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BEST OF JEUX 2015 : Réincarnations

Si 2015 est une sorte d’année de transition malgré elle en attendant de grosses pointures repoussées à 2016 (vous les connaissez), 2015 est aussi une année de consolidation industrielle, technique et sans doute artistique comme je commençais à l’expliquer ici. Plusieurs éléments concordants l’indiquent.

À l’affût

Des productions indépendantes atteignent désormais la qualité et l’ambition des blockbusters produits par de gros éditeurs (voir les 3 premiers de ma liste). Les (trop ?) nombreuses rééditions HD ont permis à certaines équipes de se familiariser avec les besoins et capacité des dernières consoles. Les prochaines grosses productions devraient profiter de cette expérience. Le report assumé et donc planifié à 2016 de plusieurs gros titres me semblent démontrer une forme d’assurance plutôt que de dérapages incontrôlables comme le jeu vidéo en a si fréquemment connu. Même Ubisoft a su redresser la barre dans les temps avec un Assassin’s Creed annuel (Syndicate) techniquement presque irréprochable malgré quelques craintes.

Nouvelle ère

L’assurance indiscutable de Destiny 2.0 avec ses extensions pas si corrompues rassure aussi sur l’ambition et les capacités de Bungie dont on a failli douter… Même si mal compris par les gamers qui confondent qualité intrinsèque et temps de jeu à la minute, la maîtrise visuelle de The Order : 1886 et Until Dawn entérine l’ambition graphique de Sony Computer et promet un bel avenir à la fusion jeu vidéo et cinéma qui se prolongera forcément avec le casque PlayStation VR. Et puis 2015 est aussi sans doute la dernière année d’une certaine idée du jeu vidéo. La lecture de la séquence en deux temps qui voit en 2015 la confirmation de l’effondrement du jeu vidéo japonais (Konami en tête, on y revient prochainement en détails) juste avant le débarquement de la réalité virtuelle en 2016 (même avec des freins tarifaires) annonce l’ouverture d’un nouveau chapitre dans la folle histoire du jeu vidéo.

Mes 10 jeux de 2015

 

  1. The Witcher 3 : Wild Hunt (CD project Red)

  2. Ori and The Blind Forest (Moon Studios)

  3. SOMA (Frictional Games)

  4. Rise of the Tomb Raider (Crystal Dynamics)

  5. The Order : 1886 (Ready at Dawn)

  6. The Talos Principle : édition deluxe (Croteam) PS4 et Mac

  7. Mad Max (Avalanche Studios)

  8. Destiny : Le Roi des Corrompus (Bungie)

  9. Until Dawn (Supermassive Games)

  10. Rare Replay/Zelda Majora’s Mask/Uncharted : The Nathan Drake Collection

Quand on a la chance de jouer à une majorité des jeux sortis dans une année, en retenir 3 ou 5 dans un top est vraiment insuffisant. On s’y efforce sous la demande, par exemple en 2014 et en 2015, mais la frustration est grande. Surtout parce qu’une courte sélection ne suffit pas à représenter l’étendue des expériences vécues dans une année jeu vidéo.

Indés au top

Au-delà du goût et du plaisir éventuellement subjectif, les trois premiers jeux de ma liste couvrent étonnamment le spectre des possibles du jeu vidéo d’aujourd’hui. L’open world maitrisé et non pas juste exploité en mode remplissage avec The Witcher 3 ; la régurgitation artistiquement rehaussée – et non bêtement rejouée – des fondamentaux du jeu japonais avec Ori and The Blind Forest ; la maturité de l’immersion sensorielle en vue subjective dont vont hériter directement les prochaines expériences en réalité virtuelle avec le tétanisant SOMA. Ces 3 jeux portent plusieurs messages. Ceux de leurs thématiques explicites ou en creux : la mise au premier plan de la valeur physique et temporel de l’espace et des éléments, la poésie et l’animisme intégrée au gameplay, évolution de l’être humain en milieu technologique ; et ceux de leurs réussites : 3 jeux haut de gamme développés par des studios indépendants. Ces 3 projets hyper soignées ont réussi à fusionner le fond et la forme, sont allés au bout de leur ambition. Et, signe du futur au présent, deux d’entre eux n’existent qu’en format dématérialisé.

