At E3 2018 I saw the trailer for Control during Sony's press conference. Immediately I knew it'd be one of the most interesting games that I'd be seeing this year. Sure enough, I got to watch Remedy play through a demo of the game and enjoyed every second of it. From the weird twisting environment, the smart combat and powers, and a story that sounds totally insane in all the good ways. Thankfully I got to sit down with Mikael Kasurinen, the game's director. He tells me about some of the gameplay decisions, the world design, the soundtrack, and more. Also we chat about dogs, John Wick, and the one IP he'd love to work on.
If you're not interested in watching the interview, I've provided a transcript of it below:
TechRaptor: Alright, we just got out of seeing a demo for Control, the new game by Remedy. So you're directing Control, about how long have you been working on it so far?
Mikael Kasurinen: Um, so, it's a bit of a tricky question. We started-- actually, the first idea for Control I think came... when we were still working on Quantum Break, and we started with the idea-- we created this complicated, interesting world, right? We wanted to have a different approach, and Quantum Break had a lot of elements that got us excited regarding world building and, um, so there was this kind of a core of an idea and after we're done with Quantum we started to concept this game together with Sam. So its been roughly... roughly two years, but when we started it was basically just me and Sam talking about the game.
TechRaptor: Awesome. Sam as in Sam Lake, the--
Mikael: Yeah, Sam Lake.
TechRaptor: The guy who always looks-- in Max Payne, his face is in everything?
Mikael: That's him.
TechRaptor: Gotta love it. Okay so while we saw the-- while we saw the demo of Control we pass by rooms. We saw a crashed car, which is its own story I guess. We saw the refrigerator and the guy, which is a side quest in the game. So are all these objects going to have side quests attached to them, or are they all going to be their own little stories?
Mikael: So there's background and lore for every single object you will see in the game. Not all of them will have side quests attached to them, uh, and I think as a starting point for all of these different ideas that we have was that we want it to be a hidden world beyond mundane objects, right? So there's something that seems kind of non-threatening and trivial and simple like, uh... the fridge. But then there's something scary and disturbing kind of beyond that, right? So this guy sitting in that cage, he needs to be to be looking at it at all times, and if he doesn't then something horrible will happen. That's the mood we want to have in this experience, that there's this sense of, ah, kind of a hidden world that can express itself in an unexpected and scary way. And, um... yeah. That's-- where the ideas come from, it's hard to tell. It's like our twisted brains just kind of looking at this every day kind of thing and doing its weird magic.
TechRaptor: What's the bad thing that happens if he doesn't look at the fridge? Does all his meat go bad?
Mikael: I don't want to tell you, you need to buy the game and play it. I'm sorry.
TechRaptor: Aw, alright. I'll buy the game and play it. So while we were watching the gameplay demo we saw all these super cool powers. Levitation, telekinetic, I'm sure there's more. Is there anything other that you can talk about?
Mikael: Well the theme of all power in this game is, uh, the key word "control". It is about controlling things, controlling elements, controlling the physicality of the world and that can be expressed in a multitude of different ways. For instance, when Jesse flies or levitates it's her telekinetically controlling herself. So... that's the basis for all of the different abilities we're going to have in the game, and, uh, the inspiration for that comes from some of the older horror movies, like Carrie or The Exorcist.
TechRaptor: Good movies.
Mikael: So you see this kind of elements already there, and there's kind of an interesting... The key part, really, is that we want to have this grounded physical feel to all the different supernatural abilities you see in the game. So it's not like anyone is starting to form a fireball or anything like that. Sure it's extraordinary and crazy, what you see, but there is this feeling of believably to it, right?
Mikael: And, um, and that's why it kind of works well in this, uh, more suspenseful setting, and that's where the inspirations really do come from, like Carrie and The Exorcist and so on.
TechRaptor: Now, similar to the crazy powers, we saw that she had a crazy gun.
TechRaptor: It looked like it was breathing almost.
Mikael: Mm-hm [Mikael smiles and nods]
TechRaptor: Oh is that like a secret, am I not supposed to, uh...
TechRaptor: Is that like a big key plot thing, that it breaths?
Mikael: Um, the gun... okay, so... a huge part of the aesthetic pillar, I would say, of the game is this shapeshifting nature of things. Like you see it in the building, and you see it in the gun, and so on. It's a language that we use quite often, and so when it seems like it's breathing, you could... Its been a part of how...
