On June 14, 2017, the E3 Coliseum featured a panel with lead writer Zak Garriss and co-game director Chris Floyd discussing Before the Storm, hosted by Andrea Rene. The panel featured pre-release footage, including new footage that had not been shown on earlier pre-release reveal at the E3 2017.
Andrea Rene: Hey, everyone! Before I come out, we're gonna show you an awesome trailer. Stay tuned!
(Before the Storm trailer plays)
Hello, everybody! How are you guys doing? Good? How many Life is Strange fans are here? Fantastic! I'd like to bring out some of the development team to talk to you today about game. First up, we've got Chris Floyd, the game director.
Chris Floyd: (walks in)
Andrea Rene: Welcome!
Chris Floyd: Thank you.
Andrea Rene: You've got a giant catch there all to yourself.
Chris Floyd: Little pouch.
Andrea Rene: Next up is Zak Garriss, the lead writer on the game.
Zak Garriss: (walks in)
Andrea Rene: Alright, I guess you're sharing the couch.
Alright, gentlemen, welcome to the stage. We are to talk about Life is Strange: Before the Storm. You guys are from Deck Nine and we're gonna talk a little bit more about your studio in just a moment, but before we get there, let's talk about this game - what is this game?
Chris Floyd: Yeah, so Life is Strange: Before the Storm, it's really a direct response to all those fans of Life is Strange out there who really wanted to return Arcadia Bay and revisit characters that they know and love from that game. So we've created a three episodes standalone adventure that goes three years before the previous game and puts you in the shoes of Chloe Price, at 16 years old.
Zak Garriss: So we're excited to take a look at Arcadia Bay through Chloe's eyes. This particular chapter in her life, it's two years after her father passed away. Max, her best friend, has moved away to Seattle, and Chloe's alone; her mom's moving on, she's dating this new guy, David, that she doesn't really like, and she's having to figure out how to be 16 and how to navigate high school. And we're looking at this chapter in this moment when she meets this character who was really mythical from the first game, Rachel Amber. And Rachel is in many ways seemingly the opposite of Chloe - she's extremely popular, she's successful, she's a straight-A student - and what we want to explore over the course of the game is sort of unearthing the ways in which the seemingly perfect girl is actually close to breaking, and this very obviously broken girl Chloe has an incredible strength, and that these two girls really need each other at this specific moment in their life.
Andrea Rene: That is some heavy stuff. But I mean if you guys have played the first Life is Strange, there was a lot of heavy stuff in that game too. Before the continue with the panel, we have some really neat footage that you guys brought, these (...) moments, so we'll go ahead and start out first video so you guys can take a look at those while chat. So, let's talk a little bit about what we're seeing on stage.
Chris Floyd: Yeah, well, I think this is the first time folks are getting a look at Chloe's room. We're all familiar with Chloe's room from the first game, but at this point she's really a character in transition, now three years before then, right. She isn't the blue-haired Chloe yet, she's trying to find her way after the loss of her father and it's really reflected in this enviroment.
Zak Garriss: One of the things we're excited about exploring in the game overall is returning to many different spaces in Arcadia Bay that will feel very familiar to fans of the first game but simultaneously seeing them through fresh eyes from Chloe at this time in her life.
Andrea Rene: So, you had mentioned that we are going to see some familiar places. Are there any key ones that fans in the audience that are watching at home will recognize?
Chris Floyd: Well, Chloe is still a student at Blackwell Academy, so we'll see her return there. I think we probably shouldn't spoil some of the other places we might be going.
Zak Garriss: In the trailer we do see the junkyard, which has a lot of significance from the first game.
Andrea Rene: Do they build the hide-away in the game?
Chris Floyd: Maybe we shouldn't jump too far.
Andrea Rene: Haha, okay okay. Um, let's talk about the point in the story that this game exists. Is this a true prequel?
Chris Floyd: Well, it depends on what you mean by that. Obviously it comes before the original game, but it's quite a few years before. Obviously we're using a character that everybody knows. But we've put a lot of distance between those stories. For example, you know Rachel is a character that we know at the outset of the original game, that she's disappeared. People know that story. If we were telling the story of how we got there, people would know the ending of that story. We weren't interested in telling a that people already know the ending of. So we've gone far enough back that we can look at this relationship and really explore some new details of it that people aren't gonna be familiar with and thake it in direction people won't be expecting.
