01 - Two Directors Edit
Obstacles by Syd Matters starts to play. Blackwell Academy Hallway from "Chrysalis", ending scene of "Out of Time" and the American Rust Junkyard are shown. Camera cuts to the DONTNOD office. Preview art of Chaos Theory is featured along with several awards for Life Is Strange. Camera cuts to the game's cover art, then to Raoul Barbet and Michel Koch talking.
Raoul Barbet: It was really great to see so many pieces of fan art, so many letters, so much fan fiction.
Michel Koch: Cosplays.
Raoul Barbet: Cosplays.
Luc Baghadoust: The reactions were fantastic, way beyond our craziest expectations.
Raoul Barbet: It was impossible to expect a huge community like this with such passionate fans, it's crazy.
Michel Koch (pointing at the camera): Thank you.
Raoul Barbet: You. Yeah! (Laughs.)
Camera cuts to another section of the office, showing several crew members working on the game.
Michel Koch: We started the project by making the game we wanted to make for ourselves, but at the end, it's really making a game for the players because that's what's important.
Directors' Commentary title flashes.
Raoul Barbet: So welcome to the Dev commentary of Life Is Strange.
Raoul Barbet: We're really happy to be here to talk about the game. Thank you for watching. I'm Raoul Barbet, one of the Co-Game Directors of the game.
Michel Koch: And I'm Michel Koch, the other Co-Game Director of the game.
Raoul Barbet: We are two Game Directors working on one project; it's really interesting to work that way.
Michel Koch: It can be hard sometimes, but I think it's a really interesting creative process because we can challenge each other on a lot of aspects and always find a better solution for what is best for the game.
Luc Baghadoust: If only Michel or Raoul were directing the game, the game would have been really different. They both know how to make a game. They're not stuck in their field of expertise. They know a lot of things about each department and they have this direct contact with the teams.
Raoul Barbet: I'm more from the audio-visual and movie scenes, so I was in charge of all the cameras with the camera team. I worked a lot with the sound-design team also, with the music.
Michel Koch: And myself, since I'm from an illustration background, my specialties were more on the art-direction, and later, for this game I started to work way more with the narrative team and the voice-recording sessions.
Edouard Caplain: It was cool because they have a similar vision for the game. So we didn't have a "yes" from one and a "no" from the other.
Baptiste Moisan: Actually, Michel and Raoul are in the game when you think about it. So, they're two game directors, so we have a contraction which is Michaoul, but if you put it the other way round, it's Raoul and Michel, so it's Rachel. And I'm pretty sure they did it on purpose.
The scene of Max's first rewind is shown.
Raoul Barbet: The idea behind the game was to - both of us worked on Remember Me and there were some sequences in this game called the Memory Remixes and one of the founders, Herve Bonin, asked a small, core team to think about a game with this kind of mechanism. (Max is shown rewinding in front of Chloe.) Very quickly we came up with an episodic adventure game, because we really wanted to do something like that.
Michel Koch: There are really a lot of good ways, new ways, interactive ways to tell stories.
Variations of the Main Menu are shown.
Raoul Barbet: On an episodic format, you really have to make a lot of choices for Episode 1, because you won't be able to change it after. A lot of assets have to be there in Episode 1. So the menu is one of those assets.
Michel Koch: It was interesting because there were a lot of variations, we did a lot of tries of what we wanted to show in this menu. The idea was to basically show the most important locations of the game. So we can see the Blackwell Academy on the top-right, we can see the lighthouse, we can see the town of Arcadia Bay. We are really trying to give a sense of location and just showing the game world with the menu.
Raoul Barbet: We really wanted to make the player feel that all the areas are connected and the menu is a great way to do that.
Camera cuts to Raoul and Michel.
