If there’s one thing that Remedy fans are used to doing, it’s waiting. The studio has a loyal following, and those who have enjoyed Quantum Break and Alan Wake learned that the developer takes its time to get things just right.
That may all be changing, as Remedy shifts its development process. The company is undergoing changes, with new CEO Tero Virtala (formerly head of Trials developer RedLynx) stepping into the role this month.
The studio has also inked a big partnership with Korean developer Smilegate to work on the single-player campaign for Crossfire 2. The original entry in that series, released in 2007, was number two on the top grossing free-to-play MMO games list in July 2016 according to Superdata Research. It was bested only by League of Legends.
For Crossfire 2, Smilegate is letting Remedy craft a story in a new genre for the studio. The campaign is being built on the studio’s Northlight technology, with the multiplayer (under development in partnership with Starbreeze) working in another engine. While the original game in the series never made a dent outside of Asia, Smilegate hopes to broaden its reach to the rest of the world.
“If you look at what Smilegate has been doing, they invested pretty heavily in Starbreeze. Their plans with Crossfire 2 are definitely very big,” says Remedy head of communications Thomas Puha. “They specifically wanted Remedy as a studio that makes games that appeal to a Western audience. They came to us, because they want a Remedy game. Yes, it’s a first-person shooter, but when it comes to the characters and story, that’s all Remedy. We have a lot of freedom in what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. When I look at first-person shooters, there’s definitely space for character development and story. There’s definitely a place for our style of game.”
Puha also cited games like Campo Santo’s Firewatch and The Astronauts’ The Vanishing of Ethan Carter as examples of how first-person perspective can be used to tell compelling stories. “It’s an interesting challenge. We’ve never made a first-person shooter, even though we have a lot of people who have,” he explains. “But then how do we pace the story and all that? Because that’s very important. We want to make sure players can get more story if they want. We don’t want too many cutscenes interrupting.”
Puha suggested that Remedy will use an approach similar to how Quantum Break dove deeper into the story. You can find artifacts in the world that clue you into the lore.
The delicate balance of first-person action and storytelling is something that Remedy believes it’s positioned well to address. Puha cites a shrinking focus on single-player action in the industry, as companies turn toward service-based multiplayer. “If you look at how many studios are still doing really big, single-player, story-driven games, Uncharted is there and that’s what we do,” he says. “Story and characters are very important to us. That’s what a Remedy game is built on. We’re definitely not blind to what kind of games people play and how people want to play games. We want to try and react to that.”
Part of becoming more flexible is getting games out the door faster. While fans have been understanding of delays, Remedy wants to ship on a more frequent cadence.
“We want to be making games faster,” Puha explains, as we discussed the developer’s organizational shift to having two teams. “That takes a lot of internal selling as well and logistics. There’s the tech team, and then two other teams working on the games. That takes a lot of managing, but Remedy spent the first year adapting to that change. No one at the company wants to spend four or five years making a single thing. It burns people out, and you just want to ship games.”
While one of those teams is hard at work on Crossfire 2, the other is working on something uniquely Remedy. Don’t expect an announcement any time soon, though. There’s still much work to be done before the second project sees the light of day. “The other team is working on something that’s pretty far off. It’s in the conceptual stage,” Puha says. “There’s a prototype, and we’re talking to publishers right now.”
Given that it’s so early, he wouldn’t confirm whether the studio is crafting a new story or continuing one. However, Puha did shed a little light on the open endings for the company’s last two games.
“There was a lot of discussion about the ending at the studio,” he says. “Some people really like it. Some people thought we should close it. I think it gives kind of a definite end, but what Sam [Lake] has said, when we made the first Max Payne, everyone was killed. So when we had to make a sequel, we had to ask, ‘Where should we start?’ When Alan Wake was made and Quantum Break was made, there was a lot of thought put into leaving strands open so if the opportunity presented itself, we could make another game.”
Remedy creative director Sam Lake.
Regardless of whether Remedy decides to go in a new direction or revisit its existing characters for the new game (which likely isn’t Alan Wake 2), it won’t leave its past behind entirely. Back in 2014, former head of franchise development Ozz Häkkinen told us that creative director Sam Lake has a vision for a larger “Remedy Universe.” Puha hints at something similar.
“All of our games have some sort of connection,” Puha says. “Sam has a master plan. We have some sort of knowing winks to our past, and that’s fan service, but there might be something bigger behind them as well. We shall see.”