Still Life 2
 
Interview with Catherine Peyrot  
by Danyboy
March 2, 2009

 

The Story:

Who is hiding behind Mr. X? Still Life 2 reveals the long-awaited ending of Still Life and spells a new investigation for Agent Victoria McPherson.

In Fall 2008, Victoria is sent to Maine where Ellen Dunnigan's body has just been found. The modus operandi and the video sent to the police and press leave them in no doubt as to the killer's identity: the East Coast Torturer has struck again! No clues are picked up during the autopsy, as the serial killer painstakingly washed the body. Once again, the killer has not committed any errors.

From her motel room, Victoria comes across a report by Paloma Hernandez, the journalist covering all the crimes bearing the East Coast Torturer's signature. Hernandez has been highly critical of the FBI's and Victoria's lack of progress. That does not stop Hernandez from phoning and asking Victoria to meet her later that evening. Hernandez claims to have some so-called clues on the killer in her possession. Victoria flatly refuses. Just moments later, Paloma is kidnapped by the Torturer…

Still Life 2 remains true to the spirit of its first installment and continues to allow you to play and manage two characters bound by the same fate. This time, the aim is to control two heroines, see the game from two complementary viewpoints, and experience two different gameplays. Depending on whether you are playing Paloma Hernandez, the victim being hunted by the killer, or Victoria McPherson, the FBI agent tracking him down, you can alternate between survival and investigation.

Still Life 2 is in development at Gameco Studios and is being produced fully in real-time 3D. The game is due to be released on PC in April 2009.

 

Introduction:

Catherine Peyrot (MICROIDS – Producer)

After graduating in History, Catherine Peyrot joins Infogrames in Paris to take care of mainstream press relations for the SIM CITY launch in France. Catherine will then work as a freelance PR manager in the video games industry during 3 years, while writing also video games chronicles as a freelance journalist. Since she was willing to participate actively to the creation of multimedia projects, Catherine joins Softdisk France in 1992 and in 1994 she co-founds a multimedia development studio: CD-ROM productions. Catherine becomes a project manager, then the production manager of “Paroles d'images”, a cultural software programs collection.

In 1999, Microïds buys the collection and Catherine then joins the development teams of this video games producer, publisher and distributor. She is mainly in charge of external productions like Syberia I and II (PC, PS2, Xbox), Still Life (PC), Fish Files (GBC), Addams Family (GBC), Casper (GBC), Obscure (PC, PS2, Xbox).

Since 2003, Catherine Peyrot is producer at Microïds and she notably participates in the development of Dracula 3, Still Life 2 and Syberia DS.

 

The Questions:

In the first Still Life, we got to know Victoria well. She was portrayed as a strong woman, almost fearless, and sometimes even cold. Will her character continue to develop in Still Life 2?

The aim of the Still Life series is to have her heroine evolve and grow, enrich her memories through new adventures and new experiences... Still Life 2 is structured around the destiny of Vic McPherson and this new episode intends to develop her path a little more solving the riddle of the first episode and at the same time showing, via a new survey, the impact of her experience on her future. The character of Vic is tormented and complex since no hero can fight crime, can give his or her life to chase the evil, without being deeply affected in his or her soul – and in his or her destiny.

Who is Paloma Hernandez?

The secondary character of Still Life 2, the victim, Paloma Hernandez is a popular journalist who covers the case of the East coast killer for a TV channel. Paloma is a vivid figure of the American success. Since her school of journalism, her rise was meteoric! She is very involved in this case because she feels that it is going to make her really famous. She does not hesitate to attack FBI agent McPherson in order to produce more sensational stories. Hence the rivalry between the two women. When she discovers her kidnapper and her prison, she knows exactly what to expect because the Killer is used to stirring the media by sending videos of his crimes. But she will try to fight with the energy of despair...

Can you give us some information about the secondary characters that we will encounter during the gameplay?

- JAMES HAWKER: A former FBI profiler and Vic's former partner. After committing a terrible professional mistake (he shot a defenseless suspect in cold blood) he was forced to "retire" and works as a consultant for security companies. Vic will ask him to come on the crime scene for his close protection (clearly he is seriously threatened by the killer) and because he said he had news of primary importance for the resolution of this sordid issue.

- GARY ANDERSON: a hunter kidnapped by the killer for having been a little too curious, browsing too near the crime scene. Paloma is locked up with him. Sheriff Halloway also investigates his disappearance and Vic is going to have to also look at his case.

- KATE HALLOWAY: the sheriff of Aroostook County, Maine (where the house of the killer is located). Kate is ending her first term as sheriff and faces many problems that threaten her re-election. The case of the serial killer is an opportunity to get under the spotlights and thus restore her reputation. Kate would like to resolve the case by herself, consequently she tries to ruin the investigation of Vic.

- FOREST GARRIS: he is Vic's new partner. A young rookie trying to be perfect, but a little too formal, he has good skills in electronics and he will help in this area. Garris is very respectful of his boss, Vic McPherson, and for the rules and regulations.

- CLAIRE ASHBY (already in Still Life): Claire is Vic's relay in the FBI offices. All requests from Vic (analysis of samples, various requirements...) pass by Claire via Vic' Smartphone. Claire and Vic have very friendly relationship; they have already gone through many difficult situations. Claire has sometimes a motherly attitude towards Vic.

We were introduced to Victoria's grandfather, Gustav McPherson, in Post Mortem, and we played the role of Gustav again in Still Life. Will Victoria's grandfather make any appearances in Still Life 2?

