The Farm 51 talks about its unorthodox shooter.
You could be forgiven for not remember The Farm 51’s Get Even. The shooter was announced back in 2014 and the development has been tirelessly working to ensure a game that we’ve never seen before. What is Get Even though? Is it more than just a random protagonist waking up in an asylum with no memories?
To find out more, GamingBolt spoke creative director Wojciech Pazdur. We asked about the status of the game, its core gameplay mechanics, what players can expect and much more. Suffice to say, you’ll be getting even very, very soon.
"On the technical side, we had big challenges with production pipeline based on photogrammetry scanning for 3D assets creation and totally interactive sound system. "
Get Even was announced in 2013 and has been in development for a while. What major hurdles have you faced and what is the current status of the game?
The biggest deal with Get Even was that neither we nor any other studio shaped a video game that could serve us as a primary reference. Although there was already a bunch of great indie games that tried to explore new approaches to non-linear storytelling, for a very long time, we couldn’t find the best recipe how to combine narratives and action properly.
We wanted to create a unified, solid experience of the immersive story where game character is both a story hero and a good avatar tool for the player to discover the mysteries on his own. And at the top of it, we desired this experience to be engaging in a classic gaming way. Then we were all the time swimming in the fog, and countless iterations have been run in the course of increasing and decreasing amount of game mechanics usage versus non-interactive narratives.
Get Even is also very hard subject to make any playtests for just specific part of the game because it’s almost impossible to check the playability and fun factor of the separate chapter without relation to changes made in other parts during the development cycles. And it all strongly depends on actual player’s understanding of the story, which is incredibly twisted, non-linear and mysterious.
On the technical side, we had big challenges with production pipeline based on photogrammetry scanning for 3D assets creation and totally interactive sound system. Again, not many developers used these technologies on the scale comparable with Get Even, so there were no ready-to-use workflows and tools at hand. But we were strongly obsessive to give Get Even a unique flavour by re-creating real-world locations models with scans and making one of the craziest soundtracks ever, so after a lot of experiments, we’ve finally reached the goals set in conceptual docs.
What is the story for Get Even?
I guess this is the hardest question you may ask about Get Even. Not even because of typical spoilers avoidance, I believe the main reason to play the game is to find out what is the story of Get Even and to discover what is real. At least that was our mission in crafting all this experience. Then instead of giving you story outlines, it’s better to go a bit into the themes and motifs.
Get Even is a mature game, not by the meaning of sex and violence (even if they’re somehow included), but because of an attempt to address fears and fantasies of people, who, let’s say, are not teenagers for some time already. I believe that even when you have fun and thrills watching another horror movie, at some age, you’re not really afraid of zombies or alien invasion. The more responsibilities you have to carry on in your life, the more you’re worried about the possibility of losing your family, your job, your health. And when some of these things happen to you, then your biggest fantasy becomes not flying a jet-pack with a railgun in your hand, but rather the answer to the question “what if I could fix the past that led me to this point.” This is what Get Even story is all about, even if we use science-fiction and supernatural elements in our game.
Technically speaking, Get Even tells the story of a mysterious detective who’s involved in the investigation on the kidnapping of some teenager girl, military industrial espionage and special devices that allow you to explore yours or the other person’s memories. But it’s the same simplification as saying that “Inception” is a movie about some guys who wanted to fix some other guy dreams, so it’s better to let players discover it on their own.
"The style was supposed to be very dark, but not in dark fantasy or horror way – it was more about showing how hostile and scary may be the real world."
What improvements have you made from the build showcased at Gamescom 2016?
During Gamescom we were at Alpha stage. We’ve improved almost every element, including polishing and optimization on visuals, final orchestra recording for a soundtrack, last adjustments on dialogue lines and gameplay balance.
What was the inspiration behind the art-style for Get Even?
The original idea was to play with the perception of reality, so we wanted to create the world that has as much of elements close to reality as possible. And then to start placing items, that may more or less subtly be perceived as out of the real world.
We use photogrammetrical scanning to re-create real-world locations and objects, and we’ve recorded the real symphonic orchestra and sounds of real actions, and ultimately we’ve processed many of these elements into the parts of distorted, surreal environments. The style was supposed to be very dark, but not in dark fantasy or horror way – it was more about showing how hostile and scary may be the real world. The Asylum from Get Even is a scan of the real abandoned mental hospital, and we didn’t want to change it into the horror-style lunatic settlement, but rather to show, that place like this drags out the subject of mental illnesses.
Can you tell us about the tools in the game, like the scanner and UV light, and their usage across different sections of the experience?
There were few goals behind placing the smartphone in the game. First, we wanted a player to be the discoverer, not the witness of the story, or in other words, to limit the non-interactive elements of the game as much as possible. So we had to provide a player with some tools that make exploring the story an interesting and engaging experience. The smartphone is quite natural, because today, in reality, we usually grab more information from the screens of our smartphones than from any other sources.
