Housemarque wants to put canned Returnal ideas into its next game
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Housemarque’s senior narrative designer has told VGC that the studio plans to incorporate ideas and narrative systems originally planned for Returnal into its next original game.
Speaking to VGC in a soon-to-be-published interview, Eevi Korhonen discussed the future of the studio, and what excites her about working at the Finland-based developer going forward.
Housemarque confirmed it was working on a new IP with PlayStation earlier this year.
“Returnal was so ambitious,” Korhonen told VGC. “We dreamt super big, but we still had to leave so much on the cutting room floor. All of these ideas and narrative systems. I’m super excited to pick up those pieces and see how those fit our new IP story.
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“We didn’t quite have the handle on how big [Returnal] was going to be, building for a new platform on a new engine with a new team, all of those things require some learning. Now we have that team that has gone through the fire and learned how to build a game like Returnal. So now we get to start off stronger.”
Korhonen also talked about the lessons that she and the team learned during the development of Returnal, and in creating Housemarque’s first large narrative game.
“I think we’ve learned the importance of pacing and how difficult that is in a rogue-like game,” Korhonen said. “It’s very hard to control and say ‘okay, now we hit them with this perfect story beat’, that’s kind of the beauty of linear games, you get to control that absolutely perfectly.
“Letting go of that and somehow building the sandbox or the playground for players in a way that means certain story blocks become available is challenging.”
In Returnal, the narrative unfolds through brief clips that play when the player dies and returns to their ship. There are also longer story sequences that take place in a house in the middle of the first area.
However, players aren’t forced into this house, and there are large swaths of the Returnal narrative that can be completely ignored by players not looking for them.
“You’ve got to just like tempt them with this foreshadowing, and teasing them like ‘hey, soon you’re going to get this story block are you excited?’ and hope that they grab on to it before the next thing needs to happen,” Korhonen explained.
We also asked the writer if the story of Selene, the main character in Returnal, was finished.
“(laughing) I can’t comment on that too much. But I think the boys did slip sometime earlier this year that we are working on an original IP. Of course, if we return to Selene’s story after that, remains to be seen.”
Two months after Returnal’s release, the Finnish studio was acquired by Sony Interactive Entertainment, which is currently focused on increasing its live service games output.
Speaking to GQ last year, Kuittinen suggested joining Sony would allow Housemarque to continue making bigger game experiences like Returnal.