Killing me Softly – The Surge 2 Interview with Creative Director Jan Klose
Earlier today, in my The Surge 2 preview, you could read about the myriad of times I died during my hands-on with the game, and die I did. I’m fairly sure Sir Grimmus Reaperus, Esquire, knew that I was going to be dying quite a bit and decided to take the day off, it’s the only reason I’m here to write this piece of nonsense.
Speaking of nonsense, the poor unfortunate soul Jan Klose, Creative Director of The Surge 2, had the misfortune of also speaking to me about the game. While I can’t say for certain, I’m fairly sure he was wishing he had a nice glass of whiskey while having to put up with me. I know I always want a glass of whiskey while putting up with me. On that note, let’s talk death, grinding and the lack of a personalised cloaking device, for me, in the game.
Chris Wray: Hi there, great to meet you. Especially after dying so much. If you wouldn’t mind, would you mind just introducing yourself for the tape?
Jan Klose: [laughs] I am Jan Klose from Deck 13 and the Creative Director for The Surge 2
Chris: So, you’ll have to forgive me, but did you also work on the first game?
Jan: Yes, I was also the director of that one.
Chris: Ahh, so a follow-up project for yourself. From what I’ve seen and heard, the game follows up directly from the first title?
Jan: It does. So it follows up on the timeline. It’s set two months later and the stuff that happened at the end of The Surge, like especially with these nanite structures evolving. It’s all projected on your new game world, which is Jericho city, where a sort of nanite-based techno-disease is happening. It’s under quarantine and we need to figure out how this happened, what it will turn into and what we could do against it.
Chris: So the use of nanites carries on and is a core story concept. How has the world changed in gameplay aspects from The Surge? From what I’ve seen, it seems a lot more open with more directions you can take.
Jan: Yes, it’s a city so you expect that you can go to a number of places and not just in a straight line. One thing is the variety, we can show many different environments. You can already see with the forest like park area, we also have some underground areas, a run-down harbour district and places like that. Also, and what’s even more important, is we can offer much more variety in terms of gameplay. So what we wanted to do is move away from the linearity in the first one. We did open up the game world in the first one as you played, but there was little reason to go back to previous levels even though we tried to incentivise it a little bit.
This time it’s really different. So you have the city centre as your hub of exploration and you can go in whatever direction right from the beginning. You could say “Okay, I want to follow the main quest” or “Let me go explore a little bit”, “Where does that lead me?”, “Maybe that’s too strong for me now” or maybe “Hey, I’ve found some cool stuff. That will help me in the main quest”. However you want to play it, you can take on major tasks in whatever order you want and have different outcomes that affect how you continue playing the game.
Chris: I imagine the more you explore and do side quests, the stronger you are and you can make the challenge of the main story easier for yourself?
Jan: That’s absolutely the right impression. This is what we want to do on a very strong level. You can change the difficulty of your game by your actions, not by a menu entry of going onto easy mode but by saying “Okay, I’ll go here first – then I’ll come back and I’ll show you”
Chris: So, I’ve got a little question. The area I was playing in the demo, is that the park you mentioned?
Jan: Yes, it’s part of it.
Chris: Wait, it’s part of it?
Jan: It’s just a small part of the park.
Chris: But I died so many times!
Jan: [laughs] yeah?
Chris: Genuinely, so many times. I’m fairly sure I filled a whole mausoleum by myself. So, on the difficulty, that was very high. Is that just for the demo or will it be scaled back for release?
Jan: Well, when you actually arrive there in the main game, you’ll have played around six to eight hours already. You’ll know all of the core systems, you’ll know how to directional block and how to evade. You’ll also know the healing system and implants. Also, we’re doing quite a bit of tweaking on how much health you’ll have at one point and how you can heal. This time you started with no injections at all, you had to take on enemies pretty bare bones regarding your health. Stuff like that, we’re heavily tuning.