Second, we aimed at giving a player a fun of investigation, so we’ve developed a virtual phone that’s basically something much better than any of devices available today. You can analyse samples, shed the UV light, use a thermal camera to solve different riddles and gather the clues in your investigation, and it’s still not that unrealistic because technically speaking every modern smartphone could have hardware and software functionalities of different scanners, database analysis or hacking into military networks. But as for Get Even‘s twisted world, it’s not limited just to that, because by gathering and processing evidence we’re also reshaping main hero’s memories, so the world around you may change when you use your smartphone functions.
What can you tell us about the Cornergun mechanic? How have you been polishing it, especially amongst criticism of it being hard to use?
Cornergun, besides of delivering some cool, unique mechanic to general gunplay, was supposed to be our answer to the question that was present all the time in my work on first person shooters within last 16 years: how to make shooting at least a bit realistic? Making good, universal cover mechanics in FPS is almost impossible because of camera and control issues, so the shooting in shooters is usually based on Rambo rush or leaning the whole body from behind the wall, when both of these options are not very useful in the real situations.
"We wanted to play with player’s feelings and consciousness all the time, and every location was supposed to bring some very specific tone and mood for narratives."
Then the idea of Cornergun was our solution to let the player feel the necessarily of staying in cover, but also pushing into the stealth approach instead of running the bullet storms. The technical aspect of polishing its mechanics is nothing really exciting – there were plenty of iterations of different camera angles and pivot work schemes, button assignments, damage balancing and AI tweaking, not to mention several level design reworks. There was a moment when we seriously thought about removing the corner fights, but ultimately we’ve found a setup, that worked on playtests and players started to really enjoy this weapon.
Do fire fights become a little too easy with Cornergun? Are there enemies later on that can circumvent the skill?
Well, the overall balancing for gunplay was done quite classically – on easy difficulty most of the players don’t often die. We didn’t want to increase the tension of game by increasing the pace and difficulty from one episode to another. We tried to use and balance combat depending on where it was expected to raise the tension of the story events, not to push the player into fighting the harder and harder battles with every hour of gameplay. And in most of the situations, you don’t need to use any weapon at all, because the game is designed to allow you to play stealth, not shooter.
What kind of levels can we look forward to and how have they been designed keeping the Cornergun mechanic in mind?
For the levels, the most important thing was their place and meaning in the story. We wanted to play with player’s feelings and consciousness all the time, and every location was supposed to bring some very specific tone and mood for narratives. They’re much related to the storytelling, so it’s better not to disclose too much about them.
Regarding the shooting, actually, the level design for Cornergun is not that different than for classic gunplay – we got a mix of open and closed areas, outdoors, halls and corridors, more or less filled with covers and shortcuts that allow you to sneak around and hide from enemies. Important thing is that most of the time you can play without any shooting, just using stealth tactics and hand-combat takedowns (or even not killing anyone most of the time).
Currently, what kind of playtime are you targeting? How many hours can we expect Get Even to last? Will it have multiple difficulties or different endings?
Today the most typical playtime is above 10 hours, that for a story-involved player it’s usually a few hours more. We got a lot of alternate story options with some adjustments to the overall story flow, and they can lead to different endings. However, our goal was not to keep reshaping the whole game world with player’s choices, but rather to let alter the many different details around the development and progress of the main story.
There are no “blue pill or red pill” situations. Instead of this we got dozens of small decisions that change the scope and shape of the events around us. We put Investigator’s Room in the game to let player track all the story facts and evidence, allowing to replay any section of the game to search for missing clues or to try to alter the outcome of previous encounters.
"Personally, I have always been an enthusiast of photorealism and pushing the art fidelity to the limits, so I really enjoy the opportunity to increase the visual quality of our games in the future."
When can we expect Get Even to release?
It’s going to be May 26th, 2017.
Can you please detail out PS4 Pro support for Get Even?
There is not much to elaborate on this. PS4 Pro appeared when we were almost finishing the technical side of the project, so there will be only basic performance improvements related to better capabilities of PS4 Pro, the game will run in 4K on it.
How do you rate Sony’s relatively more conservative approach with the PS4 Pro versus Microsoft’s more radical overhaul with the Xbox One Scorpio? Which excites you more, from a development perspective?
Personally, I have always been an enthusiast of photorealism and pushing the art fidelity to the limits, so I really enjoy the opportunity to increase the visual quality of our games in the future. But realistically speaking, it’s a bit too early to judge what will be a final benchmark for the performance vs. quality battle in the future.
With the PS4 Pro, Sony have increased the memory bandwidth a little bit, but they have kept the overall memory pool the same as it is on standard PS4 systems. Is this a fair trade off? Or do you foresee RAM becoming a bottleneck for game development as we move further on with this generation?
From my experience, I believe it’s still easier to handle the limits of memory amount than any bandwidth issues. Using 3D-scanned visuals for Get Even we’ve been really worried about the optimization issues related to memory usage limitations. But we feel that we have solved this.
Are there any plans to bring Get Even to the Nintendo Switch? If not, is there a particular reason?
For now, there’s no plan, mostly because this console appeared on the radar when the project was in its final stages.