-Let’s start with the team! Tequila Works is a newly founded independent studio, but your bio shows that most of the team worked on AAA games in the past… Please, give us a little history lesson: who are you, where are you based, how did you come together?
Madrid-based Tequila Works was founded in late 2009, when a group of old friends and talented veterans from Blizzard, MercurySteam, Weta, Triumph, SCEE and Pyro decided to focus on tasteful little creations. Something we could feel proud of. Most of us had worked together before, and our highlights include, among others, Diablo III, Heavy Rain, the Motorstorm and Commandos sagas, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow or Overlord II. We wanted to really enjoy again with what we do, and let our artisan spirit dominate all our creations. This mix of might, logic and traditional attention to detail is what makes Tequila Works a place where everybody must get passionately involved with the universes we create.
-Not a lot of well-known studios are based in Spain: Mercury Steam and now you are among the few, making AAA games – what makes the country a great place to have a studio in? What are the advantages of Spanish developers?
Traditionally Spain has produced big talents but after the golden age in the 1980s, most of them had to seek opportunities overseas. Now, thanks to digital distribution and the indie phenomenon, there’s an inspiring renaissance with studios such as Crocodile (Zack Zero), Akaoni (Zombie Panic in Wonderland), Over the Top (The Fancy Pants), Digital Legends (One), Bitoon (Basket Dudes), Pendulo Studios (Runaway), Virtual Toys and of course MercurySteam (Castlevania: Lords of Shadow), and awesome indies like Locomalito, Eclipse or Geardome.
-Setting up a studio must have been hard, even with a résumé like yours: how would you describe your experience? What were the advantages and problems?
Painful! Before Tequila Works I was one of the cofounders of MercurySteam. This time we were older and wiser, but also the economic situation closed us doors that were opened a while back. The games industry is very unstable for developers, so we knew that there was no floor under our feet from the beginning! We are self-funded, which allows us to keep our independence, but also means too many headaches and sleepless nights. Tequila Works was founded with a very flexible culture based on collaboration and confidence. That’s only possible when you are small and can adapt fast enough to all the unexpected changes that happen all the time. We are very happy with our size. Of course we cannot compete with bigger studios focused on AAA retail games, but that’s not our goal. No matter the size, we challenge ourselves to make it something only a “boutique studio” could do. –
Although there are a bunch of post-apocalyptic games out there, not a lot of them tried to tell a story in America: why did you choose that country and that time period, the ’80s?
We strongly disagree… America is a magnet for catastrophes! The 80s have a unique visual appeal, and also marks the beginning of the end of the Cold War. Paranoia and fear defined most of the 80s; add chaos to remove civilization and you will get a world based in distrust and individual survival. The Pacific Nortwest was ideal to boost the feeling of solitude and isolation that Randall feels all the time. The dead are the lucky ones in Deadlight, as they don’t have to deal with the pain and starvation that will slowly turn the living insane.
-According to your story, the country is ravaged – what happened to it? How did you come up with this scenario?
Too many issues of 1984, Heavy Metal and Cimoc magazines during our childhood I guess. Authors such as Richard Corben, J.G. Ballard, Richard Matheson, Stephen King, Robert Kirkman and Cormac McCarthy have heavily influenced us. Deadlight’s story goes back to the character, it’s Randall’s inner journey. The point of our narration resides in the development of a character who tries to survive, not what happened or who spread the disease. There are not hidden evils in the shadows, just you and your fears.
-Your hero is Randall Wayne, a survivor – that’s all we know about him. Could you give a little bit more info about him? What’s his story and how did he became your star?
Randall Wayne was born the 19th of May, 1952 in Hope, BC. He barely left his hometown in his life, except for a couple of visits to Vancouver. He hated cities and only found peace in the isolation of nature. Randall married very young and had a daughter called Lydia. Before the Massive Mess, Wayne was an ordinary man with no great aspirations, but also without a heavy load on his shoulders. He became a park warden and spent long stays in the mountains, which improve his character. Thanks to his long his job in the woods, Wayne acquired basic knowledge on weapons handling, survival skills and climbing. Randall has a passion for crime fiction and espionage novel and has an interest in animal biology. He is introverted and slightly paranoid.
-The game is billed as a puzzle platformer: what does it mean when it comes to gameplay? How much fighting and how much puzzle solving is in the game?
Randall is alive, that’s his main advantage. His is fast and agile. One of the main inspirations for Deadlight are the classic cinematic platformers, like Prince of Persia, Another World and Flashback. The environment is a character itself; there are deadly traps and a misstep means death. Randall has a variety of navigation, combat and interaction with the environment that allow him to advance and solve the physics-based puzzles. There’s no inventory or “find the red key” puzzles in Deadlight. Combat is always an option, albeit a poor one. There are more enemies than bullets, and noise is a key mechanic in Deadlight. Randall finds tools and small firearms during the game, but these are more useful as ways of unblocking paths than killing. Don’t expect rocket launchers! Noise and using yourself as a life bait. When you are in a dead world, every little sound is amplified. Zombies are tireless but they are dumb. The player must take care of that, but also it’s an ability at his/her disposal. For example, Randall can scream or taunt to catch the attention. It doesn’t sound very smart of him, but you will understand when you play the game.
-Deadlight looks simple gorgeous: have you developed an internal engine for it? What are its strengths?
We decide to focus on our main strengths and outsourced the rest. Deadlight uses Unreal Engine 3.5. It has everything we need! It’s powerful, flexible, and great support.
-Microsoft is the publisher behind a title: was it hard convincing them to board your ship? Who fostered the deal and how is it that a newly founded indie studio was able to sign with a huge company like this?
Not at all. It was a pleasure to negociate with Peter Zetterberg and Cherie Lutz. They really understood our philosophy and had the vision how Deadlight would fit in XBLA. Everything went fast and smooth. I guess we were very lucky to find people who can appreciate tasteful creations!
-Are you planning on making a PC or a PS3 version when the exclusivity period ends?
We don’t discard other platforms, but it’s too soon to say. Let’s finish the game first!