It is no exaggeration to say that there are few fans of Nintendo Switch. Control Even if the version they get harnesses the power of the cloud rather than the roar of Switch’s built-in processing, it will hit their console in 2020.
Nonetheless, Remedy’s award-winning action titles are a welcome addition to the Switch library. Hitman 3Could be the first of many AAA releases to appear on the console through the wonders of streaming technology.
We were fortunate to be able to talk to Remedy’s Mikael Kasurinen (Game Director), Mika Vehkala (Technical Director) and Thomas Puha (Communication Director) about this groundbreaking release.
Nintendo Life: First, before we get into the Switch version of Control, please tell us a bit about the first inspiration behind the game and what you want to achieve with it. The project must have started long before the Switch was announced.
Mikael Kasurinen, Game Director: The first inspiration was to create a game that focused on establishing a rich and unexpected world. This is an exciting place you want to keep returning. A place that may be difficult to understand, but invites players to explore and participate. It was a very different approach conceptually for us. And then everything else happened, including the desire to set up a bureau to investigate supernatural phenomena, and places that seemed to violate the laws of physics.
There were a lot of reference materials about pop culture. Southern reach Trilogy or movie by Jeff VanderMeer Stalker By Tarkovsky; they helped us find the overall tone and design of the world of control. Like ambitious creative efforts, we stand on the shoulders of giants.
The end result is an interesting combination of these inspirations, Remedy’s existing suite of work created over the years, and the desire to dive deep into the pool in a strange, unexpected and exciting world.
The game is a true tech showcase on the PC, and when it was launched in August 2019, it pushed the console hard. Can you tell us a bit about the Northlight engine and how Control pushes the boundaries of technology beyond previous games?
Mika Vehkala, Technical Director: I wanted to improve the North Light engine to control it in multiple ways. One of the major areas for improvement on the engine side was to provide better technology for gameplay teams to build smooth, action-oriented gameplay.
We have developed a whole new game AI and animation technology and control tools for fast-paced action gameplay in a dynamic world where players can move around very quickly not only on the ground but also in the air. Physics and VFX have also undergone significant improvements and system changes, allowing game teams to create all the beautiful real-time destruction that is central to their controls.
We also worked hard on rendering technology and made several important improvements, including ray tracing. Ray tracing is now available on consumer hardware almost as soon as Control ships.
After migrating to the Switch version, it’s great to see Remedy games on the Nintendo console. Earlier this year it was one of the ports we most wanted, but we also realized that it was unlikely. Was the Switch version what you were thinking early on? What happened?
Communication Director Thomas Puha: Of course, we will keep in touch with Nintendo as well as all platform holders to see if there is anything we can do together. Ultimately, it’s always a conversation with the publisher, in this case 505 Games, us, and our partners. Overall, it’s a very smooth process, and in fact, teamwork is everything.
It seems that Control on Switch wouldn’t have happened without cloud delivery, is that accurate? If so, is the bottleneck purely technical, or is it a financial or personnel issue?
Thomas Puha: It’s safe to say that there is no switch control without the cloud.
Some time ago, I focused on doing the due diligence needed to create a switch port with an external partner, but I thought it was impossible for a variety of reasons. Bottlenecks are everything you mention, including technology, finance, and personnel. It’s not a matter of desire. Of course, Remedy and 505 Games are looking for control on many platforms, including the Switch. If it were that easy. Believe me, one of the hardest things about making a game is all the compromises you have to make.
Deploying games on very different hardware platforms is really time consuming and daunting. Our Northlight engine isn’t really built to work with switches. I think this applies to most engines. Therefore, it takes a considerable amount of engineering time to achieve this. Then, when you need to prepare your engine for the next generation and the future, you need to consider whether all that work is worth it in one game. Instead of going back and doing a very one-off task, we want the tools and teams to be ready for future games.
Nor can you easily outsource the port. The technology and engine are from Remedy, so from an engineering point of view it has to be fairly complex. There are many things to consider, such as the specific middleware available on Switch and the time it takes to update. As always, it’s about resources, and few companies as big as Remedy are working on several very different projects at once.
As we understand, Ubitus provides cloud technology, so the Switch version didn’t require any input from itself that would have to be dedicated to the native corporate port. What is the process of migrating your game to Switch from your point of view? Also, how long did it take?
Thomas Puha: It took several months not only for the producer but also for the engineer. I’ve looked into the UI and some input issues, but most of the time was spent testing what came back from Ubitus and just communicating. It’s very easy. Ubitus did a lot of work, but it also required the work of Control’s chief engineer.
What do you think about the game reaching a new audience?
Thomas Puha: In a nutshell, it’s great.
To give you some background … Remedy’s games have been monopolized by Microsoft and PC for 10 years. When we embarked on a multi-project strategy in 2016, most of it has reached new audiences on many platforms.That’s one of the reasons we started working at Smilegate Cross-fire, The audience was mainly in China.
Controls are on Xbox, PlayStation, PC, and now Nintendo Switch. It is also available on Amazon’s Luna service, which currently has very restricted access. We definitely had the opportunity to announce the game at the right time and push the game to other services and platforms.
Finally, the opportunity to work with Nintendo is great. Because I’ve never done that with Remedy before. For many of us at Remedy, it was definitely exciting … that is, Nintendo!
Do you have any control plans other than AWE expansion? If so, will they be the switch version?
Thomas Puha: We are working on the next generation version of Control, not to mention the rest.
Has your plan or project been significantly influenced by the global situation over the past year?
Thomas Puha: It doesn’t mean anything, but it does have an impact.
It’s a little hard to work remotely, but we appreciate it because everything that comes with this pandemic can get productivity and work when many others can’t. ..
We are influencing projects a few years from now. The first creative process is to bring together a small team to experiment and throw ideas. This is very difficult and time consuming to do remotely. This definitely came to light when discussing the impact of the pandemic with other studios.
Testing the game on different hardware configurations and getting the right people to see the content is definitely difficult because streaming isn’t enough, but so far it’s okay.
From a marketing point of view, it’s certainly very different, as you can’t show the game directly to people to see their reaction and be inspired by it. We can still do a solid job, but I don’t expect a physical event in 2021.
Is it possible to see more Remedy games (probably vintage games) on Switch in the future? And is the cloud version of the old game (the one that Switch could handle natively) for you to consider?
Thomas Puha: Very unlikely.
Finally, which games have you been enjoying lately?
Thomas Puha: Many of us are playing Ghost of Tsushima Legend mode is great, but we’re all waiting for the next generation and games to be released in the coming weeks.
Thanks to Thomas, Michael, and Mika for taking the time to speak.