Deathloop – Interview Arkane: “the most difficult project we have managed to do”

On the occasion of the arrival of Deathloop on Xbox Series X|S and in the Game Pass, we were able to meet two developers from Arkane Lyon who worked on the game. Jonathan Foudral, system designer and gameplay & UI producer and Francesco Venco, gameplay programmer answered our questions. Here is what they could tell us about Deathloop, its arrival on Xbox and its Golden Loop Extension.

XBOXYGEN: The arrival in the Game Pass often means a peak of new players, are you delighted at the idea that all this new public can form their own opinion on Deathloop and its atypical concept?

Jonathan Foudral: We’re thrilled to finally be able to bring it to Xbox and be able to reach even more gamers. We make games for players, so the more there are, the happier we are.

Francesco Venco: For us, it’s a job, but it’s also a passion, so the more players we touch, the happier we are. We make the games for the players, so we are extremely happy.

XBOXYGEN: Does the arrival of Arkane within Xbox Game Studios and the Game Pass advantage change the way you plan to make games?

JF: We’ll continue to make games that we like, that are unique, so it doesn’t change much.

FV: Our DNA is quite clear, we make immersive sims, it’s our specialization and our strength.

XBOXYGEN: What would you like to say to Xbox players who discover the game?

JF: We are happy that they are joining the community, because there is a small community of players that already exists with whom they will be able to interact via crossplay. The multiplayer is going to be interesting with lots of new players. Our multiplayer is a bit unique because it’s not particularly competitive. He’s going to encourage this game of cat and mouse between Juliana and Colt. There’s a lot that hinges on Juliana and how she plays and role-plays in multiplayer. So veterans, be nice to new players at first, if you see they’re a bit lost in the map, let them experiment and don’t be too harsh right away. This is mainly what we expect as a very positive interaction between all these players.

FV: For us, it’s interesting to see if we will have players thanks to Game Pass who will eventually try the game, even if an immersive FPS sim is not necessarily everyone’s thing. So precisely, it’s an opportunity to have players who are not necessarily hardcore shooter fans who can try.

JF: The game is really unique. It’s hard to compare with other games, so the best way to get an idea is to try it out. And we are always very surprised to see how much with certain players, it resonates in a really very very strong way.

XBOXYGEN: What can you tell us about the Golden Loop Extension?

JF Lots of new content, new enemies, new weapons, new power, new charms. It also includes all previous updates with all accessibility options, photo-mode.

FV: New Xbox players aren’t necessarily going to notice what’s new or what was already there. For example, the signature power of Julianna, the enemy of the game that can be used to make invasions in PVP, Masquerade which allows you to copy the appearance of another character. Unlike the other powers, Masquerade had no upgrades (additional options, editor’s note) and with the Golden Loop Update, there are four upgrades including 2 to choose from, like all the other powers. The Xbox player won’t necessarily notice that there’s anything new, but the overall experience will be richer.

JF: It’s richer and it’s important to say that all this new content will be added on top of the main game. But it won’t be behind any quests or something to do before, it will be available right away. All new players will have access to it from the start and old ones who will also return. And the same for those who have an ongoing campaign. We took a lot of time and care to integrate that with a lot of consideration for the structure of the game which is quite complex, so it should be smooth.

XBOXYGEN: And you add an extended ending?

JF: Yes. Obviously, we’re not going to spoil the ending. It’s an extended ending, not another ending. We wanted to respond to player feedback for this. We had a lot in the sense that they wanted more, so we tried to do more. Same, trying not to alter the basic content too much. The whole team of narrative designers who did it, including Bennett Smith, did a great job and I think people will be happy to see that.

XBOXYGEN: We know that Deathloop was designed to take into account DualSense functionalities, was any particular work done on the Xbox port around the sensations of the controller in hand?

JF: We don’t really have control over the hardware, but to my knowledge it will remain as it is.

FV: We are very happy with the Xbox version and there is a lot of work on the engine and graphics. We have 60 frames per second for each version.

XBOXYGEN: Is there a desire, as for previous games from the studio, to extend Deathloop via a narrative extension, a stand-alone, or even a sequel?

JF: We have no plans to share on the subject.

XBOXYGEN: Deathloop is a game that has its own difficulty with a single difficulty mode. As we can see elsewhere sometimes, have you considered integrating different modes of difficulty?

JF: It’s already available through accessibility options. There is a way to modulate the difficulty a bit. Certain settings will exclude you from multiplayer, such as having infinite lives, but you can customize your game quite far at this level.

FV: There was a lot of work done, not just to help players with accessibility issues, but also to accommodate players who wanted a more difficult game. There is the possibility of modifying its number of lives which is 2 or 3 normally. You can have four, infinite or none. And therefore play a little in hard mode.

XBOXYGEN: Compared to a game like Dishonored which wants to be more linear in its progression, the more rogue-like time loop of Deathloop had what implication in the creative and narrative development of the game?

JF: Creatively it was very complex, very interesting, but really complex to set up. Matching the violins between the game designers, the level designers, the narrative designers, it really took time to mature. To see what worked or not, put in place rules that the player can understand. So, I think I can say that from a conceptual point of view, this is the most difficult project that we have managed to do.

FV: From a gameplay programming point of view, it’s not necessarily more complex apart from the few specific features. I don’t think you can call it a roguelike because there are no random elements for each day. There are obviously things that change because a player can decide to go to a different place and what you do in one place can have consequences later in the day. There’s a system that increases the difficulty as you kill targets, so there’s a procedural part, but it’s not strong like in a rogue-like. But I think what’s interesting for us is that for example in Dishonored, players are going to have run one way and they haven’t seen everything the game has to offer and we’re going to do it once, maybe twice, but that’s it. We will therefore not have seen everything. Whereas in Deathloop, we really have to change our strategy each time we play because it’s going to the same place, but with different information and additional weapons. So for us, it was a bit of a way to help the player to play Dishonored several times.

JF: It was a choice that wasn’t obvious at first because we hesitated between having something that is random between each new playthrough or, on the contrary, something more or less identical and we want the player to learn and familiar with the map. We made that choice at the end, but it wasn’t easy at the start.

XBOXYGEN: On the multiplayer side, is it going to be easily affordable for players who are just starting out? Do you absolutely have to try to embody Juliana?

JF: I really encourage players to try because the goal is not really to be competitive. It is to create memorable and interesting moments. We play a lot with our players, it’s the first time we can do it so it’s pretty cool. There are plenty of moments that are posted on Reddit or Twitter that are quite unique. So if you are lucky enough to come across someone who is interesting, there is a real game of cat and mouse to set up. It’s not that hard because in our game, one of the themes is that we die fast and we kill fast. It’s true for the NPCs, it’s true for the players too (except to take upgrades which will prevent that). So it’s a must try if you want to create memorable moments.

FV: If I can give any advice, you can decide at any time whether you want to play online, only with friends, or solo, and so there will be AI-controlled Julianas instead. And in the beginning, to get familiar with the game, one can start playing offline to get to know the map better and start accumulating weapons. But then at least try to get invaded and make an invasion. I understand that for some players there is this stress side of risking losing their day. But if we play with Juliana, there’s nothing to lose, maybe you’ll die right away, but there’s no such risk. There is no progression system with Juliana, you don’t have to win with her, just do cool things.

XBOXYGEN: Does this release on Xbox and the accompanying Golden Loop Edition mark a final point in the development of the game?

JF: It’s definitely a milestone, in the sense that it’s been a year since the game was released. It feels like yesterday, but it’s been a year. We’re finally going to reach all Xbox gamers, we’ve got a whole bunch of free upgrades and we can’t wait to see how they react to it all.

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