Tivemos o prazer de falar com um dos membros da Atomic Wolf acerca do seu jogo Liberated, que está já disponível na Nintendo Switch:
What were the inspirations for “Liberated”, what made you think “This is what we want to do next”?
It started with the story we wanted to tell, which is a story of contrasts: free will vs. obedience, convenience vs. ambition, security vs. freedom. We’ve entered the cyberpunk era, a new digital world which we created and which has started to take control of the ‘real world’. Big data and the processing power, and the omnipresence of the internet made it possible for the algorithms to know us better than we do. This gave others the power to hack us, humans. To not only change our minds, but also behavior.
But that’s not all. One of the main topics of the contemporary world is privacy vs security. The pandemic times gives the best example – would you install the tracking app to help fight the disease and be more secure? We wanted to ask these questions about privacy vs security because we think it’s important to answer them before someone does that for us.
Visually, we’ve been inspired by Alan Moore’s and Frank Miller’s comics, but also Will Eisner’s old school stories like The Spirit. As for other media, we watched cyberpunk movies portraying (more or less futuristic) cities, like Blade Runner or Strange Days, or hacker stories like Mr. Robot, to mention just a few. There’s also the heavy influence of classic noir crime dramas and black-and-white sci-fi. From the obvious ones (Metropolis, The Maltese Falcon) to the less obvious (The Twilight Zone, for example).
Could you explain what is Liberated and what it is about?
Liberated is an action-adventure game about a revolution in a cyberpunk world. When everyone’s under constant surveillance and worth only as much as their Citizen Credit System score, some people won’t stand for it, and you get a chance to join them. Our game takes place on the pages of digital comic book hand-drawn in a unique tech-noir style.
The game has some clear influences in many of its features, the use of the comics as the player progresses was most famously used in Comix Zone but you went for a Noir graphic novel in black and white. Almost like if we were transported to Sin City. Did you think that this ambience would be better to drive the story?
It started with the story we wanted to tell, which is a story of contrasts: free will vs. obedience, convenience vs. ambition, security vs. freedom. We knew it would work best as a noir tale. Since we love comics, and seeing as not many games truly embraced the medium, we designed the Playable Graphic Novel framework. And to the fullest, so you can almost smell the paper. While other cyberpunk games are full of colorful neons, we chose the classic black-and-white. Because, just like in a noir crime drama, we avoid a clear distinction between good and evil. We touch upon important subjects from multiple perspectives and leave the interpretation to the player.
Speaking of the story, you say in the game that it will have different perspectives, does this mean that we will be playing with different characters? Will it be individual stories in the same world or will it be a full arc over them all?
Yes. The game is divided into the 4 issues of comic book, each with a different perspective. You’ll have a chance to explore our game from the perspective of different playable characters. It’s a continuous story, but presented from different perspectives.
What were the greatest difficulties working on the game, what challenges gave you the biggest headaches?
The biggest challenge was the pacing. Comics are a surprisingly dynamic medium. You never linger too long on a single panel, you keep moving and moving from one to another. Comics are fast. So, we couldn’t have long stretches of either gameplay or story. You play for a couple of minutes, read, play, read, play–it’s a moving affair, far from traditional video game design. We took some inspiration from cinematic platformers which often mix gameplay with story elements. The game is also technically more complex than it might seem. There are many things going on under the hood. What you see is gameplay within a comic page, but the comic view, the page view, the panel view are three completely different aspects. Making them work together required three separate cameras to work simultaneously. There are many more technical tricks applied to make you feel like you’re interacting with a ‘genuine’ graphic novel.
What do you consider to be the best selling points for Liberated? What sets it apart from the other games?
Definitely the concept of the comic book action game and the art style. These are the first things people see when they come across Liberated. You don’t often get a chance to see a cyberpunk world presented like a noir crime drama. And within a game that’s also a graphic novel.
You received over 15 awards in 2019, from Indiecade, Famitsu, Tokyo Game Show and others. Were you expecting to get so much praise for the game?
Well, we hoped that people would like it, and we were super happy when we got awarded, but I don’t think any indie studio expects to be praised. We were doing something relatively experimental. There’s no DIY about making a mashup of two different mediums: video games and comics, so we had to trust our intuition.
We didn’t know how gamers and critics would react to this new formula, and what we are seeing now is very interesting. There are reviewers who praise the story but would rather have less action, and some who really dig the action and want more. But I believe this shows that it’s an interesting direction, worth exploring further!
Hopefully the game will launch with great success, and the fans will be anxious to get their hands on the second volume, as production started already? Is there any idea of when to expect it?
Right now, we are in the post-launch stage. We are reading reviews and finishing the production of the patch that will correct the most burning issues.
We have some things planned for the future. You should hear our announcements soon. We hope that you will like them.