We’ve tried to be more on the upper-end for the demo here. In the game, most likely, you’ll have much better gear already. This was meant to show the crafting loop so if you’re weaker and do the crafting, you’ll be able to craft stronger armour and weapons. This doesn’t fully represent the final game. Let’s say we want to have it on the top edge, but our ideas are that people will have had a long time to understand the game and their options. In the demo, you always started at the one med bay, in the game you’ll probably go back to your last hub, do some shopping, buy some more ammunition and come back and blast away the first few hunters or something.
Chris: Okay, so when you die you, will you get the option of choosing where you want to come back?
Jan: Not really, but the whole world is interconnected so you can just walk back. You can also take shortcuts so it’s pretty quick to exit one area and go to the next, maybe go for some stuff you haven’t cleared yet and do that. Maybe you’ll have a lot of currency and buy something for it and then go back and try again.
Chris: So I will have the option of not having a mental breakdown?
Jan: [laughs] I’m pretty sure, I’m pretty sure.
Jan: Really, the idea is that you’ll start the game and when you compare it to similar games you’ll say “Oh, I’m having a pretty good time. This is all working well and this is my kind of play style”. Then as you advance you’ll end up saying “oh shit, I died a few times. Maybe I need to change something?”, then you’ll advance. That’s the idea behind it. It’s never just bashing away at enemies but it’s getting more challenging as you go along but you’ll get more tools to conquer that.
Chris: So if you find something that is a little too much of a challenge, you can go back, get the right tools and come back.
Jan: Yes, that’s absolutely it. The thing we never want to do is force you to bang your head against a wall until either of them breaks. That’s what we don’t want to happen. You can, if you want, have a go at a boss and have thirty tries. But you can stop after the fourth try, come back later with better equipment and have an easier time the next time you have a go.
Chris: I’m a little curious when it comes to regular enemies. Will there be a respawn limit on the number of times you can kill them? Otherwise, you could farm the same thing over and over again.
Jan: You can actually farm a lot. Most of them do respawn and that’s part of the system that works into the crafting. So if there’s one enemy that at first, you run past them because you’re scared, next time maybe you’ll use body targeting to find the weak spot and then the fight is over sooner. Then later maybe you want its gear so you target specific points.
Chris: I understand that. But, for example, you wanted to be fairly cheeky you could find a safe point, kill the same group of enemies, go back and have them respawn and then go kill them again. Will there be a limit to the number of times they respawn?
Jan: No, you can actually do that for quite some time but you’ll have maxed out some of your options for upgrading. You’ll be able to craft and upgrade things but to a certain tier level. So, for example, you can face tier three enemies, you could upgrade everything up to tier three but to upgrade further, you’d have to advance to a higher level in the game, find enemies that drop tier four materials and then you could upgrade the equipment more.
Chris: So there will be a limit with the equipment, but the enemies also drop scrap parts which are used to increase your health and stamina, are they not?
Jan: You can do that to a certain extent, definitely. But, the more you advance your level, the more it costs you to upgrade to the next level. To do that with the same enemies, your efficiency would drop way down after some time.
Chris: [laughs] That would be a bit grindy.
Jan: You certainly can do that. So if you’re desperate or if you’re just into that, you could do it for five hours and it would give you a big advantage, but why wouldn’t it? You’ve just spent five hours of your precious time, why not have some advantage from it? You won’t be able to break the game with it.
Jan: I think [laughs].
Chris: You think [laughs].
Jan: I hope [laughs].
Chris: Well, I am good at breaking games. So, looking at the body part system, cutting off weapons and armour. How is it different to that found in The Surge, you have more weapons and upgrades?
Jan: We have more weapons in this, but we also have some like legacy weapons from the first one that you can find every now and then. You’ll be able to find lots of stuff from the first one, but you have mostly new stuff in the game. There are way more weapons and armour parts than in the first one, so there are more options for you in that respect. Also, the gear parts have more functions, especially for looting. There are some new effects, for example, the hunters that you saw, midway through the fight you can destroy their cloaking device and then loot the cloaking device and make it into an un-cloaking device for yourself. If you attach it to your drone and then you get a heartbeat scanner and you can see them when they’re cloaked.