Michel Koch: One of the main important things for us, for the game, was to have a peaceful game, with this sense that you can take your time and we wanted to reflect that from the menu. So we worked on those small wind-effects and the leaves that are going around and the nice and soft music. It was just, when you start the game, you should feel quite at peace and comfortable. And even when the menu evolves in each episode, there are some small details that are changing like in the menu for Episode 4, you have the beached whales. These kind of details we wanted to add with the variations of the menu. The game takes place in Oregon, in the Pacific Northwest in the United States. (The scene of Max arriving at the diner in episode two is shown.) When I went back there on vacation, I have seen a lot of places that really looks like what we did in the game. it was a really big job of references to be sure that everything was correct, but it's also something that is really exciting about making a game, (The scene of Max and Chloe driving to the barn is shown.) that you have to look at everything to reproduce reality, and with of course our own lens and stylizations, but we really wanted this to feel like being in Oregon. Sometimes people ask us if we chose to have the game in the United States for marketing, for selling the game. (Shakes his head.) We knew that we were fans of TV shows like Twin Peaks or X-Files. They have those trees and the Pacific Northwest feeling.
Raoul Barbet: I think they are a great example of a small community, thinking that everybody knows each other and everybody is happy, but when you put something inside this community, (The scene of Max's first vision is shown.) it could be something supernatural, you discover a lot more.
Michel Koch: And it's really a way to shift things around and to bring chaos and interesting variations on the characters. In the end, Life Is Strange is really a game and a story about the characters, about their lives. It;'s not a story about Sci-Fi elements. The Sci-Fi elements are just here to make things interesting.
End of the chapter.
02 - Let's play Life Is Strange Edit
The scene of Max's first vision is shown. Raoul and Michel are talking in the background, discussing it.
Michel Koch: Okay, so let's play the game.
Raoul Barbet: Yeah! Let's play Life Is Strange. So this is the very beginning of the game. I think this is one of the most difficult sequences at the beginning of the production because this is the first time the player will see what the game looks like and will be inside the story. So, there were a lot of discussions about this scene and a lot of discussions about the shots; how we were going to present the Max character, it's important as this is a videogame for the player to know where they have to go and the objective of each scene. This scene is a link to the end of the game of course and it's also to close the loop and begin with this scene and when you know in the end of the game, it was something we really wanted to have, so we can see all the effects and we've got one effects artist who is very talented, Thomas, here you can see a lot of his work.
Michel Koch: I love the tornado.
Raoul Barbet: All the particles, the tornado.
The Storm is shown on a computer monitor.
Michel Koch: We took a lot of time to work on this tornado because, when you're working on an episoic game, it's important to still hook the player from Episode 1. So that's the kind of discussions we had about rhythm, when should we put something that has a bit more impact and that feels like something that shows the player something bigger, so this introduction was a bit like that.
Camera cuts to Raoul and Michel.
Michel Koch: We wanted in Life Is Strange for the player to always know what Max is knowing and to just be with her.
Max is shown looking at the storm.
Michel Koch: At this moment, Max doesn't know where she is and the player doesn't know it either.
A boat hits the upper portion of the lighthouse, it falls on Max and she awakens in the Photography Lab.
Michel Koch: We're back to the high school, which is one of the most important settings in the game, of course the high school setting and the Blackwell Academy. High school is something where the player will feel comfortable because they know it, but the transition from the cliff to there is the twist of having something really different. And that should, we hope, make the player say "oh". It's not just a teen story, there's more to it. And then of course, we can go beyond that and change it and twist it and change the characters, but it was an interesting starting point creatively. This kind of introduction is really important because in one sequence, with only a few shots, you have to discover all the different characters, the main ones and we will of course see Jefferson, Kate and Victoria. It was quite hard to decide between not showing too much, to not break the idea of the game, to not be too big compared to what the game would be after. There are a lot of themes, a lot of big ideas in the game and of course photography is one of them, because photogrpaphy is still a way to look back to the past. It's linked to the theme of rewind and time-manipulation and nostalgia and that's one of the reasons Max came back to Arcadia Bay, to attend this photography class.
Raoul Barbet: I think for the player to be, like Max, back in this town, when she doesn't know everyone but you've got to respect the schedule, it's really, as a player, something great to discover. Also, the lighting was really important in this scene, to break the cliff ambiance and this sunny atmosphere and all this light coming from the windows.
