Above: Vincent is calm and level-headed in A Way Out.

Image Credit: EA/Hazelight

GamesBeat: Do you recommend that people play it once as one character and the other time as the other?

Fares: Yeah, but I’m almost sure nobody will change their character in the middle of the game. Why? If it hasn’t happened until now, I don’t think it will happen. It interrupts the pacing, also.

GamesBeat: Did you always start with the two character idea?

Fares: Always, from the beginning. I can’t go into the details, but the whole essential design of this game is about being two people, from day one. It never would have changed for any reason. That’s the whole vision. You have to stay with your vision.

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GamesBeat: Are you supposed to look at the other side of the screen?

Fares: Whatever you want. It doesn’t matter. It’s the same if you play couch or online. It’ll still be split-screen. Most people will focus on their screens, though, except for those scenes where we go full-screen co-op or whatever you want to call it. We also have this friends pass thing. If you buy one game, your friend can play online with you for free. They don’t have to buy it. You just buy one copy.

GamesBeat: Based on your Oscars comment, it seemed like you had strong opinions about film versus games.

Fares: You mean the game awards thing? The thing where I said, “Fuck the Oscars”? What happened there is, people were talking all the time, Oscars, Oscars, Oscars. I’m a passionate guy. I got caught up in the moment. I said, “Fuck the Oscars, let’s focus on this instead.” I think games should be more respected. I don’t have anything against the Oscars in that way. But I’m a crazy guy sometimes. I’m the guy who just says whatever comes to my mind.

GamesBeat: It’s an art form, then?

Fares: Games? When someone says to me that games aren’t art, I don’t even start the discussion. That’s how stupid I think that is. It’s beyond stupid. It’s so stupid that it’s insane. Do you think a painting is art? Anybody would say yes. That’s this small portion of making a game. Do people even say that anymore, that games aren’t art? Isn’t that just old news?

Above: Escape the prison in A Way Out.

Image Credit: EA/Hazelight

GamesBeat: Do you have more fun making games, then?

Fares: The thing is, compared to the movies — if I make another movie, it’d be like taking a vacation. That’s how much easier it is. Making a game is way harder. Interactivity makes everything more complex. I’m not saying it’s easy to make a movie, work in that passive medium. It has its complexity. But I’ve done six feature films and I’ve done two games. Making this game has been way more work than all six features put together.

When you let the audience loose, it’s almost like letting them loose on a movie set. They play with your camera and your actors. They fool around with everything. They can do whatever they want. That’s most of the work in games. It’s just preparing for what gamers could do and making them understand. From a production perspective, too, in games we haven’t learned as much. We don’t know as much about how to plan for a game and develop a game.

There’s a difference between being arrogant and being overconfident. I question everything. What about this? What about that? All the time. But believe in that vision in your heart, no doubt. It’s not as if I go into every scene thinking, “This is exactly what this is going to be like.” That’s a bad kind of security.

GamesBeat: I talked to one of the people who made Cuphead, and they said they were willing to be flexible about a lot of things, but where they put their foot down was, they wanted it to be really hard, like the old games they used to play. Everybody told them that they were going to lose a lot of players that way, and they didn’t care.

Fares: Exactly. That’s what I like. It’s the same thing here. People said that unless we made it single-player, we’d lose a lot of people. I don’t care. It’s not important. You have to take risks. You have to make it different. You feel it in here. I have no doubt in my mind about that at all. Nobody can convince me any other way. Maybe that’s a sickness?

GamesBeat: That’s why we won’t be breaking your legs?

Fares: I’m all open for it, but I said the same thing on Brothers, I think? The same journalist came up to me when I had the BAFTA in my hand. “I’m happy I didn’t break your leg.” That’s why I have to amp it up a little bit. Break a leg, arms, whatever you want to break. Tell everybody to come over. I can even give you my home address.

Above: Split screen action in A Way Out.

Image Credit: EA/Hazelight

GamesBeat: With this, did you know your beginning and your ending when you started?

Fares: Oh, yes.

GamesBeat: I remember Druckmann saying they couldn’t bet on an introduction or an ending until they’d tested the gameplay for each. They were always creating prototypes and systems to see if they were fun, and if they weren’t fun, they’d have to toss them out and go back to rework the beginning of the game.

Fares: It makes sense. Neil Druckmann, I know him personally. I’ve been to Naughty Dog. They’ve seen this game. But the way I approach it—I don’t necessarily ask if this is fun? It’s more like, does this fit here? Gameplay doesn’t have to be fun all the time. Gameplay can be functional, or working. What is fun gameplay, really? What is fun? It’s not necessarily the right question to ask. Is it fun to shoot someone? Is it fun to jump around?

That’s why it’s hard to demonstrate A Way Out, because if I just let you go into a scene — if you experience the fishing scene right after you’ve been in the prison, where you’ve been all tied up and in these dark cells and everything, you come out and it’s like, “Oh, at last, I’m outside.” You go fishing in this beautiful environment. It has its purpose in that place.

GamesBeat: So you didn’t necessarily have a clash between where the story was going and where the gameplay was going?

Fares: At some points? Sometimes you don’t get the gameplay working with the story. Then you have to change it. But that’s part of game development. You prototype, try this, try that, it doesn’t work, try something else. There’s definitely a challenge to that. But that’s also what’s so exciting. You don’t really know what works and what doesn’t. That’s what’s so cool about this industry. It’s changing all the time.

GamesBeat: Did you have some inspirations behind the initial idea?

Fares: A lot of different ones. No one thing. Different movies. The Shawshank Redemption is a great prison movie. But the prison environment was chosen because I wanted to do co-op, and because I felt like that was an environment that isn’t used in games so often. Normally, when you’re in prison in games, you pretty much just press a button and get out. Here, I wanted it to take time for you to get out, so that once you’re out you think, “Whew, at last.” It feels like a relief.

I found some inspiration in Oldboy, you know that movie? It’s great, a Korean movie, South Korea. It has some really cool fight scenes. There’s some of that in the hospital, when you fight from that side perspective.

Above: Leo (left) and Vincent have to rely on each other in A Way Out.

Image Credit: EA/Hazelight

GamesBeat: It’s like Brothers in that you’re dealing with two people again.

Fares: In a sense? But that’s the opposite of this. That was single-player only and this is co-op only.

GamesBeat: Is there something more to the title?

Fares: A Way Out could be a way out of the prison, a way out of this life, a way out emotionally, a way out physically. I wanted the title to make people think of more than one thing, but it also just looks good. It’s the first time I came up with the title that I feel is good, actually. Everything I’ve done before — in games, in movies — I suck at coming up with titles. This is the first one I came up that worked really well, I thought. Brothers wasn’t me.

GamesBeat: For the game, did you want people to feel more than one experience as well?

Fares: Yes, but I don’t want to go into details. You’ll understand when you play it. Like I say, it’s really hard to demo this game. It’s hard to say, “This is the kind of gameplay you’ll run into.” Sometimes you’re fishing. Sometimes you’re taking these guys down. Sometimes you’re on a boat, sometimes on a bike. You’ll do a lot of different things.

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