The Real A Way Out: Josef Fares Talks To Pause Resume
Craig had the opportunity to talk to the Writer and Director of A Way Out, Josef Fares. They discuss the anticipated game, why it’s co-op only, what influence EA has on the project, why the comparisons with Uncharted are unfair and whether DLC or Microtransactions can be expected.
When Josef Fares stepped out onto the EA Play stage to unveil A Way Out last June, he revealed his game to the world with an enthusiasm and positivity that is rarely seen at a press conference. Usually, these reveals are scripted to the point where the words coming out from the presenter become robotic and tiresome, often leading to the audience and viewers begging for the chat to be over and the game to be shown.
That didn’t happen with Josef Fares and A Way Out though. In fact, Hazelight’s Fares – the writer and director of A Way Out – even forgot what he was supposed to say at one point, but nobody really noticed as he explained how A Way Out works, why it was special and how Hazelight was creating something different and unique in what, from the outside at least, appears to be being carved in a highly positive and enthusiastic environment.
Josef Fares’ appearance at EA Play struck a chord with many story-driven players, myself included, so much so that when I got the chance to talk to him about how A Way Out was coming along, that same enthusiasm and positivity from the game’s initial reveal came out in droves, but also with a message of realism for those anticipating the game.
“Since [the reveal at] E3 we’ve been super excited about the excitement that people have for A Way Out, but one thing that’s concerning a little bit is that people are comparing us to AAA titles and that is one thing that I can assure you that we are not.”
“I sometimes joke that we have the coffee budget of Naughty Dog. We’re a small team here, we’re doing an extreme amount of stuff for the amount of money and team that we have.”
“A Way Out is a linear story, for two people and a cinematic linear story, there are no branching paths, it’s a hand-tailored story from A to B but it will definitely be an experience like never before. We’re taking many big risks and doing things that people won’t expect. I’d rather take risks to try something new than anything else.”
There’s no doubt that since its reveal A Way Out has generated a lot of buzz within the industry. The days of story-driven games are becoming more and more niche by the year and for many fans who enjoy sitting down to play a great story, a comparison with bigger titles like Uncharted are never too far away. It’s a comparison that has been levelled at A Way Out and as flattering as it is, Hazelight and Fares were keen to spell out what they were creating.
“What I can say without spoiling it is that this is not a full price game. It’s very flattering when people compare us to Naughty Dog. But, let me give you an example, our shooting mechanic, we have one coder working on that. That’s it. Our AI, we have one intern coder working on that. So if we’re going to be compared to Naughty Dog and people say ‘the shooting’s not like Uncharted’ then we’re fucked. They have a big big budget, so the comparison isn’t fair. So I’m trying to steer away from that.”
“If I get the money they get, then sure. [Being compared to Naughty Dog] is a compliment but it’s like ‘Woah take it easy’. A Way Out is a great game that’s trying something different, totally different to that.”
“We started with 12 people, we’re now up to 35-40 developers now because the game has become bigger. We don’t have any outsourcing whatsoever, we’re doing everything in-house. I even do the mo-cap myself. Even though we have EA as a publisher, I mean, they are supportive but we’ve only got an amount of money from that that we decided on at the beginning. We haven’t got any extra.”
“If people think this is Uncharted 4 for two players then that is very wrong.”
When it’s released, A Way Out will be published under EA’s Originals banner, an arm of EA that helps independent studios with marketing and publishing their own unique creations. Josef explained the influence that EA have on A Way Out is … “Only financial, that’s it.”
“I know there’s a thing of liking to hate EA now but for me, they’re respectful with me, super good and they know they can’t touch A Way Out. I have full creative control on A Way Out. Nothing comes into that game without me saying yes or no, nobody decides this.”
“They’ve been supportive, they’ve helped us out when we’ve needed help like from a marketing perspective so that’s not been a problem at all.”
“EA can’t interfere in any way. They can’t even change the colour of a dress. I’m super hard on that, trust me. All this recent talk about EA doesn’t even bother me, I don’t even care. I can tell you that no one is touching this game.”
EA has recently been in the mainstream news for their use of Loot Boxes and Microtransactions in some of their more recent games. Josef explained that while these practices and methods might be being used in EA’s own in-house games, they won’t be making an appearance in A Way Out.
“There absolutely will not be any of that kind of shit in this game. Nothing will end up in the game like that. I’m a passionate gamer and I don’t care if it’s EA, Activision, Sony, Nintendo, these are people who sometimes fuck up, that’s how it is, it’s not only EA. I can only talk for myself and Hazelight, and again, nobody is deciding anything on how this game’s done. I’d rather be a beggar on the street than to say yes for something to be in the game that I don’t want to be in there. I know that this stuff will never happen in A Way Out and the future games that I will do.”
One of A Way Out’s more unique features outside its narrative story has been the decision to focus on co-op, especially at a time when co-op is continually relegated to an afterthought for most games.
“In general, I always like to make games that I want to play myself and one genre that I feel was lacking was co-op. I wanted to play a co-op game that wasn’t a typical drop-in drop-out. I wanted to make something where you play the character that you care for and that meant something to you. And that’s where the idea came from. Although I like co-op shooting I felt that there was a need to tell an experience and story in this way. But it’s been super challenging, obviously.”
“I know some people have said that because we don’t have single-player it will sell less but I really don’t care about that. For me, it’s about the vision. That’s what’s most important and it’s been so since day one. A Way Out has always been a cinematic, narrative co-op for two people”
“Make sure to play the game with someone who isn’t a run and gun person. Because if you’re playing with a partner that is run and gun, then this is the wrong game for you. You have to find a partner that likes to play story”
“[Being compared to Naughty Dog] is a compliment but it’s like ‘Woah take it easy’. A Way Out is a great game that’s trying something different totally different to that.””
A Way Out’s co-op isn’t just restricted to online though, in fact, Josef explained that in an ideal world he believes the game should be played by two people in the same room.
“Yes, I’d prefer that [couch co-op] because the idea is to have you and your partner talking to each other and I think doing it on the couch is way more fun than online. It’s still a fun experience online, but I do prefer people sitting on the couch, it’s way more interesting.”
There have also been recent rumours that A Way Out was going to miss its 2018 release window and slip to 2019, but during our discussion, Fares confirmed that the game was still set to be released next year. “Yes, definitely.” was his exact response. Ruling out the recent rumour that had been circulating.
A Way Out is different tonally from Fares’ previous game Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, but there’s no doubt that this is a man who firmly believes that he is creating something to truly be proud of. His voice oozed with enthusiasm throughout our chat and there’s no doubt that he fully believes that the team at Hazelight are crafting a game that we should all look forward to getting our hands on next year.
“I’m ready to do anything for this game. There are passionate people, there are crazy people and then there is me. You will definitely not have played anything like it before. I know I’m cocky but I have a reason to be.”
A Way Out is set for a 2018 release with further information on the title set to be unveiled at The Game Awards this Thursday.
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