Q&ERA: Remedy Entertainment discusses Control and more!

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An old favorite feature returns! Now organized by Hecht, we're hoping that there will be more to come in the future. For now we've got some great guests ready to talk about some great games.

Q&ERA offers an opportunity for our community to learn more about the gaming industry from those that are part of it. This involves batches of questions, submitted by users and then selected by staff, which will then be given to industry members to answer. Our intent is to bridge the divide between the gaming community and the gaming industry. We want to encourage engagement between those who talk about games and those who make them. (Note: Questions will be curated as interviewees won't have time to answer every single one. Also, there may be certain topics that interviewees are not able or allowed to comment on.)

Introducing our guests: Sergey Mohov, Senior Game Designer, and Teodor Vasile, Level Designer, from Remedy Entertainment!

Before Remedy, Sergey worked on a game called Event[0] at his own little studio in Paris, France, and before that on RiME at Tequila Works in Madrid. He is currently working as one of the designers on the Control game team – he started in deep pre-production and is now working on upcoming DLC content.

Teo has worked at Ubisoft before joining Remedy as a level designer on Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands, the Assassin’s Creed series and other titles. He works as a part of the level design team on Control, and he’s one of the key people responsible for bringing the Expeditions gameplay mode to life.





About the Company:


In 1995, Remedy Entertainment was founded by Samuli Syvähuoko, Markus Mäki, Sami Nopanen, John Kavaleff, and Sami Vanhatalo, in Espoo, Finland. The company is responsible for critically acclaimed titles such as Max Payne and Max Payne 2, Alan Wake, Quantum Break, and Control - their latest release from August 2019 which has received widespread acclaim. Remedy is well-known for making cinematic single-player action games, and also for developing the engines for their games in-house.

List of Games:


Death Rally - 1995 (MS-DOS / Windows)
Max Payne - 2001 (Windows / PlayStation 2 / Xbox / Game Boy Advance / Android / iOS)
Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne - 2003 (Windows / PlayStation 2 / Xbox)
Alan Wake - 2010 (Xbox 360 / Windows)
Death Rally - 2011 (Windows / Android / iOS / FireOS)
Alan Wake's American Nightmare - 2012 (Windows / Xbox 360)
Agents of Storm- 2014 (iOS)
Quantum Break - 2016 (Windows / Xbox One)
Control - 2019 (Windows / PlayStation 4 / Xbox One)
CrossFire X - 2020 (upcoming) (Xbox One)


 
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Question #1 - Member: Akabeko

Did the game always have recharging energy / ammo bars? I really like how the energy / ammo system required you to think about which attacks you were using, but still encouraged you to be constantly on the offensive. I think it played a large part in what made Control so successful as a power fantasy. Did you ever try any other systems out during development?

Sergey Mohov, Senior Game Designer: It now seems obvious, but it was a long and winding road. After Quantum Break, our engine underwent a complete overhaul, we set out to design and build everything again, based on our main creative pillars. This is the main reason why nothing works like in Quantum Break. The new game had to be faster-paced, it had to make you feel like a bad-ass telekinetic superhero, and it had to encourage experimentation.

The energy system was one of the first things we implemented, and it worked – we were pretty happy with it. From the beginning, it worked like stamina in Souls games or Rogue Energy in WoW – pretty classic stuff. With some minor tweaks, it shipped that way.

We started with a classic weapon system you can find in a regular shooter: each weapon had its own ammo, there was a reload button, etc. We quickly discovered that with a system like that, the player never has any reason to use offensive abilities. Ammo and reloading were the first to go as a result. Much later, we unified the “weapon juice” for all the weapons to take this even further. It also fits the theme of one shifting, transforming Service Weapon better. One weapon = one weapon resource – simple!
 
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Question #2 - Member: Akabeko

Do you think you hit the mark with the weapon / personal modification system? Some of the mods felt pretty powerful, but it seemed difficult to get the mods you wanted, and the limited inventory seemed to discourage experimentation. Do you have any plans to tweak the mod system in the Expeditions?

Sergey Mohov, Senior Game Designer: There are always things that we want to improve, and yes, we are continually making changes behind the scenes to the mod system to make it better, in part, based on player feedback. The Expeditions update brings a few improvements to the system: you can now sort your mods by the time of pickup, mod type, and mod tier, which makes the inventory management more pleasant. We also improved the performance of the inventory with our latest update.