Zak Garriss: Part of what's really exciting Chloe and Rachel is the way that Chloe talks about Rachel in the first game clearly indicates that she's important to her, but she doesn't share the details, even with Max, because she wanted to keep that private. That allowed an ambiguity for us that we can explore with a lot of complexicty in how the player will have choices that will have varying consequences throughout the story.
Andrea Rene: So, we've been talking a lot about Chloe as a character, and, in the previous game, if you guys are fans, you'll know that Ashly Burch voiced Chloe; she's working with you in a different capacity on this game.
Zak Garriss: Yeah, that's right. So, I think, with the strike going on, it's a pretty complex situation. Ashly wasn't able to reprise her role in performing Chloe as a voice-over actress. That was really hard for us, we were very sad about that. But we sent her the first episode script just to share what we're working on and what we were so passionate about. She read it cover-to-cover, she saw our passion, and she - I think it was infectious - and she, and we invited her to join the team and she agreed to join us as a story consultant, so Ashly, in addtion to being a talented actor, is a wonderful writer, and so everything from individual dialogue lines to high-level story breaks about Before the Storm Ashly's been involved with the writing team. Every episode, every script, we've flown her out to the studio. She's really become an integral part of shaping the voice of Chloe at this chapter.
Andrea Rene: That's really exciting! Ashly is fantastic. Every time I've got to meet her she's just been lovely. So, an obvious question probably is... I mean, Chloe is the hero of the story - well, "hero" maybe to be defined later - but she doesn't have the rewind power, so does that mean that we're not gonna see that mechanic in this game?
Chris Floyd: That's right, there isn't a rewind power. In fact Chloe has no power at all, and there's a number of reasons for that. That was a bold decision I feel like we made early on and that we've just committed to. Part of it is that we feel that what fans really love about Life is Strange was not really about those supernatural elements. It was about the real-world elements. It was about the relatable characters, the real-word situations, their relationships. So we're really focussing on those, but also there were some story consistency questions - you know, Chloe is surprised to know abou this power that Max has, it wouldn't make any sense for her not say something in the first game, and we wanted to stay consistent with that. Finally, we felt like the rewind power is really an embodiment of who Max is as a character, and she's timid, she's cautious, she doesn't know what the right choices are, and that's really what her story is all about. So the rewind power really compliments that in a beautiful way. But for Chloe, who's bold and brash, she's like a wrecking ball, she doesn't care about consequences, she bashes through things, breaks whatever she's gonna break on the way to getting to her goal; so to suddenly have her question her choices and rewind and redo them doesn't seem true to her character.
Zak Garriss: Some of the most memorable moments from the first game for me were those really important choices, those major choices that were so difficult to make a decision about, and with the rewind power, if I didn't like what immediately happened, I could go back and try the other paths. We're really doubling down on that kind of discomfort that the player is gonna experience, and having to really be Chloe and not have that benefit, I think it's going to do a lot of interesting work for developing Chloe through the story.
Andrea Rene: It will be interesting to see how that affects play, because I may have rewound many times in my playthrough to change things; particularly, to get the photos that I wanted to get to make sure to unlock the achievement or the trophy. I don't know if you guys did that, am I the only one?
Zak Garriss: No.
Andrea Rene: Okay, good. Thanks for not making me feel like I was alone. So, speaking of that actually, you and I spoke yesterday about that photo ability that was clearly Max's thing. What is Chloe's thing?
Chris Floyd: That's right. Chloe's thing is making her mark on the world. She carries around a big old marker. And you see graffiti all over the place in the original game - well, some of that belongs to Chloe, in her room and such - she's going to take that out into the world and make that kind of mark in a variety of places. Those are going to be the achievements that you're picking up. And one cool effect of that is that we often let you make a choice of what you want to write, whatever Chloe is thinking about, what you're interested in, that's what you scroll up on that wall or on the sign or whereever you're putting it; and if you return to that enviroment, you're gonna see that mark you left when you get back.
