Housemarque interview: ‘With Sony, we have a runway to go even wilder’

So what was once it love to paintings on Housemarque’s first narrative targeted AAA sport, how did it stability the tale in a rogue-like, and the way did Housemarque’s new proprietor, react all through the improvement of one in all

“Initially, I don’t think we faced too much pressure, at least we didn’t feel it from the Sony side, it was more the pressure of wanting to do right by Housemarque,” Korhonen instructed VGC.

“This was our first foray into AAA, the first time we were really investing in the story. Housemarque set up an official narrative team and I was the first official member, so I felt more pressure to do right by that. Sony published many Housemarque games so at the start it felt normal, but I think that expanded a lot during the course of the project as the scope grew bigger than we expected it to be.”

Housemarque’s earlier narratives have presented elementary frameworks for the arcade motion, so few anticipated this kind of departure right into a dark-sci-fi third-person shooter. David Lynch and Ridley Scott’s Alien have been the 2 cultural hallmarks that inventive director discussed ultimate 12 months that she truly sought after to discover what a Housemarque narrative way additional, past the preliminary strive with Returnal. We have been curious if she concept that she was once on easy methods to reaching this.

Housemarque interview: ‘With Sony, we have a runway to go even wilder’

“Definitely. We grew so much as a team. We didn’t quite know what Returnal was going to be when we started building it. Now that we have figured it out and that the formula worked so well, we’re looking at what’s next. Now that we’ve been bought by Sony, we have a runway to go even wilder, with all that financial backing and stability.”

Housemarque was once bought via the Japanese console maker in June of 2021. At the time, mentioned in a observation on the time.

But because the acquisition, the crew has been shedding hints about what’s coming subsequent. Speaking to VentureBeat in March, Housemarque CEO and co-founder Ilari Kuittinen mentioned the studio’s subsequent challenge was once nonetheless within the conception section. “It’s early days with us starting a new game, a new IP, concepting it out,” he mentioned. “We’ll see what comes with that.”

Korhonen instructed us that whilst the following sport will certainly be a brand new IP, a few of Returnal’s DNA will waft via the brand new challenge. “Returnal was so ambitious. We dreamt super big, but we still had to leave so much on the cutting room floor,” she defined. “All of these ideas and narrative systems. I’m super excited to pick up those pieces and see how those fit our new IP story.

“Now that we’ve been bought by Sony, we have a runway to go even wilder, with all that financial backing and stability.”

“We didn’t quite have the handle on how big [Returnal] was going to be, building for a new platform on a new engine with a new team, all of those things require some learning. Now we have that team that has gone through the fire and learned how to build a game like Returnal. So now we get to start off stronger.”

Korhonen additionally spoke of the demanding situations that the crew confronted creating a story which may be dropped at the participant during the process a rogue-like.

“I think we’ve learned the importance of pacing and how difficult that is in a rogue-like game. It’s very hard to control and say ‘okay, now we hit them with this perfect story beat’, that’s kind of the beauty of linear games, you get to control that absolutely perfectly.

“Letting go of that and somehow building the sandbox or the playground for players in a way that means certain story blocks become available is challenging.”

Returnal is steeped in thriller or even avid gamers who arrange to finish the gruelling major quest might in finding themselves left with extra questions than solutions. Korhonen instructed VGC that ensuring the participant was once getting a transparent tale whilst keeping up a way of marvel and thriller was once a problem.

Housemarque interview: ‘With Sony, we have a runway to go even wilder’

“It was a tightrope walk. My boss Greg Louden, the narrative director, and I tried to ensure that both sides were included. So I was more, ‘let’s make it more mysterious, let’s let the player puzzle it out with the community’ while Greg was kind of like, ‘okay, but we have to make sure that they understand some of this story’.”

In Returnal, the sport’s narrative is conveyed in brief bursts, with reputedly random clips flashed on the participant. However, there also are longer audio logs and written passages to be discovered.

“It’s hard to kind of see, even with all this priming, until it’s actually in the game, how is it pacing? How is it looking together with all the other elements? So up until the last moment, we’re still cutting, we’re still editing, and then tweaking the wording and making things a bit clearer.”

