Interview: How Foreclosed’s RPG-shooter came from the dehumanising bureaucracy of the real world

Being part of a society is basically necessary for an individual to survive. We are all part of some kind of societal system which is impacted by where we are born, where we live, and where we work. What if that societal bond was taken away from an individual? Suddenly you are marked as an outcast, an exile, or in the case of Antab Studio’s Foreclosed, become a foreclosure. We spoke to Antab Studio about Foreclosed, where the idea for the game came from, and what players can expect from this dystopian RPG in terms of gameplay.

TSA: Identity loss is a key theme of Foreclosed, and there has been mention of that being inspired by real-life experiences. Are you able to tell us what those experiences were, and how much of an impact they had on Foreclosed?

Antab: The concept of identity’s foreclosure, and a dystopian society where bureaucracy is so distant from reality, summarised how we felt when we had a small legal misadventure with the first office we rented. It’s a bit complicated to explain in detail, but basically, we got involved despite ourselves, in the foreclosure of the building where the office was located.

Having managed rental payments and papers in a very scrupulous way turned out to be a disadvantage for us because the former owner of the building used some technicalities to slow down and confuse the whole foreclosure procedure. Things were messed up to the point that it became too expensive/time-consuming for us to just stay there and make our voice heard in the court. Even though we were on the “right side”, we faced a mechanical and dehumanized bureaucracy. We realized how the legal entity we consider to be “a person” is a total artifact, being completely disconnected from the real human being behind it.

While trying to deal with that situation, we had a discussion – and a couple of beers – on the building rooftop, and there we realized we had some interesting hints and concepts to think of for our new game.

Fun fact: we derived the names of many Foreclosed’s characters form the real names of some of the people involved in our short legal misadventure.

TSA: Why did you want to make Foreclosed?

Antab: Many reasons, actually. We wanted to take something good out of our bad experience, but we also think that the contrast between the biological identity and the legal one, can be an interesting topic to think about. It is the actual person VS all the legal and economical data connected to him/her – a bunch of information that becomes more and more important for us, as our society becomes more and more globalized and digitalized. Also, making a third-person action/adventure game – a genre we personally appreciate – can be considered quite challenging for a team as small as we are, but we sincerely felt it was the right time to make the jump.

TSA: The comic book style is an interesting aesthetic choice. Was that something you had in mind from the beginning, or did the comic book look come later?

Antab: Thank you! We had chosen this specific direction in the early stage of pre-production, so yes, it was an idea we followed since the very beginning of the development. We believe that the graphic novel, a medium with such a great “authorial” taste, could be the right format to tell a story with some noir vibes built around legal technicalities. We got inspired by some sci-fi classics like Frank Miller’s and Geof Darrow’s Hard Boiled.

Another important reference for us was the first game in the Max Payne saga and its gorgeous comic book like cinematics. That kind of narration was so fascinating for us, that it inspired us to do something new by pushing forward the idea of being an action comic book hero. In Foreclosed we are using some typical comic books’ features – such as having multiple panels displayed at the same time – as actual gameplay elements.

Having the feeling of playing inside a graphic novel is so important for us, we can easily say that without this media blending a title like Foreclosed couldn’t be created.

TSA: Who is Evan Kapnos? How did you come up with the character?

Antab: Evan Kapnos is the “everyday man”, a solitary and honest guy. We wanted to design a character who, apparently, has nothing really special, someone you wouldn’t say to be a hero – but who can easily become one, when getting involved in something bigger than him. As Evan’s story unfolds, we will find out that his implants “are not exactly compliant”, being a curse and a blessing at the same time. There is something interesting for us when we think about an everyday person living a quiet yet choiceless routine, who’s life is shocked by a negative event that is also the opportunity to take control of his/her life.

TSA: Can you tell us more about Foreclosed’s world? What is the Block-chain?

