TeamKill Media’s cosmic horror shooter Quantum Error has been a game that many have had their eye on for a while, what with its promise of a game that takes inspiration from genre classics like Resident Evil and Dead Space while throwing its own unique air of mystery into the mix, and the developer certainly hasn’t shied away from showing it off at every turn in the lead-up to its launch.
Due out in November for PS5, Quantum Error has looked intriguing in what we’ve seen and heard of it so far, and with its launch drawing closer, we recently reached out to its developers with a few more of our questions, learning plenty more about it in the process, from its style of horror to its storytelling approach to how its development has fared on different platforms. Below, you can read our interview with TeamKill Media’s co-founder, Micah Jones.
"Our story is heavily cosmic horror that will leave you with more questions than answers and that feeling of the unknowable does move into the gameplay where there are enemies that are not explained, and elements seem to contradict each other."
You’ve previously described Quantum Error as a cosmic horror game. Can you talk about what that translates to where gameplay is concerned? Will it be more focused on gunplay, along the lines of Resident Evil and Dead Space and make players contend with things like resource management and ammo conservation?
We can’t divulge much without spoiling it because cosmic horror is the fear of the unknown not traditional horror. Our story is heavily cosmic horror that will leave you with more questions than answers and that feeling of the unknowable does move into the gameplay where there are enemies that are not explained, and elements seem to contradict each other. What the protagonist is up against just grows and grows and is so big compared to just one man. Also, the game starts slow, is heavy on story, and sprinkles the cosmic elements and builds and it can have you letting your guard down for the unexpected. The sounds and atmosphere of the game give you this feeling that you are being swallowed by the environment and that you are being watched. Using a 3D headset is the best way to experience the game or to have a good 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound system, and make sure and turn the lights out! The game is a mix of all those games really. The health and ammo of the game is more like Dead Space and Resident Evil where you must continually scavenge for them.
How is Quantum Error structured in terms of level design? How much freedom does it offer where things like exploration and backtracking are concerned?
The Monad facility is very large with multiple floors as if you were at Google or Apple headquarters and we built a large cargo elevator that you ride to move between areas of the facility. It gives you the feeling of descending. The elevator is not some trick of loading into levels it is a physical thing built that you actually ride. Some levels have portals that take you off world to planets and another level we don’t want to spoil. You can revisit about 90% of all areas with only 3 areas that can’t be revisited. Some of the rescue missions in the game do take you off the main objective path so exploring is encouraged and will be rewarded. We also have many hidden items tied to upgrades and trophies and being able to move back and revisit is important. Also, some tasks require going from floor to floor of the facility. The speed of the PS5 and seamless loading really give you an immersive real life feeling that you enter the facility and just make your way through it until the end.
Though Quantum Error was originally announced as a first person game, it’s now confirmed to feature a third person toggle as well. What was behind the decision to give players that option, and what sort of work went into ensuring that the entire experience was aligned with delivering a third person experience? Also, will the cutscenes remain first person?
What sparked the idea was that we had this cool character, a firefighter in his fire gear and all you could see was his arms and legs. Then when he gets the space suit you don’t get to see it. Then as we all talked about it more, we are split with 2 of us preferring games with first person and 2 with 3rd person. We know plenty of gamers are split with preference like us brothers are. So, then it became a question if we can get the option in there and really work hard to make the 3rd person a great experience and not just feel like an afterthought we threw into the game. We knew it was going to add to development and it did take about 3 months of extra work. We feel we really have been able to implement it well. There are a few mechanics that switch you to first person. Testing the game everyone switches back and forth and really enjoyed it and the two brothers who prefer 3rd person do play mostly in 3rd person. The gameplay experience also does feel completely different depending on which you choose. Cutscenes are done in a thematic film way and are not in first or third person. Cut scenes are all widescreen cinematic as if you are watching a movie and most seamlessly transition from play giving the player the feeling of walking into or out of the scene. The views and angles change to tell the story.
What can you tell us about how progression is structured in Quantum Error with things such as weapons and gear?
In the beginning after tutorial levels, you only have a few fire tools, and you don’t have any guns. Once at the Monad facility when facing Medusa soldiers there is stealth involved and the axe is all you have as a weapon. You slowly acquire more firefighter tools and collect weapons that progress with the difficulty of the enemies you encounter. As you acquire more powerful weapons the enemies become more difficult to keep the game in balance until the very end. There are upgrades to collect for weapons and the player.
"Once we were nearing the end of development we knew that there was no way of turning what we had built into a great game for the PS4 and contacted Sony to remove a PS4 version. It would not be a simple port but would have taken a full remodel like gutting a house and starting almost from scratch."
Recently, you announced that Quantum Error’s PS4 version had been cancelled, because you didn’t feel you’d be able to get the game properly running on the hardware without too many compromises. Can you go into a bit more detail on what sorts of hurdles working with the PS4 hardware presented in Quantum Error’s case?
First, we would like to take this opportunity to set the record straight about the platforms because there has been so much false information and rumors posted about us. In early 2020 we were first approved for the PlayStation 5 and encouraged to also do a PS4 version. Then later in the year we were approved to bring the game to the Xbox platform as well. We are a small team of brothers with one main computer for development and a secondary computer for the level building. Once we were nearing the end of development we knew that there was no way of turning what we had built into a great game for the PS4 and contacted Sony to remove a PS4 version. It would not be a simple port but would have taken a full remodel like gutting a house and starting almost from scratch.
