By now it's almost become rote to say that Finnish developer Remedy is a specialist in narrative-focused games. After all, the studio is best known for Alan Wake, Max Payne, and Quantum Break, games where narrative was squarely at the forefront (even down to the episodic nature of its most recent title). So it was somewhat of a surprise during this year's E3 when Remedy revealed Control as its next big game. While seemingly still embracing some of the time and environmental manipulation mechanics of its previous titles, Control is apparently moving away from the strong linear narratives Remedy is best known for to instead be a more open-ended, free-flowing story experience.
That's not to say, however, that Control won't have a cohesive story. Rather, as Remedy creative director Sam Lake told us during a recent interview, the story won't be told in a strictly linear way, with players interacting with the plot depending on how (and where) they move through the game's strange environments. Control is also eschewing a simple, easily digestible narrative, according to Lake. Rather, this sci-fi story is aiming to emulate the uncertainty and doubt of films like Annihilation and shows like Legion. In the below interview, Lake talks to GameSpot about what experience Remedy wants players to come away with while playing Control, what the main influences for the game were, and Alan Wake's move to the small screen in the form of a brand-new TV show.
In previous interviews you've used the genre term "new weird" to describe what you're doing with Control. Can you tell us more about that?
If we look at many science fiction and fantasy things, they give you a relatively safe world where there is an answer and there is a chosen one and it's simplified. But new weird, even though it uses the same elements, approaches them more from real-world perspective where maybe there is no answer. Maybe there is a mystery. Maybe we are dealing with unexplainable forces that go beyond current human understanding. Maybe there is a theory for what this is. Maybe there is a competing theory. Maybe they both make sense. There can be answers, I think. But you still need to make up your own mind and do your own interpretation and piece these things together.
One inspiration for us going into this was Jeff Vandermeer's Annihilation, and the book especially. The movie came out and it's definitely cool as well. Other sources of inspiration for me for maybe this fragmented, hallucinatory, trippy storytelling world are Legion as a show, and Mr. Robot in some ways. Mr. Robot especially does interesting things with the voice of narration. And always for me, Twin Peaks.
How big a risk do you think it is for you guys to try to break away from the stuff you've done before and experiment in this more free form, different approaches type of narrative?
It's a challenge, certainly; but we always want to try out new things with every project. We also had the perspective that we've now done a couple of games that were very linear, structured episodically, and it feels like the right time to break away from that, to try creating a deeper world where the player can keep coming back to and find new things and keep on playing. So that was a starting point for me and Mikael Kasurinen, who is our game director. A challenge? Yes, but you need to have that. You need to keep it interesting.
Is Control the size or style of game that you see Remedy focusing on in future projects?
We definitely strive to learn from every project. And I feel that we are always taking a step back and looking critically at the idea of, what is a Remedy game? And what are the ingredients we feel are working really well for us? And what are maybe some things that we would put into a lesser role and come up with something new at the same time? There are definitely new elements here that we feel excited and positive about, and I can see them being elements in our future games as well. But it's always also game-specific and project-specific. This is Control and this is the style for that. For something else, we'll see.
That's an interesting question that you just brought up. What is a Remedy game? We've talked a lot about the new things you're trying in Control, but do you see any through lines from all your previous projects into this one?
They have all been, in some ways, the model of a hero's journey. Which I like a lot and I think it works, especially well in this loose framework for an action game. It's a very strange, weird dream-like hero's journey, but it's one nonetheless. [There's also the] idea of a family in some ways, and a family that has been broken. We have those ideas and themes in Control as well.
Are there any nods to your previous games in this? Is there a chance of having a fully-connected Remedy games universe at all?
Well, if you are familiar with our games, there always are nods [to other games], such as Easter eggs or other things. To me, that's always been a natural way somehow to approach this, and it doesn't go any further than that. I think that's part of the mystery to be discovered in this game.
Recently there was news about an Alan Wake television show moving forward. What's your involvement with that?
Alan Wake is important to us, and important to me, so we want to be involved because it didn't make any sense to just sell the rights and see it go. It just felt like there are interesting ideas that we could pursue of how to have a dialogue between the game and the show. And it also feels like, through the years, there is so much Alan Wake lore that's up here that is really good potential material for the show. So yeah, definitely we'll be involved. I guess the official role is executive producer, which is a very kind of crude, loose term but yeah, Peter Calloway, who is the showrunner, we have a dialogue going on. And we are sitting down together and brainstorming on this.
Are you interested in telling the story of the game again or do you want to start from a different path?
Yes and no. It doesn't make sense to me to tack them to a show just because they were part of the game. I think that we want the show and we want certain core ideas but first and foremost, it needs to be a great show. But also at the same time, I think it will give us opportunities where we had certain ideas in the game that we didn't have an opportunity to really explore or go deep into. And I'm looking forward to the idea that in the show, we can actually expand and go a lot deeper into certain things that were important, or I felt were important, but we couldn't really do a lot with them.
Will this get us to an Alan Wake sequel?
Yeah, I hope so. I would love to do more Alan Wake, but yeah, nothing to tell you about that.