Control was announced as part of the Playstation E3 showcase and took a lot of us by surprise. It’s Remedy’s first multiplatform project since Max Payne 2. We got to check out an extended look at Control behind closed doors at E3 this year. After the extended gameplay preview, we had the opportunity to sit down with Mikael Kasurinen, game director on Control to pick his brain on the upcoming supernatural shooter.
EB: I just got out of the demo room for control, and it looks absolutely incredible. It’s been what, two years since Quantum Break came out?
EB: Do you guys have multiple teams working on games or do you finish one and move on to the next?
Kasurinen: Right, so actually we have had kind of a transformation that started I think around 2017, where we shifted to become a multi-project organization. So we actually are doing a story mode for a Korean adventure called Crossfire 2 and it’s the other project we’re working on right now the other one is Control. Crossfire is of course not our IP, Control is. So we have right now two teams, and we have also a central technology group that provides the tech for the all the different teams. We’ll see how far we’re going to go with the multi-project direction in the future.
EB: You guys have done Max Payne, Max Payne 2, Quantum Break
Kasurinen: Alan Wake
EB: Yeah, of course Alan Wake as well. You’ve been on mostly Microsoft platforms for the last few years, what’s it like moving back to multi-platform development?
Kasurinen: It’s fantastic! You know, we’re an independent studio at the end of the day. We want to have as many people as possible playing our game, and it makes sense, we were on PS2 *laughs* a while back with Max Payne 2.
EB: What was it? 2003 I think?
Kasurinen: Yeah, it’s been a while so it’s great to be back.
EB: How has reception been for Control so far?
Kasurinen: It’s been overwhelming and really great. It’s fantastic to see that people are excited about Control. People are seeing that control is a bit more hardcore, a bit more, you know not just “a bit” but a quite strange experience, and really we’re doubling down on that dynamic. Making sure it’s different, it’s exciting, and I would say unexpected as well as you start playing.
EB: You can clearly see the influence that Quantum Break had on Control just in terms of moving around, and combat, and the abilities. What did you guys want to learn from Quantum Break moving into control?
Kasurinen: So there are many layers on that. As the game director, I really care about how it feels. How does it feel to control the character and so on, and we’ve actually done a lot of low level technical work, on how does it feel to move through the world. That’s actually completely different and completely redone compared to Quantum Break. And I wanted to have this really physical fluid movement that you have a tight control over the character, and everything that you do is intuitive, quick and so on. So it becomes a part of your cortex almost, like your spine, like this is how you do things. You can fly, which is crazy, but then it becomes like walking really quickly in the game, and you do these amazing things. But when you look at Quantum Break, I do want to say that I think that Quantum Break was let’s say a bit more direct. A bit more mainstream. Control is way more complicated and has a lot of deeper layers to it. What we’re doing with control is that there is more like a sandboxy combat environment
EB: That was my next question
Kasurinen: Right, so basically, you can affect your character, you don’t get all your abilities right from the get go. They can grow in power, and you can modify them. You can customize your abilities and have your service weapon that can change shape. There are more shapes that you can unlock as you go further in the game.
EB: That was another question I had for you!
Kasurinen: Yeah! Those are even more strange compared to the ones seen in the demo, and that can also be customized or modified to what are the different things the gun does. So there are layers of different forms, that you can then customize those forms.
EB: So with the different forms, the gun can be upgraded, are there going to be different branching tree paths that people can take?
Kasurinen: I wouldn’t say they are like tree paths, I would say that you can choose different modifications you can choose to use for your gun and your abilities, that will really change the way you will play the game. And what creates that sandboxy feel is of course when we take that, you can actually customize your character to complement your gameplay style. Like this is the character I want to be. On top of that, we have this environment that is, and we wanted to be consistent, everything that you see works as you would expect it to work. When you see concrete, wood, steel, glass, and so on, all of these things behave like these materials, and it’s dynamic, destructible and so on. Anything that gets broken you can take and use against the enemies, or shield yourself. And then we have wild enemies. Enemies can fly, they can use the environment as well. All of this together creates this unexpected, engaging, weird combat loop. Then it’s all about how you learn to react to these surprising situations. When it goes perfectly, it feels amazing. Like how you use the environment in tight situations you even surprise yourself.
