Interviewer’s note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Paradise Killer is an upcoming open-world murder mystery game. In it, you play as the formerly exiled investigator Lady Love Dies as she attempts to discover who killed the council that oversees the development of Paradise. The game does not have a set path and allows you to convict anyone of the murder—as long as you have a case that holds up in court.
I recently had a chance to sit down with developers Phil Crabtree and Oli Clarke Smith to discuss the game’s inspirations, where the characters’ unique names came from, the challenges of balancing a completely free-form game, the lack of experimentation in open-world games, and more.
Me: What inspired you to create Paradise Killer?
Smith: We wanted to make something by ourselves, an independent game, and do something that we could manage. We started looking around and thinking about what we would do and we started working on a top-down shooter, like a twin-stick shooter, but that didn’t really go anywhere. We realized that what we wanted to do was something that had more characters and narrative to it.
So we started thinking about what that might be. I’m really interested in obscure, old, Japanese-only, open-world narrative games like Mizzurna Falls and Germs on the PS1 because they’re really mysterious and interesting because they never came out over here, yet these developers were doing full 3D open worlds about these weird towns before anyone in the West was. I wanted to make something like that, but both Phil and I are very into player agency and we didn’t want to tell a story. We wanted the player to interact, craft their own story, so we thought “what about doing a murder mystery game where we never tell you the right answer?” We don’t make you jump through any narrative hoops to find out the true ending. We just let you decide what you think the answer is, who you think the culprit is.
It was a combination of wanting to do a completely open-ended narrative game and do something set in a weird town or a weird island and give the player a narrative game that they explore the narrative, but also explore the world.
So it was very specifically inspired by these older Japanese games, more so than, say, Twin Peaks, which inspired Deadly Premonition, or other media?
Smith: Yeah, it was more about [how] I just find them so weird and exciting and interesting because they never came out over here and, you know, who knows what’s in there?
But I also play a lot of, like, Danganronpa and I really like Danganronpa, but it’s very linear. If you don’t pass the right narrative test, the game fails you and restarts you. We just wanted to get rid of all of that and do something that these games are doing, but advance it. Like, push it more to free-form player agency and narrative and story interaction.
Touching on the “letting people decide who they think the murder is” part of the narrative. Is there an actual canonical murderer that you had in mind or is this just completely open-ended?
Smith: One of the things that we are very strict on is the truth of the game. Yes, you come to this island after the murder has taken place and the events of last night are fixed. So you are exploring, rather than the murder happening around you, the murder has happened and anyone that was involved with it has played their part, so that is completely fixed and never changes. We never wanted to trick the player. We never wanted to pull the rug out from under them, so there is a canonical killer and it is up to you to decide who you think that person is because it’s a small island. People were in the right or wrong place at the right or wrong time, so evidence may point to them being involved with it, but they may not be. That’s up for you to interpret and decide.
But what’s important is we never say you got it right or wrong. We only say “yes, you got enough evidence to prove your case.” So you might mistakenly choose to convict the wrong person or you might intentionally do it because you don’t like that person or you want to save one of your friends from being convicted.
Is it set up in a way that you intend for players to convict who they think the actual murderer is during the first playthrough and then explore other options in subsequent playthroughs?
Crabtree: I mean, there’s always a little bit of ambiguity because you can legitimately make a good case for why more than one person might have committed one of the crimes. At the point of conviction, they have to make that choice “was it A or B?” So they might want to explore the alternate routes after that or they might want to explore a really crazy route just to see what happens. We really just want to leave that up to you.
We expect most players will do quite a thorough exploration of the island, get loads of evidence, and take quite a good, wide playthrough and then go to trials. Then, afterwards, they might be interested in saying “well, what happens if I try and get this other evidence that I didn’t find before?” or “what if I attempt to accuse this other person who I had a lot of evidence for, but didn’t make a conviction?” The result of one trial is going to affect the outcome of future ones, so yeah, we expect people to be interested in seeing what happens when you accuse different people of different things.
