Fear Effect Sedna - A Sitdown With Benjamin Anseaume, CEO Of Sushee Games

Fear Effect Kickstarter
(Photo: Sushee)

Earlier today Sushee Games released an extended gameplay trailer for the crowdfunded Fear Effect Sedna. We recently got to chat with Sushee Games CEO and Game Director Benjamin Anseaume about Sedna, including the reasons behind some of its gameplay design, how they approached the characters, and what they are doing to make sure past fans enjoy this new take on the franchise.

Matt Mueller: While there are plenty of fans of the original games out there, as the progress on the Kickstarter so far shows, what drove the team to believe that this IP could be resurrected and successful in today's gaming climate?

Benjamin Anseaume: First, it's a feeling. When we saw that Square Enix was releasing several IPs, I immediately knew it was an awesome opportunity for a small studio like Sushee. And then, we saw that Fear Effect was in the selection, and we didn't hesitate a long time, first because most of us knew and played Fear Effect back in 2000, and because the story and the characters perfectly fit our studio, and the game we wanted to make.

But to be honest, the support we've received so far, feedback on our Kickstarter campaign,
Facebook and Twitter pages are beyond what we expected. Fear Effect is clearly still alive
and now we've figured out how many fans were just waiting to hear a new story with Hana.
That being said, we realized during our campaign that players used to play previous Fear
Effects on the console, and want to play Sedna on a console, too. That's where the community is.

So I'm very pleased to announce that we found a solution to release the game on PC, Xbox One, and PS4 if the game is funded. We will fund this part ourselves, it's a small risk for us, but we're always listening to player's feedback, and after 3 weeks, it seems obvious that many players want to play the game on consoles. We are very excited to see the game on Playstation, just like Fear Effect 1 and 2!

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(Photo: Sushee)

MM: Fear Effect 1 and 2 (and I imagine Inferno) were completely third person tank control affairs. What prompted you to change the viewpoint to a more isometric view? Was it to allow more strategic elements into the combat?

BA: It's definitely one reason. When we decided to make a new Fear Effect, we played the 2 previous episodes again, and as you can notice if you play the game today, the controls and views were really… 90's style. Third person shooters have evolved a lot since then, and if we wanted to make a "modern" TPS, we would have to conform to Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid or Just Cause. As an indie team, that's not something we can do. But what's more, we were frustrated with one thing in the "old" Fear Effect: the fact that it tells the story of a team, but you always play a single character, you never play as a team. And we wanted to allow this in our game.

The isometric view seemed like the best solution. And I want to be clear, although the strategy will naturally be really important, we are very focused on the action part. To be sure you'll get explosions and gunfire, but with up to 5 characters to control!

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(Photo: Sushee)

MM: Speaking of the gameplay, you've mentioned that the game is in real-time, and contains a slow motion element to help players make tactical decisions on the fly. Fallout 4 iterated on its V.A.T.S. system of targeting in a similar way. Is the mechanic in Sedna more like that, or is it closer to a constant recharging Max Payne style mechanic?

BA: The new trailer we're releasing today shows, with very early gameplay footage, how things will work. What we called the "active pause" is not a real pause, it's more like bullet time, that will allow you to make a decision, but definitely not to rest.

The 2 games you give as examples are both sorts of FPS (at least in terms of fight view) where you handle a single character. In Sedna, you give orders to up to 5 characters, and you can choose to control one and let the others act by themselves. We clearly have some inspirations, but you'll see that this inspiration, blended with our own ideas, makes a brand new and original game. We're really looking forward to hearing feedback from our backers, and that's why we decided to offer a demo, in October, and we will show it at several conventions too.

Fear Effect 1
(Photo: Sushee)

MM: While the gameplay is of most importance, Fear Effect managed to introduce some compelling characters, especially Hana and Rain. Honestly, they were probably ahead of their time in the original games. What steps are you taking to make sure they are depicted as an actual couple, rather than just a fratboys fantasy?

BA: It's an important question for us. I personally think that Hana and Rain's relation is one of the most beautiful love stories in a video game. Hana is a perfect mercenary, a killing machine crafted by the Chinese Triad. She only has one weakness, and it's the love she feels for Rain. It's her own part of humanity, and it perfectly gets along with her nature, the fact that she doesn't prefer men or women, but just falls in love with someone, because of his/her personality, no matter if he's a man or a woman.

The problem, I think, is that the marketing department, when FE2 was released, saw this relation as a marketing theme, of course in pursuit of male gamers. And that's why they used sexualized artworks, ones you can't even find in the game… That's exactly what we're trying
to avoid.

But we want to have that sexy wink and a nod be part of the game, as long as our audience remains gamers as a whole, not excluding anyone, and especially not female gamers who want to play the game, where the main protagonist is a real and strong woman.

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(Photo: Sushee)

MM: The storylines in past games definitely had a supernatural flair to them. How heavy will that presence be in Sedna?

BA: Of course, it's an important part of Fear Effect. Fear Effect 1 & 2 were heavily influenced by Asian mythologies, and when we thought about our story, we realized that we probably didn't have more to tell about Asian Hell and myths, and it would have put Sedna just in front of the first episodes. That's why we decided to speak about a new mythology. It gives us the opportunity to make the group travel around the world, including Paris because we want to clarify Hana's past. Fear Effect is, obviously a dark series, and the Inuit mythology can be quite violent, so we really think that it perfectly fits the ambiance of the franchise. But of course, you can expect a very similar narrative structure, taking place in a dystopian world, which slowly slides to paranormal.

MM: You've talked a bit about how the characters can interact in the field, with combo attacks and the like. Is there time in between missions or story beats that the player is able to speak to the various team members? For instance, in games like Shadowrun Returns, a player can go and speak to the other members of his team, where he can learn about their histories, motivations, and even unlock extra story missions down the line.

BA: I don't think so because we want the game structure to be very similar to Fear Effect 1 & 2 and that means, that between missions, you'll have story and cutscenes. In Fear Effect, you couldn't miss part of the story (­minor spoiler­: except for the multiple endings). It will be the same in Sedna, the whole story will be mandatory, and you won't have the chance to miss it because you forgot to talk to someone or something else.

We're working with John Zuur Platten, writer, and producer of the original Fear Effect, and we don't want the player to miss something from the story, So we think that the Fear Effect structure is: you learn about the story, then you play a mission, then you learn about the story, and so on… And we definitely want to respect that.

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(Photo: Sushee)

MM: On this one, feel free to let the whole team chime in, but who is the character you love working on or playing as the most in Sedna?

BA: We're all loving different characters in the team, and that's what made Fear Effect unique. Thibaut, our artistic director, loves Rain because she's going to be much darker in Sedna, than in the previous episodes. Lucie, our writer, has a soft spot for Glas. I personally love Axel, because he seems young and arrogant, but he is much more complicated, and I'm really looking forward to seeing a character we created taking his place in the Fear Effect mythology.

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Well, hopefully, the game will be funded soon, and thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us. Really appreciate it!

You can support Fear Effect Sedna on its Kickstarter page here.