Our first interview of 2023 is also the last pre-launch Q&A before the long-awaited release of Atomic Heart, the first-person shooter game developed by Mundfish.
Ever since its unveiling in 2018, Atomic Heart has captivated gamers (ourselves included) thanks to the unique alt-Soviet Union setting, the BioShock-like atmosphere and gameplay mix of powers and guns, and the highly detailed visuals. The game's development took a long time, but following investments from Tencent, Gaijin, and GEM Capital and a global publishing deal with Focus Home Interactive, Mundfish is now putting the proverbial finishing touches on Atomic Heart ahead of the scheduled February 21st launch date for PC and consoles (Game Pass included).
With less than two months remaining before gamers get their hands on the title, we were able to interview Mundfish founder and Game Director Robert Bagratuni for our fourth and final Atomic Heart Q&A. Today, we're publishing the first part entirely focused on the game's development process and what will come out after launch; later this week, we'll post the second half on all of the cutting-edge tech supported by the game.
Can you speak to the specifics and rationale behind relocating the company to Cyprus? Is the entire development team now working there?
We are exceptionally excited to share some details about Atomic Heart as that is set to release in weeks, and will look forward to sharing the story of Mundfish in the future. For now, as you can imagine, our total focus is on Atomic Heart which has been in development and planning since 2017 in Cyprus. Our excitement and anticipation, the work and tireless focus of our global team is culminating to this moment.
Can you share a ballpark of how many developers worked on Atomic Heart?
Today, we have 130 talented and dedicated developers on our global team located in Poland, Ukraine, Austria, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Israel, Armenia, UAE, Serbia, and Cyprus. At different stages, we engaged contractors who worked with major AAA games in all areas - from Art to QA. All the hours, creative and technical sessions, and discussions were worth it - the level of production, innovation, and caliber of talent and development is worth playing Atomic Heart.
What was the single most challenging hurdle you had to overcome during all these years of work?
It is hard to identify the single most challenging hurdle, as there are challenges at every stage. Creating a new IP is an extremely ambitious task. The whole development looks like one huge equation where A is multiplied by B, B by C, C by D, etc. These variables in the equation are dozens or even hundreds. The tricky part is that each variable is essentially binary and can be either zero or one. If one variable is zero, the whole equation will be zero. If you make a bad balance, you get zero; if you make a bad optimization, you get zero, too; if you make a weak narrative, you get zero; and so on. I believe that everyone who has faced the development of such complex products will agree with this comparison.
The game has been in development for a rather long time. We first covered it in May 2018, and back then, your goal was to release it by the end of that year. The final release date is now set for over four years later - what caused this significant delay?
From the beginning, we wanted to create something extraordinary, a unique game. This applies to the story and the structure of the game, as well as a lot of mechanics. Our unwanted delay can be attributed to youth, ambition, innovation, and new technology! During the development process, we made the tough choice to abandon some ideas, even very big ones, like multiplayer. It was painful to have to make those kinds of choices, but it was the right decision. You don't have to chase trends when you create something new and innovative. Our big ambitions were not always aligned with reality, it was a tough realization and we had to adjust. I think all studios go through that process at least once.
From our previous interviews, I know Atomic Heart changed slightly compared to the original design. Would you say the core remained intact, though?
For those wondering about the original design of Atomic Heart, the core game has remained intact. From the beginning, we wanted to tell the story of where progress and technology can spiral out of control and tell a fantastic story of a confrontation between man and machine. The other part is the ‘immersiveness’ and combat mechanics; we focused on polishing the gunplay, balancing the storyline, and creating a unique experience.
You've already announced four DLC packs. Can you provide a rough outline of what they'll include? Could one of them be the multiplayer mode that you discussed a few years ago?
The entire Atomic Heart experience will be single-player, focusing on the story and player experience. No multiplayer add-ons are planned at this time. The DLCs are intended to greatly expand the player experience with new territories, quests, puzzles, enemies, as well as character and world stories. We plan to significantly expand both the open-world territories, as well as new complexes and labs - where the player will learn more about the Atomic Heart world and will need to complete new challenges.
Thank you for your time.