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Quantum Break: Zero State Interview With Cam Rogers April 1, 2016

Posted by Maniac in Interviews.
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We’re only a few days away from the release of Quantum Break on the Xbox One and Windows 10 platforms, and it remains this website’s most-anticipated title. However, more than just a Quantum Break video game is going to be released on April 5th!  A companion novel, titled Quantum Break: Zero State will launch day and date with the Quantum Break game.

Quantum Break: Zero State promises to deliver a Sci-Fi action story, but that has left us with a lot of lingering questions. Thankfully, we were fortunate enough to get an interview with the book’s author, Cam Rogers.

Maniac: First off, I’d like to thank you for your time. We at GameXcess.net have been following the development of Quantum Break for quite a while and are greatly looking forward to the game and your book’s release.  As a writer myself, I’m curious what inspired you to become a writer?

Cam:  Star Wars and growing up in a small town. I wanted to make something that would affect people the way that film had affected me. I saw it young and it lit a fire under my ass for fifteen years.

I wanted to see and understand everything, but there wasn’t a lot going on in Cairns and it can be expensive to get out of Australia. My family had no interest in travel, so writing was the closest thing.

Over time influences expanded to writers like William Gibson and Neil Gaiman. I wanted to be as good a writer as I could be, and started building a toolkit by examining the techniques of the best in the field. Gaiman’s Sandman got me through some cornerstone bad times, so it blew my 27-year-old mind that Neil had been kind enough to read my first novel, and write something for the cover. It was a small thing, but for that daft kid at that time it made the outside world real, like getting out of solitary. Changed everything.

Maniac: What were your influences for the book’s story? How close were Remedy and Microsoft involved with the book?

Cam: Sam Lake originated the Quantum Break concept, and the rest of us worked to his brief. That’d be myself, Mikko Rautalahti and Tyler Smith. Sam, being the creative director, made sure we stayed true to the themes and goals of the project.

QB is a game first, and we knew we wanted high-octane action, a real thrill ride, so it’s structured like an action movie. Within that structure we wanted to say something, to leaven it with emotion and truth. Quantum Break is about the family you’re given and the family you choose. It’s a prodigal son story, and a time travel story. It’s about heartbreak and repair, vengeance and compassion.

My first novel, The Music of Razors, handled things in a similar fashion. It’s darker and more fantastical in some ways, but deals with similar themes: people, love, truth, betrayal and a quest for a home you’ll never get back. I think maybe that’s why I warmed to Sam’s pitch so much. There was a lot of heart to it.

Maniac: Quantum Break is a new type of video game franchise which has a lot of potential. Have you played the final version of the game?

Cam: I last played the build mid-2015, so it wasn’t the final build, but most of the game was there.

Maniac: Where does this story exist in the Quantum Break Universe? Is it set before, during or after the events of the game?

Cam: Branching futures and parallel timelines are concepts key to Quantum Break. Over the course of the game the player will, through the villain, choose different future-paths down which to send the story. People live and die, things happen both good and bad, based on those choices. The narratives of the game and the TV show react to those choices. As the game progresses the consequences become cumulative, resulting in your version of the story being different from someone else’s.

The novel is a parallel timeline as well, similar-yet-different to the game’s, and starts from a slightly different place. The first chapter, which is available online, does a good job of illustrating how and why.

It’s an opportunity to explore facets of the story which, for reasons of development, the game couldn’t. The novel runs to its own tension and deals with its own conflicts as well as the core conflicts of the game. It’s a different experience, and for someone who has played the game it should feel fresh and surprising.

Maniac: Is it difficult to write a linear narrative about Time Travel for a game which has so many decisions with alternating outcomes? Did you have to make any hard decisions while writing it?

Cam: We lost our minds, on occasion. Plotting a story that allowed for player agency over the direction of the story, and had to factor in the effects of time travel, was… complicated. It took over a year to nail down a plot flow that wouldn’t contradict itself, that the player couldn’t break. The word ‘wait’ became story room shorthand for ‘I’m about to explain why that change we made six months ago means this massively critical section of the story no longer makes sense.’

It sounds like a nightmare, but I really enjoyed that aspect: the troubleshooting. The story knew what it wanted to be; we just had to patiently tease it out. But it did mean that some of the things we loved had to go, simply because the story wasn’t shaped to contain them anymore. Its immune system forced them out.

Maniac: Should readers read the book before they play the game or should they play the game first? Are there going to be spoilers for the game in the book?

Cam: One of the reasons for setting the novel in an alternate timeline was to avoid a straight retelling of the game. The novel has its own conflicts and action set pieces, even as it shares a plot structure similar-yet-different to the game’s. It’s important to say that the story has a similar trajectory, but plays out differently and new things happen along the way. If you’ve played the game the novel will surprise you, and shed light on a few things.

So, caveat: if you want nothing revealed before you play the game, then play the game first. If you’re okay with getting the basics, then I think you’ll be fine with reading the novel beforehand.

Maniac: I’m sure my readers would like to know how the book is being distributed. Will you be doing a retail and digital release?

Cam: Quantum Break: Zero State is being released in hardback, trade paperback and on Kindle through all the usual outlets on April 5th. There may be digital releases on other platforms, but I’m not clear on that as yet. The first chapter you can find online, though, if you want an early look.

Maniac: Now that the book is ready for release, what are your plans for the future?

Cam:  I’m continuing to write for The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land, while working on the next novel. I’d like to have on my agent’s desk ASAP. I also have to get a couple of screenplays written.

I’m returning to university to finish my degree and, if time allows, getting the first rough build of my own game off the ground. I’ll only commit to that if I have the time to give it the attention it deserves. It may be something for 2017.

I’ll also be guest lecturing at universities here and there as time allows.

Maniac:  Thank you so much for your time, Cam.  Good luck!

Quantum Break: Zero State will be released April 5th, 2016. Stay tuned, more Quantum Break news is on the way!

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