An interrogation about Interrogation with the game’s developers.
It’s not often that we come across games that have something meaningful to say about contemporary issues, so to see something like Interrogation, which launched on PC in December, is uniquely refreshing. What makes the game even more intriguing is that it wraps up its commentary and its story in some very interesting mechanics, focusing wholly on interrogations and conversations, with some management elements peppered in to spice things up. Shortly before the game’s launch, we sent across some of our questions about it to its developers, covering its mechanics, its narrative drive, its visual aesthetic, and more. You can read our conversation with Jack Williams of Big Game Machine below.
NOTE: This interview was conducted prior to the game’s launch.
"While other teams were making underwater and underground action games, we decided we want to look under the surface of the people’s minds and to build a game in which you have real psychological gameplay."
The idea of engaging with conversations as puzzles in and of themselves is an interesting one- how did this concept come about?
The very first version of the game was born at a game-jam, where the theme given was “Under the Surface”. While other teams were making underwater and underground action games, we decided we want to look under the surface of the people’s minds and to build a game in which you have real psychological gameplay. Police interrogations were then and obvious go-to: the tensest and engaging scenes of psychological sparring in modern cinema. Once we knew that was the game’s concept, it was clear to us that we needed to make dialogue be not just expositional, but the actual gameplay. After we made the first few interrogations, we had to face the challenge of tagging the innovative gameplay we designed, and “conversational puzzle” was the only one that fit.
What sort of challenges will players be faced with in this interrogations? How much of an impact will things like morally grey decisions or piecing together clues have on how these conversations unfold?
Challenges evolve and transform over the course of the game. In some interrogations the players have all the time in the world, but in others they are on the clock. In some interrogations they need to discover the guilty, in others just to find the more manipulatable of the already-known guilty. There is a lot of variety and we wouldn’t want to spoil all the surprises we have lined up for our players.
Players have to face the press, authorities, public perception, they have handle their agents’ motivation and administrative elements like budgeting. We wanted to show the realistic array of pressures that such departments are subjected to.
Moral grayness in Interrogation is not something isolated to certain well-telegraphed moment, just like in the real world. Every action of the players, from the orders they give to the special unit they manage, to the way in which they frame their actions to the press, to things that they decide to do inside interrogations, like lying to suspects or even roughing them up, all of these have realistic consequences on the main character’s reputation, sanity and on the investigation.
Interrogation claims that players will be able to psychologically manipulate people during conversations- can you talk about how this is implemented in terms of gameplay?
Players will face varied challenges in the interrogations. In every interrogation players will have to understand their suspects and decide how to approach them, what they respond to well. Should they try to frighten them, to build rapport, or a combination? How should they steer the conversation towards the topics they find more promising, especially after uncovering a new clue? Which phrasing of a question will lead the suspect to the desired emotion? How can they corner those they suspect logically? How can they cross-reference what several suspects are telling them?
"Managing the reputation of the special unit the player leads, in front of both the press, the public and other authorities, is an essential gameplay component. In real life, it’s not only about catching the bad guys, but it’s a lot about managing to properly frame your efforts and decisions."
I imagine interrogations will be the primary mechanic here, but the addition of other things, such as the management mechanics, is quite interesting. How exactly do these factor in, and how do they interact with the interrogations?
Beside the administrative elements, choices made between the interrogation can have great effect on the interrogations themselves. People inside the interrogation room will react to the player’s reputation. Players will select ‘memories’, effectively perks, that customise their playstyle in interrogations. Missions you’ve assigned to your agents can ensure sit-downs with key players, that, in turn, give you extra info to follow-up on in the questioning rooms.
Can you talk to us about the idea of having to contend with press interactions? How much of an impact will this have on the game and the way its story plays out?
Managing the reputation of the special unit the player leads, in front of both the press, the public and other authorities, is an essential gameplay component. In real life, it’s not only about catching the bad guys, but it’s a lot about managing to properly frame your efforts and decisions.
Given its premise, will Interrogation put much of a focus on challenging and relevant contemporary real-world issues?
Totally. Games that tackle head-on hard topics are exactly what we set out to do when we founded Critique Gaming, and Interrogation is no exception.
It looks at terrorism, anarchy, police brutality, personal stakes, and the power imbalances between citizens, the state, and large corporations.
Interrogation’s art style is a striking one, and quite appropriate for its noir aesthetic. How did you land on this particular look for the game?
Film Noir has a history in delivering hardboiled dark morally-grey stories about detectives and broken societies, so it was a rather obvious choice. However, there were a lot of iterations until we reached a style that we viewed as appropriate. Greyscale or just black and white? More sketchy or more photographic? 30s noir or 80s noir?
In the end, we realized that we can borrow a lot of visual elements from comic books. We, however, knew this game will be about characters, and that we want them as realistic as possible. That is when we discovered that rotoscoping over photos of real actors does allow us to reach a mid-way between a photographic and a comic-book-like style, which felt just right for the game.
"We are certain that we will launch on iPad and Switch as soon as possible."
Why have you decided to launch as a PC exclusive?
It was strictly a logistical decision. We just didn’t have the funds to first of all port the game on multiple platforms and then to launch it.
Do you have any plans to launch on the PS4, Xbox One, and Switch?
We would love for as many people to get to experience Interrogation, especially since it is a game that can be approached also by people that are not traditional gamers. That’s why we would love to get the chance to launch it on as many platforms as possible, both console and also mobile.
From all of these, we are certain that we will launch on iPad and Switch as soon as possible.