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23rd April 2019
Opinion: The Awkward Topic Of Quantum Break In Recent Months

In 2012, for my English Language course, I studied the use of language in marketing and specifically of that of Remedy's. This was in the early days of The Sudden Stop. I didn't know the community all that well and I was jumping into a series which everyone around me had known for seven years. As I was going through interviews to learn more for my hobby, I decided to combine it and write my dissertation on how Remedy communicates with their audience. And it was a little surprising!

The use of language, how they talked about fellow devs, how they spoke to the community was unlike anything else that I had ever seen from a studio. What stood out for me most was how collaborative everything was, how much the developers would credit teams for their work or give shoutouts, but the thing which stood out from a language aspect was the number of times they used the word "we". Whenever the interviewers were playing cute and try pushing a subject, it would change to "I" do not represent the studio in case media outlets picked it up. I loved this approach by the studio, a very intentional decision to make the company more inclusive, and as a nerd discovering that was a fun tidbit into studio life.

Unfortunately, what I loved about Remedy then is what I feel that they need to address now.

As the years went on, the voice of the studio evolved, and while I'm slightly nostalgic for old communication styles, the thing which I'm the saddest about is seeing is how previous titles, particularly Quantum Break, needlessly take hits to promote Control. And unfortunately, it's been a common feature of interviews and of marketing this past year.

Official Quantum Break Screenshot
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I've written before on social media that I feel that Quantum Break is Remedy's most underrated title, which always gets replies stating "but... Alan Wake?" and while I love Alan Wake, it's also a title that received a lot of positivity and a loyal cult following its release. The PC release in February 2012 brought in a new audience that keeps the fandom alive today even in the absence of a sequel. With such a fanbase, Remedy has rarely been critical of Alan Wake and instead would comment about how much they adore the series and want to return to it. But Quantum Break? Not so much, especially lately.

The unusual critical approach to the game isn't making me want to play Control, or understand how Jesse's adventure is an evolution of Remedy's approach to game design, but rather making me want to follow the studio and as a result, Control... less.

So why do I feel awkward and reluctant to hear Remedy talk negatively about their previous games? Well, there are two main reasons.

The first is the community. For a lot of people, that game has been a source of comfort and escapism. They saw themselves in Jack or Beth. I know people who cosplayed Jack, or created artwork or continued their stories in fan fiction. It's been three years since Quantum Break's launch, and the constant tributes continuing to roll in from fans who were Day One buyers shows the amazing resilience and importance the title has had for people. And that's not nothing!

The second is the developers. If you're active in the Remedy community, then you would have noticed the sea of new faces coming in, as well as those who have gone on to new projects. While the studio frequently talks about teams expanding, they never speak about the devs that left, although in the space of a few years some of the studio's departments have seen massive transformations. By the end of Quantum Break's development, Remedy was a studio of 130. It was the first Remedy game that I had followed from start to finish, and the thing which stood out for me was the amount of passion that they spoke about the project from the start, and the relief and nervousness when it shipped.

Official Quantum Break Screenshot
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No game can be perfect, there are some things which I'm sure the developers would have liked to go back on, and it's natural that studio will be taking what they learnt on the project with them for the next project. For a lot of people, Quantum Break was something that dominated a large part of their life for several years. And regardless of personal opinions on the game, there's a time and place to reflect critically on past work, but it feels... wrong to publically criticize or be dismissive (especially the work of specific departments) to market the next big thing. The amount of demand on Quantum Break, from the publisher side, from the audience, from the concept, was intense, that the development pressure from the project is something which surfaces on social media even years later.

There's also the curiosity of how we will talk about projects in the future. I can't help but think that all of the work and effort that is being put into Control, will that be criticised in the same way once the new thing roles around? On an employment front, would I really feel comfortable joining a studio that talks negatively specifically about the work that developers had faced crunch on and had been a huge part of their lives for a number of years?

Will there be things in Control that the team did better than in Quantum Break? Definitely. With a lot of studios, there's usually an internal development postmortem after the release of the game. With each new project, there are things which the team learns and bring forward into their next project. They will know what worked and what needs tweaking, and the goal is always to make a game that you're going to be the proudest of in your career, and it was a major release, for some that would always be in their minds as Quantum Break.

The game doesn't belong to an individual or a department but to everyone who worked on the project and dedicated their time. But only a small proportion have been given a microphone and to give the studio a voice. After following their journey for six years, I seriously admire the amazing developers who worked hard to get Quantum Break shipped, and honestly, I think the studio should too.

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