Ingmar: What particular obstacles arise from developing a split-screen game?
Josef: I didn’t realize how hard it was to make a split-screen co-op game. If you look at why people don’t do it so much today, just to render two screens at the same time is crazy. Also, from a design perspective, how do you pace the players? What do you do when one player is here? Where is the other player going to stand? We can’t make any cuts because then the other player can look at you, etc. There were a lot of challenges I didn’t really expect. There hasn’t really been a split-screen story game like this before. You know, you have games with split-screen like Gears of War or Resident Evil, but they pretty much have the same mechanic over and over. Here it’s like, sometimes one character has a cut-scene, we have story moments, story chapters; it’s like a full-fledged story experience told in split-screen, and it’s hard to figure everything out, but it’s a lot of fun as well. I truly believe that when you play A Way Out, you’ll experience something that you haven’t experienced before.
Ingmar: What different types of interactive elements does A Way Out have?
Josef: A lot of stuff! I mean, there’s both a huge variety of game mechanics, and you can interact with a lot of different stuff. You can work out, you can play darts, you can play basketball, you can play a lot of mini-games. It’s set in the ‘70s, so you can even play an arcade game. There’s a lot of stuff, and it’s crazy how much we packed in there. From a production perspective, we have a shooting mechanic – regular third-person cover and everything – but we only use it pretty much once in the game because that’s where it makes sense. You know how sometimes a developer can say, “we have done this mechanic, we have to use it a lot,” but I don’t see it that way even though we have done the mechanic. I’d rather have a game that feels fresh and unique instead of doing the same thing. Also, I have no problem with the length of games. A game can be one hour or a hundred hours, but I feel sometimes that when games are very long, it’s impossible for them not to be repetitive, and that takes me away from the experience. I’d rather have a shorter diverse game than a longer repetitive game.
Ingmar: Right, I remember reading that you said something about Brothers, which was along the lines of, “it’s just as long as it needs to be,” and that was exactly what I felt when I played it.
Josef: Exactly! It’s the same with A Way Out. It’s a way longer game than Brothers, but it’s definitely as long as it needs to be. It’s almost like it tells you how long it wants to be, you know?
Ingmar: On A Way Out, you’re once again collaborating with your brother Fares, who is doing very well as an actor.
Josef: Yeah! He’s in L.A. now. He’s going to be in Westworld; he got a big part there.
Ingmar: That’s awesome! It was also very cool to see his cameo in the last Star Wars movie Rogue One. I recognized him right away.
Josef: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah! That was really nice!
Ingmar: So the face of one of the protagonists in A Way Out belongs to your brother. Please tell me a bit more about his involvement.
It's no coincidence that one of A Way Out's protagonists looks like Josef's brother Fares
Josef: Right, it’s him, and it’s his voice! He doesn’t make video games, but he loves them. He has a PS4, an Xbox One, a Nintendo Switch, a PC, he is a gamer! He’s very much into dig-deep RPGs, while I’m more into adventure-type RPGS like Zelda, but we kind of like similar games except for that. So, yeah, he is a huge gamer, so for him this is a lot of fun. I mean, one of the reasons I have him in A Way Out is also because we have a very limited budget. When we announced A Way Out, I think people looked at it like, “oh, it’s EA, okay!”, but let me tell you, I think we’re breaking some kind of a world record with what we’re doing here. We’re doing everything in-house; we started out with 12 people, and people are actually comparing us to Naughty Dog and Uncharted. If you knew the differences between their big budget and ours, it’s crazy, I’m telling you. We’re doing everything – we’re even cleaning our own mo-cap data; we can’t afford to outsource anything. Sure, EA supports us; we’re getting a lot of help from them when it comes to the attention on press conferences and stuff like that, of course, but we’re doing everything on the game itself. I’m doing all the mo-cap stuff, I’m running around with a mo-cap suit. You do what you have to do to make it, you know, and I’m very happy with it!
Ingmar: What can you say about the estimated release timeframe?
Josef: It’s going to be early 2018 for sure. It’s not gonna be later than that, guaranteed! It’s not so far away; we’re working our asses off here. Every minute is precious time. Right now, we’re trying to take away all the bugs, and let me tell you, I get surprised that games even come out today. It’s crazy. Just think of something like Grand Theft Auto 5; I mean, “oh my god”! (both laugh) Or the Rocksteady games. Ok, they’re not bug-free, but they’re very polished for an open world with so much stuff going on. I mean, in these games you have the NPCs reacting in audio to what you’re doing in the story.
Ingmar: Yeah, it’ pretty insane!
Josef: It is insane! Imagine that someone has to write that, someone has to record that, someone has to make a system for that, and on top of that, you have to take care of all the bugs on all the consoles and on the PC; it’s a huge amount of work, it’s crazy! (laughs) I know that some people said after we showed A Way Out, “hey, why doesn’t Uncharted do split-screen if [A Way Out] can do it?” If you’re gonna make a new Uncharted in split-screen, I can guarantee that you’ll have to start from zero again to make it. There is so much stuff you can’t do if you’re going to make Uncharted with split-screen. If you understand how to make games, you will see what they do, and what they can do because it’s not split-screen. I’m not saying it’s a game that can’t be made; I’m just saying that it’s way harder than you think just to split it up. I mean, some people might think you just type split-screen, and it happens. (both laugh)
Ingmar: Well, that would be pretty awesome!
Josef: Trust me, the developers would be the happiest ones! Sometimes you hear gamers say stuff, and you’re like, “oh my god, if they only knew.” (laughs) But that’s also what’s fun with it. I mean, I love making games!Continued on the next page...