Interior/Night Caroline Marchal on creating her inclusive studio after leaving Quantic Dream

“Diversity is not just symbolic, it’s just interesting to have different people from different cultural backgrounds, professional backgrounds and different countries,” says Caroline Marchal, former developer of Quantic Dream.

“You have people with different points of view who come to the story and the experience and say, ‘What do you think? How about we do it like this?’ It just makes what we do better.”

Marchal is the CEO and Creative Director of Interior/Night, a new London-based studio creating the Xbox exclusive As Dusk Falls as its first game.

As Dusk Falls – Xbox Games Trailer

She is known for her work at Quantic Dream as lead game designer on Heavy Rain and Beyond Two Souls. As Dusk Falls is a similar story-driven game.

But after her time at Quantic Dream, she decided to start her own studio with diversity and authenticity at her heart.

“I had been in the industry for over 15 years, I was pregnant with my second child and I thought it was now or never,” she says. “I want to work with people I like and respect and work specifically on this game, so I took the opportunity.”

Marchal is joined at Interior/Night by Charu Desodt as Production Manager, whose previous work includes Sony’s Singstar franchise.

“I loved the clarity of vision,” says Desodt de Marchal. “And having a creative director who has that clarity of vision is like gold dust. She was so clear about what we do, and why we do it, and who we use.”

Caroline Marchal and Charu Desodt.

Desodt is equally passionate about developing a multicultural and diverse studio.

“I think authenticity is, for me, a real pillar of the studio and the games we make,” she says. “And one leads to the other as well: when you have authentic people in life, you have a whole diversity within the workforce.”

And that extends to the game’s cast as well, “to make sure the lived experience really shines through in their portrayal of the character,” says Desodt.

I asked Marchal what she learned from Quantic Dream that influenced Interior/Night.

“I would say two key things: don’t make games like a marathon. You have to be willful, determined and passionate to make it happen,” she says.

“Every game counts, you won’t make 25 games in your career. So every game counts, do it as well as you can.

“The second thing is creativity first. None of us here in the studio are here to rehash things that have been done before. We really try to push the boundaries on every level of what a narrative game can be. And what audience it might attract.”

Screenshot of As Dusk Falls
The game only requires life experience to play.

As Dusk Falls is a narrative game, but it’s influenced as much by prestige TV as it is by games. Plus, it’s kind of a multiplayer-focused social experience – Twitch Plays Pokémon has been cited, surprisingly, as an influence.

The plot – a crime drama – follows two families whose worlds collide, tackling mature themes of legacy, family and resilience. In terms of gameplay, it’s part of Heavy Rain and Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, but with up to eight players making decisions together using a cellphone app or controller.

“There are experiences offered by video games that you can’t find in other media,” says Desodt. “And I think some people are intimidated by a controller. And they don’t really know how to hold it, and it stops them from doing anything.”

Decisions are voted on by players moving an on-screen cursor using their phones, with choices occurring roughly every 20 seconds. It’s meant to inspire banter, as friends and family sit on the couch (or online) to experience the story together, trade decisions, and question each other’s choices. Twitch integration extends this multiplayer experience even further. The game even tracks individual choices, then summarizes your values ​​and traits at the end, adding a sort of personality quiz layer to it all.

Quicktime events also let you swipe and touch screens, though they’re not too intrusive and can be changed in the Accessibility options (which also have a host of text and input variations). The goal is “to engage the hearts and guts of the players, not their thumbs”.

There are around 12 storyline films, with a read taking around six hours through six episodic chapters. And a web of possible choices proves just how vast the story can be.

The art style is also particularly striking. The team recorded live actors on a green screen, then inserted the performances into 3D environments, before hand-painting over them to emphasize emotion and expression. The effect is akin to a moving graphic novel.

“This story deserves its unique and evocative art style,” says Marchal. “And we didn’t want to add as many pixels to the screen as possible because honestly very few people care. What really matters is how you convey the story and the emotional moments to the players. We went with an evocative stripped down style, so you can capture the emotion, have time to process and analyze what you think is going on.”

Says Desodt: “I think it really showcases the performances of the actors, all those microsecond expressions that are very difficult to convey, sometimes, using other artistic styles, but we instinctively understand as humans. This is what we are able to make players understand. .”

Screenshot of As Dusk Falls
There is no endgame to interrupt the flow of the story.

It’s clear that this is a passion project for Marchal, not only in creating a brand new studio, but in the opportunity to tell such a mature story.

“I’ve never worked on any other genre, as a designer or lead designer, anything that I’ve done,” she says. “I’m just really interested in how it’s the most insightful genre in games with the potential to become really universal, because it’s story-based, but it’s more than that – there’s So players can really create their journey through narrative space and reflect on the themes of the story.

“[Gaming] is the only medium that gives you that level of insight, compared to a TV show or movie. There are great stories there, but you lean back, you think about the characters you see in the story, but you don’t lean in, you don’t participate. And I think that’s super powerful.”

It’s this interaction and emotional investment from gamers that is why Marchal continues to make games, not a TV show, she says.

“I would never work in any other industry other than games, I’m just passionate about it. It’s like making a 3D movie, because there are so many branches and it’s so modular, but whatever whichever path you take, you almost can’t predict what the shape of the final story will be, but it still flows.

Screenshot of As Dusk Falls
The art style allows designers to play with color and lighting.

Another difference from Marchal’s previous work at Quantic Dream is that As Dusk Falls is published by Microsoft exclusively for Xbox. Why not other platforms?

“The first and most important thing is that they understood the vision from day one,” says Marchal. “And it was so refreshing… They just rolled with it, just loved it, I think from the start.

“The other reason is that for our first game, releasing on Game Pass is great for playing your game. Also, xCloud is amazing because you can play the game on your phone wherever you are. A lot of that what we’re thinking is we should reach out to people, instead of asking them to buy a console or have this or that kind of PC, and the fact that xCloud lets you play on your phone is just very available to us.

“So part of the decision was to go with a proprietary publisher, because of that exposure and that understanding and the creative support that they were able to give us and their reach to new audiences or different types of players.

Marchal wants Interior/Night to be known for “bold, new and interactive storytelling experiences that you can share, and for mature audiences.”

As Dusk Falls is the first evidence, a game that blurs the line between gaming and TV with an emphasis on multiplayer and accessibility. And the studio’s ethos of authenticity and inclusivity naturally seeped into the game, too.

All the ingredients are there for Interior/Night to achieve its lofty ambitions. The success of As Dusk Falls will be mainly based on its storyline and its performance, and for that we will have to play it to the end.

As Dusk Falls will be released on Xbox and PC on July 19 and day one on Game Pass.

Betty K. Park