On the first full day of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, those releasing games on next-gen consoles over and over again touted the little details. The realistic paint on a car, the blurred reflections on a puddle, the shifting camera angles as a character soars through the air, the shading in a human eyeball and so on and so forth.
But few put forth an argument that games, as a medium, could evolve into something wholly different. The creative team behind Remedy Entertainment’s “Quantum Break” was an exception.
Confirmed for a 2014 release for Microsoft’s Xbox One, the game was shown briefly when Microsoft unveiled its successor to the Xbox 360 in late May. Then, viewers were given a glimpse of what appeared to be a filmed, scripted television episode that quickly switched into the graphical world of a game.
More of “Quantum Break” was shown this week at E3, the largest video game trade show in the world. While much of the sci-fi, time-travelling plot remains a mystery, Remedy’s ambitions came more into focus on Tuesday.
“We definitely believe that storytelling in games can be on par with TV and movies — high quality while being interactive,” said Sam Lake, Remedy Entertainment’s creative director.
Think of “Quantum Break” as part TV series and part game. The full series and the game will be sold as one, and they will play together.
“I want the experience to be revolutionary,” said Phil Spencer, vice president of Microsoft Studios. “That’s a really high bar.”
Moments in game will trigger episodes of “Quantum Break” the show, and if it works, the show will offer suggestions to the player on which path to take in the game. If it doesn’t work, it could come off as a gimmick, but Lake, speaking to a small group of reporters late Tuesday, seemed to anticipate that question.
“It’s worth mentioning that we are not creating a choose-your-own-adventure, where very easily one tight story gets watered down,” he said. “For us, this is one powerful story told many ways based on your actions.”
As to what that story is, Remedy Entertainment, the studio known best for “Alan Wake” and “Max Payne,” is keeping much of it under wraps. Lake also refused to discuss how long each filmed episode is, only saying it’s a proper show and is not a brief clip, and declined to mention who is directing the series. (A common answer to any question put forth at E3 is, “We are not discussing that at this time.”)
What was shown at E3 was one scene that played up “Quantum Break’s” more thrilling aspects. A scientist, who we were told was a time-travel researcher, was seen working for a corrupt corporation. The heroes of the show and game need her help, and seek it in a moment that’s frozen in time.
Oh, characters in “Quantum Break” also have the ability to freeze time.
So when does the television series come in? There are moments in the game that Remedy Entertainment is calling “junctions in time.” Essentially, Lake said, think of the player as the director of a story. While there is one narrative, it could follow a more dramatic or more action-based path, said Lake, which will be reflected in when and what filmed cinematic scenes players see.
“So,” said Lake, “your junction choices in the game are a big part of defining your custom experience of the game, as well as your personalized director’s cuts of the show. All of the junction moments and junction choices are big memorable moments in the game with big consequences, in both the game and the show.”
Heightening the sense that one is the director of the game, players will occasionally take on the role of the game’s villain during the so-called junction-points, Lake said Lake.
In Lake’s words: “Something only [the villain] can do is take glimpses of different timelines and different futures. In an action movie you always have these scenes where the bad guy is planning and making his moves. In ‘Quantum Break,’ you get to play the bad guy during junction moments, determining which future comes to pass.”
If one isn’t interested in “Quantum Break” the series, skip it, said Oskari ‘Ozz’ Häkkinen, Remedy Entertainment’s head of franchise development. But that isn’t advised.
“At key points in the game you will get options for the show,” he said. “Those episodes of the game are inter-weaved with the episodes of the TV show …. It’s worth mentioning that interaction between the game and the show is not a one-way street. By watching the show, you’ll get more information to help you unlock further concepts in the game.”
One final point. While “Quantum Break” comes packaged as a series and a game, it is still, at its core, an action game. That means there are guns.
“In ‘Quantum Break,’ time breaks down, turning these impossible split-second moments of death and destruction into epic stages and battlegrounds of time-powered action,” Lake said. “Our heroes and enemies all have multiple unique time-manipulation powers they can use.”
He added: “All of this is, of course, on top of intense cinematic gunplay and cover mechanics.”
— Todd Martens
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