Smith: And, when you arrive on the island, there is already a prime suspect behind bars. They’ve arrested and imprisoned the person that they are telling you is the killer, a guy called Henry Division, who has been possessed by a demon. He’s locked up and they say “we found him at the scene of the crime, he escaped from prison. We found him at the scene of the crime with the murder weapon. He’s possessed by a demon. This is the guy that did it. Let’s hurry up and get this trial done so we can all move on.”
So you could complete the game in the first half an hour. You could say “yes, I believe everything that I’ve been told in the official version of events. I see no reason to question it” and then go to trial immediately and just accuse the prime suspect. That is a completely legitimate playthrough. But then a full playthrough where you are exploring everything and finding every little bit of evidence and really drilling down into the interrogations could take up to like 20 hours.
All of those, anything in between that, it’s all a legitimate playthrough. We never wanted to create, like, a bad ending or a true ending. Any path you take through the game is legitimate and valid.
Crabtree: Yeah, it’s what’s satisfying, rather than what’s right. [You’ve done a] good job or you’ve done a bad job, depending on what you wanted to do. That’s the way to play it.
So you kind of took a Breath of the Wild approach, then, where you can go straight for the end or you can take the time to do it “right way.”
Crabtree: Yeah, I suppose the difference with, like, Breath of the Wild, is that, if you attempt to go straight to the end—I’ve never actually tried that, but I assume it’s a massive challenge, in order to do it, and maybe even slightly impossible—we allow you through that path if you choose to do that. We don’t put many barriers in your way. You don’t need to be a certain level or anything. You can just progress if that’s what you choose to do.
Going back, you have really interesting character names. How did you decide on those?
Smith: We wanted to do something weird. The weirdness of the world serves two purposes. One is that we just wanted to do something crazy, colorful, explore different types of characters and fashion styles and world styles and art styles, and create something unique, but the other is the problem you have with creating an interactive murder mystery and setting it in the real world is that the more freedom you give players, the more they want from the game in terms of being able to reenact things that they’ve seen on, like, CSI or in murder mystery movies and, like, do DNA checks and perform very specific actions that they think they should be able to do in a crime investigation game. By abstracting it out into a fantasy world, we avoid a lot of those problems.
So that was one of the reasons we wanted to make a fantasy world and then, as soon as we started doing it, we just wanted to make names that were weird and memorable. Some of them kind of just spring from the imagination. Like “Lady Love Dies,” I was brainstorming names for her and that popped into my head. I don’t even know how. Others are, like, I look around my room and see a bunch of different things and then just smash words together until I find something that fits the character. Like “Doctor Doom Jazz,” I was listening to a doom jazz record at the time, so that’s why he got called that.
Crabtree: Quite literal.
But we’ve also got characters like “The Witness to the End,” where that is his job, his role. His role is to be the witness to the end of the island and that seemed like a fun name to have. Why not have such a literal name for him?
Smith: [unintelligible] it’s a mystery for him, as well. What does he do for the rest of his time? If each island exists for several centuries and then his only role is to oversee the end of an island, like, what else is he doing?
I like that level of ambiguity and not explaining things to the player.
On that note, I actually did read that there’s a lot of lore hidden in the world. Is this the kind of thing where, if you spend time exploring the entire world, you’ll basically know everything you could possibly want to know about the world or is it the kind of thing where it just fills in some blanks?
Smith: This is the 24th island and each island exists for, say, several centuries. We haven’t filled in absolutely everything.
The events of this island and some of the real backstory lore to the game, just enough is given to you so [that] you can hopefully get a pretty good idea about the state of the world that these characters inhabit and how time has gone, but not the minutiae of everything. I still wanted there to be a lot of, say, ambiguity and mystery and interpretation.
I think the Assassin’s Creed games do a really good job of taking you somewhere historical and then you find a historical building and you get like two or three paragraphs of text telling you exactly about that building. That’s really cool because you’re learning some real-world history from that.
