Supermassive Games is a BAFTA-winning game developer recognised for innovation in both storytelling and VR. Ahead of a pioneering masterclass at ASFF 2019, Director Will Byles discusses the crossover between interactive media, exploring games as an extension of filmmaking and exploring the Butterfly Effect Mechanic.
ASFF: Supermassive Games’ titles include Until Dawn, starting Rami Malek, who recently won an Oscar. In what ways do the worlds of film and gaming overlap?
WB: With the advances in run time technology, the barriers to high-end visual storytelling are dropping fast. Our narrative games are fully scripted and storyboarded in the same way movies are. We now have full production shoots in LA, Montreal and London, more akin to principle photography than traditional game making. High fidelity performance capture using film tools mean we can now have much more subtlety and nuance.
ASFF: Can you explain the Butterfly Effect Mechanic?
WB: In a branching narrative – where the significance of a choice is not called out – the player often assumes that a game is linear, and they have no awareness of the diverting path. The Butterfly Effect was a way of telegraphing to the player that the decision or action they had just taken was of significant consequence and had changed their future in a way that would be very hard to predict. (Much like the famous butterfly meeting its wings that could lead to a tornado)
ASFF: How does this heighten the gaming experience?
WB: In Until Dawn we had a rule that when a character died, they stayed dead. There was no respawn. This meant death was a very big event and something to be feared. You could make a decision that could lead inevitably to yours or another character’s death further down the line. Every time the player was notified of the Butterfly Effect being triggered, they were aware that they had done something irrevocable.
ASFF: VR has opened up new possibilities for the genre. What does the future of gaming look like?
WB: We have done a lot of VR work and it’s fair to say that there is still a great deal of discovery to be made on how this will pan out. VR language is still very plastic. This is unlike film language, where there is over a century of storytelling techniques and grammar.
ASFF: What are you most looking forward to attending at this year’s ASFF?
WB: I’m looking forward to the masterclass Frame by Frame: Behind the Scenes at Aardman.
Book your place at Supermassive Games’ ASFF 2019 Masterclass, The Butterfly Effect: Expansive Narratives, taking place 8 November.
See the full ASFF 2019 programme here.
Images from Until Dawn.