Antab: Foreclosed is set in a not so far away future, in a Mediterranean cyberpunk context – as Italians, we liked the idea of a cyberpunk story happening close to home! In the dystopia of Foreclosed, every interaction is almost transactional: city services, purchasing of goods, shopping habits, personal chats, and so on, run on a huge, real-time updated Block-chain to which everyone is connected.

When a child is born, the government forces the installation of a neural implant that contains the legal and virtual identity of the new citizen inside the Block-chain. In this way, a person “exists” inside the society, and can benefit from its services. Of course, nothing of this comes for free; as the years go by, everyone develops a bigger and bigger debt with the State – called “identity debt” – due to installation and usage of the implants. When a person gets hired by a corporation, the employer buys his/her ID debt from the state, letting him/her “dilute” it over time.

It is easy to see how difficult it would be to settle the ID debt. It is actually impossible for the majority of the population. In Foreclosed’s world, actually owning your own “identity” is just a privilege of a very few.

TSA: It looks like players will only have the one weapon, the Symbiotic pistol. Can players change or modify it?

Antab: Evan’s Symbiotic gun was built to interact with an experimental firmware installed in his implants. Thanks to the powers of this piece of neural technology, it is possible to customize the shooting power of your weapon and equip a max of three different powers at the same time.

Imagine you need to shoot faster or to increase damage: all you have to do is to unlock the “machinegun” and/or the “explosive” skill.  You will also be able to use piercing and telekinetic bullets – that’s right! Combining them all at the same time you could turn the Symbiotic pistol into a machinegun with target-seeking explosive bullets if you want. As it goes for all the implants’ powers, you will need to be careful. Using Evan’s fighting abilities will slowly heat his brain implants. If overheated, our hero is going to be stunned for a while, and won’t be able to use his powers until the system cooldown is complete.

TSA: Evan has access to abilities to help him fight. How does he get those abilities?

Antab: Similar to how the Symbiotic pistol works, the experimental A.I. ruling Evan’s implant is able to teach him incredible combat moves, learning and adapting to the dangers that our hero is going to face during the game.

Evan will find himself able to use telekinesis-like abilities, using them to lift, attract and throw certain objects, block enemies mid-air, and slam them to the floor. With Evan’s enhanced brain implant it’s also possible to remotely hack close devices to unlock doors, overcharge electric cabinets (and make them explode), or even fry the brain of unaware enemies.

TSA: Can you change modifications and abilities at any time, like in the middle of a fight, or are there only specific places this can be done?

Antab: You can change the equipped abilities at any time during fights (though we recommend checking your surroundings first) by opening the skills tree. Thanks to the Augmented Reality HUD projected directly into Evan’s retinas, all the equipped powers will be selectable while aiming.

TSA: You say fans of Deus Ex, Cyberpunk, Liberated, Cloudpunk, and Ruiner should keep an eye on Foreclosed. Those are all very different games. What does Foreclosed have in common with them?

Antab: We see Foreclosed as a fully playable, action comic book, enriched by an original noir-ish story, a dynamic combat system with various “augmentations”, and adrenaline-fuelled shooting sessions. Looking at the core gameplay, it comes naturally to spot influences from RPG-shooters games such as Deus Ex and Ruiner, but our entire story takes place inside a comic book, meaning that you will find yourself playing inside comic panels very often. That means that different camera angles (top-down, side-scrolling, etc.) will result in different gameplay and it can also happen that many comic panels displayed at the same time and require the player to perform different actions in different panels.

As you can see, even if the core mechanics are inspired by more classic action mechanics, the whole Foreclosed experience is played in a very different way and more blended with other genres.

TSA: Foreclosed will be releasing next year. Will it be coming to PS5 and Xbox Series X?

Antab: We love the idea of having Foreclosed on the next-gen consoles, but we don’t have any information we can disclose at this stage. We will surely keep our fans and followers updated about consoles releases in the next months.

Thanks to Antab Studio for chatting with us. Keep an eye out on Foreclosed, which is currently heading to PC and consoles.

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From the heady days of the Mega Drive up until the modern day gaming has been my main hobby. I'll give almost any game a go.