In addition to that, there are quite a few completely new mod types that you can get only by completing Expeditions. Those don’t drop from anywhere else, and they are quite powerful. This work will continue all throughout the development of the Foundation and AWE DLCs!
 
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Question #3 - Member: Kyrios

When developing Control, did you shoot the live action scenes before the actual game development or was that done around the development itself?

Sergey Mohov, Senior Game Designer: A bit of both. I didn’t participate in any of it directly, but, from my understanding, some of the live-action stuff was filmed early on to test the style and establish characters better. The actual production-quality videos were made later when everyone had a better idea of what the missions, the story, and the level design would be like.
 
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Question #4 - Member: Fat4all

What is your favorite area in Control?

Sergey Mohov, Senior Game Designer: The Mold Threshold. It gives you this feeling like you’re getting deeper and deeper into a place where you aren’t welcome. And the farther you progress, the weirder it becomes. You really get a sense that it’s a place where our reality and some other reality collide, populated by creatures that are a product of this collision. What’s a better place to put your Director abilities to the test?
 
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Question #5 - Member: TubaZef and sabrina

How did you decided Jesse's powers and the way they interact with the world? Which came first, the powers or the obstacles that could be surpassed with them? Were there any powers you considered giving her but didn't pan out for one reason or another?

Sergey Mohov, Senior Game Designer: The feeling came first, the overall player experience. Things you and your adversaries do in the game had to feel visceral and physically connected to the world: when you use Shield, it’s concrete slabs being ripped out of the floor; when you use Launch – you pick up that forklift you’re looking at. Brutalism for us wasn’t just an art pillar, but also a gameplay one. Brutalism, as an architectural style, is about honesty in materials and shapes. We tried to make it about supernatural abilities and combat in general. That, in turn, informed the choices on things like audio, animation, and VFX.

When it comes to the actual gameplay verbs and enemies/obstacles you face in the game, those were all designed and developed from that same starting point. Plus, the usual combat push and pull: what can the enemies do to push the player to use their abilities in exciting ways? What can the player do to counter this particular combat situation?

The whole point of an enemy in an action game is to force the player to make interesting decisions while abilities and weapons are supposed to make them feel like they have all the necessary tools at their disposal. In the end, we ended up with this kind of combat chess puzzle game that is especially apparent in our more challenging content like the Expeditions.
 
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Question #6 - Member: Kyrios

Did you have any specific inspirations for the way Control was designed? I really enjoyed the old 70s style designs of the offices.

Sergey Mohov, Senior Game Designer: We had some general references that we used as a jumping-off point for the team, like Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy and Stanley Kubrick’s movies. But what inspired me personally to work on Control was how much its world reminded me of Haruki Murakami’s dreamscapes and Roadside Picnic (a novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky). That, and a possibility to work on a push-forward combat system.
 
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Question #7 - Member: Fat4all

What was the process like designing areas/levels in Control, did you start with all of the player abilities/powers known or did those evolve and change over time?

Teodor Vasile, Level Designer: We had a pretty strong idea of the player abilities when we started designing the levels. Of course those abilities evolved/got iterated on so we had to take that into account, but starting from a strong big-picture level flow and going into details afterwards saved us a lot of hours of redesign.
 
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Question #8 - Member: Solobbos

How long did it take to create the ashtray maze in Control? Was it a joyous or a laborious work? I think it was the best moment in gaming in 2019, hands down.

Sergey Mohov, Senior Game Designer: The Ashtray Maze was the brainchild of our Senior Level Designer Anne-Marie Grönroos and the rest of the Research Sector team. My personal contribution to it was helping to set up combat encounters inside and, of course, the general work on the game’s combat system. I believe the development of that particular level spanned the entire duration of the game’s production, so probably about three years. These things are usually built in layers and iterated on, so one level designer could be working on multiple areas simultaneously, and they would all be in different stages of production.

Teodor Vasile, Level Designer: The Ashtray Maze was designed by my colleague, Senior Level Designer Anne-Marie Grönroos, and, like you guys, I was in awe about what she managed to create. While I’m not privy to the internal workings on the actual maze building, you might be interested to see her presentation at GDC 2020 about this.
 
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Question #9 - Member: Khrn and Gorion's Ward

What was the reason behind the "control point" based save system only, and not add checkpoints?

