Adventure Gamers Awards
Ingmar Böke: The concept for We. The Revolution, which is currently being developed by Polish studio Polyslash, sounds quite fascinating. Please describe it in your own words.
Lukasz Jozefowicz: The player plays a judge, who starts off as a minor judge before the French Revolution, but when things blow up, you’re actually called to become this powerful judge. At first, you and your character pretty much just want to survive in those times because you don’t really know who your friends and enemies are, and people are getting backstabbed all the time. But as you play, you will learn that the more power you have, there’s more you can achieve, but you’re also becoming more of a target. We like to call We. The Revolution an adventure game because that’s a broad term, and we can put a lot of things into it.
Ingmar: Let’s talk about some of the different types of gameplay involved.
Lukasz: The main gameplay revolves around three things: One is case-building because during your trials you will assess the evidence, you will manually question and listen to the testimony of the accused, and then you will pass a sentence. It’s up to you whether you want to sentence someone to die, send them to prison or set them free. You will have to take the opinion of the jury and the people into account, though, and you will have to maneuver between the expectations of those fighting for power in Paris at the time.
But you will have the tools to influence other people. As you’re looking at the evidence, you’re connecting the dots, so to speak. You’ll unlock different lines of questioning, and you can see what a given kind of questioning will do to a given case. You may focus on just one aspect of the case, and completely omit the other, which can change the public’s opinion of the accused the way you want it to. In a way, truth doesn’t matter, it matters what you want to do. You can, of course, follow the law the way it was written. I mean, in those times if somebody stole an apple you probably wouldn’t want to send that person to death, right? (everyone laughs)
Ingmar: Not really!
Lukasz: There is a codex and there are rules, but they will change all the time because the revolution was a dynamic thing, and there were new developments constantly; leaders were getting killed off, being replaced by new leaders with different ideologies. So, you can either follow the current rules or maybe do what you feel is right as a contemporary person, and sure, you can manipulate the trials a little bit to do that. But then, also, you might just want to set yourself up politically. For example, the accused actually murdered someone, and it wasn’t self-defense, but this person has some political friends and you may want them to have your back. Then it would be beneficial for you to let someone like that go free. This is not right by the letter of the law, but it will be good for you when it comes to building your own power base.
As you end your day at court, you have kind of an adventure mode where you can take part in different events and make some choices – sometimes it’s text-based, sometimes it’s more like cutscenes. You can have conversations with people. For example, in the demo, there is this group that wants your support. You can promise them your support if you want, and then you’ve got to write a letter of support, which happens as kind of a minigame where you’ve got to compose three parts of a letter. You can do anything with it! You can start with humility, and then move to some aggressiveness or dismissiveness or a joke, or you can go aggressive throughout.
When you craft a letter that you like, and that you think might be effective, the third gameplay element is deployed, which is kind of turn-based. There are things that you can’t do yourself, so you have agents in the city that will do it for you, and who will help you to expand your influence. You have a map of Paris, and you have your agents; each agent can only receive one order per day, and each day consists of the three parts: courtroom, conversations/events and the agents’ direction. This is the core gameplay.
Ingmar: How did you approach the court cases?
Lukasz: It was interesting when we did research on how the justice system worked back then. You could basically be accused of anything without any evidence, then the judge would look at you, ask you a few questions, and decide whether you’re going to die or whether you’ll be set free, but there was nothing in between. For one, we just decided that’s ridiculous: you need to have something to base your opinion on, you’ll need to have some testimonies, and you’ll need to be able to question witnesses as well as the accused. So this diverts from history a little bit, but it makes for better gameplay.
Secondly, we have added the prison sentence. We discovered that, basically, being given an option to kill someone or let them go is not fun. For a game, it’s just not good or right because you feel like you’re being pushed to do something you don’t want to do. Prison gives you a bit of leeway when you feel like, “well, yeah, he’s guilty, but should he really die for this particular crime?” You will be presented with evidence, but also, sometimes during cases you’ll receive notes from your agents who are working for you behind the scenes. Maybe you’ll get, like, an update to an event you were a part of previously or you’ll get to know something that’s going on in the city, so you can make some decisions during trials, and you’re constantly getting things done.
Ingmar: It seems like we’re going to have quite a bit of influence on the way events play out. How close to history is the game going to be?
Lukasz: Although the game is set in a historical setting, and you’ll meet historical characters and be thrown into historical events, I wouldn’t strictly call it a historical game. We want your decisions to have an impact on your surroundings, on your family, and on the people you meet, so the longer you play, the more the game diverges from history. We kind of focused more on the atmosphere, what the French Revolution was about, and what it was like to be a political operator at the time. You could not say no to a proposal like this, being a judge at the revolutionary tribunal, you just had to accept it because everybody had to be a revolutionary at the time, right? Otherwise you were associated with the bourgeoisie, and you don’t want that. We want you to feel that, we want you to feel unsure, and a little trapped in this terrible world because there was no escaping the terror. You just had to live day by day, and that’s what we focus more on.
Ingmar: You mentioned that we’ll also have an impact on the judge’s family. How important is the aspect of family and the judge’s private life going to be?
Lukasz: As with every other aspect of the game, it’s up to the player to decide. There are many facets of the judge’s life and career, and each of them can be treated as our number one priority. Sure, you can focus on your political career, using your position as the judge only as means of securing your political power. That will probably make you a poor jurist, but if the player decides that’s not their goal, it won’t really matter. It’s the same with the family life aspect. You’ll be able to focus on that and play to achieve your goals in that particular area, rather than others. Securing your family’s wealth, safety, and maintaining harmonious relationships with your loved ones can just as easily be the main motivation to play.
Ingmar: Your flyer says that We. The Revolution is going to contain more than 100 court cases. How long is one single case going to be, and how many of them are we going to see in one playthrough?
Lukasz: It depends. Just related to the court cases, not an entire day, I would say the cases take between 5-15 minutes. It’s a reasonably long game, and our plan is that you will see around 90 in one playthrough. They’re not randomly generated; they’re randomly kind of picked up from a pool of pre-made court cases. You’ll not be facing the same order of cases all of the time, so it’s not only that you get different cases at a different point in your gameplay, but also your standing with factions and your standing with people will be different at different points of the game. So, if you have the same case but at a different point, you’ll be at a different spot, and you’ll have to approach the case a bit differently. I cannot say that the game will be entirely different during a second playthrough, but you’ll have to adapt!
Ingmar: On what platforms is We. The Revolution going to be released?
Lukasz: For 100% it’s going to be released on PC, Mac, and Linux. When it comes to consoles we’re not saying no, and we’re looking into that very strongly because we would like to do that simultaneously. We. The Revolution could be good for mobile devices, but the truth is that we do not feel good in this environment as we don’t have the experience; we are experienced with consoles and PCs.
Ingmar: What can you say about the release date?
Lukasz: The game will launch in 2018, but we don’t know exactly when. As of now, we’re aiming for a September release.
This shared article also appears on the German website Adventure Corner. The preview by Peter Färberböck has been translated and reprinted here with permission.