Michel Koch: Maybe we decided to have a private High School, rather than just a regular High School, of course for the photography course, but it was also to have less students, because we wanted the story to be a bit more intimate; we didn't want it to be this huge High School, with so many students. Based on what the player is doing, you can really learn more about them and see that they're actually not just a stereotype and the archetypes you would think they are. And this is still a perfect example of how episodic is hard, because if you look closely at this poster, there is a mistake on it. It says that the exhibition takes place in the DeYoung Museum of Art, when actually, it's not that in Episode 5, it's the Zeitgeist Gallery. We have a really great community. (Laughs.) Thank you guys. And people found out this mistake, and yes, it is a mistake, when we found out in Episode 5 that it couldn't be a museum, so it had to be an art gallery, so we changed the name and yes there is a mistake like this in Episode 1.
Max exits the Photography Lab. People are shown walking down the Blackwell Hallway.
Raoul Barbet: We really wanted this feeling of being part of a whole High School, so it means a lot of people. It means bullying, it means difficulties when you're a teenager in this kind of world.
Michel Koch: And showing the different cliques and different kinds of teenagers.
Raoul Barbet: I think a lot of players love this introduction, the use of music here is really important as Max feels insecure in this atmosphere. We wanted her to be isolated; music is a great way of isolating yourself, when you just want to be on your own.
Max puts on her earphones. "Obstacles" by Syd Matters starts to play.
Raoul Barbet: So since the beginning of the game we were working with licensed tracks - licensed music. When we were testing on prototypes of scenes, we put some licensed tracks from some artists we love - Syd Matters was one of them. And when we asked Johnathan Morali who is the lead of Syd Matters, if it is possible to use his music - he's a gamer, so he was really happy to have this new experience and for us it was just incredible to work with him and this type of editing is really, really difficult to do because you have to choose the important moment in a song and choose the right images.
Sébastien Gaillard: Because our writer Jean Luc has written many scenes built around music, the edit is based on the music, it's not the other way round.
The scene of Max playing "Crosses" is shown.
Raoul Barbet: The music is really important in the game, it explains a lot about the characters because the choice of the music, the choice of the artist, it means a lot. For example, Chloe won't listen to the same artists as Max. For this guitar part, we asked the lead-singer of Syd Matters to play on top of a Jose Gonzalez song in a clumsy way to be sure that it would be like Max playing guitar.
End of the chapter.
03 - Intentions Edit
Raoul Barbet and Michel Koch are discussing the bathroom scene from "Chrysalis". The camera shows them, then changes to the view of Max entering the bathroom.
Raoul Barbet: OK, so the objective of this scene was to go into the bathroom. I think you can hear the great song "walk". Sebastien the Audio Lead has worked a lot on these kind of effects when you take out your earplugs, you can hear more of the ambience. This kind of art is done by our main Concept Artist. We've got three or four Concept Artists working on the game. With Edouard, we've made a lot of art work, he was the main Concept Artist.
Edouard Caplain: So basically, in the beginning, we do a lot of documentation, we do a lot of research. From all those pictures we can find on the internet, every room, every character needs to tell you a story: who they are, what they do.
Michel Koch: And just for, following the scene even for the mood, when it's still the rhythm of the game so we wanted this scene in the bathroom to have a really cold and harsh more contrasty lighting to be different to the soft and warm lighting from the art class before.
Raoul Barbet: I think in this scene here is one of the mistakes we've made with the game. For example, when Max is tearing apart the polaroid. In fact, I don't know if you have tried to tear apart a polaroid, but it's quite impossible.
Michel Koch: Yeah, you can't. We tried it, but it's to strong, it's plastic and it's impossible to tear it actually.
Raoul Barbet: But of course, there is a lot of symbolism behind this, so we decided to keep it, even if it's non-realistic - maybe it's a bad polaroid quality so we can do it. You can see the butterfly coming in from the window, there's a lot of symbolism behind this: A butterfly of course with all the butterfly effect theme. The fact that Chloe has got -
Michel Koch: Some butterflies on her tattoo, and the color of her hair is based on the color of the butterfly.
Raoul Barbet: Yeah, this is something we really wanted to do. Here the blue butterfly is really, really important and of course at the end of the game, it's much more important.
Nathan and Chloe enter the bathroom.