However, for Korhonen, this thriller was once a part of what drew her to the challenge, and staring at the group have interaction with and get to the bottom of mentioned thriller continues to be one thing she exams up on, over a 12 months later.

“I’ve been stalking our subreddit, and there have been wonderful little discoveries… there is something I’m still hoping that they will discover about the Tower Sisyphus. It’s not as much of a secret, more like a nice philosophical reference to the name. But nobody has put that on Reddit yet, so I haven’t seen anyone make that connection. But hopefully, someone will maybe after this.”

“I had this idea that Housemarque and Remedy are essentially going for the same thing in different directions. Housemarque is known for its gameplay and Remedy is known for its storytelling”

This more or less narrative thriller that’s closely reliant on participant company isn’t new to the narrative fashion designer. She up to now labored on Control, some other sci-fi horror shooter with a feminine protagonist. We questioned, being that such a lot narrative NDA appears to be shared between the video games, if she felt that is central to the best way she likes to inform tales in video games.

“I had this idea that Housemarque and Remedy are essentially going for the same thing in different directions. Housemarque is known for its gameplay and Remedy is known for its storytelling, and with Control and Returnal they’re starting to edge together, so I think it’s natural that they feel similar.

“They both give the player a lot of agency and there’s a lot of optional storytelling and world-building on the side, I am very keen on continuing that. I feel like it gives the player choice, and it doesn’t feel forced. You’re never looking for gameplay and then feel like you’re forced to do the story. It means the optional story bits become more rewarding because the player has to engage with them.”

Control and Returnal additionally each characteristic feminine lead characters, nonetheless fairly unusual within the AAA area, even though much less so within the generation of the Horizon sequence, and The Last of Us, however we have been curious what this supposed to her.

“It’s not a 100% must for me to work on a game with a female lead, but it does make me engage with the story more. I think there’s more storytelling we haven’t seen from the female perspective. I’m not opposed to male-led stories, it’s just we’ve seen many of those perspectives. We’ve seen the ‘brown-haired white man goes and saves the world’. You could explore neurodivergent disabled men, it would just be a different perspective to it.

Housemarque interview: ‘With Sony, we have a runway to go even wilder’

“I feel like female protagonists are an obvious way of getting a new perspective and I have something to contribute to that as part of the team.”

Does this imply we’ll see Selene once more? “I can’t comment on that much,” the creator answered with fun. “But I think the boys did slip in sometime earlier this year that we are working on an original IP. Of course, if we return to Selene’s story after that, you know, that remains to be seen.”

Returnal’s essential good fortune persisted into award season, the place it picked up a number of BAFTA awards, together with Best Game. Korhonen referred to as the award rite the “experience of a lifetime.”

“It was my biggest award ceremony ever, and I would have been happy if we took home the audio or music award, I really wanted those, I know how hard they worked on that beautiful score. Then we got both of those and just after that, Jane Perry got her award, so that was three of the nine we were nominated for.

“I have very vague recollections of being on stage because it was all so mind-blowing. It was such an honour, and the group of nominees were excellent. Of course, next time I want to go for the narrative BAFTA, but we got Best Game, which was just more amazing than I can put into words… which is difficult because words are my thing!”

Before our time with Eevi Korhonen was once up, we needed to selfishly ask her a couple of fan-favourite second from the sport, and the way it got here to be.

Spoilers for the fourth Returnal boss observe…

“The Blue Öyster Cult second took place as a result of we have been pondering like ‘okay, we should have like a meaningful song’ and from the beginning, we knew we wanted the musician boss to have a recognisable melody, so we mentioned what songs may are compatible the theme and any individual instructed jokingly ‘What about Don’t Fear the Reaper?’ and we concept it was once the most obvious selection, however the extra we checked out it and the lyrics we began pondering that it was once lovely excellent.

“(giggling) Then we truly was hoping Sony would narrow a deal for it and get it within the price range, so it went from a best of our head shaggy dog story to within the sport.

We requested Eevi what music she’d come with in a long term sport if she may select anything else.

“Purity Ring, particularly their previous stuff, one thing like Lofticries, I’d like to make a sport the usage of that, however that’s simply my weirdness.

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Returnal is to be had now on PlayStation 5 and is integrated within the newly refreshed PlayStation Plus carrier on the Extra and Premium tiers.