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A Remedy Fan’s Speculation on How Quantum Break’s TV Series Should Be Presented (Part 2: Presentation Options) August 18, 2015

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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Welcome back everyone.  If you’re just joining us, we’ve been speculating about the incredible options and technical hurdles that are in store for Remedy Entertainment as they prepare for the release of the Xbox One exclusive title Quantum Break early next year.  In the last part of this editorial series, we spent some time talking about the technical complications that can come up if you’re planning to release a video game with an entire live-action television series integrated with it.  If you haven’t read it or would like to reread it, you can read that article here.  Today, we’re going to be talking about all of the different ways this game’s television series might be presented to us, and believe me there are actually a lot of options.  So, grab some popcorn and relax on the couch, we’re going to be talking about some pretty fun ways you might be able to watch Quantum Break’s live-action series when the game is released.

Since the game was announced alongside the Xbox One’s reveal back in 2013, I’ve heard a lot of theories about all of the ways the developers could present the game’s live-action television series, including some pretty fun ones.  Right now, I want to focus strictly on three possible options I can foresee being used to present the series to the game’s players.  Before we start talking about them, I just want to make a small disclaimer right here.  This is by no means a complete list, nor do I think that Remedy is under any obligation to construct their game using any of the options that I am speculating about.  This is just a fun thought exercise for me, and if you have any ideas of your own that you’d like to contribute, I want all of you to feel free to do so using the comments section at the bottom of the screen.

I cannot tell you how many games I’ve played through while I was growing up where simply finishing the game’s story was my sole motivation.  Many nights in my youth I would force myself to stay up late and complete a difficult level just so I could watch the next cutscene and discover what happens next in the story.  I’m sure avid book readers who find themselves reading something so interesting that they are unable to put their books down have had similar moments, but that’s how I feel when I’m playing a good game.  This has the side effect of making the FMV sequences feel like a bit of a mini-reward for your hard work in completing the previous section of the game.  Apparently I wasn’t alone with these feelings, I’ve heard similar comments from JRPG enthusiasts who felt the exact same way I did when playing through Final Fantasy games.

So how can Remedy best present their story to the player?  First off, let’s get the most obvious presentation option out of the way, and that is to simply launch specific episodes of the live-action series at predetermined interludes during the game.  Imagine it would play out like this: you would finish a level or accomplish a specific mission goal, the game would fade out and a specific episode of the live-action series would start.  During the episode you could be prompted to make several decisions until the episode concluded, and once the episode came to its end you would be brought back into the game.  I know that Remedy is planning to tell the TV series from a different character’s perspective, but I know for a fact that they are masterful at story organization so I trust them completely to best know which episodes to play at which points in the game.  The only downside of this option that I can think of is that we just don’t know how long Quantum Break’s episodes are going to be, and because of that we don’t know how long players could theoretically have to wait before the episode ended and brought the player back into the game.  Granted I’m sure anyone who played Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of the Patriots or Metal Gear Solid 4: Sons of Liberty probably wondered the same thing, but I’ll be talking about that more at a later time.  Personally I think this option, while simple and straightforward, has a lot of positives going for it and I totally welcome the option of taking a break from gameplay and grabbing some popcorn between levels to watch an episode.

The second option is to keep your game strictly a game the entire time you’re playing it and have the episodes unlock in the background after reaching certain levels or earning specific achievements in the game. In this case the episodes can unlock just as they would in the first option, but all you’d simply get is an on-screen notification about it in the same manor you would get an achievement or friend request, and you wouldn’t be taken out of the game or be required to watch it until later.  This could help make players who are solely interested in playing Quantum Break as an action game happy and keep an even tone throughout the game.  Episodes would still unlock as if they were a reward, but they would be watched completely by the player’s choice, since the player would have the option to continue progressing in the game until they decided to take a break and quit to a main menu.  I know there are a lot of players who would prefer this option, they’re the same players who push X every time a cutscene starts up just so they can skip it and get back to the action.  While this option has several positives, there are also several negatives as well.  The first downside of this option is that if a player ignores the game’s series, they won’t be able to make choices which could only come up during the show, and those choices will not affect the later portions of their game.  Remedy has mentioned that they will have specific set pieces during gameplay happen differently depending on the choices the player makes during the live-action show.  For example, in one scene you could have to fight your way across the bridge.  If you had been watching the series, there might be a protest on that bridge.  By making the show optional, you are depriving the player of fully experiencing their game and all of the different events that could happen.  To me personally, it would also break the game’s narrative flow if I constantly had to quit my game to the main menu every time I got a new episode notification.

The third option was inspired by information I read in various interviews that Remedy has done, and I think they’ve been seriously considering this option for a while as a secondary option for gamers.  It works like this: once an episode is unlocked during gameplay you could choose to either watch or skip it of your own free will, but if the reason why you’re skipping it is because you don’t have the time or ability to watch the show on your Xbox One, you could still watch the episode on the go by to streaming the show on a portable device like an iPhone or Droid.  This Quantum Break TV on the Go option would be possible through a specific app you would have to install on your mobile device, which could be either Xbox SmartGlass or some other dedicated app.  Theoretically this would probably also work on the PC as well if you were using Windows 10.  I  would consider this an alternate option for players to view the series, so I’m not going to really weigh in very heavily on the pros and cons of it.  I mean, first off it would be a really useful option for gamers constantly on the go, players who would like to rewatch the series, and people who can’t boot up their Xbox One because someone else is using the TV its connected to.  It’s also very possible for Remedy to create a dedicated mobile app for Quantum Break.  Since Death Rally was released on iOS a few years ago, Remedy created a huge smartphone presence.  They already employ dedicated phone programmers to work on games like Agents of Storm, so they certainly have the knowledge, experience and assets to create a dedicated Quantum Break app if they want.  There are a few downsides I can think about, and most of them revolve around added development time, but the game has an established release date, so if they were going to go that route, it wouldn’t add any more development time then they’ve already used.

So, those are some of my options for how Quantum Break’s live-action television series could be presented.  If it is presented right, the video portions of the game’s highly-anticipated television series could start a whole new movement for video games.  Obviously, Remedy is under no obligation to take any of the design routes that I have speculated over, but I do have one big request: Remedy, PLEASE INCLUDE A CUTSCENE VIEWER in the game’s main menu so players can rewatch previously unlocked episodes!  This would be a great feature that could be used to easily show off all of your hard work to gamers who haven’t played it yet.  Personally, I’d love to binge watch the series with Princess Angel.

Before we go, I have one last thought to bring up.  If I may be completely honest there is something that I’ve neglected to bring up until this point and that is control.  How do you best control these sequences?  At this point, there’s so little information available to us and very little precedent I can use for possible examples, that control may very well be the hardest thing for me to write about.  Because of that, I think we’re going to save it for next time.  Hope you’ll join us then!

Quantum Break is coming April 2016 exclusively to the Xbox One.