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Outriders is a game its creators will hope is perfectly poised to gain a lot of attention.
With the PS5 and Series X now experiencing the typical post-launch lull, players are eagerly looking for something new to get their teeth stuck into. With a demo launching today, Square Enix and developer People Can Fly will be hoping that Outriders will be just the solution.
After suffering numerous delays, the drop-in drop-out co-op shooter could be the ideal game to fill the void, and while players will have to wait until April 1 to get the finished product, the fact that demo progress carries over to the full game means today is essentially a (very) soft launch.
We sat down with Game Director Bartosz Kmita and Lead Designer Piotr Nowakowski to discuss their thoughts on what it’s been like developing during a pandemic, whether the game will be suitable for single-player gamers and how they’re feeling about the public getting their hands on the game today.
A lot of people still associate People Can Fly with Bulletstorm, because it was such a success and a well-loved game. Does having an association with a game like that help with Outriders because you already have an established following, or is it a problem because people may be expecting something over-the-top, rather than the more serious adventure Outriders seems to be?
BK: There are pros and cons. On one hand, it helps because people are more familiar with our company so they know what we can do, and if they like the game we made before then maybe they’ll approach this one hoping they’ll like it too. So maybe it’s better for us because we already have fans who know about us.
But on the other hand, you’re right, maybe they’re expecting something else from our game because we’re trying something new here, we’re changing the mood, changing the tone. I think we’re going more mature right now, more dark, more serious: not in every way, but the overall tone I think is more grown-up.
So maybe they’ll be surprised by it, but I doubt that they will be, “ohhhh nooooo” because of [what they expect from] this company. They would have to basically look at this as a new project, a new IP, because it’s not a Bulletstorm 2.
Obviously making a game with a scale as large as this would be a logistical challenge at the best of times, but during a global pandemic that’s presumably been even more difficult?
BK: You know, you’re right, it’s a very big and very complex system so even without a pandemic it would be challenging to figure out. And then the pandemic appeared.
I usually answer this question with “no, we went quite smoothly,” and that’s how I feel, with [the move from] working from office to home, that everything went quite well. But on the other hand, we postponed the [release] date so maybe we missed some [targets] here and there (laughs).
So it’s made some problems for us but otherwise, the pandemic… it’s difficult for other parts of normal life but for our game development process it wasn’t so scary, because we have different offices in the world, we have the pipelines, we have the systems to work remotely together, so basically we went up to a bigger scale, and it fit. So, yeah. Overall we are lucky that we had the possibility to move from office to home, because not everyone has that luxury.
And also you’ve got the fact that it was being developed on PS5, Series X and Series S. Did that throw extra complications into the mix, considering you’re not only working from home but working on new hardware too?
BK: Oh yeah, that’s for sure. That’s been a nightmare for our tech team, and the QA team, and everyone who’s involved, basically, in shipping the game to all platforms.
As you’ve been seeing recently, not everyone is shipping on all five platforms at the same moment, so it’s been a very challenging process, very hard. But somehow we decided “okay, let’s do this properly, let’s try,” and I think we will succeed and everything will be okay.
About a year ago, right before the pandemic hit, a bunch of streamers were invited over to check out the game. How much do you feel the game has changed or improved in the year since that event?
BK: No overhauls, it’s been a lot of iteration, a lot of polish, a lot of adjusting things rather than doing something from scratch. Of course we’ve added some features and added new things to the game, but overall as we get later in production the less visible the changes are, but the more significant they are.
So maybe it’ll be hard to notice what’s changed [since then], but overall enjoyment and satisfaction will be bigger because there have been so many smaller elements that have been changing over time, and the sum of them is basically a better product, a better game, and the player will feel it.
I think if someone looked at screens or something they’d say “ah, nothing’s changed here”, but overall I think the gameplay is a lot better.
You’ve said in the past that you don’t consider Outriders to be a live service game, but with the four character classes available then presumably the hope is still that players will want to play through this game numerous times?
BK: Well, we hope that people enjoy the game and will stay not only for the main story but will also experience the side-quests so they can find out more about what’s really happening to the environment. When they finish the story we will have plenty of activities in the endgame content so we hope that they’ll be playing these.
But we know that there are different players who will have different approaches to the game. Some will create a new character before they reach the endgame to check all of [the classes], some people will prefer to have only one character and maximise them as much as possible with the best gear. So it depends on the player, they’ll experience different endgames.
But even though we aren’t making the game a live service – we’re giving you the full package – if we see that people are enjoying the game and they want to stay in the game more, we are more than happy to produce more content to create more stories and activities for the players.
You’ve previously said that the game can be completed solo. It certainly seems like you want the game to primarily be played in co-op, but will those playing solo have a less entertaining experience, or could it be played through in its entirety as a single-player experience and will they enjoy it regardless?
BK: You know, our big inspiration at the beginning was Diablo-like games, and we have a similar situation to those. [In those games] you can enjoy it solo, or you can play it with your friends, and I think here with our game it’s the same.
We are not forcing it: we don’t have any mechanics where there has to be, let’s say, a ‘holy trinity’ to pass some content, we’re not doing this.
We are encouraging players to play in co-op because overall we feel playing with friends is more enjoyable than playing solo – for some – but we’re not forcing anyone. Even when you’re playing co-op, we’re not forcing you to play co-op in a certain way, because you will build your team and you will build your characters.
But to answer your question simply, yes, it’s possible to play everything solo and enjoy the game.
It’s interesting that the game only supports three players but there are four character classes to choose from. What was the thinking behind that?
PN: It’s partially on purpose, to force that situation where you’re considering “okay, what’s the best combination?”. Because there’s no obvious solution as to which three classes you need to take in the trio. There’s also no obvious solution in who to take with two players, and the same with single-player: there’s no single class that [makes you think] “okay, that’s the class that fits the best or is the most powerful, etc”.
So we partially made that on purpose, to encourage players to experiment, and to give them that freedom of experimentation, so that if you’re playing with three people there’s not a single solution where you’re just splitting the classes between you.
So it’s basically to give everyone a choice? Because if there were four players and four classes then the fourth player would be stuck with whatever was left and would have no real decision to make?
BK: Yeah. If we had additional classes, let’s say, 200 classes, you would still be playing with three people (laughs). And your choice would be harder.
PN: Just going back to comparing the multiplayer to Diablo, I would say it’s pushed a little bit further, because while there are mechanics where you may benefit from multiplayer, as Bartok mentioned, in single player you will still have a full experience and you will still play with all the mechanics. We are the type of players who like to play solo, so it was super important for us to not make a game that works in multiplayer but is just not the full experience in solo: definitely not.
The demo is launching tomorrow. How are you feeling about it? Are you excited that a lot of players will finally get their hands on it, or are you nervous because the internet is the internet and there will inevitably be some negativity?
PN: Excited, definitely.
BK: Yeah, excited. We are confident with our game, we’re proud of it, we know that it’s cool and it’s a great experience.
Of course, you are right about the internet and some people, and we know there are some people who won’t enjoy it or decide maybe it’s not the game for them, so there will of course be negative comments.
But overall we are happy with what we have and that’s why we’re releasing the demo, because we are convinced that we want to show it to people and say: “Okay, here is the game, look at this. If you like it, buy it and play more. If you don’t like it, it’s not a game for you.”
But that’s our old-school approach: the demo should be presented for people to basically make the decision before they buy it.