Life is Strange: Before the Storm Will Tell the Story of Choe Price and Not Rachel’s Disappearance
Speaking with Deck Nine Games’ lead writer Zak Garriss and producer David Hein, I got to learn a little bit more about the team and their mindset going into the development of Life Is Strange: Before the Storm. While this is not the original team, everyone working on the prequel has played the original Life is Strange. Immediately, they admitted it was a daunting task, but they wanted to stay true to everything that made the first game compelling. And they prefaced the interview by saying, “We’re very grateful for the chance to work with Square [Enix].”
COGconnected: So whose idea was it for a prequel?
Zak Garriss: I think it was basically the fans. People really wanted to go back to Arcadia Bay, go back to these characters…The story of the first game in its entirety… It ends much like the whole game, with a major choice that can close the story in very different directions. Situating a game after that would force us to choose a version of the game that’s canon. That one path over another was what happened in Arcadia Bay. And rather than take the choice away from the player, we started looking into the space of a prequel. You kind of leave that as whatever it is you, as a player, can explore.
[We thought] “let’s look at what kind of stories we can explore a little bit earlier and see if there’s something really fruitful there.” And then we just completely fell in love with this particular moment in time in Chloe’s life. It seemed like the right place to put it.
COGconnected: Well, so far, the compelling narrative is still there. All the choices—you guys did a good job with that, from what I’ve seen.
Zack Garriss: Thank you!
David Hein: We’re really excited to share it with people. It’s been something we’ve been working on for a while. Now, it’s just drawing from the events we know. So it’s a lot of fun for us as well.
COGconnected: That’s great. As you said, you’re fans of Life is Strange.
David Hein: Yea, every single person in the studio has played the game, loved the game. A lot of people played it before they even knew about an opportunity of working at Deck Nine. Everybody’s a fan. So, it’s a huge pressure! Also, an incredible gift and an incredible privilege.
COGconnected: Besides the narrative, there was one mechanic of the first game made the player feel in command. Players felt powerful, thanks to Max’s power. So, how would you say you’ve compensated for the lack of that?
Zack Garriss: That’s actually a challenging answer. Let me approach it from this direction. I think, being extremely powerful in that space, for Max, is a really big part of her story. Part of her personality is this kind of wallflower, this quiet kind of hidden personality behind the camera. That power gets her out into the world and forces her to confront problems. Chloe has no need to learn how to do that. Chloe’s going to charge right in. Chloe’s lessons are different. She’s striving to learn in this story, and this particular time in her life is different. So our story—by focusing on this kind of young girl who’s sixteen years old, struggling with grieving over her father passing away, being alone, school, being at home—watching Joyce move on, having Max move away to Seattle—this is a story about being imprisoned. ABOUT basically being a teenager, in a lot of ways how hard that can be, and how empowering it is when you find someone who gets you, find someone who needs you, and how incredible it can be for just a window of your life to encounter one person who changes everything—to navigate something with that person, together. So, I think that story didn’t need an over-the-top power. Ours is a more intimate, smaller story with a character who is navigating a different life lesson, basically. And ultimately, the most exciting aspects of the first game, for us, didn’t lie in power. Time travel was definitely cool, but it was really just the personalities, characters you were dealing with–really, the kind of issues thrown in there…
David Hein: I think the other thing you’ll find is that the supernatural is not absent in this game, either. It’s still Life is Strange. There’s a strangeness, and I think that in some ways it’s, maybe… ‘subdued’ is the word you might use. There’s a lot of symbolism that you’ll encounter throughout it. All of those same things are there but, I think, lurking beneath the water in a way that maybe still isn’t obvious but we think is still really powerful.
COGconnected: Can someone who hasn’t played Life is Strange just jump into this game and not be confused at all?
Zak Garriss: Absolutely. You can play them in either order. Fans from the first season will see a lot of things they know and love in our game, but you can start with our game and not spoil the story of the first one.
COGconnected: If I understand correctly, even though I didn’t really notice. The voice actress changed for Chloe.
Zak Garriss: Yes. So, Ashly Burch was the actress who played Chloe in the first game.
COGconnected: I saw the dev diary. She was asked some compelling questions to convey the emotions.
Zak Garriss: Yea, our field director, Phil. He’s really good. He likes to pull very authentic performances from people by contextualizing what the character in the scene is going through, and asking the actor to say, “Who’s a person in your life who means what this person means to Chloe?” “Do you remember a time when you lost someone?” “Who was that person?” “What was that person like?” He kind of puts them in that space that comes through in their performance.
COGconnected: One final question. Will we see characters show up from Life is Strange, other than the absent Rachel?
Zak Garriss: Oh, definitely. We’ll have a number of characters you’ll recognize from the first game. You’re going to Blackwell; you’re going to be in school; you’re going to see younger versions of some of the students there, perhaps. I know we have a number of characters that are totally, totally new.
COGconnected: So will we see the characters’ grow into what they’ve become (or lack of growth).
Zak Gariss: The [story] arcs we have, have all our characters going in a different way. For example, when you’re at home and dealing with Joyce, you’re seeing a Joyce who isn’t married to David but she’s dating him. So, Joyce’s relationship with Chloe in the first game is pretty broken. It’s clearly not working out. But we’re seeing an earlier time. And David’s there; they’re getting to know each other. And the player gets to choose how welcoming or not you want to be. Over the course of Before the Storm, you’re seeing the foundation forming of what the relationship ultimately becomes.
COGconnected: Thank you for your time.
To all the Life is Strange players, what are your thoughts on Before the Storm? Are you okay with or disappointed by the absence of Max’s rewind power? Comment down below. We would really like to know what you have to say. And as always, be sure to check back with COGconnected for more gaming-related news and updates from Deck Nine. Until then,