EB: The combat looked really fast, fluid, and fun. I thought I caught an enemy throwing an item at Jesse, and then she caught it and threw it back?
Kasurinen: Yes, you can absolutely do that.
EB: Is the rest of the combat that dynamic?
Kasurinen: It’s physics, it’s just…
EB: It looks insane!
Kasurinen: Yeah! What happens is exactly what you expect it to be. The enemies are not scripted, every single time these guys play through the demo it’s slightly different! Enemies do slightly different things. Of course, we introduce enemies always in the same way, but once the combat is unleashed, you don’t know really what’s going to happen and that’s what makes it fun.
EB: We saw a few different kinds of enemies, we saw the kind of basic enemies, we saw the boss or mini-boss, and then we saw the ones that fly. How many different enemy types are we looking at?
Kasurinen: Exactly *smiles* it was important that we created a kind of environment where the….when you look back at Quantum Break and I think the biggest thing that I, at the time I was game director there as well, I felt so limited by “oh we need to have humans” and I wanted to do more! I wanted to make them fly! And that’s exactly what we’re doing right now, and have that sense of variation. When we start combining these guys, you saw the guy at the end (boss fight) and then flying enemies and normal troops as well, and there’s more to see of course in the final game.
EB: So in our room, they talked about a transforming building.
EB: Is it more like a hub world and then you can go through different branches and explore different parts? It seems like a lot of the lore is part of the actual building?
Kasurinen: Absolutely, yeah. What we wanted to do with this place, is to make sure it feels like there’s layers to it, there’s something that reveals itself as you go through the game, and having this kind of metered approach. There is a hub that exists, but then I would say there are different sectors, different paths of the building. This vast, infinite, strange shifting place that you can explore.
EB: And as you get abilities, you can come back and explore new areas.
Kasurinen: Exactly, new options open up for you. You can return to a place and get to a new location you couldn’t visit before. In the demo, you saw what we call a firebreak, that massive divide that is a black void with a bridge that is broken, and you can only get to the other side if you know how to levitate, and that’s just an example.
EB: There was one cutscene in the gameplay demo where it looked like the previous director [speaking to Jesse through overlayed cutscenes]
Kasurinen: Hmmm, wow!
EB: And Jesse had to pull a light switch to open up a path and he said something, I can’t remember what he said but it was psychological and philosophical, but does that play into the theme for control?
Kasurinen: Absolutely! You were paying attention, that’s nice!
EB: I’m really excited for Control *laughs*
Kasurinen: Laughs. Yeah, I mean, there’s a certain kind of dream logic that we want to follow. And dream logic is a tricky word to use, and it’s basically a strange thing that you have to learn to understand. But once you get it, there’s logic to it, even when you say it out loud you’re like “what does it even mean?” An example of that is let’s say we have this idea of collective unconscious. It’s the idea that there are things in the world that collectively ask human beings to recognize and understand. Like I can show a cup, and everybody would get what the cup is. But then there are things that are like so new that people all over the world don’t really understand what that is. So there’s this concept of collective unconscious, and what we have in the oldest house is that it doesn’t, we all sometimes (the dev team) get surprised by how the building reacts to certain kinds of things. They notice that these things are more accepted by this collective unconscious than things that are safer. That’s why when you look in the building things seem to be old, you don’t see a lot of new stuff, because then weird things might happen. That’s part of a dream logic type of thing, it sounds weird, but when you think about it, it kind of makes sense.
EB: It’s launching in 2019 is the release window right now, and it’s coming for Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Is it going to get the same I guess technical options that Quantum Break did on PC?
Kasurinen: It’s a bit early to go into those type of details but I would say, it’d be fair to, it’s the same engine and so on.
EB: And the demo we saw, that was running on, was it on PS4 or PC?
Kasurinen: I don’t know if I can actually comment on that? So I’m not going to say anything *laughs* I’m sorry.
EB: No worries! I think that’s all I had for you, I really appreciate you taking the time. Control looks incredible, any idea when we’re going to hear more information?
Kasurinen: Absolutely, later this year and summer as we get closer to release we’re going to talk as much as we can about it *laughs*
Control launches Spring 2019 for Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Preorders are now available here.