GameCentral talks to the co-director of the hit adventure series, about its upcoming new web series and the possibility of a sequel.
Square Enix has partnered with film studio Legendary to make a digital web series based on Life Is Strange. They’re being careful not to call it a TV show, but it will be developed and produced with the help of the two guys behind the upcoming new Sonic The Hedgehog film from Sony (yes, that is still a thing!).
That’s really all the details that have been announced so far, and even though we were given the chance to talk to Michel Koch, the game’s co-director and art director, about the deal he didn’t seem to know much more than that. Although that didn’t stop us trying to pump him for more information anyway.
We also took the opportunity to talk to him about the game in general, especially since the first episode is now available for everyone to play for free. And although he wouldn’t say anything definitive about the chances of a sequel or second season, it now seems almost certain that we’ll be seeing more of Max and Chole in both live action and video game form…
Without wanting to understate things too much, I imagine you were fairly pleased with the reception of the game as a whole?
MK: It has been amazing for us, and beyond our wildest expectations. When the game was released in January of 2015, when the first episode came out, a few weeks before that we knew we had something great in our hands. We knew that some people would enjoy it, but we couldn’t expect such a big reaction from the fans and the strong community we now have. And now it’s maybe nine months after the release of Episode 5 and we still receive letters, messages, and picture from fans. It’s been an amazing experience.
I remember playing the first episode and really enjoying it, but also thinking it was a shame that it would obviously never sell.
Why do you think it was able to find its audience, in a way perhaps that other non-action games haven’t?
MK: We still don’t know. [laughs] I think part of it was the slow pacing and the fact that the setting and characters were a bit different to many other games on the market. And then by the end of Episode 2 a lot of people were really talking about it. And with each episode, we had what you have with TV shows sometimes, like Game of Thrones – I don’t compare us to Game of Thrones, of course, but after a few episodes you say, ‘I love this show!’ and you start telling all your friends. And I think something similar happened on Life Is Strange.
I also don’t think we were ticking any of the safe marketing boxes.
I’d say not.
MK: [laughs] When we tried to pitch the game we had not only one main female character but two. We had almost no action, no gunfights, no explosions. There was not a lot of stuff that people would say could appeal to what people think could work. So we were quite anxious too, about it. We just wanted to make the game we wanted to create and I think that maybe there was something genuine in the way that we wanted to make it. It appealed to the players, I don’t know.
But we are really happy in the end. that such a massive community gathered around the game and that we were able to talk about the things that we approached in the game; to deal with those real-life issues and to bring these stories and those characters to a broad audience. It’s been amazing.
So who exactly plays the game? I imagine the breakdown is probably very different to most action games.
MK: What’s funny is that we have some info about demographics, but we don’t have a very extensive one because of course we cannot track everyone. But what we know about our audience is that it’s really, really diverse. We have quite a broad range of ages and very even representation of male and female players. We have also players who are more casual gamers, players who are more hardcore gamers, there is no real target audience for the game. It’s more like a broad mix of a bit of everyone.
And it’s really a great thing, because it means that the game… we have a story from one of our friends, about some of the people they met, who say they talk about the game with their children or with their wife or with their husband. And it was the first game where everybody in the family was playing the same game and enjoying it… maybe not for the same reasons but still enjoying and playing the same game. Which is really great, to think that we managed to get people together who are not used to playing the same kind of game most of the time.
I think the quality of some of the dialogue was one of the few complaints about the game, but for a male writer it must’ve been very difficult writing for two young female protagonists. And giving each a clear, unique voice.
MK: It was a challenge to work on, of course. We did a lot writing tests with a lot of writers before finding, Christian Divine, the American writer who wrote all the scripts and dialogues for the game. We had a test between Max and Chloe, some tests for the inner voices for Max, and we needed to find a writer who was able to convey the sort of shyness and/or dynamic between Max and Chole.
I think we had some female writers who we approached for the test, but in the end we were really fond of what Christian did and we chose him just based on this test and how he was able to convey what we really wanted to see in those characters.
But you’re right, that we tried to have a lot of differences between Max and Chole. They’re best friends but there’s also a lot of antagonism between, which is one of the basics in the writing method – where if you have two main characters your main ally is also somehow your main opponent from a psychological point of view. And Chole is always pushing Max forwards, sometimes to put her into bad situations and into trouble. And over the course of the game you can see that these two are evolving, where Max is getting stronger and Chloe is getting sometimes softer, less angry.
Basically the story arc for these two character is where Max is growing up and becoming an adult. Because basically Life Is Strange is a coming of age tale. And Chloe is accepting her anger and her grief and starting to realise she should be less selfish and be more open to other people, and not only thinking of herself.
So what can you say about the live action deal? How would you describe it?
MK: We cannot describe a lot… basically what happened is since a few months, and I guess with the success of the game, there have been some talks between Square Enix and various production companies about getting the rights and talking about what could be done around the game. And so it’s been really, really recently that the deal with Legendary has been made. So we’re really excited about that, but we don’t know much yet.