But we wanted to do something that was more in the player’s head, something that sticks with them, hopefully, and leaves them thinking about the lore and the history and discussing it with other people and having to interpret it. Like Dark Souls does. It doesn’t hand you anything up front. You have to make all of the effort. We’re not quite as obtuse and esoteric as Dark Souls, but there’s plenty to chew on and think about.
Crabtree: Yeah, there’s a lot of power in mystery, isn’t there? Like, if you were told, straight up, some fact. Great, that’s absolved. That’s nice and helpful. But, if you can introduce mystery, it lets you put more of yourself into the world and kind of draws you in and you can make it more of your world. Because we’re so keen on player agency and player respect, having that level of mystery just suits the game better than laying out all of the facts. We want people to be intrigued and try to understand what these islands are, but, if we just told you, it would lose some of that impact.
Plus, I’m sure giving too much information takes away some of the ambiguity surrounding the identity of the murderer.
Smith: Yeah, and it’s also overwhelming. We’ve iterated on the start of the game so many times over the last two years. Because it’s a murder mystery game we’re asking you to come to your own conclusions about and interpret evidence your own way, we have to be very specific with the information and very, very clear with the import bits of information about how the world works in relation to the crime, what this evidence means, how this suspect plays into it. That all has to be super specific and clear for the player. Otherwise, they can have a really bad time.
So all of the supplemental law stuff needs to be less verbose and less concrete so that the player can focus on the more important stuff. Then the lore and the history adds flavor to what’s going on and what the player finds and might cast some of the evidence in a different light. The more lore you know, the better your grasp of the world. You might have some different interpretations of the evidence, but we have to be so clear and so specific about the real gameplay evidence that we have to be careful with the lore.
Have you faced challenges where you think that something is too or not specific enough at times?
Crabtree: There’s always been a bit of that going through. Like, one time, we had a version where it was really quite open and we found that some players were coming to conclusions that were cool and different, but completely not what we expected and not really to the advantage of the game, so we were being a bit too open and vague about the possibilities of the world at that point. That’s been closed up in the last year, 18 months or so.
But Oli’s done a really good job of making sure that, when you find evidence—like, if you find a knife or something—it’s very clear how that relates to the world, relates to the crime. It’s logged in Starlight, your in-game computer, and it’s logged in a very specific way, which means that there’s the right level of ambiguity. So you know what it relates to—and potentially who it relates to, depending on the situation—but its use was clear. We’ve got to make sure that, if you found this thing, there’s enough information for you to say “right, it was involved in this murder in this way” or involved in this crime in this way without being completely open.
Because, if we just had a knife, then it [would be] up to you to say “well, I’m going to apply that to this case and to this character.” You could get yourself in an extremely open and confusing mess where things just didn’t make sense. We have to give you a certain level of guidance, a certain level of information, and that has taken quite a lot of iteration to get to.
Smith: Yeah, once upon a time, we just gave you evidence. There’s been a number of crimes that led up to the crime to end all crimes, the murder, so all of these crimes are split into different case files. In the original version of the game, we just gave you evidence that was deposited in this, like, bucket and then you would have to go and assign it to case files and suspects yourself.
That just became so unwieldy. The game design challenge to make that work is incredibly difficult, but also, on the player’s side, we just asked too much of the player because they don’t know these characters. They don’t know this world. They don’t understand how these different things could relate. So, there, we weren’t being specific enough.
So we came up with some rules for each piece of evidence that it has to be tied, clearly, to a specific case file and it has to be tied, clearly, to a specific suspect. There must always be something in the evidence that you find that gives you a link to a suspect.
When you pick up a piece of evidence, you may not find what that link is on your first pass over finding that evidence, but then you find some other evidence or you get testimony from another suspect that helps you link it. What the game does [is] it updates that information for you. So you store it in your computer, Starlight, your investigation assistant, and Starlight logs it against each suspect and each case file. Then, as things change about that evidence and you uncover more information about it, Starlight updates it for you. So you can very easily see, at a glance, what piece of evidence relates to which suspect and which case file.