Teodor Vasile, Level Designer: The checkpoint system is more suitable to a linear experience, one where we’re aware at any moment about the location and actions of the player.

Control points give the player control (I know, I know) over when they want to save and also let them freely explore areas knowing where they’ll return in case of death or after taking a break from playing.
 
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Question #10 - Member: DoubleTake

When developing Control did you guys ever run into roadblocks/conflicting design choices concerning the way Gameplay and Level design interact? I have to imagine there were a few times where the level designers had to think outside of the box due to the main character's abilities as well as times when the gameplay experience was difficult to curate due to environmental choices.

Sergey Mohov, Senior Game Designer: Not necessarily roadblocks, but conflicts all the time – that’s a constant pain but also a part of the fun of making games! One example of this is combat encounters. Secretly, some of the battles in Control are fully procedural, produced by a system we implemented which populates the encounter with enemies based on a variety of factors, while some others have various amounts of scripting in them. As a player, you can’t really tell. Deciding which would work better in what situation and result in more drama and fun for the player has been a constant back and forth between the level design and systems design team.
Adding some custom flavor to an encounter by scripting in custom behavior for enemies can result in bugs and, as a result, take more time, while fully procedural ones have a tendency to start feeling mechanical and repetitive. The end result is a fragile balance between the two that produces a consistent player experience.
 
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Question #11 - Member: Messofanego

Remedy has always been great at using level design for storytelling ever since dream sequences in Max Payne that influenced many other games like Uncharted and God Of War, it makes their games revered for their in-game storytelling than just being relegated to cutscenes like many other AAA games. In Control, the whole level design shifts in amazing ways. How do Remedy devs do it, what are the challenges in designing these sequences?!

Teodor Vasile, Level Designer: All level designers were taken to Lapland before starting on the game and left to fend for themselves for two weeks. The ones that survived were given intermittent sauna/ice baths until they were able to understand Ahti’s tropology. Then we started designing the oldest house.
Now, all joking aside, the most important thing was to have a grasp of the world and the nature of the Oldest House. We couldn’t just throw things in there and just say it’s weird. Everything in the Oldest House makes sense, but you might not be in the right dimension to realize that. With all the changes, your goal is for the player to notice them and for them to make sense to him. If we just went and changed the place William-Nilliam, it would’ve been headache inducing and not good for navigation/orientation/overall enjoyment of the game.
 
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Question #12 - Member: YaBish

One of my favorite tricks is when developers hide level loads by having the player trigger them unknowingly, and when they turn around the level has changed. There's a couple moments similar to this in Control like with the Oceanview Motel and the light chain. How hard is it to design these encounters, and how are they conceived?

Teodor Vasile, Level Designer: Hiding level loads is one of the hardest things to do, seamlessly, in an “open space” game like Control. You could lock the player in a room until the next part loads, but there are more elegant ways of doing that, like an elevator ride or a sudden climb/fall. Just know, that if we’re actually locking you in a room, it’s not because we don’t care, it’s because it was the only way to do it.
 
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Question #13 - Member: Cosmic Voyager

If you had to pick one completely new genre to work on for a new game, which one would you pick?

Sergey Mohov, Senior Game Designer: I would personally pick RPG. First of all, I’m a huge RPG fan. I grew up playing Baldur’s Gate, Planescape Torment, Arcanum, Fallout 2, Neverwinter Nights, and bring them up in design meetings regularly. But I also think that Remedy would be really good at it. Think about it: we’re all about building detailed, weird worlds, populating them with compelling characters, and then telling a story through gameplay. It seems like an excellent starting point for an RPG game.
 
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Question #14 - Member: Yuuber

When designing your games, what's the process like? For example, do you pick from a gameplay idea and develop this into a game or do gameplay elements arrive only when you decide on a story to be told?

Sergey Mohov, Senior Game Designer: Every game and even feature I’ve worked on always began with the question, “wouldn’t it be cool if..?” What follows can be a mechanic, a character, a story, or even an emotion. As a designer, the next question you tend to ask is “why:” Why would it be cool? And then “how:” how do I make the player feel the same about it?
 
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Question #15 - Member: ThreepQuest64

How does the creative and technical process of designing levels for more linear games like in Max Payne but also in Control look like, when you have to consider the narrative, playability and diversity and challenge?