L’horizon est la limite

Malgré toutes les pubs intrusives, Rise of the Tomb Raider n’a pas fait l’évènement qu’il mérite confiné sur Xbox One et pourtant, voilà un des jeux les mieux conçu et réalisé au monde. Sorti fin décembre 2014 sur PC puis en mai sur Mac et récemment sur PlayStation 4, The Talos Principle et son extension Road To Gehenna est non seulement un époustouflant puzzle game en vue subjective (l’imminent The Witness de Jonathan Blow sera mesuré à cet exploit) mais un objet interactif à thèse d’une intelligence et d’un humour rares. Plus fini et sérieux que le rigolo foutraque Just Cause 3, Mad Max est comme The Witcher 3 d’abord une expérience sur l’espace, la nature et ses éléments, l’horizon, connu et inconnu. Celui, justement, que le jeu vidéo repousse chaque année un peu plus.

Les maux de la fin

Un petit mot sur les jeux Nintendo dont toutes les franchises connues sont sorties sous une forme (exploitative) ou une autre sans qu’aucune ne retienne l’attention plus que la réédition de Majora’s Mask. Oui Super Mario Maker et Splatoon sont funs et intéressants mais toutes les autres productions Nintendo sont en dessous du standard de la marque (on en parle ici). Difficile de savoir si cette année aussi de transition (et de tristesse) pour Nintendo conduira à un retour en force ou à un repli sur le marché Japonais entièrement dévoué au jeu mobile low-tech.
Toutes les rééditions HD occidentales sont méritantes. Pour évacuer les polémiques à l’exploitation mercantile, rappelons qu’elles visent d’abord les nouveaux propriétaires de consoles « nextgen », les switchers (une grosse génération Xbox 360 a basculé vers la PS4, n’est-ce pas ?) et les esthètes qui apprécient un rehaut graphique et technique (j’en suis). Celles retenues ex aequo dans ma liste sont particulièrement exemplaires et indispensables pour toutes sortes de raisons historiques. Rare Replay offre enfin l’occasion de revisiter l’histoire du studio anglais manettes en main (et ça fait parfois mal). La réédition très classieuse de la trilogie Uncharted parfaitement jouable sur PS4 anticipe bien Uncharted 4 et offre l’occasion d’une relecture après la secousse The Last of Us du même Naughty Dog. Et bien entendu, pouvoir enfin relancer le trésor Zelda Majora’s Mask quand bon nous semble ne se discute même pas.

François Bliss de la Boissière


Illustration de Une : The Talos principle / Road to Gehenna


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Will Byles/Until Dawn: Appointment with deaths 2/2

Part 2 of our conversation with Until Dawn’s game director and writer where he kindly reacts to some potentially embarrassing situations for his game. How despite the collapsed of the Japanese horror games and after P.T.’s cult surprise there is still room for horror games. How Dragon’s Lair hated QTEs are now used not to punish the player but to improve his feelings. How dark on dark and doing nothing is probably the best to scare the shit out of the player…

Until Dawn Will Byles 02

Bliss: It’s probably the turn of Until Dawn to take the heat because as with David Cage’s projects (Heavy Rain, Beyond : Two Souls…), weren’t you afraid of the 1983 arcade game Dragon’s Lair syndrome? How do you justify this kind of make a choice /QTE gameplay to the more hardcore and touchy gaming population?

Will Byles, Creative Director Supermassive Games: You’re right, QTEs are contentious (laughs), and it is kind of a Dragon’s Lair press a button get the right timing, get the next cut etc. But we haven’t used it in the same way up fully through out the game by any means. We used the QTEs… very specifically, under high pressure, high time pressure events. And what we don’t do is we make sure we don’t have any punitive QTEs that come from nowhere. If you play the game and suddenly a QTE comes up, it’s because there’s a problem that needs you to go « Oh shit! ». That’s the feeling we want you to have, that panicky moment. And the first one when there has never been one in the game, it will be slow, it won’t be overly punitive like I said.