We always wanted the player to interpret the evidence, but we were doing it in the wrong way. We were asking the player to do it in a very hands-on, game system way, which was unfair to the player and meant that players would go to the end of the game without a clear picture. Instead, we redesigned a lot of the evidence, so that, while the game categorizes it for you, the player is having to interpret the wider question. Rather than very specific things about where the evidence should go, it’s how it relates to the crime and the suspect overall. So that level of interpretation is still there, but it’s done in a less tangible design way and more in the player’s head.
Crabtree: Yeah, it’s kind of [like] “okay, this knife is related to this crime and I know whose it was, but does that mean that this suspect was actually involved? I need to look at the bigger picture to see, was that circumstantial evidence or is it a key piece in this murder or this crime?”
Smith: We started at a place of “let’s give the player nothing in terms of guidance. Let’s give them bits of evidence that were very cryptically written with dialogue that was very cryptically written and let’s see how they get on” and “terribly” was the answer to that.
The dialogue became much better written, so that it was less cryptic and less kind of weird Twin Peaks-style, Black Lodge-style dialogue and more clear. The evidence was all rewritten to be more clear and understandable.
We originally never wanted to do quest logs, but we discovered that we needed to to help drive the player around this alien world because it’s a world that they’ve never been in. They don’t have any kind of knowledge to fall back on. Like, what if you get this bit of evidence? Where the hell should I go to get more information about it? With all of these weird characters and weird locations in this world, they were very unsure of themselves and have no idea what to do. You kind of just bumble around trying to interact with stuff until you figure it out.
So now, we added investigation notes in your computer. They don’t say “go here. Then go here. Then go here.” If you find a blood splatter, the quest log says something like “I should go and speak to the doctor about this.” That is quite verbose, but it’s not like “I need to do this to do this.”
Some of them are a bit more open, where it’s [like] you find some tire tracks and it will say “whose car is this?” That will push you to do some investigation by yourself and it’s giving you that prod to say “look into this and find the owner of this,” rather than “go here and speak to this person about this.”
Did Starlight always exist as a concept or did it evolve out of a need to give the player more guidance?
Crabtree: Starlight’s always been something we wanted. I think Starlight was in, maybe even the first month or two of dev. In a different way, because the way we handled evidence was different, but we always wanted this character that you traveled with, your companion. Starlight’s role has changed a bit because we’ve introduced other characters and other ways of doing things, but we always wanted it and we always wanted it to be this kind of ‘80s-ish-style computer that interfaced with the world through these jack cables and stuff.
Yeah, Starlight’s something that has somewhat organically grown as the game demanded it.
Smith: But we were very clear at the start that we wanted the player to feel like an investigator and like they were on their own, so we didn’t want Starlight to be this buddy character that explained things to you. There was a while where I thought that we might need to give an animated character, like an animated pixel-like character, on Starlight’s menu and give them a voice, so you’re talking to, like, an AI, but, when you start doing that, it becomes a crutch for your narrative because, if something’s confusing to the player, we’ll just have this all-knowing character voice buddy explain things to you.
Like Johnson in Shadows of the Damned. You’re in a strange world that you’ve never been to, but he’s from there, so he guides you around and tells you all about it. And that’s find because a shooting game, but we always wanted the player to have to do the work themselves and not just be told stuff. But we also didn’t want to have the player worrying about an unreliable narrator, like Bioshock. I didn’t want the player to ever worry about that.
When we did our first round of focus testing, when the game was only partially complete, some people—one person, specifically—said “I think it’s this person, but it was probably the player, right? I bet there’s a twist at the end.” We’ve removed anything that would give the player that idea because we don’t like playing tricks on the player. I think games that do that are kind of just servicing the writer rather than the player. Like, it’s a cool, neat revelation in Bioshock, but it’s like good once and it means, like, “oh, okay, you tricked me because there’s no way that I could know that I wasn’t being tricked. Good work.”