Teodor Vasile, Level Designer: Because I arrived in Remedy when Control was already in development, I can’t give you an answer about the other games, but I can tell you some things about designing for Control. The main thing you’re targeting when creating levels is keeping everything consistent to the world and the setting. Because gameplay was an important pillar in the game, we focused on making every place combat friendly, while also keeping in mind player abilities and the “Metroidvania” aspect of the game. It takes a lot of iterations for them to come together, but I’m proud of the team and what we managed to achieve.
 
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Question #16 - Member: PhotogDoug

How do you go about balancing a game's difficulty in a game that doesn't offer a difficulty option?

Sergey Mohov, Senior Game Designer: A lot of DPS simulations in Excel, a lot of playtests, and a lot of asking, “who are we making this game for?”
 
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Question #17 - Member: Voror

What sort of consideration goes into the placement of all the files and documents that can be collected in the game?

Teodor Vasile, Level Designer: Collectible placing followed a pretty simple rule. Put about 50% of them in visible places, on or near the main path the player would take, or sometimes give them to the player after an interaction with a NPC, in order to advance the story and increase the curiosity in the player. Then put 30% in side-places, off the beaten path, to reward light exploration and the rest place them in well hidden, secret places and behind puzzles, to reward the hardcore explorers and completionists.
 
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Question #18 - Member: btags

Since both of you have worked at other studios prior to joining Remedy, what do you consider the strengths and weaknesses of Northlight as an engine in terms of both development process and graphical capability as compared to other engines?

Teodor Vasile, Level Designer: Northlight is an amazing engine when it comes to graphical capabilities. Control with RTX looks amazing and Northlight does it swimmingly.

On the other hand, Northlight was made with linear, straightforward games in mind. Level loading, light baking, AI handling are awesome if the game is linear and the level designers know what and when it happens. It gets a bit more complicated in an open-environment game, where you don’t know where the player goes, what they see and what they do while they're there. So we had to work around a lot of these ‘engine mores’ in order to get the game to a playable state. Of course, being an in-house engine, it evolves with the game and by the end of production we had a way better engine ready to support less linear experiences.
 
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Question #19 - Member: Cosmic Voyager

Which game are you most proud of?

Sergey Mohov, Senior Game Designer: To me, it is definitely Control. It’s the biggest project I’ve ever worked on, with an incredibly talented team. Also, the first project I’ve worked on that used an in-house engine. It wasn’t an easy game to ship, but when you’ve been in the industry for a while, you realize that there’s no such thing as an easy project, and ultimately, you don’t get extra points because a game was hard to make. All that matters is that it’s good and Control is, against all odds, a good game, if I say so myself. We took a lot of risks, and people seem to appreciate the result.
 
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Question #20 - Member: kami_sama

Alan Wake, Quantum Break, Control. Three games with similar themes (but not exactly the same mind you). Does the supernatural run through the studio's culture or was it just coincidence the games were like that?

Sergey Mohov, Senior Game Designer: Control was my first game at Remedy, so I can only speculate. I think it’s a combination of things: the crazy, brilliant mind of Sam Lake (when you think of the special sauce of a Remedy game, it tends to be cooked by this man) and the types of gameplay that we like. When combined, these elements produce games like Alan Wake, Quantum Break, Control, and let’s not forget Max Payne – my personal favorite.
 

Hecht

Alt-Accountant
Administrator
Oct 24, 2017
4,977
That concludes our Q&ERA!

ResetEra would like to thank both Sergey Mohov and Teodor Vasile for taking time out of their busy schedules to answer our community's questions, as well as Vida Starčević, Community Manager, for helping us organize this!

Our admin team would also like to thank everyone who submitted questions. If your questions weren't selected for whatever reason, we hope to have more Q&ERA's in the future for you to ask more questions!
 

Messofanego

Member
Oct 25, 2017
8,353
UK
Question #11 - Member: Messofanego

Remedy has always been great at using level design for storytelling ever since dream sequences in Max Payne that influenced many other games like Uncharted and God Of War, it makes their games revered for their in-game storytelling than just being relegated to cutscenes like many other AAA games. In Control, the whole level design shifts in amazing ways. How do Remedy devs do it, what are the challenges in designing these sequences?!

