The Medium producer Jacek Zieba speaks with GamingBolt about Bloober Team’s upcoming ambitious horror title.
Bloober Team have been one of the most prolific developers of horror games in recent years, and with experiences such as Observer, Layers of Fear, and Blair Witch, they’ve certainly proven their talent on more than one occasion. With their next game, however, they’re taking what’s looking like a major leap forward. The Medium looks like their most ambitious game to date, and having been in the studio’s pipeline – at least as an idea, if not an actual game – for nearly a decade, it’s also a game that Bloober Team has been envisioning for a long, long time. Soon, we’ll get to see if it lives up to the hype, but before that happens, we recently had the chance to send across some of our most burning questions about the game to its developers. You can read our conversation with The Medium producer Jacek Zieba below.
"The main belief of the game is duality and providing different points of view, starting from story to gameplay ending, which is why dual reality gameplay is one of the foundations of The Medium."
One of the biggest draws here is clearly the Dual Reality gameplay- can you speak about that for a little bit, and how critical it’s going to be to the experience? For instance, is this something that can be activated at any time, so that players have the freedom to jump between realities whenever they want? Or is it restricted to particular areas or sections of the story?
The main belief of the game is duality and providing different points of view, starting from story to gameplay ending, which is why dual reality gameplay is one of the foundations of The Medium. The game does not appear with dual reality gameplay all the time as players can expect to play in it about 33% of the game, while the rest of the game takes place within a single reality, either in the real world or in the spiritual world.
This is to constantly surprise players in which world they are currently in, and it also aims to pose new challenges – how can players use the world to their advantage?
At some points in the game, the player will be able to move from the real world to the spiritual world in specifically designated places. It will not be possible to switch between worlds at any time in the game since the whole game is designed in that new gameplay mechanics can be discovered within their own realities as well as with each other during dual reality gameplay.
What has your primary design philosophy been while working on The Medium’s Dual Reality mechanic? Is it something that you’re using more for storytelling purposes, or something that you’re also leveraging to design, say, better puzzles or more intense horror sequences?
Showcasing two worlds simultaneously is our primary philosophy designed to further enhance the story; however, the dual reality mechanic also promotes gameplay and exploration, as well as taking in the atmosphere itself. In one world, we can be in a seemingly safe location, but players will be in two worlds at once, so we never really know if something is lurking in the other reality…
What was behind the decision to go with fixed camera angles for The Medium, especially given Bloober Team’s history with first person horror games?
There were several reasons. One is because we primarily built a game in two worlds. We experimented with various camera angles during development, and we ultimately decided that the use of semi-fixed camera angles was the best solution for the most comfortable game experience when it comes to exploring the world in either a single or in dual reality.
Because of fixed camera angles, we were able to introduce an even stronger cinematic feel to the whole game. At the same time, we somehow refer to old-school horror games such as Silent Hill or Resident Evil, which were a great inspiration for us when designing The Medium.
It is also a next step in the evolution of our games here at Bloober Team, through first-person perspective with a semi fixed camera to a third-person perspective in the future.
We’ve seen quite a bit of The Medium’s puzzle solving and exploration in gameplay so far. Can you talk about what players can expect from the combat side of things? Does The Medium put much of an emphasis on combat? Does stealth come into play at all?
The Medium focuses mainly on story, exploration and puzzles, but that does not mean that the player will not encounter any threats. We focus more on how our character can survive and deal with the threats that may exist in one world but cannot be seen within the other; therefore, the game is more about survival than combat.
Players will be able to defend themselves if there is something happening, but it will not be a direct attack from the player. The character will also be able to sneak by various situations and this may often be required to pass through specific locations.
Bloober Team’s games have been known to be quite story-driven in the past, and it’s looking like The Medium will be no different. With its central reality-switching mechanic and its setting, have you had to change your approach to how you look at characters or more large-scale story developments?
Instead of changing, we simply focused on our storytelling, whether by including more cutscenes or by introducing additional gameplay situations where players have fun from not only discovering this story, but also from playing The Medium.
The Medium has been described as one of Bloober’s biggest productions ever. Given that this is a game that’s been known about since as far back as 2012, was it simply a matter of waiting for the hardware to do justice to the vision you had in mind for the game?
One of the biggest reasons for waiting so long was to wait for the right technology, whether it would be hardware or a game engine. It was also important to meet the entire vision of the project, and for that we needed a veteran team of developers.
Bloober Team has come a long way since 2012 and we are already a different company with more experience and learnings along the way.
All these factors made the team so strong in both technology and experience that we decided that now would be the perfect time to meet the project’s vision.
Is The Medium’s much more ambitious nature and larger production size indicative of the kinds of games Bloober Team wants to develop going forward?
Yes and we hope players for next-gen consoles will enjoy what the Bloober Team has to offer and appreciate the new twists we think would immerse players into the horror aspects of The Medium.
A lot of comparisons have been drawn between The Medium and Silent Hill, which is something that Bloober have spoken about as well. Can you tell us more about how the game draws inspiration from SIlent Hill, and how players can expect to see that inspiration manifest in the game itself?
In our opinion, Silent Hill 2 is one of the best horror games ever. Both Silent Hill 2 and the Silent Hill series have always been a great inspiration for us as we approach psychological horrors.
With The Medium, Silent Hill 2 was one of the main inspirations when it comes to the atmosphere of the game. When playing The Medium, players who are familiar with the Silent Hill series should experience similar themes and aesthetics in our game, especially in the context of the overall atmosphere.
Roughly how long will an average playthrough of The Medium be?
"With The Medium, Silent Hill 2 was one of the main inspirations when it comes to the atmosphere of the game."
The Medium is launching as an Xbox Series X/S console exclusive, but do you have any plans to eventually bring the game to PS5?
For now, we are focusing on Xbox X and S and PC, so currently we do not have any other platforms planned.
What was the reason behind launching as a Xbox console exclusive?
It’s an outcome of our relations with Microsoft, the hardware we needed, and how our development progress and MS plans for XSX align. The bottomline it’s an exciting adventure bringing The Medium as one of the first games for XSX.
Can you talk about the resolutions and frame rates The Medium is targeting on Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S?
The team is still working to optimize The Medium across Xbox Series X and S and more details will be shared closer to launch.
The Xbox Series X has a ton of GPU horsepower and a fast SSD. How do you think this will help developers as they develop games for the next 7-8 years?
Games will generally look better, but it won’t be an amazing leap in quality like PS2 vs PS3vs PS4 or Xbox vs Xbox 360 vs Xbox One.
The ability for better computing power and hardware can definitely help open up many interesting ideas and concepts, whether it will be better AI, finer details on the stage, or easier workarounds for developers. It helps to provide more opportunities for creative freedom, such as the dual reality gameplay within The Medium.