Bliss: And you made some improvements with the QTEs with sounds alerts on screen and on the DualShock4… How deep did you have to go to ease the process and still keep it as a challenge?

Will Byles: Well, the big differences are the fail state. If you fail it’s not like a restart, it’s like « Okay, I’m gonna go to the next bit ». And when you fail one in certain positions, these will only come off while you were made fully aware that they are coming and that in a couple of times you could die.

Bliss: Still, you’re not afraid that some gamer might want to start the game again when they « don’t do right » some QTEs because, without further information, they might think they are doing « wrong » and maybe missing the main event?

Will Byles: The thing is… they can’t (laughs). He might try but… That’s part of the story telling. Some people might think it’s a bad idea, some that it’s really good. It’s always a risk. There will be people that will have no patience and may just get lost. But I think that if people know that it is not the case, if we say up front that sometimes doing nothing is the best thing, that because of the butterfly effects what feels like a wrong decision or a right decision has an impact on the story and drama either way. With the clues, the premonitions and things like that there is enough information in the game that if you engage with it, it will allow you to hold this stuff and past it.

Bliss: As any novelist or screen writer would certainly agree, it is already very difficult to write one straight good story. So how do you expect to write such a good story and keep characters coherence for instance with so many branching and alternatives story lines? I’m guessing : Contemporary TV show school of writing? Maybe there is only one good story in your game but not 10 or 12…?

Will Byles: We think there are a lot of stories. The events of the night from dusk till dawn is One night. It will always be that one night, regardless of how you go thru that story. They are things in play that will always happen that are part of the story but not necessary a part of your story because you might… die, so it won’t be part of his story but it will be the part of another character’s story. They are not hundreds of individual set put narratives. When one of them is about a man that goes off to find a horse, you know, and win the girl and another one is about going to Hawaï. In here they’re all part of the same story, the same structure and that’s the kind of core of the night. But the story you play will be the story that involves maybe somebody dying very early on, or somebody loosing an arm, or catching fire… So all those things are all parts of that structure. We think we got a good balance on how that works but…

Bliss: But a story is about rhythm, right? And you break the rhythm if we take one branch over the other. Or maybe every branch falls on the same rhythm patterns? The events may be different but the emotional beat may be the same?

Will Byles: Absolutely, and the rhythm, like you said, is more like TV shows. For every hour they is an absolute structure, an emotional structure we try to do with fear, relationships, multiple characters… For me a story is not about the things that happen, it’s about relationships.

Bliss: But video games ARE about what is happening, acting on, doing things. We, as a all, have a hard time to create and live emotions in video games without going thru this early basic need of interactive action…

Will Byles: Exactly, and it’s hard, and, like I said, we had a lot of arguments early on saying: I want the player to understand this and this but not what is coming later. Not because I wanted to be smart or anything, but because I think it’s more satisfying for you to find that stuff on your own as an audience in a way… Like in the Sixth Sense http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0167404/ movie you know when you get to the end of a story and you say: « Alright I understand now. They’re a all bunch of things that look different now ».

Bliss: Like a final twist?

Will Byles: It’s not just the twist, it’s the perspective. I saw from this perspective, and now I’m sitting from this perspective which has changed not only the story – because the things you saw are identical – but what you understand now is very different. You can only do that if you have a narrative that is not everything at every stage, which is traditionally the way games do it.

Bliss: So you play with the player frustration that then goes back and starts the story again?

Will Byles: Yes!

Bliss: During the 3-4 years of Until Dawn development, the Japanese horror survival games scene collapsed and gave you some opportunity to take the spot with a different horror game. And then came Guillermo Del Toro and Hideo Kojima’s P.T. that is now the reference in the genre. What impact did this « no game » surprise have on the team and development last year?

