Control E3 2018 Interview With Remedy’s Mikael Kasurinen: Metroidvania, SCP Influences, Single Player Only

Kai Powell

Remedy Entertainment's upcoming project, titled Control, was first revealed during Sony's E3 showcase last week. This third-person paranormal shooter drew a lot of inspiration from their previous works, especially Quantum Break. We had the pleasure of sitting down with Mikael Kasurinen, Game Director on Control, to discuss some of the inspiration behind Remedy Entertainment's latest multiplatform project and what fans can expect from their time spent within the Bureau.

With Control, one thing that we’ve been curious about is that you’ve talked about wanting to do multiplayer in more of your games before. One thing that we had heard in the past, when Control was still known as Project 7, that the game would be cooperative and a ‘shared experience’ between players. Can you elaborate on your ideas for that?

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If you take a step back and look at where the gaming industry is overall and what Remedy is (an independent studio), it’s been a part of our strategy overall to have a shared experience in our games. We’ve never announced Project 7/Control to be a coop experience but it’s an important part of our future. It’s the direction we want to take with future games, but we want to do it in the right way and make sure that what our heritage is, the DNA that we’re made of, stays intact so we still tell great stories with interesting worlds and characters, but we just want to make it work in a way that can be shared with others. We want to nail it and find the absolute right way to do it, so it’s something that we’re looking into and it’s very important to us, but Control is single player only.

In the world and how it’s ever-changing, some people are likening it to a Metroid-style progression where you’re gaining new abilities and unlock new areas of the game. How does that fit into the storytelling?

We actually have to have a different perspective on how to build the concept of this game. Usually, when we start to talk about the new experiences, we start with the story. Who’s the main character and what does he or she have to go through? This time, we chose to have a different approach; instead, we started with the world. Like, what is this place we wanted to create? What are the things that are possible to happen in this location? What’s the background story for it and so on?

Once we’ve established that and this is the world that we want to have in Control, we started to talk about the other stories that we want to tell in it (and stories is plural). Our intent from the get-go was to make sure that this is a place where the player has a sense of volition and they can choose how they go through the experience and choose how they upgrade their character and her different abilities, like how to improve the service weapon that Jesse uses. That applies also to the gameplay palette that we have in Control.

Sure, you have the main campaign that you can tackle and a story that’s all about Jesse becoming the director of this bureau and dealing with HISS, the supernatural force that has invaded the place, but there are also other things you can do. There are side missions, exploration, we’re thinking about other game modes that we’re not ready to talk about yet. These things might not have anything to do with the actual main campaign but these are things that you can tackle and there is often a bite-sized thing that you can do then come back and try something else. That was the starting point and it was intended to be told in a way that allows you to deviate from the main path. That’s why we build the story in a very different way. When you look back at Quantum Break, it’s very cinematic and very driven. Every moment, every second has been carefully constructed and designed. That won’t be the approach to Control; instead, we have the world that you can go into to explore. There is the story in it, but we tell it in a very specific, careful way and we don’t just have it thrown upon you at all times. It’s (told) from specific moments that are big and impactful, but we had to create space between those moments so the player feels like they can go and do those other things as well.

Right, you definitely want to have that ebb and flow with the narrative as you play. From what I’ve seen, it sounds like Remedy is taking a similar approach to when the Silent Hill series was reinvented with Silent Hill: Downpour. (Konami) turned Silent Hill into a semi-open world filled with side missions that told these little stories about the town.

That sounds pretty much correct. Having a more open experience and this type of Metroidvania approach was there from the get-go and that’s how we built this world. Then, we just found out what the path of the story is within this world.

With the Metroidvania exploration going on in Control, will there be moments where the player will feel locked out? Will they have to collect everything in one section in the Bureau if they feel like they can never go back again?

No, we want there to be a sense of being able to return to MOST of the locations. There will be exceptions and those moments are clear when they happen, depending on the context of the story.

Overall, we have some basic rules in place. Everything has meaning (in Control). For example, if you see a door, you can use it. There is nothing that is just a backdrop and everything actually has value. That’s how we designed the environment. The atmosphere should always be ‘this is a place that I can return to and find more secrets’. Actually, it’s kind of a pillar for us where we want the world to feel like it is layered. You might run through a room while you’re going after the main mission, but there’s always a feeling that there might be something more to be found here, like secrets or side missions hidden to find as well. That’s a huge part of how we want to realize this world and add that sense of depth. There are more stories to be told and experienced than just the main campaign.

In the short demo, there were some very interesting characters, such as the gentleman that could only keep focused on one object. If he looked away, it would transform into something else. It’s very reminiscent of the SCP Wiki style of monsters.