Michel Koch: One of the fans' favorites and of course a character we really love, Chloe. She's one of the most important characters because, at the end the choice is about her. It was really important to create this character the best way possible so the player would learn to care more and more about her, but we really wanted her to be not that nice at the beginning, so when she's evolving during the different episodes and she's getting nicer to Max, (The scene of Chloe examining Max's photos is shown.) people would care even more about her, because she has changed and she likes the fact that she's changed. If she were the nicest person from the beginning, it wouldn't be, I don't think, as effective with her going forward and changing towards Max.
The scene of Max and Chloe in the pool is shown.
Raoul Barbet: Sometimes, some players hated Chloe from the first episode and I think it's not a bad thing because you can dislike a lot of things about her personality and after in Episode 3 and of course in the beginning of Episode 4, there was really something more to this character. I think it's like having a friend in real life, there are always some things that you don't like. The relationship between Max and Chloe lets us talk about that and I think it's really interesting to see how the player will learn more and more to like Chloe.
The scene of Chloe hugging Max after she tried to shoot Frank is shown.
Michel Koch: I think it was one of the biggest challenges of the writing process because we have five episodes, we have a limited amount of time and we need to find the good beats and the good pacing to make those characters evolve.
Ashly Burch: It's a really intimate story and it's mostly just centered on emotional moments. All of the major choices that you make in the game are emotional. The heart of it is the relationship between Max and Chloe. It gets really dark; things get really hard for Chloe and really emotional.
Michel Koch: In the game, one of our goals was also to be able to talk about real-life issues, about some social themes and difficult themes that can be experienced in real life. I mean, it's different to other games where there are bigger issues like situations of life or death or war, or stuff like that and in this game we wanted to focus on more human issues on a smaller level.
Laurent Cahour: The mood of the game and the themes of the game, it's the themes that we tackle in the game are not something that you see often in other games. We tried to be mature about it, we tried not to force it onto players and we tried not to be too brutal about it.
The scene of Chloe crying after discovering Rachel's body is shown.
Michel Koch: We have issues like domestic violence, family issues. We talk about drugs and alcoholism. Unemployment. Depression.
Raoul Barbet: It's part of reality and it was really important for us to not avoid that and I think that video games are a great media to talk about that because, as a player, you will be involved maybe more than just looking at a movie or reading a book, you will really be a part of and an actor in this experience.
Luc Baghadoust: We were not sure that Square Enix, the publisher, would approve all the themes, the intense scenes we have and how we deal with them. really early in the discussions, we were relieved to see that they didn't want to change anything, they just wanted to make sure that we dealt properly with those scenes and themes and this is exactly what our intentions were.
The scene of Nathan entering the bathroom is shown.
Raoul Barbet: This is again a key-scene for Episode 1; it's the first time you see Nathan and Chloe. The first scene with a character is really, really important. You've got a lot of information to give to the player.
Michel Koch: And we needed to show that Nathan was quite a troubled child. A teenager I mean. So this is him talking to himself at the beginning. We had to fine tune it, to find the good words to use. Then we see Chloe for the first time, we have to show what her character is like. She's direct and a bit pushy to Nathan. We still need to understand what is happening, so they are talking about money, about drugs. We had to find the right hints to give, to explain things so as not to lose the player.
End of the chapter.
04 - A matter of choice Edit
The scene of Chloe and Nathan arguing in the bathroom is shown. Raoul Barbet and Michel Koch are talking in the background, discussing it.
Michel Koch: This scene, this is the starting point of Max discovering that she has this weird power because basically this adrenaline rush and slowing, looking at Chloe getting shot. So that's how she can trigger that for the first time. She doesn't really know why, but that's the seriousness of the situation and then you'll go back into the art class. So we really tried in this scene to show the déjà vu feeling, so the editing and the shots were there to give this weird feeling to the player that "OK, I'm living that again and again", looking at the different moments that the player saw the first time in this scene.
Raoul Barbet: So for the editing in this sequence, we wanted to keep the same elements, but not necessarily the same shots, you can see that the first three shots are the same I think and after we begin to change the point of view a little. So you understand that they are the same events going on, just seen from a different point of view.