Crabtree: Yeah, it works well in films and TV, where you’re along for the ride, but, when you’re putting a lot of yourself into it and, then, suddenly, the rug gets pulled out from under you and you’re told “actually, we didn’t tell you this critical thing which means you are the victim or you are the culprit.” It’s kind of said “well, I spent all this time investigating and you didn’t tell me the one thing I needed to actually understand this.” It didn’t feel fair and we’ve always wanted to, on top of player agency, respect the player.
What happens if you fail to make your case in court?
Crabtree: It depends on the case. So you open a number of case files as you go through the game, depending on how you play. In some cases, if you present really bad evidence or no evidence, like, if you choose to accuse The Witness to the End and you have absolutely zero evidence to support it, the narrative will play out depending on a number of factors. But, in many cases, it’ll say “well, we’ve got an official version of events. We’ve told you that we’ve got Henry Division behind bars, so, if you can’t give us anything else, we’re going to have to go with that.”
So, in some cases, you’ll find that the court goes with the official version of events that Henry Division kind of takes the fall for whatever that is, but it does depend a little bit on the case file.
So it is possible to get a sort of court “bad ending” where you don’t actually decide who it is.
Smith: Yeah, but the game never comes out and says you got the “bad ending.” The game says you didn’t have enough evidence to prove that anyone else did it. We never say to you “you’ve failed.”
One of the biggest challenges we had was finding a way to let the player express themselves back to the game and the trials are one way that we do that, but there is another way.
Crabtree: We’ve been a bit secretive about it, but there is another way.
Smith: Kind of another bite at it, the trials. It would be really unfair to give the player one shot per case file and then let them not fail, but not get the conviction that they want and have an unsatisfying end. So we never think of things as “bad end” or “good end.” It’s just “how well are we allowing the player to express themselves?”
Crabtree: By the time you reach the end of the game, you should feel like you have at least a version of what you believe is the truth in a satisfying way.
You’re developing an open-world game and it’s a unique one, especially, as you’ve noted, in the Western market. Do you feel that there’s not enough experimentation within the open-world format?
Crabtree: I think yeah. [laughs] I’d say, the more games you play, the more you want to see something different and unique and exciting. I get why you can’t spend millions and millions and millions of dollars on a big AAA game, doing something completely radical, because you have to get investments and they’re big risks, but we feel that we wanted to make this open-world game and we could take those risks and, more importantly, it’s a game that excites us.
Yeah, I always think there’s room for experimentation. No one wants to play the same game over and over again, just with different visuals. You want something new, something different, something exciting, which is why we’ve gone with slightly stranger visuals and this slightly stranger story and we’ve really laid into the freedom. We said “if we’re going to make it nonlinear, it’s going to be properly nonlinear.”
I think, if we were going to quit our jobs and make a game, we were going to make a game that we want to do and we were going to try and push some boundaries somewhere.
Smith: Yeah, I think that open-world games are all based off of the GTA3 template, generally, and there’s not been a lot of advancement in terms of what the player does and why they do it. I think that the base building in Metal Gear Solid V was a genius way of making a lot of the open-world stuff matter and the trust in the player from Breath of the Wild was fantastic. But again, they’re both action open-world games and I think it’s cool seeing all of the racing games go open-world. If a car is fun to drive, it should be fun to drive all of the game, rather than just in races, and that’s really cool.
But I’d really like to see games of all sizes experiment with [going] open world. I don’t think [the] open-world [format] is be all, end all. I’d love to see more linear action games, like you used to get, but I think it’d be very easy to look at more existing concepts and smash them together with an open world and see what falls out of it.
Like [unintelligible] battle royale games. Like, the joke. Certainly, I’d heard the joke. “What about a Tetris battle royale?” And then Tetris 99 comes out and it’s actually amazing.
