Ready At Dawn’s founder Ru Weerasuriya talks about creating the deep and layered world of neo-Victorian, Teslapunk London in The Order: 1886.
So two years since it’s announcement, The Order: 1886 is about to see release
Not anymore! The nervousness was mostly about getting the game out. Now I can’t wait for people to play it. Our baby will be out in the world and it’ll have to walk on its own. Once we put it out we can only wait and see how it does on its own.
How has the feedback been so far?
It’s been pretty amazing, actually. It’s funny, because we held a lot back in the months leading up to this but with all the information about the game that’s made it out there – some purposefully and some not on purpose – it’s been pretty crazy. There have been a lot of leaks and people have written a lot of things in which they’ve guessed about details of the game. But the feedback overall has been great – and it’s been great to see that!
It must be a hard game to preview because it’s a very story-heavy game and you run the risk of running into spoiler territory.
Well, we have shown quite a lot of content. The main aim was to show the diversity that players can expect in the game. Overall, we’ve probably shown more than most games but we didn’t want to ruin anything for people. I’m the kind of guy who likes to go into a game cold and not know anything ahead of what I’m playing.
Bit difficult for your audience though, isn’t it? I mean there’s even a Wikipedia on The Order and it hasn’t come out yet!
That’s crazy! People have speculated about so many things in our game – some of it is right and some of it is wrong – but I can’t believe how much they’ve been able to gather from what we’ve put out there. I didn’t realise how much information we’d released, but when you see it altogether in one single space, you go, great – people really are invested in this. They really like what we’re doing.
That’s interesting because a few of the previews on The Order: 1886 haven’t been universally positive
Well, we had to stay the course with what we were building. You know, it’s really hard – especially these days – in this industry to meet people’s expectations. Most people have an idea in their head already of what they want based on what they see you do. That’s okay, though. That’s the part of the industry is so cool; we have more savvy players out there – they’re our counterparts, who play our game and give us feedback. It’s impossible to match the game to the taste of every player, so we focussed on building the game we wanted to make. For us, it was important, that if we were to make an IP, we set high expectations with this game and
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The Order: 1886 does seem to be one of those games that will inspire cult followings. The world is so big and will probably inspire a lot of fanfic.
I think that’s the same reason we don’t think of The Order as a story. Any story we tell in that world only matters that much because the world is that much bigger than any plot we come up with. It’s everything we know outside the narrative that makes it as big as it is. The microcosm of the story wouldn’t have been enough to give the game resonance.
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So how deep does the world go?
Well the first story in the world was set in the year 100 BC. That was the first storyline I wrote that led to the creation of the world you currently see in the game.
Are any of these earlier plotlines ever going to see the light of day?
(Laughs) I have no idea! I don’t know – maybe? I guess at some stage that it’ll have to come out in some shape or form. It’s cool to get to this point to define these characters. We all needed to know their histories – both of the protagonists and the world. If a character is to matter there’d better be a reason for that. So this meant that every character in the game needed a past and since their lifespan is longer than other humans, that meant hundreds of years of backstory. We had to know where each of them came from and how they all became knights.
With all of this backstory, was it a problem to stay focused on the main narrative?
Yes, actually. That’s a good point. We were in meetings – we called them ‘storytime’ meetings’ – and I’d come in with what I had in mind and the ideas I had and the research I’d done and I’d present them to the team and say ‘hey, what about all this?’ and I’d see the directors staring at me and they’d say ‘dude, you have to stop! We’re never going to get the game out otherwise’. It’s tough. You get dragged off on tangents and sometimes they’re too interesting to put down.
I know the audience these sort of thing but there are so many aspects – story, world building and even mechanics – that we had to put on the backburner. The collection of ideas was humongous.
(Laughs) Good question and nice try! I almost answered that!
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You’ve created this fantastical world, which allows you a lot of narrative leeway – the occult, steampunk weapons – but do you find yourself having to reign in some ideas to stop the plot from completely jumping the rails?
I think the world itself, as we built it, dovetails with certain historical events, but we do have a lot of leeway. For example, you look at historical texts covering that time and the same events are told from a multitude of perspectives. There’s always a lot of angles so that allows us the freedom to take the story where we want. There are obviously boundaries – there have to be – but those were pretty easy to set; it always came back to the question of whether or not this was all believable. Any concept we came up with for the game, we asked, “would you believe this?” That led to quite a bit of editing. A lot of ideas didn’t even make it out of the drawing stage because they were too outlandish. We knew where the boundaries were because we were living with this world for such a long time.
You have quite a few unique weapons – the Thermite Rifle, the Three Crown Coachgun – so would they make the multiplayer quite a nightmare to balance?
(Laughs) I know where this is going! You know what? That’s the fun part about multiplayer. In many games I play, the range of weapons and the variety of approaches they open up is amazing. If there was anything to do with multiplayer, I think diversity would help the game stand out.
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Steampunk has become quite a buzz-worthy genre in games. Do you think it might get saturated?
You know, the angle we took, we never thought of our game as steampunk.
Why is that? Why do so many developers who make steampunk-themed games shy away from that genre as a tag?
It’s not that. It’s that steampunk is pretty clearly defined. I wouldn’t want to state The Order is steampunk, because then you’re mis-categorising. You take The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen – that’s true steampunk. Dishonored actually just has a look and feel. We’re further away from that genre than that. Steampunk is fantasy. It’s a little bit beyond. There’s also a comedy that comes with it – a whimsical side to it. And then there’s the steam – literally – a lot of the comics and Anime that you could tag as steampunk was built on the back of steam-powered gear.
Our game is more aligned with the real world – electricity, even though it arrives in the historical timeline before it was invented. We all have a very wide idea of what steampunk is, and it’s already clearly defined. It’s not that wide.
So your game is Tesla-Punk, then?
Yeah! I like that! I’m taking that!