Michel Koch: I think to be perfectly honest, we don't have a good explanation for why she's going back to the art class because we needed it for...
Raoul Barbet: I've got one but I'll never tell you.
Michel Koch: I don't thunk it's a mistake because we also need to explain to the player so the player can learn how things are working and it's quite hard to do. So we took this freedom to have Max go back to the art class, which, even if it's a bit contradictory with how her power works after that. We are using this to explore more of Max's personality and her character because that is the way we created the character. Max has, we've seen that with what she's thinking, she has a lot of insecurity, she has issues with moving forward in her life, to make decisions. Now she has this ability to not go forward, but to go backward. So, it's an interesting storytelling device to question with her character and with the player of course to question choice and consequences, to question fate, to question really interesting issues.
The decision screens for several major choices are shown. They are: Reporting or not reporting Nathan to the principal, choosing who to blame in the principal's office, and stopping or not stopping Warren from beating up Nathan. Later, the decision screens for siding with David or Chloe, throwing the dog bone towards the road or in the parking lot, and warning or not warning Victoria about the Dark Room are shown as well.
Raoul Barbet: I think Max would never have changed as much as here in our story without this power and without the sci-fi elements. It puts the player in a very interesting position because they will ask themselves while they're doing some of the interactions, they can undo the interaction and try something else, but also Max, by doing this, will ask herself: "Am I making the right decision? Is it a good choice or not?" So, we deconstructed the mechanism of classic adventure games just by adding this power and the fact that you can undo things ans try other things.
Michel Koch: Of course in most games, you can do it with quick save, quick load, but like you said, it's only the player who does that and that's one of the main themes of the game: If I have the power to rewind and to change things, should I do it? Because sometimes, it can be really seen as lying. If I say a lot of things that you don't like and I go back in time and don't say them so you're not angry at me, it's a bit of a trick. So we are really asking those questions and in the beginning of the game, we are letting the player and Max do it a lot, she's getting to make a lot of friends with this rewind, but later in the game and especially in Episode 5, we are really questioning this to see maybe it wasn't the right thing, maybe what you did, to try to lie to people with your power, was it really good? And that is something that can be interesting for the story but also to ask the player at that moment.
Raoul Barbet: I think this is also what we wanted to do with this game to show that it's difficult to make those choices and it's even more difficult to live with it, but you have to learn to do that.
The scene of Max rewinding for the first time in class is shown.
Michel Koch: But you still have to. Even if you could hesitate a lot, there is no perfect way to do things. And so this is basically the first time that the player will actively rewind, so we have Max thinking that "OK I just got back in time, I'm in the art class". And so that's why we made her break her camera because we needed to have an element that the player will see, that we will rewind so we can really explain how to rewind. So Max broke her camera and so she's thinking: "OK if I go back in time, maybe I can try to do it again and reverse that". So that's the first real rewind that the player is actively doing. It was ok, we don't really want players to use the rewind all the time, but it's important in the beginning of the game to really show the players the tools they have and it was important for us to have this in this scene, to have a lot of use of the rewind, so the player can say "OK I know how it is now and now I decide if I use it or not.
The scene of Max rushing to the bathroom after the first rewind is shown. Later, Max is seen noticing the doe in the junkyard.
Michel Koch: Since we are really playing the game from the point of view of Max, for her, not everything is clear, so it shouldn't be clear for the player, but there are really a lot of hints that should really guide the players to understand what's happening. We have a lot of symbolism with totem spirit animals. We have the doe and you can clearly see in Episode 4, that the Doe is clearly linked to Rachel and it's basically somehow a presence of Rachel that's guiding Max at moments. I'm not sure that many players noticed, but in Episode 2 actually, when you see the doe in the junkyard, it's precisely where Rachel is buried. There is this mystic feeling around the town and since we didn't want to clearly explain everything, it's part of what makes Arcadia Bay a bit different and a bit special.
End of the chapter.
05 - A lively world Edit
06 - Capturing the moment Edit
07 - Social issues Edit
08 - Getting things right Edit
09 - Voices of Arcadia Bay Edit