Upcoming horror game The medium is about a clairvoyant trying to solve a crime. Developers at the Polish game studio Bloober Team tell me that it’s also about destroying gamers’ preconceived ideas about the world.
“The game is about points of view,” said chief designer Wojciech Piejko in a recent interview with Kotaku. “Nothing is black and white, nothing is easy. In the heart, The medium It’s about thinking for yourself and finding the best perspective to judge something. Hopefully after finishing the game someone will think before judging someone because [of something they did]. The real question is why he or she did it. “
Talking about different perspectives struck me as strange because from a certain point of view The medium can be considered the Bloober team’s first horror game, despite developing games like Blair Witch and Layers of fear meanwhile. Its development precedes these games after it was first teased in 2012 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii U. Between that date and the reintroduction The medium earlier this yearThe Bloober team has repeated and refined the core premise of the game: to explore two worlds at the same time via a split-screen mechanics, with the aesthetic focus on the surreal works of Polish artists Zdzisław Beksiński.
The medium follows Marianne, a clairvoyant who is haunted by visions of child murder. Your search for answers leads to the ruins of the abandoned Niwa Hotel and the surrounding countryside, which was home to an unspecified tragedy. In the two small excerpts of the gameplay that were shown to me, Marianne traverses the resort in the physical and the spiritual world, alternates between the two and even examines both at the same time using a clean split-screen effect. In these moments, Marianne’s movements between the two worlds are duplicated, which means The medium
Before that, Bloober had only developed first-person games. “Jumping into the third person changed everything,” said Piejko of the divergence. The team didn’t just bring one character into a world. They had to develop two separate worlds that could be shown at the same time. “In the beginning it was crazy to show two worlds at the same time,” said Piejko. “Sometimes nobody knew what to do.”
“It’s a little tricky because all of your knowledge of how to make games ends up in the trash in a way,” added Zieba. “You know how to make games in one world, but when there are two worlds, most of your ideas and references won’t work.”
While The medium Perhaps the studio is different from anything the studio has released in the past, forcing the Bloober team to learn new skills and techniques. The developers have learned a lot in the years between its conception and now. 2017 observer gave the studio experience with investigative gameplay and dialogue options. 2019 Blair Witch taught them how to implement an AI companion. But where these games could be seen as big strides, the developers said The medium represents a “leap” in relation to the total scope.
“Good horror has to have a theme, so each of our games has a theme,” said Zieba. “When you’ve finished the game, it has to stay with you. We want to scare you, but we also want you to think. “
“I believe that the best horror films, books and stories are made the same way,” said Piejko. “They are about something; not only about the monster or the blood and the murders, but also about the human psyche, about us. For us, the best thing that can happen after our game is over is that the player thinks, “What would I do in such a situation?”
The medium would likely still be in development hell if it weren’t for the improved performance of next-gen platforms like the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, for which the game is an exclusive console. (When Tomasz Gawlikowski, Bloober Team’s chief marketing officer pushed for more details, such as whether this was a time exclusivity, stepped in and said they are currently only discussing the announced Xbox and PC versions.)
When the game was first announced in 2012, the technology couldn’t keep up with what the developers wanted The medium, especially the ability to play in two worlds at the same time. Getting it to work on platforms like PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 would mean sacrificing their vision, which the team didn’t want. The idea stayed in the studio vault until the arrival of new consoles and Unreal Engine 4.
Another new development in the time since working on The medium What began is the popularity of Microsoft’s various Game Pass memberships and the importance of such subscriptions to the company’s overall Xbox strategy. For just a few dollars a month, Game Pass subscribers can get access to a wide range of gamesSome of them come into service the same day they are started. The mediumAs one of the few releases with any exclusivity for Xbox Series X / S, this will also be the case.
While a lot of developers have just nice things to say about their games being made available through Game Pass, the folks on the Bloober team have been open about the potential downsides. There is no doubt that putting your game in front of players who may not even have checked it out is a good thing, but you run the risk of getting lost in the crowd.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” said Zieba. “It’s a great entry point for anyone looking to return to or start playing, and it’s really cool for the developers to have that group [of players] they could never get. The disadvantage is the range [of games] can be too big. It’s like a Netflix series or movie versus a movie in the cinema. We still don’t know. [which option] is better.”
Any discussion of game development in 2020 would neglect the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Bloober team, of over 100 employees, took a stand from home when the Polish government issued a nationwide lockdown in March, which was part of the reason The mediumThe release date was pushed back over a month. A small percentage of the studio has since returned to its headquarters in Krakow.
Even in the face of an unprecedented crisis, Bloober was able to get everyone up and running in just two days thanks to the tireless work of the studio’s producers and IT experts, Piejkoso said. Still, there were challenges.
“The hardest part was recording motion detection,” said Zieba.
“Oh yes,” said Piejkoso. “We did remote mocap sessions.”
“We make it mainly because we are recording every live action in a cutscene as a developer,” said Zieba, drawing comparisons Behind the scenes videos from the manufacture of Death stranding. “It’s worth doing it remotely because then we can go to the actors. [show them] What we did and say, “Now do it like a pro.” It can really help us get in touch with the actors. “
“Obviously it’s harder to finish the game,” said Piejkoso. “The last few months have been more difficult because you usually get a bug and go into a programmer or designer room. You are talking to someone [face-to-face] and it takes about 5-10 minutes when they are in the room. “
“And now it’s like five hours,” said Zieba.
The shift to remote working also allowed producers like Zieba to review the studio’s development pipelines. Improvements he says will carry over to Bloober’s post-pandemic workflow.
The road to The mediumThe release wasn’t particularly pretty, but the people on the Bloober team cleverly avoided the rocks and potholes from blowing up the path, even in the face of a global pandemic. I’m looking forward to The mediumand it has nothing to do with its developers’ pedigree, dirty haunted aesthetic, or even contributions from legends silent Hill Composer Akira Yamaoka. The game’s release marks the realization of an idea so ambitious that one had to wait for the physical world to catch up. That said, it remains to be seen whether The medium will live up to the inspiring story of its development when we can actually play the game later this month.