WIRED speaks with Quantum Break director and writer Sam Lake on how real quantum physics influenced the game, wooing actors, and how a game studio steps into television production
On the surface, Quantum Break may seem like just another action-heavy shooter, but it could prove to be one of the most ambitious games released this year. Developed by Remedy Entertainment, the studio behind Alan Wake and Max Payne, it blurs the line between video games and television with a time-travel storyline where player choice impacts not only the direction of the game, but also how episodes of a built-in live action show play out.
The game has also attracted Hollywood talent, with a cast including Shawn Ashmore as protagonist Jack Joyce, who finds himself with time-manipulation abilities in the wake of an accident that threatens to break time itself.
WIRED speaks with Quantum Break director and writer Sam Lake on how real quantum physics influenced the game, wooing actors, and how a game studio steps into television production.
WIRED: Remedy worked with an actual quantum physicist to develop Quantum Break, correct? How involved was that collaboration?
Sam Lake: Yes, a brilliant guy, Syksy Räsänen. He’s worked at CERN; these days he is teaching physics at Helsinki University. We were lucky enough to get him to come in as a consultant. We explained our ideas to him and he went through those ideas and tried to explain to us how modern physics sees that things work or would work, both on the classical physics and quantum physics sides. We had discussions and brainstorming sessions as well, around the Higgs field, the Higgs boson and how that relates to the idea of gravity; how, in theory, there could be a similar field and particle that is tied to time. From that we got our idea for chronofields and chronoparticles, which are based on the scientist in the story, called Meyer-Joyce fields and particles.
For example, our time machine design did come from that. Räsänen was talking about rotating black holes and particles and gravity wells and how, at a certain point, if you move through space you’re actually moving through time. And that’s our time machine, essentially — there is a core, there is a corridor. That was a nice thing to me, that our design is unique. I’ve never seen anything similar in time travel pop culture.
Jack’s powers feel like an evolution of bullet time, as seen inMax Payne. From a gameplay perspective, how much ofQuantum Break was wanting to evolve that concept?
There certainly was an element there [but] we went into this from a direction of story and the idea of interactive narrative. We knew that we wanted to give the player a power to make choices and for me, that presented a challenge. To figure out a story genre that would be thematically tied to the idea of making choices that have consequences, and that led me to time travel. Because time travel stories usually are about that; you change things, explore causality.
So we had a story with a similar theme to what we wanted the player to be able to do. But we also very much tried to create a Remedy version of a big Hollywood blockbuster, so action and spectacle were big parts of it. By itself, having time travel in the story doesn’t give you action. So we took a step back and decided to make time a big theme in general — time breaking down and giving the player powers to affect time itself. That felt like the right direction because of Max Payne — we knew that messing with time gives you a really impressive, cinematic experience.
We were confident that we were on the right track, but at the same time we really wanted to create action gameplay that’s more varied and deeper than any previous Remedy game and we knew that we needed multiple different elements in it which kind of gave us a different framework. In Max Payne, it’s essentially all in Max’s head. Time is not really slowing down, it’s his perception of things. But here we wanted to create the superhero experience where all of these things are really happening with time.
(Full Story/Interview)Source: How real physics impacted time-travel game Quantum Break (Wired UK)