Teodor Vasile, Level Designer: All level designers were taken to Lapland before starting on the game and left to fend for themselves for two weeks. The ones that survived were given intermittent sauna/ice baths until they were able to understand Ahti’s tropology. Then we started designing the oldest house.
Now, all joking aside, the most important thing was to have a grasp of the world and the nature of the Oldest House. We couldn’t just throw things in there and just say it’s weird. Everything in the Oldest House makes sense, but you might not be in the right dimension to realize that. With all the changes, your goal is for the player to notice them and for them to make sense to him. If we just went and changed the place William-Nilliam, it would’ve been headache inducing and not good for navigation/orientation/overall enjoyment of the game.
Thanks for answering my question. This is why Remedy are one of the best when it comes to attention to detail!
 

haveheart

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,076
Thanks for the insights, interesting read! Hope to see more Q&As in the future.

I forgot to submit my question, been crazy busy with work. I would have been really interested in theoretical influences as I noticed lots of stuff ressembling Descartes and Heidegger's dualisms as well as Orlikowski's sociomateriality.
 

Kyrios

Member
Oct 27, 2017
3,788
Thanks so much for answering both my questions! Such a cool look into the planning and inspirations!
 

YaBish

Member
Oct 27, 2017
2,516
Thanks for answering my question! Some really good detailed stuff in these answers, and I can tell you guys love your craft. Keep making awesome stuff :)
 

PlanetSmasher

The Abominable Showman
Member
Oct 25, 2017
38,255
I love these folks. Remedy is good people and Control is fantastic. I don't usually play a game and immediately want a sequel before I'm even halfway through but I'm 100% hooked and want more of this world and setting.
 

Juan29.Zapata

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,808
Colombia
Thanks for making the thread, and thanks to the devs for answering the questions! Loved the game to pieces, and I can't wait for the DLC and for any future Remedy project.
 

ThreepQuest64

Avenger
Oct 29, 2017
3,459
Germany
Thank you very much for taking your time to answer these many questions. Really enjoyed the game, started a second playthrough and I'm eager to play upcoming DLC and games by Remedy. They just have that special thing that no other game has and I enjoyed every game of theirs.
 

Ozzy Onya A2Z

Member
Oct 28, 2017
2,596
I can see where the game/dev gets its charm and creativity, great answers there Sergey and Teodor. It also shouldn't go without mention the high quality questions from ERA here. Thoroughly enjoyed the Q&ERA as well as the game.
 

Windrunner

TeraFlops May Vary
Moderator
Oct 25, 2017
4,613
Some really interesting answers here regarding game design. Thank you to everyone involved!
 

GavinUK86

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,872
Thanks for the questions and answers! Really interesting stuff. Being a huge fan of Remedy, Control is my GOTY. Excited for that Alan Wake-ish DLC.
 
Oct 25, 2017
5,469
Canada
Really cool that they took the time to answer some questions.

I just finished Control earlier this week and was honestly surprised with how much I loved it. very curious about the upcoming DLC.
 

hydruxo

Member
Oct 25, 2017
6,181
Awesome Q&A! Having just beat the game this past week, reading through these answers was really informative and interesting. Thanks Remedy!
 

Shanaynay

Member
Oct 27, 2017
3,986
Awesome Q&A thank you for taking the time to answer the many questions and ERA for making it happen!
It was a very interesting read and definitely makes me wanna try the game in the near future.
 
Dec 14, 2017
728
Thanks for doing this q&era, my questions weren't selected, but really enjoyed reading the responses. Now, time to get that expedition level 3 completed.
 

Budi

Member
Oct 25, 2017
9,609
Finland
Thanks everyone for taking the time to do this, really interesting stuff. Also congrats to Remedy for the acclaim Control has been gathering recently.
 

Snormy

Snormyself to sleep
Moderator
Oct 25, 2017
2,674
Morizora's Forest
I've yet to participate/submit questions but I'm glad this is back as they have been something I enjoy reading. Thanks Hecht and Remedy!
 

kami_sama

Member
Oct 26, 2017
1,988
Yay! Got one of mine answered!
Thanks to Sergey Mohov and Teodor Vasile for answering, and the people at Remedy for making such a great game!
 

Yossarian

The Fallen
Oct 25, 2017
6,840
That was a great read. Thanks for setting it up.

A Remedy CPRG though? That’d be killer.
 

Dinda

Member
Oct 27, 2017
495
Thank you! Absolutely love the game and can't wait to play the DLC's next year!