Andrea Rene: That sounds so awesome. I'm really excited to check out that mechanic. So, clearly you guys are from Deck Nine, we talked about that already. Dontnod was the developer of the original game. They did a fantastic job with it. Obviously we're all here because we loved Life is Strange. What made you guys decide to want to work on this IP?
Chris Floyd: Well, about three years ago, Deck Nine started to really focus our thoughts on making narrative cinematic games. And that involved building a team, a team of storytellers. We went out into the world of film and television as well as video games and found great storytellers, cinematic artists, enviroment artists, writers, level designers who wanted to make really, really meaningful stories. And then we also built a toolset; we call it StoryForge. It's an amazing way for us to compose stories that are interactive and to create performances for our cinematic characters with a lot of nuance and really take all the technical barriers out from in front of our creators and just let them tell amazing stories. So those were the assets that we had coming in to discussions with Square Enix that made them say, "Boy, maybe these guys are doing the next Life is Strange."
Andrea Rene: No pressure, Zak.
Zak Garriss: Yeah, right.
Andrea Rene: (laughs)
Zak Garriss: No, it's in all seriousness, Dontnod set an astonishingly high bar with Life is Strange. I mean everyone at Deck Nine, we are definitely first of what they've accomplished. The game is beautiful and it's inspired all of us. So yeah, there is a lot of pressure. It's an incredible privilege, we take it really seriously, and we're just so excited to share what we've been working on.
Andrea Rene: Well, how about we take a look at, you know, a little bit more of Life is Strange: Before the Storm? We have another video for you guys, you guys ready? We will go ahead and roll that second video for you.
(punk club scene starts playing)
Chris Floyd: So this is a scene from early on in our game in the first episode. Chloe has come to an old abandoned mill on the outskirts of Arcadia Bay. She's talked her way into an illegal concert that's going on an underground concert. Probably someplace that a 16-year-old girl shouldn't be, but here she is, that's Chloe. This is a brand new environment we've made for Before the Storm. You'll also, as we saw, go into a lot of other familiar locations. We get to pet the dog, say hello. So the world is full of a lot of things to interact with, of course, like in Life is Strange, but tons of people to talk to, things to see. We've got a guy over here who is selling t-shirts. One of the things that's interesting about Chloe as a protagonist, as opposed to Max, is how she solves a problem. Again, Max is very cautious, careful. Chloe is not that, she doesn't mind doing a little damage. Yeah, Chloe wants the shirt that bad.
Andrea Rene: It's Chloe, of course she does.
Chris Floyd: So (...) was saying, you know, without a rewind power, the consequences of your actions, damage you do is gonna be doubled and choices and consequences are so important. Now Chloe has an opportunity to maybe take a little more than she intended at first.
Andrea Rene: What do you guys think - steal it?
Chris Floyd: Yeah, Chloe is gonna take the money. But you could decide to leave it there und not risk it. (...) there are no wrong choices. A lot of the characters in this scene are brand new. These guys right here. But we've got at least one familiar face here. It's our man Frank.
Andrea Rene: Yeah, Frank. (...) I think we all know what he is doing there, right? (...) Yeah.
Chris Floyd: Luckily, Chloe has the money.
Andrea Rene: Yeah, somehow. (laughs)
Chris Floyd: Many ways to navigate situations. Chloe could also keep the money, could carry on the story with a pocket full of cash. (...) Here's an example of one of those graffiti spots. Chloe's gonna make a mark on the world. You get a choice of what you want to say. (...) Get it? It's soft. The world is full of a lot of rich details (...) really build on the story of Arcadia Bay. Sean Prescott, still ruling Arcadia Bay.
Andrea Rene: Oh, do we have to deal with these jerks?
Chris Floyd: Chloe really wants to get to the music. (...) Harder than she thought. (...) Chloe's gonna take a lot of risks to get the things that she wants. (...) Those stairs aren't terribly stable.
Music is a really really important part of Life is Strange. So we have a number of licensed tracks, maybe bands that you're familiar with, but we're really looking for (...)
(The the band's lead starts singing and Chloe plays the air guitar and dances.)
Andrea Rene: She's rocking so hard right now.
Chris Floyd: We really felt like a scene like this shows you a side of Chloe that, again, this is not Max's world, right.
