The Medium Interview – Bloober Team on Exclusivity, Ray Tracing Support
Originally scheduled to launch in early December, Bloober Team's psychological horror game The Medium is now due on January 28th, as one of the first big titles of 2021.
An exclusive on Windows 10 and Xbox Series S|X at launch (also included as part of the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription), The Medium will feature a soundtrack by Akira Yamaoka and a patented gameplay feature called 'Dual Reality'. We recently had the chance to interview Jacek Zięba, Game Producer at Bloober Team, to try and glean more about this strongly anticipated title.
Among other things, we learned more about the ray tracing features that will be in the game, and we also got confirmation of NVIDIA DLSS (Deep Learning Super-Sampling) support on PC.
Compared to your other horror game such as Observer, Layers of Fear and Blair Witch, what sets The Medium apart in terms of gameplay other than the Dual Reality feature?
It’s actually impossible to talk about The Medium and its gameplay without referring to the fact that players will be experiencing two worlds simultaneously. The Dual Reality isn’t just a feature of the game, but instead the very foundation which we built the game upon.
Just like our other titles, The Medium is first and foremost a narrative game, but we’ve really honed our storytelling over the past few years allowing us to better combine our mechanical systems with the themes and narrative of the game, creating a completely cohesive experience for our players.
The Dual Reality system also allows a greater focus on player exploration as the unique viewpoint creates new opportunities for us as designers, which really can be felt when puzzle solving or surviving a clash with an evil spirit. It also gives us more ways to surprise the player and keep them on their toes, as they can never be sure when they’ll be in one world, or in both.
You confirmed that The Medium will feature combat through the protagonist's unique powers. How prevalent is the action element in this game, then?
While action is prevalent throughout The Medium, it’s not the focus of the game. Instead, we
use it to punctuate and enhance the story we are telling. We really want players to experience and feel the mystery alongside Marianne as she unravels it.
Our action sequences are more about Marianne’s survival than combat, so lean closer to those in Amnesia than something more action-focused, like Resident Evil. As such Marianne’s powers are primarily there to aid in her defense and help her escape the enemies she encounters.
You've previously cited the next-gen Xbox's SSD as a critical factor to enable the Dual Reality gameplay. However, it doesn't seem like there is an SSD requirement on PC. Will loading times on PC be much slower than on Xbox Series S or X?
It goes without saying that the arrival of new consoles allows us to work with greatly improved hardware, and this is undoubtedly the case with the Xbox Series X. At Bloober we take advantage of level-streaming tech to load all titles, so the inclusion of an SSD in the new Xbox has allowed us to take things to another level.
As we’ve been using level-streaming in our games for a long time, we have made every effort to ensure that the experience on a PC running the recommended specs is as close as possible to that on the new Microsoft console. For PC players, SSD is recommended but not required, so yes, loading times will be increased when using an HDD. That being said there's quite a bit of difference between console and PC architecture.
To get a little more technical, PC linear transfer from a standard HDD is 100MB/s on average, while the previous generation of consoles have just a third of this value. So when you couple that with the IO cache that a PC’s operating system manages, you get loading times of only a few seconds longer than the average SSD. Sure, you’ll see some texture pop-in here and there, but you’ll still be able to enjoy The Medium from an HDD.
Which ray tracing features will be available in The Medium? Are there any technical differences between the various versions in this and other regards (resolution, frame rate, etc.?)
We have two supported ray tracing modes for The Medium - Performance Mode that has enabled reflections and RTAO in all performant location (when only one word is rendered), and Quality Mode, which features reflections, RTAO, hybrid translucent, and some RT shadows enabled for the whole game world. The latter is paired with DLSS and some other Nvidia improvements but requires a lot of hardware power.
The team is still working to optimize The Medium across Xbox Series X and S and we will be
able to share more details on these versions closer to launch.
Why did you decide to make The Medium an Xbox Series console exclusive at launch? Can you divulge the length of the exclusivity window period and once that's finished, do you have plans for other platforms?
It was an outcome from our relationship with Microsoft, the hardware we needed to bring our vision to life, and also how our development process aligned with Microsoft's plans for its new generation of consoles. The bottom line is that we’re really excited to be launching The Medium as one of the first Xbox Series X|S titles.
The game is coming to Xbox and PC in January, and we’re not currently concentrating on any other platforms.
What do you think of Microsoft's Xbox Series S? Will it be more helpful as it improves accessibility to next-gen for casual players or more problematic for developers for its lower specifications (particularly the smaller amount of available RAM)?
It’s hard to fully judge at this point as we definitely have to wait to see how the first titles perform on both platforms. Microsoft makes every effort to ensure that the games are as similar as possible on both platforms despite their considerable differences in power. What we can be sure of now is that the Xbox Series S in conjunction with Game Pass is a really great option for people either looking to return to gaming or just starting their adventure with them.
Thank you for your time.