I need to choose my words really carefully, so I don't reveal too much. There is a sense of... yeah, life, to these things. The building itself, the gun, and many of these elements, and it's all a part of-- we don't want to be super clear and simple about this stuff, but you know that literary genre "new weird", which is about things that might be beyond human comprehension? Like you see things that you never are able to really explain or understand, and there are a lot of interpretations of what these things are and how they work even within the building itself. Like the bureau is a vast organization that researches, contains, and tries to understand these objects and the building itself as well, and, uh, there's a lot of different takes on what these things are, how they work, or how people think they work, and they create models and experiments and that's a huge part of the lore of this world and what you can find.
TechRaptor: Speaking of this world, the whole thing takes place in... The Oldest House I think it was called?
Mikael: That's right, yes.
TechRaptor: Yeah, The Oldest House. So what's the deal with The Oldest House? It looks weird, everything shifting constantly, I kind of love it.
Mikael: Right, yeah, it's a strange place.
Mikael: So it's a world in a location, basically. From the outside its an innocent looking skyscraper in New York, but once you go in this new reality opens up to you, and I said it's not something that anybody in this world really fully understands. They know that when they do certain things at certain locations, maybe at certain times, things happen and, you know, things can appear and disappear, things can shift and change shape and so on.
Mikael: And, um... and that's, uh, something that people want to understand. Some of them think they do, but you never know.
TechRaptor: So while they were playing the demo, one thing we all noticed that there was basically no UI, there was a little... like the aiming crosshair had a little meter next to it that show how much gun-- how much bullets you had left. [Laughter] How much gun you had left. Is the whole game going to be like that, where there's no UI or very minimal at best?
Mikael: We always try to be as minimalist as we possibly can, just to ensure there's always a sense of immersion into the world, but sometimes there are certain things that just can't be avoided regarding the UI. It is still a work in progress, but our intent is to be as minimalistic as possible, but of course there's still work left to be done.
TechRaptor: Awesome. And, uh... Now, for the powers, I already asked if we're going to get more, but it's the same thing like the UI. Is there any limit to the powers you can use? I saw there was levitation. Can you just fly anywhere in the game, or is that like...?
Mikael: There are limits. So Jesse has a limited amount of, lets call it energy, that she can use. So she needs to pace it out and think about what powers to use and when to help ensure that she, you know, survives.
TechRaptor: Now one thing I've always loved about Remedy's games: soundtrack. I loved... like when I think of Remedy I think of Alan Wake had that part with Space Odyssey I think it was. Like that's the first thing that comes to mind. Not even just the licensed soundtrack, but great original soundtracks. With Control everything seemed pretty... like even the soundtrack was weird to go with the game, I kind of thought it was great. Is that like the basis for the rest of the soundtrack too? Are we going to hear a lot more weird stuff?
Mikael: It was really important for us to have this unexpected, almost a bit uncomfortable, experience when you listen to the soundscape of the world and the music itself. So I personally love that kind of off-beat style and tone, and it fits with the world we're creating and how it comes across to the player.
TechRaptor: Awesome. So they told us the game will come out... well, it didn't have a release date, but it's coming for the PlayStation 4, PC, and Xbox One. Are there any plans for next generation, or...?
Mikael: Too early to tell.
TechRaptor: Too early to tell?
Mikael: Yes, but those are the platforms we're going to be releasing on in 2019.
TechRaptor: Okay. Something a little more light hearted. A good chunk of the reason I wanted to be here is that there was-- you guys were tweeting that you were mo-capping a dog. Is that dog going to be in Control?
Mikael: [Laughing]. Well it's-- we all love Uno. He's a great dog. So it started off as a fun experiment. Now we kind of feel obligated to come up with something fun for that.
TechRaptor: Uno can be in the game. He's a good boy.
Mikael: Yeah, we'll see.
TechRaptor: I'm also going to be honest, for a little while I thought it was a John Wick game. So to move from that, are there any IPs you guys would love to work on? Just in general.
Mikael: Just in general? Wow that's, uh... that's a good question. I'd love to do a John Wick game.
TechRaptor: I think everyone would love for you to do a John Wick game, that'd be great.
Mikael: Yeah. Totally.
TechRaptor: Yeah like, Max Payne, John Wick...
Mikael: Yeah, there you go. I would love to work on Max Payne again as well, so... but it's not our IP anymore so, yeah.
TechRaptor: That's ok. Well... I'll find a way somehow.
TechRaptor: I have no ability to do that. I will find a way.
I'd like to thank Mikael Kasurinen for taking the time to do this interview with us.