(Chloe is getting into a fight with two guys at the club when Rachel steps in - the player can either decide to RUN or ATTACK.)
Here's an example of one of the major choices in the game. (Chooses RUN)
You'll have to play the game to see the other (...)
Andrea Rene (about Rachel): She's just as cool as I thought she'd be.
(Chloe and Rachel disappear into the crowd in front of the stage and dance.)
Chris Floyd: Well, we finally get to rock out (...).
Andrea Rene: Awesome!
Chris Floyd: So that's the start of that relationship! Obviously, we'll have a long way to go in the course of three episodes. We're gonna see Chloe really start on that path to becoming the blue-haired, beanie-wearing girl that we all know from the first game. We're gonna see the two girls change each other in many many ways. We're gonna explore secrets about each of them. We really think people are gonna love be along for the ride.
Andrea Rene: The real question - does Rachel's flannel shirt make an appearance? (people laugh) Am I the only one? You know, Max wears her outfit and everyone's like 'Look, it's Rachel walking around'.
Chris Floyd: Absolutely. You'll see her style. You'll recognize in all her outfits. One of the things about Rachel that really stands out is her sense of style. It's gonna be an influence on Chloe over the course of the story.
Andrea Rene: And we know that Max, you know, is not playable in this game, but she make an appearance at all in the game?
Zak Garriss: I think Max's absence is an important part of Chloe's personality at this time in her life, but we do explore ways in which even Max's absence gives Max a presence in Chloe's kind of day-to-day moments. Like a good example is the diary, the journal. In the first game, Max just recorded the events of every scene, like she's filling out a diary. And that fulfilled a gameplay purpose of reacquainting the player with whatever might have happened recently on the course of play. With Chloe, this is an opportunity to explore, you know, the difference between Chloe and Max, so instead of just writing a diary, Chloe actually writes letters to Max that she never sends. That's our version of her journal. She doesn't send them because she doesn't believe Max cares about her anymore. It's just another aspect of her alienation, the time that our game starts.
Andrea Rene: So we know that this game is not as many episodes as the original Life is Strange. How long is this game?
Chris Floyd: So it's three episodes long, and we thought really carefully about how many episodes we wanted to have. And we could have done more. What we really did was we looked at our story and we said 'What do we need to tell this story? What are the movements of the story as it develops?' And it just really looked like three episodes was the right amount of time to show these beginning moments of Chloe and Rachel's relationship.
Andrea Rene: So if people out there did not play the original Life is Strange - which, if you didn't, I can't recommend enough, please go back and play it - are they going to be able to pick this one up? Should they start with this one first? Does it matter?
Zak Garriss: So we've deliberately crafted Before the Storm not to spoil any of the story of the first game. I think you can really play either one, and you should play both in either order.
Andrea Rene: Okay, great. So that makes it easy. I did want to talk a little bit about this name, "Before the Storm". Where did that come from?
Chris Floyd: Well, of course it's a reference to really the first image you see in the original Life is Strange, for one thing. So that there's a giant storm there that Max encounters. Of course that storm has implications and actually is wrapped up in Chloe and Chloe and Max's story in that game. And so we think it ties nicely, of course communicated 'hey, we're a prequel', but it ties nicely into Chloe and show that she's on a trajectory into that story, and this is going to lock together nicely with what happens in the first game.
Andrea Rene: You guys obviously, as a studio, you know, storytelling is a big part of what you do in the development. What is so special about the Life is Strange story that really resonated with you?
Zak Garriss: For me it was the courage the story had to put a lense on kinda real issues - social issues, personal issues, to talk about depression, to talk about suicide or bullying - and make that enough, that that's enough of an interactive experience for a game. Of course it was an extraordinary experience.
Andrea Rene: Well, gentlemen, thank you so much for joining me on stage today.
Chris Floyd: Thank you. Thank you so much.
Andrea Rene: We got to see some awesome gameplay! When is the game coming out?
Chris Floyd: The first episode will be out on August 31. You can get it on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.
Andrea Rene: Alright, you heard it. Mark your calendars! That'll do it for us. Thank you so much, guys, for being here with us (...)
Zak Garriss: Thank you, everybody. Thank you.
- ↑ Note on the strike