PAX West 2017: Entering the Storm

Life is Strange: Before the Storm has a daunting challenge as the prequel to a beloved game, developed by a different team & tasked with replacing or alternatively explaining away a core gameplay element from the original title. At PAX West 2017, members of the Deck Nine team gathered at the Life is Strange: Before the Storm – A new series has begun panel to discuss the upcoming 3-episode series. Hosted by Andrea Rene of What’s Good Games, the panel included narrative director Zak Garriss & game director Chris Floyd at the Grand Hyatt hotel for a spirited discussion about the development, narrative & emotional ambitions of the upcoming game.

 

Foremost on the audience’s mind is how the prequel would fit with the original game, Chris assured us that Before the Storm would stay true to & honour the original Life is Strange. He specified that Deck Nine wanted it to feel like the original game, but knew the player had to inhabit Chloe who is very different from Max. Zak acknowledged that it was understandable that some fans were skeptical, mentioned that he was a fan before becoming involved in the prequel to audience approval.

Friendship is at the heart of the game according to Chris, who was inspired to create (or as he phrased it, “opened his eyes to a creative life) by a friend who kept a diary. The panellists wanted the audience to know that both Square Enix & Deck Nine were interested in the community & the issues the original game explored, deciding to create a live commercial as recognition of that in a big way; they emphasized that Life is Strange is about the community they’re engaging with. Zak provided a poignant personal example: over the last 20 years, he had a constellation of 4-5 friends who at times provided help that only 1 person at 1 time could have offered.

The soundtrack is being composed by the band Daughter based on written descriptions of the main themes, emotional moments & character bios provided by the writers. These documents were used by the band to compose around those narrative movements, created by a team of 4 writers composed of 2 men & 2 women. The panellists described their approach to this panel as not writing women, bisexual women or teenage characters; they only write Chloe, the questions of her & her personality.

In terms of other works that affected their approach to Before the Storm, Chris highlighted Veronica Mars while Zak pointed to season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as influences.

The panel was a lively, engaging discussion that strongly demonstrated Deck Nine’s commitment to respecting the original game’s legacy while forging their own path, a free flowing discussion driven by a veteran host (who I remember from the old GameTrailer days). Before the Storm is a 3-part prequel that is expected to release each episode approximately 6-8 weeks apart, I’m excited to revisit the world of Arcadia Bay from a new perspective.

 

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