PCPP Note: Due to the size of this interview (it went for over two hours!), we've left this in its original unedited Q&A format. And an extra special thanks go to David and Drew for their time!
PCPP: It was amazing to see the command centre in full swing last night!
Dave: The command centre became the absolute nerve centre and hub, the way Drew managed the the guys and set that department up, it runs the game like clockwork. Once the teams are in the loop, we have complete control over them. And to see six pumped guys armed, standing in front of an open doorway and being told “Hold your position soldiers, hold your positions.... three, two, one, breach!” And they’re standing there waiting in front of an open door for the command to actually go in - it’s just a fucking voice in their ear, but we've got them.
So that became apparent in the first few days of operation – just how much control we have. So the emphasis came on, using the command and control as a much more interactive part of the game, so there’s a lot more chatter. We really thought of it just as a safety net.
Drew: Yeah, pretty much to heard cats through it and make sure they didn't…
Dave: ...fuck up!
Drew: Yeah! It was to make sure they weren't going to smash the hell out of an actor, or… no-one really knew what players would do when the first team went through: Hope we don’t get arrested now!
Dave: But the controllers became so crucial to the gameplay, the flow of the game and the player experience. There’s a lot of work been done with Drew and the guys there with the scripting and the dialogue and the hand-overs that happen between the controllers and just providing that extra level of engagement and immersion for the players. Because we honestly thought that once they were in they’ll do their own thing and they’ll be fine, and that’s just there as a lifeline, but no, it became so much more than that. So, for Level 2, the controller is going to be a very significant part.
PCPP: Can you tell us a bit about “Level 2”?
Dave: Nothing is set in stone yet, as I’m sure you could imagine, but Patient 0 - I think if we take a step back first – Patient 0 as an event, we brought to market very quickly. Drew did and incredible job creating the universe and the back-story and the gameplay to create the event. So we've now got this universe of the parent company and the security company, so that exists in as real a sense as possible.
The venue that you've seen is the ground floor of the facility. That was Dr. Klaus’ world. But he’s dead now. Everyone killed Patient 0, you saw the big guy fall over at the end in a very theatrical way. He’s dead, he’s gone. However the facility’s still intact so the story that we’re considering is the Grey Area Protection services in their final cleanup of the building have uncovered an underground level of the building that they didn’t know existed. So that we can give our players, those who have played before – though coming back to the same venue...
Drew: New map, new everything!
Dave: But they’ll enter through a different door. The immersion room as it was before with the sliding door and the yellow light and the bell ringing, that room as the immersion into the course – what we’re talking about is dressing it to do a theatrical lift; so a sound and lighting gag like you’re going underground. So we've now hit the subterranean level, we throw the door open, or the lift goes “ca-ching”, the doors open, and brand new map brand new gameplay.
Logically in the story arc, we can be at the same building, but have a completely different layout, and with it being underground, it means we can do what we like. So it’s going to be less big open areas, more tunnels and corridors, more … fake rock-falls and excavated areas, so the players have to get lower and… not crawl because they've got weapons so it might be a tricky, but certainly crouch and get through.
Less big areas, more smaller and narrow because that way we can have the scares that worked, and what we learned from the 6000-odd players that have gone through Patient 0 is things like the office area - that has no lighting, and no sound design - was one of the spookiest and creepiest areas for players because it was so confined. And the big areas are great, but they’re very hard for us to manage the atmos-levels with smoke and lighting spill we get on day-runs and things; plus having a large cast to successfully populate a big area. So to bring it all down so it’s much more claustrophobic so we can really increase the smoke levels, we can increase the “eek” factor.
Drew: More physical gags, like the one in the [Patient 0] toilets where you kick the door in and the body lunges forward
Dave: It’s a haunted house gag – you kick the door and the zombie lurches in your face – scared the shit out of me even though I knew it was there!
Drew: It gets everyone. It’s a little bit sick but I love it every time you watch it on CCTV, and you know which door it is and then they’re kicking, kicking… “Eughh!” every time.
Dave: So there’ll be more physical gags inherent in the building. And the RFID is a great tool. It’s something we've learned through Patient 0 – the players love the interactiveness of the building. Shooting is an important part, but interactiveness, like a video game, they want to press something, do something, turn something, so we’re going to be putting a lot more of those features and elements in. Some of them will be RFID related, others will be putting your hand into something to find... something – there’ll be some squelch-factor.
Drew: Gross touching-stuff.
Dave: And because we've got the RFIDs we can use them in all different ways. So what we’ve talked about is having – it’s a slight spoiler but we’ll see how we go – like a fingerprint scanner on one of the doors, so you’ll have to find an arm, so that’ll have an RFID in it so you’ll have to put the hand on to the scanner to activate it, or an eyeball on a retina scanner – those kinds of things.
So it gives the player something a lot more physical to be engaged with, and it works within the tech we've got; and this is the feedback we’re getting, people love the shooting but they want more engagement with the building. And that’s why we’re going to take two months to rebuild - because we want to really do this stuff properly. And like all video games there’s usually a toxic steam cloud you've got to find a valve to turn off. We built those initially but didn't install them in the game proper for a few different reasons, but we've got them there so possibly we’re going to use those – so players can’t go down a corridor until they find the valve to turn off and divert the steam so they can get through. So that sort of thing in Level 2.
Also one of the first things when they come through the lift door - left or right – which way do we go?
Drew: Choose your own adventure.
Dave: That is an absolutely crucial part of Level 2. So the course - because we've got a huge facility there – rather than the linear path which works very well, to give the players the chance to go left or right.