Will Byles: I genuinely think that there are room for many horror projects because the appetite is there for horror. Like you said, the survival horror has gone down part because it has become just shooters and action games… For me it was frustrating because I loved horror games the Japanese were doing like Fatal Frame. So when something like P.T. comes out suddenly it’s just a : « Oh my God this is amazing! ».

Bliss: You said somewhere that you were confident that a long corridor where nothing happens could be enough to scare people and then P.T. demonstrated this idea fully. Were you happy or frustrated that such a demonstration came before your own Until Dawn?

Will Byles: No no. I think when something is scary it’s a good thing. And you know what was brillant about P.T. is that you go thru a corridor and then another corridor and the fact that it kept going and kept going. It was slow and it got scary, it got very very scary, it got very immersive. I don’t like to use that word because it is irritating but you got so pulled into it. Obviously you get anxious that there might be much scarier project than your own game but that’s my own insecurity (smiles).

Bliss: Did you change something in your own game after seeing PT? Add something or take of something? Did it alter the people working with you? Because when you work on something that is very specific and then comes something so strong from someone more famous…

Will Byles: To be honest, it just reinforced that what we were doing was the good stuff, the corridors and such. They are very hard arguments to have with people during development. People see the game before it’s lit, before it’s done and… nothing happens, so. And we said: « that’s good ». You know people generally want to see an amount of things happening and we went: « No no, this just should be… just nothing. »

Bliss : The Cabin in the Woods movie (co-written by Joss- Avengers- Whedon, ndr)- pretty much killed the teen slasher concept by grasping and swallowing everything at once, don’t you think? At least in theaters. So, maybe now interactive video games will take the first place to go to live a really scary entertainment evening?

Will Byles: You know I think it could. I think there is something more visceral about first person emotion. There’s definitely enough technology now to stop the special effects or the characters of being a barrier to enter. This is the first version of this kind of representation that we have done but it’s going to get better. There will be a game in a few months time that will beat this and another game will come out and people will be stunned. Once those barriers go, then it’s going to be down to budget and desire to make those things. Engines are getting free now, you don’t necessary need to buy or have a very expensive engine and a huge team to make stuff. You can have an idea and put it dramatically, not cheap but not -massively expensive. It seems like some real opportunity coming out, it feels like it’s going to happen. The same with movie making. You can make a movie on an iPhone you know. More people are doing it. Obviously there is the publishing side but as more people are able to do that, I see as a way of the future where, not just movies but… You know movies used that found footage and then the low budget movie indy and then there is higher budget movie. And they all seem to have a place and they all seem to make it on Netflix (laughs), they all get there (laughs). I think Channels will start to come up on game platforms where you can have a horror channel, a drama channel… Sometimes it’s really good to be told a story, you don’t necessary need to engage, sometimes it’s nice to have that narrative. I don’t think one medium will die because of the other.

Part 1…

Will Byles/Until Dawn: Appointment with deaths 1/2

Interview conducted by François Bliss de la Boissière

… in the offices of Sony Computer France in Paris august 24 2015

 


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‘hésitez pas à lire ma Note d’intention.


 

Will Byles/Until Dawn: Appointment with deaths 1/2

While on promotional tour in Paris, the British game director and screenwriter of Until Dawn shared his thoughts on a few subjects. How trying new things is still hard in a conservative video games industry. How cinematics and stats menus are just compromises that will soon live in the past of first person experiences. How breaking the fourth wall is a risk worth taking. How video games are hard on Hollywood actors, and how soon-to-be-a-star actor Rami – Mr Robot – Malek and veteran Peter – The Big Lebowsky –  are good at playing a distressing characters…

Until Dawn Will Byles 01

Bliss: What is the final budget of Until Dawn development?

Will Byles, Creative Director Supermassive Games: I don’t know it. It’s… a lot (laughs). It’s been split into two. We made the game twice. First for the PS3 and then for the PS4/

Bliss: You mean the full game with all the assets and the game engine?

