In the sea of announced titles, tucked away in the Xbox Booth during PAX East 2012 there was one game which surprised onlookers and critics alike: Deadlight. Set in a dark post-apocalyptic zombie-filled future, Deadlight places an emphasis on the survival lacking in most modern games. It was refreshing to see that the recently formed development house Tequila Works had created a zombie game that still managed to stand out above the rest. The game combines beautiful stylized art and modern mechanics with old-school puzzle platforming. After so many generic survival-horror entries recently, it’s easy to see why Deadlight left people hopeful.
To those who had seen it, it came as no surprise when a few months later Microsoft announced Deadlight would be among the titles in their Summer of Arcade 2012 lineup. To help shed some light on this dark future, we picked the brain of CEO and Creative Director Raúl Rubio Munárriz for some answers in anticipation of their release next week:
1) As a new company, to be featured as a Summer of Arcade title it must be validating to Tequila Works. Can you tell us how your company was brought together? What kind of talent and history has been gathered to create Tequila Works?
Tequila Works was born when a bunch of good old friends and veterans from the games and movie industry met again with the same idea in their minds: creating tasteful things, enjoy improving our talents and feeling proud of our creations. After working on movies like Avatar or AAA games like Diablo III, Heavy Rain, Overlord II, Motorstorm or Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, we wanted to focus on top quality and attention to detail in smaller packages.
Deadlight is a dead world represented as backlit silhouettes, so it made all sense. We also considered Dead-”line” since it’s a 2.5D game. Seriously.
Our main influences were dystopic stories – Cell, The Road, Hello America, I Am Legend – where you cannot win. The 80s were defined by fear and paranoia because of the end of the Cold War. Remove civilization, and what you get is individual survival.The setting in the Pacific Northwest was a natural choice, since we wanted the player to feel the solitude, vulnerability and loneliness of Randall Wayne, the main character. Visual references included First Blood and The Goonies – the ultimate survival experience (in my humble opinion).
Without seeing anything, we used to say “Limbo meets The Walking Dead”. If you see something [it] is “survival avoiding direct confrontation,” and if you play it, it is “Do you remember Flashback?”.
Easy. What would you do in a zombie outbreak? Probably turn around and run away in the opposite direction, not grabbing a rocket launcher. For some reason, protagonists in zombie stories are heroes, or everyday men turned heroes. In Deadlight, your biggest reward is to see the dawn of a new day. You cannot save the world, you cannot find a cure. You are a survivor.
Deadlight is not a zombie shooter. It’s a puzzle game. With zombies. Randall is mostly unarmed, and even when he has a gun, you should use it as a tool rather than a weapon. Of course you can blow an undead’s head with it, but combat is usually the worst choice.
Randall is alive, that’s his main advantage over his foes. He is fast and agile.Noise is key. When you are in a dead world, every little sound is amplified. Most of the time you want to pass unnoticed. But sometimes you can taunt your enemies to attract them to traps. They are a bit like lemmings, only deadlier.Your biggest foe and ally is the environment itself. A ruthless, hard but fair element. If you are not careful enough you will die. If you pay attention to your surroundings, you can take advantage of it.Most puzzles are physics based. Randall has at his disposal the typical mechanics of a cinematic platformer as running, jumping, grabbing, rolling… and others less typical like setting barricades or taunting.
Randall Wayne was born the 19th of May, 1952 in Hope, BC. He barely left his hometown in his life, except for a couple of visits to Vancouver. He hated cities and only found peace in the isolation of nature.Randall married very young and had a daughter called Lydia. Before the Massive Mess, Wayne was an ordinary man with no great aspirations, but also without a heavy load on his shoulders. He became a park warden and spent long stays in the mountains, which improved his character.Thanks to his job in the woods, Wayne acquired basic knowledge on weapons handling, survival skills and climbing. That, and lots of luck, allowed him to become one of the last living persons in the Pacific Northwest.Randall has a passion for crime fiction and espionage novels and has an interest in animal biology. He is introverted and slightly paranoid.
There are other survivors. Like in The Road, don’t expect all of them to be friendly neighbors…
Deadlight is a narrative-driven experience. Randall is alone most of the time, and his character is introverted and slightly paranoid. Deadlight’s story goes back to the character, it’s Randall’s inner journey. The point of our narration resides in the development of a character who tries to survive, not what happened or who spread the disease. There are no hidden evils in the shadows, just you and your fears.With the 80s, we can rewrite history and play with the player’s own memories. Then again, think what you would do in this situation. With no weapons or gadgets. We take so many things for granted! For example, the power of noise and using yourself as a life bait. Zombies are tireless, but they are dumb.
Absolutely, one of the main inspirations for Deadlight are classic cinematic platformers like Prince of Persia, Another World and Flashback. The environment is a character itself; there are deadly traps and a misstep means death. Randall has a variety of navigation, combat and interaction with the environment that allows him to advance and solve the physics-based puzzles. There’s no inventory or “find the red key” puzzles in Deadlight.
We believe in best quality, no matter the size. We come from working in big AAA games and wanted to explore the digital distribution arena. Deadlight, even with top quality assets and production values, wouldn’t have been greenlighted as a retail title by any publisher. And we didn’t want to change the concept. Instead of AAA, we prefer to describe Deadlight as a “handcrafted” game.
Microsoft Studios give us a lot of freedom to create the way we feel. They really understand our philosophy and bet on original proposals. They take care of the headaches allowing us to concentrate on creating.
We create universes. No platform, project or medium is small or big enough. We are very happy with our experience with digital distribution platforms. We started our next projects some time ago, but before saying anything…let’s finish Deadlight first!
We can’t wait to get more hands-on time with Deadlight and see how the story progresses in this shadowy world. Deadlight will be available for download on August 1st as part of Xbox’s XBLA Summer of Arcade promotion for 1200 MS Points ($15). Stay tuned for our full review coming in the next few days.
If you can’t wait to see some more you can watch the “Fear Yourself” trailer right here:
Thanks a lot for this opportunity. The team is doing their best to make Deadlight a game we can feel proud of. Remember, Deadlight will be available the 1st of August on XBLA. Almost there!-Raúl Rubio Munárriz