Not this time. We wanted to focus solely on Vic and therefore remain in a single unit of time. But that does not mean they will not meet again! Fighting crime is a family story in the McPherson family!

Victoria's nemesis in the game, the serial killer Mr. X, is a very frightening man who has done some evil things. Was the character based on any real serial killers?

A bit ... you always build characters based on a subtle blend of books, movies or real life.

During gameplay, we will be able to control two heroines and experience the game from two different viewpoints. Is it possible to play the game with only one of them or do we have to switch between them from time to time? How will this feature work?

No. The adventure story is structured in "sandwich" (a few days then a few hours between the two adventures). Still Life 2 players will play the victim (Paloma, a journalist) persecuted and hunted by her abductor, and the point of view of the investigator (Vic McPherson). It is the alternation of these views which will allow the players to become fully aware of the series universe and of the protagonists' fate.

It's common knowledge that the adventure game market isn't as big as the action game market. It seems that some developers include timed or action sequences in adventure games to try to interest some of the action gamers. The first Still Life included a few of these sequences, and there were a lot of comments on the internet indicating they were not very popular with the hard-core adventure gaming community. Will Still Life 2 have timed or action sequences?

We have introduced sequences to play in limited time, with a timer. The aim was not to please more a community but to enhance the immersion of the player so that he better feels the tension of the scenario. It is a thriller and sometimes the time is precious and counted!

What kind of puzzles will we be challenged with in Still Life 2?

For this installment, we have decided to set up a new gameplay based on research, collection, analysis, management and the combination of objects as a way to go ahead and to progress in the adventure. While the scenario is driving the player's choices and brings meaning to his actions, it does not fully constrain him. The player will have the opportunity to take an object from the background, within the limits imposed by his inventory, to use short or medium term. Indeed, the physical limitation of the inventory lays the foundations of the game management we have created, with its concepts of lack, of need, and of anticipation on the course of the adventure. In terms of puzzles, they were designed on the basis of data collection objects and inventory management. This means that the puzzles are completely consistent with the scenario and closely related to core gameplay of the game.

Is there anyone from the original Still Life team that is still involved in the second game?

No, except myself. But GameCo Studio has adopted Still Life naturally, so say in a very intuitive way.

What was the most challenging scenery that the development team had to work on?

I would say it was on the fact that the gameplay is open and non linear, as well as the fact that you play 2 characters in the same places but with completely different situations. These gave us a headache, both in terms of scenario writing, of locations design, and of integration.

One breathtaking cutscene from the first game showing Victoria pursuing a bad guy on a roof keeps popping into my mind. Will we be treated to such exciting cutscenes in the second game?

Though they are less numerous than in Still Life, the fifteen pre-calculated cinematics have been designed to mark a turning point in history or a stunning moment. Unlike Still Life though, the full 3D has enabled us to link the sequences with lots of "ingame" videos (Real time sequences).

How many different locations will we be able to visit in the game? Do you have a personal favorite?

Still Life 2 globally features one unique place: an antique house, abandoned in the woods, several miles away from any habitation, house to a terrifying killer. The house consists of several floors with cellar, attic, floor, hidden passages and stolen secrets. It will offer two complementary viewpoints and gameplay experiences: survival at night, and analysis and investigation at day light for two characters bound by the same fate (Paloma, the victim, and Vic the FBI agent).

The house really shows two different faces depending on the game progression.

The 2 atmospheres:

- Paloma - Interior and Exterior at night - atmosphere of panic and anxiety.

The victim is trapped in a house, which is a symbol of fear and death. The victim has only one goal: survival.

- Vic McPherson - Interior and Exterior at daylight - calm atmosphere, cold and desolate.

The house has become a safe place due to the presence of the police. It symbolizes the remains of a corpse buried on which Vic McPherson achieves an autopsy (survey).

In Still Life 1 , backgrounds, lights and shadows, music and sound effects were used to keep the hair raised on the back of the gamer's neck. Can we expect more of this "chill factor" in Still Life 2?

The technological choice to move from pre-calculated to full 3D was done in order to deepen the experience of the player, to immerse him into the action, close to the characters, to share the same tensions and the same fears as them. Everything is linked of course: the house offers several atmospheres to better destabilize the player, sometimes serene and bright, sometimes dark, creepy and scary. The scenario has many twists and turns that lead the player into a story where he will sometimes be mistreated to make critical choices. And of course the soundtrack and music are designed to strengthen the climate of insecurity or extreme tension, and to support the different ambiences of the game.

What kind of music is used in the game?

An original music designed for the game and made to accompany the atmosphere and the various phases of history (suspense, thriller, investigation).

On the Still Life website, it says we will see an ending to the Still Life saga. Does that mean we won't be seeing Victoria McPherson any more?

Our Still Life series is live and we hope that Vic will experience lots of great adventures in future installments!

What do you think the gamer's reaction will be after finishing Still Life 2? Will we be satisfied with the closure of the series or will we be left with a few loose ends to wonder about?

This new episode has the dual purpose of closing the first adventure introduced in Still Life and immerse the player in a new and complete survey; an investigation which will include no open end, promised. When you have finished this episode, we hope you will be surprised by our biases* and our willingness to get Vic's character evolve further, without compromise.

* Say no more ... the end of Still Life 2 might surprise; Vic has only one chance ...

Catherine, thank you very much for taking the time to answer our questions about Still Life 2. We wish you the best of luck with this upcoming game.

 

Official website:

Still Life 2

Microïds

 

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