Crabtree: Yep. [laughs]
Smith: So I think there’s loads of different things that could be done with it, but, if you’re a studio or publisher making a big AAA game, combat is what sells, and that’s fine, but it would be cool to see different styles of open-world, different takes.
Crabtree: I mean, I’d love a more open-world HITMAN, for example. That would be fantastic. I know it’s fairly open now, certainly compared to what it used to be, but one that is like a truly open-world HITMAN where you do get to make all of these decisions that leave imprints on the world would be fantastic.
Smith: I think smaller open worlds would be good as well. Like every open-world game in the AAA space has to be just huge and massive and filled with stuff, but I’d really like to see an open-world Splinter Cell that takes place in, like, one enemy fortress, like Arkham Asylum. That’s kind of open-world and kind of Metroidvania, but that’s a really interesting take on making a lot of gameplay work in a small environment.
Do you also feel that the investigative game format is underutilized at the moment?
Smith: Yeah, I do. I think some of them tell really cool stories. Like, I’m a huge fan of The Silver Case. That’s a good thriller, mystery, serial killer game, but it’s an incredibly linear game that tells a really cool story. And then stuff like Danganronpa, they give you the illusion of agency in there and then, when you get to trial, you have to get the right answer at the right time, otherwise you fail and restart.
I think games are unique in their ability to let the player express themselves and interact with the world and the story, so why not do more story interacting, rather than storytelling. I think, you know, some games do storytelling very well and that’s great, but, especially in a genre where you’re asking the player to come up with their own answers—even movies, murder mystery movies or TV, do the same. You’re always guessing all the way through about who you think did it. It’s just that that’s a non-interactive medium, so it’s okay for it to be a linear reveal at the end, but I think that, [in] investigative games, there’s a lot of potential for player agency and nonlinearity that isn’t being explored.
Because it’s difficult. Some of the stuff we’ve done in this game has been a nightmare.
It sounds like the easiest thing in the world. “Oh, we just let the player accuse whoever they want.” Okay, well, what systems support that and what information does the player need and how does the game parse what the game is saying to it and give back a satisfying answer without it being succeed or fail?
So it is incredibly difficult and one of the reasons [that] we’ve managed to achieve what we have in this game is because we abstracted a bunch of stuff out. When you go and speak to a character, you get taken to a menu and then you choose which case file to speak to them about and then which particular thing about this case file you wish to speak to them about. And that’s abstracted away in a menu, but doing that in a more realistic environment, you would need a more naturalistic conversation solution, but that comes with so much work.
Crabtree: And we did actually try that originally, didn’t we? [In] one of our first versions, we didn’t have this very direct route to the question, but it got you lost. There were so many possibilities and it was very difficult to narrow in on the information you wanted to find, so we had to abstract it out in order to make it a more satisfying experience.
Smith: Yeah, in the original version, each character had one dialogue file and then, when you spoke to them, the game would try to work out what you might want to speak to them about based on the most recent evidence you found and then kind of put you in at the right point in the dialogue and then try and make sense of that in this big dialogue.
So we binned all of that off and I think we’ve got about 500 different dialogue files in the game now, just so that we can manage it and it seems sensible to the player.
Crabtree: That system did kind of work, but, as the game grew, it was becoming more and more obvious that you approached a character and it was very easy to be given information that might be useful, but it’s not what you were thinking about at that time. So, if you were specifically trying to solve a certain crime, you had to go through other stuff to get there and you lost your train of thought.
It just didn’t feel very natural. Although we were going for a more natural system, where you would speak to a character and they’d give you information, it didn’t feel very natural because you’re an investigator. As an investigator, you go up to someone and say “tell me what you know about this,” not let them lead the conversation, which is what it was before. Now you lead the conversation.
So it’s the difference between way too much freedom, way too little freedom, and finding a way to let players ask the questions that they need to when they need to.
