The Copychaser Games model for story-focused titles

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Writing a good story is a challenge; sometimes the humor doesn’t land, or a character may not understand each other. However, the reward remains the same; people enjoy an engaging narrative and will come back for more.

Talking with GamesIndustry.bizBioware alumnus and now Creative Director, Writer, and Producer at Copychaser Games, Ben Gelinas explains the nuances of developing a good story. He also explains the company’s goals for its new title, Times & Galaxy.

The studio was established in 2017, shortly after Gelinas’ departure from Bioware. During his five-year stint, he wrote for titles like Mass Effect 3, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and Mass Effect: Andromeda. Copychaser’s first release was Speed ​​Dating for Ghosts in 2018 on Steam, which released on various platforms two years later. The title featured a small team that included Gelinas, Mikey Hamm, Andrew Carvalho, and Doug Hoyer.

Regarding how Copychaser Games approaches new narratives, Gelinas says that it looks at themes and places in unfamiliar settings. For example, most people associate ghosts with death and haunting. So the idea changed to place them in a different context, dating, and Speed ​​​​Dating for Ghosts was born from that idea.

“More staff and money tend to mean more moving and variable parts”

The new perspective on narrative creation was made easier by leaving AAA game development. he remember that video games still have a chance to tell more stories, saying, “…we tend to see the same stories, archetypes, and general perspectives repeated, especially in the AAA space.

Gelinas adds that the bigger the project, the more isolated it is for a writer. “More staff and money tend to mean more moving and variable parts. So the edges occasionally get blurred, story-wise. With indie, I do a lot more development beyond writing. And there are a lot more limitations regarding to what we want.” can do with regards to gameplay, audio and art,” explains Gelinas.

Times & Galaxy features a cast that includes robots and aliens

Another difference that Gelinas mentions with the move to independent development is size and scope. He was the only full-time inside Copychaser; the other members of the team worked part-time, juggling their roles with other commitments. And in addition to game development, the company also outsources services such as writing or art design for other projects.

Copychaser has worked on titles such as Warner Bros. Games’ Gotham Knights and Remedy Entertainment’s Control.

“We also work with other independent studios for key technical and artistic support, such as Laundry Bear and Sleeping Giant. We don’t have an actual physical studio space; everyone at Times & Galaxy works at home or in coworking spaces in the Edmonton, metropolitan area. from Toronto, or in the case of our character artist, New Jersey. We’re super small but rudimentary,” he explains.

“Somehow those limitations lead to something more custom and, in Copychaser’s case, weird. I crave that smaller box to play in, knowing the limits but giving myself enough room to fill it to its fullest capacity/potential.”

Gelinas and the studio are practicing those lessons with the new journalistic-themed Times & Galaxy. The inspiration for the title came from fans, Gelinas’ journalistic background, and interest in science fiction. As a larger title, her creative team includes more writers like Sunny Evans, Paul Blinov, and Tess Degenstein.

Gelinas says that Copychaser’s overall approach to storytelling development is to “create unique and inclusive video games with branching narratives and memorable characters. Each Copychaser game puts the player at the center of an eccentric and immersive story like no other they’ve played.” “.

“With Times & Galaxy, we started from a similar place: the journalism of a local newspaper in an absurd sci-fi setting. From the artists to the audio to the programming, we all must first accept the tone of this game.”

“I encourage everyone in the team to never say no, that’s too much for them”

He continues: “…I encourage everyone on the team to never say to themselves ‘No, that’s too far.’ It’s your job to push, and it’s my job to tell you when you’ve pushed too hard. Although sometimes, when you you get too excited about a bad idea, those roles are reversed.

“Players asked that they be able to play a game with a deep, reactive cast of characters, in an environment with a super-detailed story, but without a story that requires them to kill things every ten minutes.”

The title’s focus on journalism was inspired by Gelinas’ earlier career as a local police reporter. She says that she met many kinds of people on the beat and told many kinds of stories. Combining those experiences with the interactivity of video games was an exciting prospect as a developer.

Gelinas explains, “I also didn’t want to be too dark and too real with the themes. I thought it would be less accessible for a lot of players. So instead I wanted to make a sci-fi game. So the reporting became the reason.” for players to explore a unique and wacky environment, rather than the whole point.”

Times & Galaxy also provides users with colorful options

Copychaser decided to use a robot because the concept of another sci-fi game with a human or alien protagonist would have been boring. So instead, he wanted humans to be just as weird as the different humanoid species.

“Robots are also a sci-fi staple. They offer a fresh, yet familiar perspective for players.”

“Robots are also a sci-fi staple. They offer a fresh, yet still familiar perspective to players. Plus, it’s about time robots became the heroes. There are so many iconic robot characters, but how many of them become anything but cronies or grumps,” he says.

“Robots in our game setting are still pigeonholed in manual and household chore positions. As a result, they also haven’t been able to be the main characters in their stories. Until their robot rolls off the assembly line.”

Playing as an intern was also a game design decision to help familiarize users with journalism. Becoming a reporter is part of the overall narrative and the personal story of the main character.

Gelinas adds that the Copychaser team wants to create more episodic stories based on true events with a sci-fi angle. “Our game has stories about a toy that explodes when you play with it too much; an interplanetary model of the United Nations that turns into a Lord of the Flies situation; a robot fighting event where the robots are sentient and a graduation alien,” he says. .

“We went into this game thinking, ‘Why the hell not?’ and loads of stories that I had never seen in a game were the result.”

Despite the game’s novel stories, players may still be familiar with the many influences of the developers.

“Times & Galaxy could be a game for Star Trek fans,” says Gelinas. “On the other hand, it could be a game for readers of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, with all their genre-loving absurdity.

Still, there is a balancing act between maintaining user interest and getting too much exposure on a story. Gelinas says that the more a setting and its characters are established, the easier it is to create an experience within that setting.

Fellow Traveler is currently partnering with Copychaser to help you publish Times & Galaxy.

As for their attendance, Gelinas says, “They feel like a partner and co-conspirator in our weird vision. What they don’t do is try to dilute our vision. Instead, they work hard to understand what we’re trying to do and then help us find the biggest and best audience for our weird idea.”

“The goal has always been to create low-budget, focused narrative experiences that don’t exist yet”

For Gelinas and the Copychaser team, Times & Galaxy is the most ambitious game they have ever created. However, the intent of the study remains the same. He says, “Copychaser’s goal has always been to create low-budget, focused narrative experiences that don’t exist yet, and we want to continue creating those kinds of games.”

He explains that if the new title achieves some degree of commercial success, all members of the Copychaser team can work on their next project in full-time roles.

Says Gelinas, “For Times & Galaxy, we were lucky to receive support from the Canada Media Fund, as well as support from our publisher Fellow Traveler, so we want to sell enough to make your contributions worthwhile.”

“When we developed our budget and production plan, our goal was to make this game for as little money as possible, in the style of a low-budget horror movie, so breaking even isn’t such a high hill for us. climb, and everything else is ice… on the hill.”

When asked how developers could deliver narrative games to players, he explained that it’s a fine line.

“The story is a compelling reason for the player to play and keep playing. Games have always had stories. Completing a challenge is a story.”

“But technology and an increasing ability to reach niche audiences online have only helped developers push game narratives in new directions. As an industry, we’re still scratching the surface of what narrative can do.” interactive. So it’s exciting to imagine where the stories of the games will lead.” even in the next few years.”

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