Will Byles: Yes, everything has changed, the style, the cast… We rewrote all the script.

Bliss: It’s not the same game then…

Will Byles: It’s the same fondamental part of it, but it’s used to be first person with the move control, a more gimmicky one. This one is more cinematographic. We changed a lot of it.

Bliss: You still kept the movement control now with the Dualshock 4 gyroscope…

Will Byles: Yes, I can move the face on screen with the Dualshock 4 (showing on screen) and during the game.

Bliss: From Start the party to help on KillZone HD and LittleBigPlanet 2 to scary « adult » game Until Dawn, what cause such a jump in Supermassive’s projects? Was Until Dawn a Sony Computer project or a Supermassive one?

Will Byles: We were making those games on the PlayStation 3 Move accessory so that’s where the filiation came in. Until Dawn was first a game developed for the PlayStation Move. At the time, Supermassive was looking at this Move control horror game and they wanted me to look at the drama side of it. I came just before the switch to look into interactive drama, because my background is more drama from theaters and films. That’s how I came to the company. Then I wrote the story for it with Pete Samuels (Managing Director and contributor to the official PlayStation Europe blog, ndr). We’ve kind of put this script together to the point where we almost finished it. And then we had this strong public reaction of people who wanted this kind of control as well with the Dualshock 3. They wanted us to change it, so Sony looked and said « If you’re going to change it, the PS4 is coming, do it with the PS4, we’ll start again, we’ll use the same story but we’ll branch it more, we’ll get rid of some of the gestures, it will still has moves but it will not be ABOUT the moves. » The original game was about controlling things, picking things up…

Bliss: It seems it could work well with Sony’s Morpheus VR project. Don’t you have a version of the game ready for it?

Will Byles: Noo. To be honest it’s very difficult… Too much walking around with the Morpheus would make you feel a bit sick so I think it would’ve been hard for Until Dawn. It’s odd to work with.

Bliss: Because of low cost budgets, the first horror/slasher movies from the 70’s and 80’s had a very rough, trashy look. But your game has a very neat and slick image that need to sale the PS4 power which is far from say gritty Silent Hill games. Wasn’t it some kind of handicap to have to use such a beautiful image and still create fear and discomfort?

Will Byles: Yes. The image is as clean as it could be (laughs), but also there is vignetting in it, there’s grain, there’s a bunch of things we put in. As you said, it starts with the early slashers of the 70’s but it goes up till the post modern Scream self referential higher budget like I Know What You Did Last Summer… So we wanted to get all of those into there as well. And there’s also a level of acceptance of what people will or won’t accept if we went with a very kind of grainy and very hard to look image. We think, probably, that a significant amount of people, younger people who didn’t see those films, wouldn’t maybe understand.

Bliss: Still, if I remember properly, some Silent Hills 2 editions had an option to have the film screen grain noise effect on or off. You could have played that card…

Will Byles: Yeah it’s a good idea…

Bliss: When you drop the pad for a few seconds the game zoom in on the face of the character waiting for you to return. How and when did that idea come along? Was it a Sony Computer idea to show off the tech or a Supermassive idea?

Will Byles: Well it was me (smiles). Thing is, if you leave the controller and the scene on screen stays in a wide shot then, with film langage, it is saying something. It’s telling you that there is a potential space fear. Depending of how the shot is framed, it always is saying something. With a close up, that fear is more ruminative, like you are thinking, like there is some pause in your thoughts… And then it felt that if we do that, hey! it will indeed show off the faces because, you know, we spend a lot of money on the faces (laughs). And it shows off the AI too. Even when you’re playing there’s an AI catching the audio of things around you can’t see but hear. It means that when you pick up the controller back, it feels like you go back for a while, like an invitation to move forward.

Bliss: It’s so obvious when it happens, when you explain it, and still it hasn’t really be done so far and we’ll probably see this idea used everywhere soon. Why now?

