Deathloop Devs on PS5 Features, Time Loop Gameplay
Revealed at E3 2019, Arkane’s next ambitious first-person adventure is the time-twisty Deathloop, which is now set to be released on PC and PS5 as a console exclusive this holiday.With a release so close, and the impressive first couple of showcases Arkane and publisher Bethesda have offered for it so far, we spoke to Deathloop Game Director Dinga Bakaba and Art Director Sebastien Mitton about the unique art style and its inspirations, how Deathloop’s time loop design works, and what it means to bring the game to the PS5.
Is Deathloop a Rougelike?
Deathloop will have players living a day over and over as the uncover the mysteries of the adventure’s setting, the island of Black Reef.
And while the loop of starting a run, dying, and restarting from the beginning makes Deathloop sound like a rougelike, Bakaba made clear that a few key choices differentiate it from the popular genre.
“You are piecing together what happened on the island, who you are, and what you are doing here and how you can escape,” he said. “The way it’s a bit different from a roguelike is, imagine that I find an important clue, and I die just after that. Progress is still made. You might lose the gun that you found, but the story has moved forward. [The Protagonist] Colt now knows something and the player both knows something important and they need to act on this thing.”
Sounding reminiscent of last year’s acclaimed The Outer Wilds in that way, Deathloop also distances itself, according to Bakaba, though the team wants to preserve some of the mystery as to why.
“Not trying to say too much, but there is a turning point in the game where the progression becomes even more different than a roguelike,” he teased. “You play that same day over and over, but you don’t necessarily do the same things, you are not necessarily in the same places, you don’t have the same goals.”The Arkane team wanted to make sure that players didn’t feel restricted by the time loop itself, and Bakaba cautions that players don’t need to worry about feeling limited by Deathloop’s timeline.
“The one thing we wanted to make sure is that it doesn’t mean that the player is literally on the clock in their moment-to-moment gameplay,” he noted. “If you want to play very deliberately, very slowly, and take your time, read every note, look at every painting, the game will not punish you for that.”
Deathloop on PS5
Deathloop marks Arkane’s first PS5 release, coming at the start of the next-generation console’s life. Both Bakaba and Mitton spoke to what it means to take advantage of the new console technology while also developing for PC.
“The first thing that it means for games is just comfort, like higher resolution, higher frame rate, things like HDR, some use of ray tracing, etc.,” Bakaba noted of the next-gen capabilities.
“Just having higher fidelity on screen to make Seb’s team’s work shine in a way that it never did before is really exciting. Of course, I mentioned the frame rate. I think that’s something really important. Until now our games and consoles have always been 30fps. Being able to target 60 for an action game, it’s very exciting.”
Bakaba also noted how the DualSense is allowing for a new level of immersion, which is so important to Arkane’s design philosophy.
“It’s got a lot of nice features with the haptics feedback, the active triggers. We are a first person game. We really value immersion a lot in our games,” he said. “Really feel the weapons in your hand, its reaction, how it reloads, how it reacts to reloading, etc… I think that players will enjoy those functionalities.
“This is something that we are…extremely proud to be part of, it’s something so big. A new generation of console and the launch of them. It’s not every time in a career that you have this opportunity. So, we are really thrilled,” Bakaba noted.
The Saul Bass Inspiration
One of the most striking things about the little we’ve seen of Deathloop so far is its stark, eye-catching art style. Mitton explained how the work of famed artists Saul Bass, responsible for famous posters and title sequences for films like Vertigo, The Shining, and more, played into the design of Deathloop.
“At the beginning [of production], we were not sure [it would be] taking place during the ‘60s. When we were discussing the core ideas, the main pillars of the game, the time period was not there. And at some point I was like, imagine you have an isolated island. And if you want to create a huge contrast and a clash with something, it could be the time period instead of just sci-fi elements,” Mitton explained, noting the various inspirations for the world. “We call it the Saul Bass vibe. He did all the posters for The Shining, Vertigo. And you mix it together to get something that is really Arkane.”Mitton drilled down into even how designing Deathloop’s power set, which looks reminiscent of Arkane’s past work on Dishonored but still true to the world of this new game.
“One approach was to make the visual effects more badass but still legible. It’s really hard to create a Blink [power] in fact. It looks easy when you see it, but when you work with your team it’s back and forth between game designers, visuals, sound, etc,” Mitton noted. “And the idea was to make something half realistic and half.. a bit comic [book-like] in the way you create the particles.”