Absolutely. SCP is definitely an inspiration for us and overall, it’s kind of a new weird approach. New Weird is a literary genre established in the 1950’s and a later book that came out by Jeff VanderMeer called Annihilation (there was actually a movie coming out earlier this year on Netflix). The idea with New Weird is that there are things in the universe that are beyond human comprehension and are unexplainable. You might see a thing or an event of weird, extraordinary phenomenon, but once you see it, it’s hard to understand what it is. The moment you think it’s something, then something else contradicts it. That’s a huge part of what the Bureau is. So yes, when you look at SCP and the Bureau, there’s a much more bureaucratic approach to categorizing these different elements and so on. There’s a part of that in Control as well. There’s a place called the Bureau of Control and what they do is investigate, research, and contain these phenomena and that’s a huge part of Control and the New Weird setting that we don’t want to necessarily explain everything, but we want to give a lot of clues and ideas to allow people to figure it out.

When you talk about these open-ended ideas, do you see Remedy revisiting Control at a later date to add in new content or DLC?

We have designed Control to be expandable, but it’s a bit early to talk about any more detail than that.

If you don’t mind, we do have a couple more technical questions to inquire about.

Alright, let’s see if I can answer these.

Remedy had recently put out a tech demo at GDC about Nvidia’s Ray Tracing technology. Will Control support that technology?

I can’t really go into that yet. It’s something that we’re investigating and looking into how it could best enhance our games and experiences. Just like with multiplayer, we’re looking into all kinds of things, but it’s too early to tell whether it’s something we’re actually going to use for Control.

Will Remedy still be using the Temporal Reconstruction Rendering that was used in Quantum Break?

I’m unqualified to answer that, I’m sorry.

Tying into that, a bit of the gunplay and paranormal powers seem very similar to Quantum Break. Was that intentional for players to draw similarities between the two?

It wasn’t intentional, no. It does come from a place that we have created third-person action games for twenty years and you can see elements right from Max Payne. It’s part of our DNA and part of what we do, so it’s not a surprise that there are elements familiar to Quantum Break. I have to say that I think it’s an illusion. When you start to look at what Control actually does, it has these reactive environments that are way more dynamic and destructive (that) you can use the environments against the enemies to protect yourself. The same thing with enemies. They’re way more complicated and we have never done this complex of enemies before. In Control, they can fly and they can use the environment against you as well.

When you take into account how you can upgrade and improve your character and take Jesse into different directions, we create a way more complicated kind of experience where there are a lot of unexpected moments allowing for improvisation and overall mastery over the powers that Jesse has. Quantum Break and the previous games are a bit more ‘predictable’ in that sense and I think Control will feel very different once you play it.

That sounds awesome. As far as the economy of Control goes, you do have new upgrades for both Jesse as well as her service weapon. Are you putting limits in place to equip so many upgrades on Jesse, or once she unlocks something, will that stick with her throughout the rest of the game?

Of course, we need to create a balanced system so that it can’t be broken, at least not too much so that we can keep the gameplay interesting and refreshing. It’s important for us to build an experience that doesn’t feel like it becomes trivial after a while. There needs to be a sense of challenge from the opposition and not just challenge from the enemies but also from the sense of how to understand the world. We don’t want to spoon-feed all of the information to the player as it is but to allow them to really process and think about it and also share with the community to figure these things out.

Regarding the economy, we definitely want to find a balance between how much is too much but also what feels like the player can make pretty big differences to Jesse.

To flip that idea on its head, there are speedrunners that run through just the critical path or with as minimal upgrades as possible. Will that be doable in Control?

We have built the experience in such a way that it doesn’t feel trivial to do exactly that. It’s a bit of a tricky question to answer, but it’s important for us that when people jump into this world that it feels like a complicated, nuanced place. It’s not something that you can look at and say ‘oh, I am going to speedrun through this’. Think about, for instance, Dark Souls. That game feels complicated and layered. That’s not our intent, and we want to create a world where you want to stay.

Are you ready to talk about enhancements coming to PlayStation 4 Pro or Xbox One X?

We are ready to talk about that later this year or early 2019.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention about Control?

I just want to say out loud that Control is a new type of game from Remedy. We’re doing things that we have never done before. We want to create a compelling and interesting world that is mysterious and exciting and we’re trying a lot of new things while still keeping the key elements that our fans like: the characters and the different worlds that we create and the weird elements that we are known for. I think we’re excited about that direction and I hope that all of our fans will like Control as well.

Thank you very much for your time.

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