Will Byles: The quality of the faces, the textures allow us to get this close without breaking the suspension of disbelief. Obviously it’s still CGI but it’s better CGI than it used to be. That’s one thing. The second thing is we have a new lighting paradigm which meant, wherever I put the camera it’s always lit like a film, whether it is a back light or a rim light… And we used lighting very similar to film (technical details I didn’t get properly, sorry, but let’s try anyway… ndr)… which has a motion of silver high lights that changes the film where you get a gradient of gray. Something regarding the light you do in film but don’t do in video so much nor in real life: where the light is too low to change the crystals, you have blacks (showing face on screen, ndr) with shadows here and here that are completely black which is something that never happens in video games. So we were able to use light and dark in a way that doesn’t get lit usually. We wanted to have full areas of dark while you still see the character. It took not only a lot of technical changes but a lot of argument because the game industry is conservative and doesn’t like to break the paradigm of what it knows to be successful. But it you look at Until Dawn, there is a lot of dark. And you can’t make dark just by dialing down the volume of light. You need to do it by having high areas of light and high areas of dark to contrast it. So that one of the things we were trying to do and see in those close ups.

Bliss: Obviously, the game has a cinematic feel and tries to convey emotions thru body languages and face’s expression, but as in a RPG or a Sim game, the gamer has to relate to menus and gauges to evaluate relationships and affinities between characters. Isn’t this a bit contradictory? Like there are two games on top of each other…

Will Byles: Yes, it’s a big question. We’ve approached prototypes where we had nothing, literally, even the choices were invisible. My feelings is this is the future, that the artificial nature of graphic exposition and stats menus is a transitional stage. We have to go thru it…

Bliss: You mean for the gaming community?

Will Byles: For everybody. Because we noticed that some of the gamers are sometimes very much talking to each other while playing. In the movies, you sit and watch the movie. In game there’s a slightly higher level of surface watching. Once you get to it, it becomes more immersive but I think it takes a little while to get in it. The other thing we noticed when we did the no interface prototype, just like a film side of it, people didn’t know there was an alternative. So they played the story thru, the story was great and fine and they got to the end of it « Yeah, it ’s great », « But so what?: it’s a story ».

Bliss: Maybe you could only have had the check list at the end of the game… and invite to play the game again?

Will Byles: We could have done that, yes, and we still do it. But there were enough people that wanted to know all along. For instance, we did an early review and the guy who played would say « Yeah I liked this character arc ». And it was very strange because he did things in the game we didn’t ask. So people often saw the game they played as the only story there was and we wrote. The didn’t understand that their play thru was only One of the things we wrote. And, actually, we dont’ know the final combination of decisions, but that would make a different character arc depending of how it worked. And we wanted to let people know only if they want to, they don’t have to go to look at this at all, it won’t necessary change their story. In fact it won’t change their story. In the course of the game, if you have a bad relationship with someone, you will know. You will know if you have a fight with Mike and Matt that it’s going to be bad. The fact that you have a bad experience may even kill you but you don’t need to see that particular event. It’s just here for people who do want to see that.

Bliss: So there is no obligation to go the menus and check everything out?

Will Byles: No. You can play the full game without going to the menus. But for people who do like to see that stuff and they are who do, it is there. Personally I prefer not to, but…

Bliss: Music composer Jason Grave  (Dead Space, The Order 1886, Tomb Raider…) talks about an emotional check list everybody agreed to achieve at the beginning of development. Can you list it?

Will Byles: What he’s talking about is not a reality in the fact that the final game is much different that what we were effectively saying at the beginning. At the start we said: this is an interactive horror. And then we said: it’s a « slasher horror », a very traditional one like Halloween, etc. And the reason we wanted to have characters to be a little unlikable, a little bit cliché,… very cliché (smiles), is because we all know exactly what they are. We know where the joke is, where the nerd is, the blond girl, the fashionista girl, so we know all of this things. At the start they’re unlikable, they’re not very nice, like in a standard horror. They come back one year after this event and the player is like « Why would you do that? »… We have this set of rules. We had to have a ahab, the supernatural killer, maybe yes maybe not, you know, all those things that once included we start to twist them around, to undermine that structure.

