Interview: Ru Weerasuriya Discusses The Order: 1886, Werewolves & Skipping PS Vita

A few days ago I had the chance to sit down with Ru Weerasuriya, CEO of Ready At Dawn, and talk all things The Order: 1886. Sadly we were very short for time so I didn’t get to ask him everything I wanted to, including his plans for the sequel and his favourite biscuit, but Ru gave some very interesting answers to our questions.

TSA: This is your first PlayStation 4 game, Ready At Dawn previously worked on PSP games and pretty much skipped PS3, was it hard transition to go from handheld gaming to AAA console release?

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Ru Weerasuriya: Yes, in terms of team size it was a hard transition as you keep growing more at a faster pace than you would expect. In development mentality we approached this in the same was as we did the PSP, we have this piece of hardware, we are making a game, how are we going to maximise what we can do on this hardware?

It comes with bigger challenges as the technology is better but in some ways it was an organic growth for the team, we can tackle problems with a bigger team.

TSA: How big was the development team in the end?

Ru: This game we finished at around 120 staff.

TSA: You skipped PS3 development bar the God of War: Origins Collection which were remasters of your PSP games, did you ever consider creating a game for the PS Vita?

Ru: No, I think a lot of people expected us to do that, both the public and at Sony, because we did such a great job on the PSP, but it wasn’t on the cards for us. We could have, but we had other plans, we told Sony that we had this dream project and that is what we wanted to do.

TSA: The game looks utterly stunning, do you think you are pushing the PlayStation 4 anywhere near its limits?

Ru: No, not yet, we already know where we want to go after this, it’s only the second year for the PS4. We’ve done a lot of things we are proud of but the funny thing is that as we were finishing this game we were having meetings about other things we wanted to do. Almost like “we could this and this” before the game is released, but in reality we didn’t, but we have a lot of ideas of what we can do later on. The PS4 has a good life cycle ahead of it, I think there is a lot more we can get out of it.

TSA: You have two mythologies in the game, the Arthurian Knights and the Victorian era, did you start with both those elements in the game or was one added later?

Ru: That’s an interesting question because yes, we started off without the Victorian stuff. The Victorian era things are just for this particular story and time period but the actual lore of the game, the bigger story, spans centuries, way before the Victorian area back to the time when humanity split in to these half-breeds.

The werewolves were always there, the idea of “What could be different about humanity?”, but the common thread through the whole game is “What if history was different?”, what if something happened in history but it happens a completely different way. That was the the first part of our mythology, the werewolves, but then we set the game in London as it was the epicentre of the world.

TSA: Class conflict is a particularly British trope, was that also a late addition to the game?

Ru: It was brought in by the story, by setting it in that era. We needed to depict London in not a particularly utopian way, or indeed a dystopian way, we wanted London to be the way it was without twisting it. We had to recreate London in the way it was, which at that time was not the prettiest of places, there was a lot of migration and there was lot unhappy people. Areas such as Whitechapel and Stepney had a lot of migrants who had come for a better life but felt they were being taken advantage of “the very few” who had a better life.

TSA: It has to be said that some people have a very characterised view of the British, like we all live in Downtown Abbey and know Prince William, do you think you’ve managed to create well-rounded characters and avoided clichés?

Ru: I think we’ve tried as much as we could stereotypes, you’ll see that some of the characters are similar to people who existed at the time but they are very diverse. Some of the feel a little more noble, others will feel a little rough around the edges, Sir Galahad I think is a little rough. All of the upper class people in the game have a wide spectrum of characteristics.

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TSA: I would agree with you on Sir Galahad, he’s almost an Indiana Jones type of character, quite posh but ready to get his hands dirty.

Ru: Yeah he can get down and dirty, absolutely!

TSA: You’ve said before the date, 1886, is important, and the major event in London at that time was…

Ru: Jack the Ripper!

TSA: Obviously everyone has asked you about him then.

Ru: When you have a character like Jack the Ripper which defines an era, that doesn’t happen very often. If you think of Victorian London, dark streets and all that, the first thing you think of is Jack the Ripper. That’s pretty amazing.

TSA: In the past there have been a number of games that have been set in this era, such as Visceral’s Jack the Ripper game and the Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, but none of them seem to have ever made it to the shelves…

Ru: Maybe Jack the Ripper is a curse! It was hard for us to figure out what worked in game so we did bring in real life characters such as Nikola Tesla, but it’s another thing to bring something like Jack the Ripper in to the story without sacrificing other elements. As far as Jack the Ripper is concerned he is an important part of Victorian London, he has to have some kind of presence in a world if you set it Victorian London.

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TSA: Are you aware of the TV show Penny Dreadful?

Ru: Yes, but I haven’t watched it yet as I have been busy with game.

TSA: It was announced about two years ago when you must have been well in to development of the game, it’s set in Victorian London three years after your game, it features werewolves and other mythical creatures and a team of upper class characters hunting them, were you surprised that someone had a similar idea?

Ru: It was a bit of surprise, sometimes the common consciousness works in very strange ways. I really don’t know how that happened but it’s happened before in Hollywood, suddenly you get two films about meteors hitting the Earth.  Bugs Life and Ants is another example. It was a long time ago but we did talk to a few people “over there” about this IP but it would really  weird to think they are connected.

The game and the show are very different, they do have commonalities but I don’t think it’s that close that I would be thinking “Oh no it’s the same story!”. I have heard that Penny Dreadful is brilliant so I do want to see it but I just haven’t had the time over the past few years.

TSA: There has been an awful lot of big games that launched badly in the past few months, what would you say to people who have yet to pre-order The Order: 1886 to persuade them it’s going to be fantastic?

Ru: Oh my god, it’s a very tough industry to be in at the moment purely because there are a lot of very critical people out there, and that is good. We are in a place in the next generation of consoles to try something new, we’re not here to give you the experience you might expect from a game, we’re here to try new things do things you would not expect, give you a ride that you did no expect. If that’s what you are looking for then this is definitely the game for those people, I think this is best time for that as this generation of platforms is going to see a lot of new IP’s coming out  and a lot of new mechanics and we owe to the industry at large to try new things.


 

Thanks to Ru for his time and for Sony for arranging the interview, The Order: 1886 is out on February 20th and we will have a full review before release.

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5 Comments

  1. “WANT” “GETTING” *NUFF SAID*
    see you on the 20th

  2. Too short an interview so I’m cancelling my pre-order of any follow-up articles. :-)

  3. I almost gave up when i realised the biccy question had been dropped but i somehow persevered and enjoyed the interview, particularly what he had to say in the last paragraph. Bring on the unexpected!

  4. Good interview. Still got my eye on this.

  5. Jack the Ripper’s first recorded murder wasn’t until 1888 so a few years too early for this game but an ideal opportunity for the sequel to be set in. But it’s still as day one purchase for me.

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