Republique is a new video game IP from a new studio with some familiar faces. Leading the project is Ryan Payton, most recently a creative director at 343 Industries, working on Halo 4. Before that, he was a producer on Metal Gear Solid 4.
Now, with his new company Camoflaj, he wants to create a triple-A iOS experience - one which may also come to PC and Mac in a different form.
Republique is a game about privacy, voyeurism, and information, and Payton aims to say some things with the project that he wasn't able to in larger companies. For the development of Republique Camoflaj has partnered with Logan, primarily an advertisement agency.
To help fund the project, like many other games recently, Camoflaj and Logan have turned to Kickstarter. We spoke with Payton and Camoflaj cohort Ezra Hanson-White (formerly a designer at Monolith and Gearbox) about the game's production, the trouble with app stores, the possibility of a PC version, and the game's diverse influences, which range from Resident Evil to Demon's Souls.
Do you feel like you have an agenda with this game?
Ryan Payton: Absolutely.
What would that be?
RP: Well, it’s a number of things, but one is I left Microsoft specifically because even though I was a creative director at one point like I didn’t feel like I was a creative director. And you know, I think that’s just the nature of being in a big company.
One of the cool things that we can do just being independent is we can live and die by the stories that we want to tell, and we don’t have to worry about somebody really high up in the company to tell us "you can’t tell a story about voyeurism or surveillance cameras because you’re going to upset some demographic or business relationship we have with another company."
And I have lots of things that I want to say about how increasingly the world is under surveillance, and our being under watch. Things that we’re saying are being checked, and the things that we’re writing are being checked and I really want to make a game that says something about that.
So you're going for triple-A iOS here - what will your business model be? Because, if you’re looking at phones now, you can sell things at ninety-nine cents, or free, and that's pretty much it.
RP: Yeah we haven’t really figured out what the right path is. I mean we’re still about a year off from the game, so it gives us some time to really think about it and look at the market.
And things will change by then.
RP: It's super volatile right now, right? So we’re not really committed to one specific path in terms of like a pricing structure and things, but my whole philosophy is, as long as we make a really kick ass game; really high quality with a really good story, good visuals, good gameplay, then I think everything is going to fall into place, and I think we’ll find some success. That’s the way I’m thinking about it.
It's tough, I mean I know it’s being designed for the phone but it seems like it's easier to sell something this level on Steam than on the phone.
RP: Yeah, we were just talking about that last night about being really committed to what we want to do on PC and Mac as well. And it’s going to be a different experience. We’re just not going to port it to PC or we’re not going to port the PC to phone. It’s a different experience, right?
Because the way we’re thinking about it in terms of the interactions that players are having on their phone, it becomes more like if you have multiple screens on your computer, it’s still a Big Brother kind of interface but the things you can do are a lot faster. You can have multiple windows up at the same time. It becomes a different kind of game.
Yeah, indeed. But the whole phone market is very scary. I feel like most people don’t make very much money. Some people make a whole lot of money on it. I don’t think there are a whole lot of people selling 50,000 downloads of their game. There are people selling a million plus, and then there are people below 10,000.
RP: I feel like everything is going to fall into place. I don’t think there are like triple-A Metacritic 90-plus games that are just lost, I just don’t think they exist. And one of my frustrations is, well first of all I think the publishers that we’ve met so far, they’ve understood the vision and they get it, but I have heard through the grapevine about some executives and some mobile companies saying story games will never be successful like on a mobile platform and I just don’t agree with that.
I just think it hasn’t been proven yet and a lot higher ups, they need it to be proven first. It seems like they need to see market success before they’re going to pursue those things, and I like the fact that we’re pushing something that hasn’t been done before, because what’s the point of being in this industry unless you’re going to do something new and different and kind of scary?
We've talked a bit about Dark Souls and Demon's Souls -- apparently they were an influence on Republique?
RP: Dark Souls is a really big point of conversation between us. I think about the design of the game and I think it’s personally kind of scary when we talk about it, because I worry we’re going to make a really hard game. That's not the idea but there’s so much… I don’t know if you want to talk about some of the things we’re influenced by, Ezra.
Ezra Hanson-White: One of the things I like about it is I can go and play it, and I’ll keep replaying an area, but I don’t really get tired of it. It’s kind of sort of like building this map of what I need to do to get through the area, collect more souls and get back.
And with a lot of other games I don’t get that, it’s way more that you move through the area and then it’s on to the next place, and it’s really streamlined. Dark Souls kind of reminds me of older games that I used to play, so that might be why I’m enjoying it. But I think it’d be cool to have that type of kind of experience on this where you can…
Chip away at something?
EH-W: Yeah, and it’s like you’re gradually unveiling new areas but you still have reason to go through the areas that you’ve already been to and hack into different things and uncover more information.
RP: Yeah, definitely like the whole kind of Metroidvania feeling. We’re really inspired by the mansion of Resident Evil 1. You could become very familiar with the lobby of that space, right? And that familiarity in Dark Souls, we want to transfer over and get some inspiration from that on Republique.
EH-W: Yeah, that’d be great, I mean the player just feels totally empowered, they’re just in control of everything like they’re control over the original facility. It’s like you’re just gradually taking over. Then you get a sense of like mastery and you know “if I do this I can interrupt this over here, cut off these guards...”
RP: Because a big part of it is warping to different cameras, different things that have a wifi connection so you can hack into a computer and create a distraction for the guards to come in and allow [main character] Hope to sneak by. Like if they’re pursuing Hope, you’re able to hack into the door and close the door on the guards so a lot of it is you are playing this kind of overseer in a sense.
We wanted to make a game that's basically all about establishing your trust with her, so she would be willing to do more daring things as the game goes on. That adds chords like stealth; you’re kind of helping and directing her, doing recon, learning more about this facility, and learning about the secrets of why she is being kept here, and who is this overseer guy.
And who are you as a player supposed to be?
RP: You are supposed to be you. I want Brandon in the game, I want it to be your relationship with her. That’s the basic idea.