Bliss: You have some great casting in the three main characters and then you have Rami Malek who is suddenly turning into a full star thanks to Mr Robot TV show… When and why did you hire him?

Will Byles: Rami? We saw him in a few things, obviously in Twilight (…Chapitre 5, but also noticed in The Master, Old Boy, Need for Speed… ndr), he wasn’t a big name but he’s got a great presence. So we challenged him and try to see if he was up for it, and he was et he was phenomenal. He’s a very intense actor. He did some scenes that I won’t tell you because you haven’t play the game thru but, those scenes are very… distressing. He’s really good.

Bliss: Why did you pick great Peter Stormare (Fargo, The Big Lebowsky, Zero Theorem…)? Was it difficult to persuade him to participate? He didn’t make that many game voices (Destiny, Elder Scrolls OnLine 2004, Command & Conquer 2008)…

Will Byles: People are getting better at understanding that, yes there is acting in videogames, especially now that you have…

Bliss: …Maybe the budget?

Will Byles: I don’t know how much we paid him, I’m guessing same as film. We didn’t have him here very long. We had this role of the analyst that we wanted to be confusing for the player: « What the hell is this, breaking the 4th wall? ». Since the character is talking directly to the camera… « I don’t understand it ». And as the analyst comes back more and more in the game, it gets more and more weird and distressing. And he’s perfect for that. It’s about presence, he has this magnetism you can see it even there on the screen (showing the CGI face on screen, ndr), it feels slightly upsetting (laughs). And we very wanted that feel so that’s the reason we chose him. And he was just brillant, he’s crazy.

Bliss: Did he have the full script when accepting this role? And maybe the script changed in the course of development?

Will Byles: Yes he had the full script ahead. We did change the script but not his part. The actors have a hard time on a video game such as Until Dawn, it’s a very arduous work day for them, much more so than on a film. They only have a short time to do it, and they have to jump to several versions. One scene is maybe five lines and has to be done ten times for each version. And also the way they perform has to have the right timbre.

Bliss: You just mentioned it, the game often breaks the fourth wall and use several gimmicks to have characters making eye contact with the player by talking directly to the screen… This could turn into a double sword trick: too campy, taking the player out of the experience… How did you evaluate this and why did you use it so thoroughly?

Will Byles: Obviously a big part of the game is in the choices to make, and especially in the conversations. So you’re right, when you have a conversation, the camera cuts to the front of the character and the character looks effectively into the camera and look left or right depending of the choice you make. We decided to have an interface that was on screen so you go, ok if you make this decision, it’s on screen, kind of in the world but not quite, because it’s very abstract like a… It’s one of those things strangely as crossing the boundaries of game and TV and films. If you look at something like Sherlock Holmes on the BBC One, there is text coming up on screen, there is this kind of weird abstract level up of an interface within the screen within the world. We had to allow the player enough time to make his choices and we wanted it to be engaging. We didn’t want the character to be up and looking around too much.

Bliss: You could have another character just outside the frame so the main one would look at him like in a regular movie dialogue shot as in a champ-contrechamp…

Will Byles: Yes and we do that as well but it depends. And the face to face on her own is very hard to make it right.

Bliss: But the main objective is still to involve the player more because we look directly into the eyes of the character, right?

Will Byles: Potentially. And we also try to do a thing when as soon as you drop the controller down, like you said, we cut to a close-up. So this also have this kind of contact again, because even during the close-up you’re in control, you can move the head as well with the controller and get it to look directly at you. It’s one of those things, it is coming out of this idea of the narrative transports where you are risking… loosing emotion… But we need to talk to you as a player: « You need to do this now » and come back and we’ll take you away.

Part 2…

Will Byles/Until Dawn: Appointment with deaths 2/2

Interview conducted by François Bliss de la Boissière

…in the offices of Sony Computer France in Paris August 24, 2015

 


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