Is the model of the video game, which is appreciated as a whole, like a film, being erased in favor of episodic works constructed in the image of TV series?
The concept is certainly not new, but it has been accelerating since the success of the video game adaptation of the comics “The Walking Dead” by the publisher Telltale Games in 2012. And if this production format was up to Now the prerogative of lesser-known studios, it is of growing interest to big publishers, like Square Enix, which has chosen to tell the story of its future blockbuster “Hitman” according to this principle. A mechanism that the publisher has already proven by supporting the Parisian studio Dontnod for its game “Life is Strange”.
The title narrates, over five episodes, the transition of young Maxine Caulfield to adulthood. And the dramatic story of this student, able to manipulate time to change the course of events, kept gamers around the world spellbound throughout 2015. Available since January 22 in its full version on PS4 and Xbox One, “Life is Strange” bears witness to a work worthy of the best American series . Somewhere between “X-Files” , “Twin Peaks” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, this singular work has received critical acclaim.
The choice of the episodic format “offers a stronger mastery of the narration than for a game in one piece, underlines Raoul Barbet, co-game director on the game. It allows to flesh out the characters, to deepen the themes and to invite the player to take his time to discover the world imagined around the heroine”.
“We also benefit from player feedback throughout production, adds Luc Baghadoust, producer of the title. If the story is written from the start, we can develop certain characters who are appreciated by the players when they do not didn’t matter as much in the original script.” Video game developers therefore find a new responsibility by becoming real showrunners, as we see evolving around television series. It is up to them to constantly revive the interest of the players, like the “cliffhangers” which end each episode.
However, opting for such a format is also a challenge. Life is Strange thus required three years of particularly intense development. “From a creative point of view, the episodic game is difficult to approach. From the beginning, it is necessary to have a clear and invariable idea of the story. The gameplay should not change either, since it is necessary to create the whole visual identity of the game, imposing a tone, menus … which will come back for each episode. There is also pressure due to the regular releases that must be ensured”, explains Raoul Barbet at the time of the balance sheet .
“Fortunately, we quickly had a community of very addicted players, who shared their impressions with us and sent many letters and drawings”, specifies the two men. Because it is perhaps also the other asset sought by the publishers: the success of the game, if it is well received by the first players, can be spread over time and grow throughout its year of publication thanks to regular word of mouth. Quite the opposite of a complete game, often forgotten only a few weeks after its release.