In the midst of frozen time and shattered glass, you might have forgotten that Quantum Break — the recently-announced new game from Alan Wake's creators that was shown off again at Microsoft's Xbox briefing on Monday — has a TV show that plays out alongside the game experience.
You might have also even thought, what is going on in this game? I certainly did. So here's the gist:
- Quantum Break is an action shooter with time-manipulation mechanics.
- You play as Jack Joyce. But you can also play as Beth Wilder. And actually you can also play as the game's villain, Paul Serene, who runs an equally villainous corporation called Monarch that specialises in time travel technology. P.S. Jack and Paul used to be best friends.
- Once upon a time, a time travel experiment gone wrong left the world fragmented. Time sometimes breaks down. And because the three playable characters were present at the time of this experiment, their exposure has granted them the ability to manipulate time.
- Paul Serene has the best time-manipulating powers. He can see glimpses into future timelines and choose which to follow. This is where the playable bit comes in. You will be doing the choosing for him. A little bit like playing chess with yourself, maybe, but creator Sam Lake tells me that in choosing a timeline you're mostly picking what kind of drama you want to follow. And, also, what enemies you want to fight.
- Fun Fact: Remedy enlisted in a scientist consultant who has had work experience at CERN and currently lectures at universities. He taught them all about quantum and classical physics to help them mould their time travel storyline into something that makes theoretical sense. Sam Lake admitted a lot of this was over their heads, but it proved to be useful input.
- And, of course, there's a TV show that goes along with the story. Watching it can clue you in on some tips for how to play through the game, but there's a whole lot more to it.
Let's get into that a bit more.
At intervals during the game, there will be something the team calls "junctions in time." At these points, you can affect the storyline depending on decisions you make in the game. The game ships with the first season of the TV show, so it'll unlock the episode that coincides with the decisions you make. Your Quantum Break storyline will be composed in a different universe than another player's.
The concept of integrating other mediums into games is something Remedy is familiar with. They did a lot of that in Alan Wake, for instance, what with exploring the idea of mixing cut scenes with live action material. It's why Sam Lake connotes the TV show connection as the natural evolution for the team. It's the next step.
And it goes beyond just Remedy, too, he says. He believes that TV and games are a natural fit, which explains the partnership with Microsoft, too, considering their vision for the new Xbox One is a machine that is both your media centre as well as a game device. (Lake also says they're curious about the various applications Microsoft's Xbox One gives them access to, like the SmartGlass technology.) And as games are becoming more and more respected as mainstream entertainment, Lake believes that mixing them with other mediums makes sense.
Why are they a natural fit? For one thing, episodic pacing is something Remedy is a fan of (and for good reason). Lake mentions that although there's a singular length to the game, episodes work to its favour by creating added tension with cliffhangers at the end of each one.
Lake also believes that games as stories are a good place to mix in other mediums. It's natural to have in-game televisions and radio shows, and music that ties into the themes and storytelling of the game, he says.
I can't say I've seen TV/game hybrids always be successful, but it certainly seems to be an increasing trend these days. I have a lot of faith in Remedy's storytelling talents, too, but it also helps that Quantum Break looks so damn cool.
So if the first season of the game ships with the first season of the show, does that mean we're going to see a second season? Maybe. Obviously it's incredible early for that question, but it certainly seems like something the game/show hybrid is building towards.