Chris: So, any chance of me getting a cloaking device for myself?
Jan: Yeah, well… I don’t think that’s in the game.
Chris: But can we put it in?
Jan: [laughs] Maybe, we’re still playing around with what you’ve got.
Chris: [laughs] I’m thinking that’s a no! Hashtag cloaking device? So you have a lot of options at your disposal.
Jan: You really have a lot of options for what you can do. You can change the way your character behaves and also change what you put on your drone as a remote weapon. There are passive things like heartbeat sensors and such as that, but also such as ammunition which is a new thing. You can get ammo for your drone. You can buy it or take it off enemies, like the hunters if you target the leg piece.
Chris: So it was the leg piece! I was always struggling to get ammo.
Jan: So there is a little bit of work to be done on the communication with the icons, but this will also get strongly tutorialised. You’ll know what it means when there’s a red field or specific icon and you’ll always know what you’ve got so you’ll know what to target next time. If you try once, it’s all communicated.
Chris: So it’ll be a learning process to figure out what’s there.
Chris: How far are you in the development of The Surge 2?
Jan: We’re now at the phase where everything is in the game. We’re at the polishing phase, but the polishing for such a big game has so many elements that it can quite some time to get it right. But it’s going to be released this year, we’re getting there.
Chris: Oh, of course, it certainly takes some time.
Jan: It’ll especially be stuff like you just experienced. Things like how do I best heal, how do I understand what options I have both in combat and outside combat. This is where we are strongly working until we can find the right balance.
Chris: Healing, in particular, was quite a challenge. I did pick up a lot of implants that aided me in this though. How many implants do you have in The Surge 2?
Jan: Many many implants. We’re still actually working on the final number, but there are plenty. What we’re especially working on is that they’re distinguishable from one another. This makes sense for me, so there are some that will give back health from killing enemies, some that let batteries drain slower. There is a lot of stuff that people will want and others won’t.
There was one that you will have seen but not expected. For example, directional blocking is also an implant. You could see the direction you should block just by observing the enemy so some people will not want to spend an implant space for something they can just train and master. Others will want to use it and find it useful, letting them use the directional blocking. Here we’re just giving the options for players to play how they want.
Chris: So you’ve brought in a lot of new weapons, but also bringing in ranged abilities with the drone. Will you personally be able to use ranged weapons? There was a big laser on the head of an enemy in the demo and I wanted it!
Jan: You can get it and all of the ranged weapons will get attached to the drone. It will be your remote combat companion that you can use while you’re fighting. Every ranged weapon an enemy has, you can get and then attach to your drone.
Chris: So, maybe give me the laster from the very start of the game so I don’t die all the time?
Jan: Of course, we can talk about that [laughs]. But there are a lot of ranged options, such as a sniper rifle you can get and then headshot guys in the game when they stand still. Maybe that’ll help?
Chris: That’ll work for me! So roughly how long will The Surge 2 take to complete, story-wise? Naturally playing through side elements will increase that.
Jan: It’ll definitely take longer than the first one. If you play it in a more linear way, just focusing on the first quest, the first one was an average of maybe 25 hours or something like that. If you really want to max it out, go to all the corners and really explore, there’s a lot more. I don’t honestly know how long.
Here’s when we were told that it was time for the next interview session. I seem to keep eating into other people’s time!
Chris: So it’ll take longer and has a lot more to explore, excellent. It’s coming out for the PC, PS4 and Xbox One later this year, do you have any plans for a Switch version?
Jan: There are no immediate plans right now, at least for the release. We do like the Switch very much, so if there’s a chance to get it to the Switch, we’ll do that. Right now, there’s nothing scheduled for that.
Chris: Finally, for the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, are there any extra enhancements for the upgraded consoles?
Jan: I think right now it’s that you can play at 60 FPS or you can play in 4K, I think, or at least some higher resolution. We’ve really tried to make use of all the extra powers and features of the consoles.
Chris: Thank you very much.
Jan: You’re welcome.