Dontnod have been garnering a fair amount of attention of late, thanks to the imminent release of the episodic adventure game Life Is Strange, so to find Oskar Guilbert talking about a completely different game is somewhat unexpected, especially at a press day for Focus Home Interactive games. That game is Vampyr, and it’s something about which precious little is currently known.
The poster for the game simply states that it’s a Role Playing Game – an action RPG, as Oskar clarified – while the tops that the team members featured the “Take blood. Save a life.” tag line, which clearly references the vampiric title.
Oskar went into more detail about just what Vampyr is about, saying, “We are really at the very beginning, because we are in the conception phase, but its setting is the First World War, at the beginning of the century. You come back from the war and you arrive in your town – we don’t know yet which exactly – but all around Europe there is the Spanish Flu at this time, so after the horror of the war you are in the horror of a disease which kills millions of people in Europe.
“You are a doctor and you tried to help people during the war, and now you are trying to help people in your city, but you are bitten by one of your patients and you become a vampire.
“At the beginning it’s all about how – and really, we’re in the very early stages of the conception phase, so it could change… [laughs] it could be totally different! – you have to choose between your human nature and your doctor’s nature when you cure people of disease, and on the other side, your vampire nature, which you start to discover. You see it like an illness, in a way.
“This is almost all I can say about the game. I cannot say more! [laughs]”
A key aspect to both Remember Me and Life Is Strange is in some of the choices you make, with the latter in particular experimenting with the butterfly effect and the spiralling consequences of your actions both in the short term and in the much less predictable long term.
However, with a seemingly much clearer divide between good and bad choices, with the Y in the Vampyr title representing the duality which Oskar described, I was curious if Dontnod would continue to try and push the decisions in the game into the grey area.
Skirting around the fringes of the question as much as he could, to both our amusement, Oskar did say, “I think it’s really a very good question, and this is something we are working on now with the small team. I cannot tell you more, and I think it’s difficult for me to give you answers, but it’s definitely a good question! [laughs]”
“It’s really something that we are spending a lot of time to explore and thinking about. One of the things we love is exactly what you said [about ambiguous choices] and it’s also the case in other games like, for example, The Walking Dead. You don’t have a good or bad choice, you only have two very difficult choices, and this is something that makes it so addictive to play. So this is something we will very probably use in this game; even if it’s not the same genre, the concepts are similar.”
One interesting point to note about Vampyr is that this game will feature a male protagonist. A lot has been made of Dontnod’s struggles to find publishers for Remember Me and Life Is Strange who would accept that these were games and stories that had a woman and a teenage girl as the lead characters, respectively. Yet, when asked about this seeming tendency, they have always said that they are simply creating the characters that they feel fit the stories best.
As I apologetically broached the subject, Oskar chuckled, “So, this time for us the best main protagonist was male, because that’s what we though about the war, the setting. It was obvious to use a male protagonist, as it was obvious before to use a female protagonist for the other games that we did, because of the stories we want to tell, the gameplay we want to develop.
“With all the choices you make and the ability you have in Life Is Strange – the ability to go back in time when you want an explore different things – we thought that a female protagonist will work very well in this kind of story and this kind of setting. [In Vampyr], we think that it’s better for a male protagonist.
It’s not a choice where all the publishers asked us for a male protagonist, no. For us, we try to work first with the concept and then try to choose the right person to tell the story.”
In truth, Vampyr is still in some of the earliest stages of development, and with just a small team working on the game’s concepts. Almost everything about the game can still change, which explains some of Oskar’s hesitance to reveal too much about the game, but this announcement does reveal that Dontnod are pushing to broaden their horizons and grow to feature two development teams and be able to work on multiple projects at the same time, with an eye to continue working with Square Enix on more Life Is Strange.
As I initially asked whether developers from the Life Is Strange team would be moving across, Oskar replied, “So, I think most of them will stay on Life Is Strange because, again, I want to do Life Is Strange 2; that’s something that we want to do. Then we have the team of ten, twelve people working on Vampyre and we hope to grow this. So maybe some of the others will move then, depending on the need, but the idea is to have them both grow and to have two teams which can work independently. Maybe not with a fixed size all of the time, but the idea is to have two games in production all of the time.”
With Life Is Strange literally days away from release, Dontnod are striking while the iron is hot, announcing a new game while they are in the spotlight. We’ll have to wait until later this year to see more of Vampyr, but if the acclaim that Remember Me garnered and the potential that Life Is Strange exhibits are anything to go by, it’s a game that we should be keeping an eye on.