Smith: Yeah, like giving the player too much freedom in a freedom-based game is actually just a negative because it becomes confusing and overwhelming. Splitting the difference and giving them the freedom to pursue their goals, like really drill into the essence of what the player is trying to do, rather than let them do anything at all times. Like drill into what they would want to be doing and then give them appropriate options for that.
All of this evidence is lore is all in our heads and we know it inside out. When we see a piece of evidence in the game, we know exactly our interpretation of it that we have, the author’s interpretation of it, but some players might not have come to those same conclusions. They might not understand what’s going on. By letting you choose what to talk about when, in a more specific way, the game can give you a little bit of a helping hand sometimes.
Especially in the trials. You might not have an absolutely clear picture of the timeline of events of this one character in this crime, but the trial is not about you explaining every little bit of detail. It’s about presenting the evidence you’ve got and then the player character and the judge character can help talk through, in quite a natural way, the implications of the evidence.
We expect all players to have got either 100% or 90% of the way there, in terms of their understanding, but, for the player that have got that 90% of the way there, the judge and some of the other dialogue as you talk to people in the game, get you that other 10% of the way there. We ask the player to do quite a lot of mental heavy lifting throughout the game. Then, in some of the dialogue, we give you a helping hand.
[We’re] not telling you the answer. In order to access this dialogue, you’ve got to have done the work yourself. But then, [we] just give you a helping hand to ease your understanding.
Even before we talked, I noticed that a lot of work had gone into the setting. If Paradise Killer is successful, do you think that you’re going to revisit this setting in other games?
Crabtree: We’ve talked about ideas.
Smith: There’s a weird dichotomy here because I believe that, whenever you set out to do something, you should always do it as if it’s the only chance you’re ever going to get to do it. Combine that with a game where anyone could be guilty or innocent [and] it’s very difficult to do a sequel when there might not be any returning characters because you could have found an awful lot of different people guilty of different things and we have no way of guaranteeing that we could read your save data and we have no good way of making that a really good story without an insane amount of branching content.
But that said, we specifically wanted to make the end of the game very satisfying and not try to protect any of the characters to let you have full agency and full impact on the world, but this is a series of islands. You’re on the 24th island and all of these characters are immortal. So it gives us some chances to go back in time or skip ahead in time and go to these different islands.
If we were to do a prequel, we could do “what do these characters look like before this first game?” If we did something after, we’d have to do some pretty major narrative thinking about that.
Crabtree: It’s one of these things that we’ve obviously looked at this game day in, day out for the last two years or so and, obviously, it’s changed a lot, but we do both like the setting and I think there are options used to return to it or similar. But like we said before, we need to respect the player and so we really need to carefully think about how anything we do fits into the whole lore of the story. Like, we don’t want to just go and slap a bit of DLC which can break it just for the sake of making it. It’s got to be a good, complete sequel or prequel that respects everything.
Smith: [We had a bunch of] ideas before working on this and all of them, when we started doing the lore, the story of each game was kind of all born from a similar idea. So there is kind of like a paradise universe in our heads of different games. Like there is an action game we’d like to make. There is a driving game we’d like to make. There is a top-down shooter we might, probably, definitely won’t make.
They all take place in the same universe, but they’re all very different games. There’s a good cast of characters and characters that haven’t been in this game could be in the other games. We can use [them] in different ways.
I would definitely like to return to paradise after this, but it might be in a different form.
Crabtree: We’ve always said, as well, that one thing we want to develop, if we’re able, is to have games that are our studio’s style. So, whilst it might not return to paradise or something, it would still [have] the same core concepts behind it. So we still give player agency. We still give all the player respect.
So whilst it might be visually different, stylistically, in terms of the core design pillars, I think that’s something we’d want to persist where we can, but it does depend on what those games happen to be.
We want to evolve and make games that are interesting, which, if we’re still going in 10 years’ time, those games might be very different to what we imagine they’ll be right now.