reason to do so. Familiarity (understood as an element of level design) is certainly something that, if well managed, is capable of making a difference in a game. ".

After Deathloop, the next Arkane title will be Redfall The second thing is about the tone: these last two years have definitely hit people's morale and, although ours have always been fairly dark and gloomy games, Deathloop pushes a lot on the fun factor. You don't have to create games that are thematically engaged or with a dark aura to be taken seriously, the beauty is to have the freedom to create something that can also have fun and get you a laugh, even if the general tone is always suitable for a adult audience ".

" It is definitely something we will look at in the future, as we will continue to experiment with new and atypical gameplay solutions: this time it was the time loop with asymmetrical multiplayer, who knows what will be next ". Currently, it is not possible to know, also because the next title in the pipeline, Redfall, is in development at the Texas studio in Austin. Whatever the future of Arkane will be, however, we can't wait to find out.

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