For a PS4 version, the game would have been structured completely differently with at least 150 loading screens that do not exist in the PS5. There would be no global illumination which would completely and utterly change how the game looks. Everything would have been scaled back, like subsurface scattering on characters, and shadows, the frame rate would be lower. The game would be completely different in look and play. The boss fights and cut scenes would have had to been completely restructured to account for loading. There would be no nanite used in the game. Many assets in the game would have been unusable. Our game is nearly 90 GB and if we had built a ps4 version it would have been even larger. Amazing and beautiful games have been made for the PS4 but that is the thing they were made for the PS4. We couldn’t just turn things off and have a PS4 version. If we tried to just scale down our existing project into a PS4 version, it would be unfair to those customers. It would not be the quality it could be if it had been built for the PS4 using techniques that make awesome PS4 games. If we had time or teams of people to build a wholly dedicated PS4 version then we could have done that but it’s just not possible.
Another piece of hardware you’ve recently commented on is the Xbox Series X/S, and how it’s not launching simultaneously because the Xbox SSD isn’t as fast as the PS5’s. How much of a difference is there between the two? Also, do you have any estimates for how long of a gap it’ll be between the game’s PS5 and Xbox releases?
There are multiple gigabytes of speed difference between the 2 SSDs and ram usage is different in both consoles. These are hardware specs facts. We have only answered questions generally with publicly available information on the hardware. We cannot speak to any details of the processes of development on any platform console as that is under NDA. We can’t give any timeframe at this point. We spent 6-8 months optimizing for the PlayStation. We are at the top end of RAM usage in QE. There are components of the game that will need to be changed for the Xbox Series and we have only been working on the Xbox port for a month or two. We have to do each platform separately. We have decided to work on the S right now since it is the challenge, and the X version can easily achieve our 60 FPS and resolution minimum regardless of how we tackle the loading issues. We have some ideas we think can help with getting the S to run better but it is going to take quite a while to change it and see if it pans out. If Xbox wanted to help us get it done, we would be more than happy to have their help. If we can’t get it done then hopefully in the future Xbox will relax the requirements for coming out on both Series S and X.
Roughly how long will an average playthrough of Quantum Error be?
14-20 hours depending on how much you explore and look for, the side rescue missions that are not required to complete the game. Also make sure to choose the right difficulty for your ability or you will be starting over.
You recently said that you view Quantum Error as the first game in a planned trilogy. With that in mind, how have you shaped the game’s story? Is it a self-sufficient one that has some things leading into potential future events, or is it very much written as the first part in a three-part story?
It is most definitely the first part of a 3-part story and we even have prequels written. One of the prequels we even toy with doing as a CGI Unreal Engine movie.
Do you have any post-launch plans for Quantum Error in terms of DLC and updates?
We have ideas for DLC but we are working on Xbox and a jacked pc version using NVidia tech, and have technically started early development work on Quantum Error part 2 that we’re not sure if we can even fit in the time for a DLC. We would only pursue DLC if fans wanted it. We much prefer to just give a full game experience.
"It is most definitely the first part of a 3-part story and we even have prequels written."
Since the reveal of the PS5 and Xbox Series’ specs, a lot of comparisons have been made between the GPU speeds of the two consoles, with the PS5 at 10.28 TFLOPS and the Xbox Series X at 12 TFLOPS. How much of an impact on development do you think that difference will have?
In our tests of Quantum Error the performance and graphical quality is equal, so the GPU speeds don’t affect development so far in our experience.
The Xbox Series S features lesser hardware compared to Xbox Series and Microsoft is pushing it as a 1440p/60 FPS console. Do you think it will be able to hold up for the more graphically intensive games as this generation progresses?
No, I think you have to build your game specifically to run on the S to get those specs with techniques that are used on lesser hardware. If we can get Quantum Error Series S port optimized and acceptable graphically above our current tests the S port version will be 30 FPS. We have all played some phenomenal games at 30 FPS. But in this current generation if the graphics look blurry and smudgy, it greatly lessons the experience in our view. We use Real Illusions Character Creator for our character creation and it has already advanced beyond what we used, we started on Unreal 4 and we finished the game on Unreal Engine 5.2 but now Unreal Engine 5.3 is coming out soon. The software advances will always outpace the hardware. For us personally, we come at game development as artists, photographers, cinematographers, writers, musicians, and partial computer nerds. For me, the graphics are insanely important and my artistic style always leans to the darker side and light usage in dark spaces is the biggest component that excites me. I want to stretch the tech as far as I possibly can.
I could have easily made a game with lush landscapes and reflective water with amazing bright happy skies, but what happens when you just take metal, glass, metal, glass, metal, more metal and a little more metal and you use Global Illumination in dark spaces. The way the light scatters naturally and goes in between spaces, the bounce light gets us really excited and once you see it, you just can’t go back to using old lighting techniques. So for us and our studio, we aren’t going to build games for lower tech specs. This is part of why I have been a giggling little kid over what I am being able to do with QE using Nvidia tech for PC. But then Noah is hardcore about performance so we balance each other. Our PC version minimum specs will not go below the PS5 specs and will push the 4090 as hard as we can.
What frame rate and resolution will the game target on the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S?
PS5 is 2K 60 FPS, Series X 2K 60 FPS, Series S we have no idea because so far it’s been unacceptable and we won’t release it in its current state.