In a recent interview with Game Informer shortly before the announcement of the stealth release of The Finals at The Game Awards 2023, creative director Gustav Tilleby spoke about the early stages of Embark Studios' first game and how they initially thought doing another shooter would be a "boring" concept. But as it turns out, having a bunch of ex-Battlefield devs making a new type of multiplayer shooter that leverages environmental destruction would result in a pretty solid game.
"To begin with, we [initially] weren't going to make a shooter. I don't think that was really something that was spoken out loud; it was something everybody assumed, like, 'no, we shouldn't do that,' Because we did it before," said the creative director while reflecting on Embark Studios' debut game.
"We actually had game jams and stuff pretty regularly from work early on, where everybody pitched ideas and stuff. I pitched some ideas, including the 'boring idea one' and the 'boring idea two,' and those were both shooters," said Tilleby. "I call them that because I didn't think anyone would be interested in making them anyway. So, we just talked about that and said, 'Maybe we should give it a go.' A few of us sat down and said that if we're going to do it, it needs to be unique; it needs to be something that no one else is doing. So that was the starting point for the whole pitching process."
What's exciting about playing The Finals is that it blends fast-paced team skirmishes with vast environmental destruction. As you and your squad tear through the map, blowing holes through walls, level buildings, and destroying bridges that enemies like to use, the level you start on will not be the same level the match closes out on.
The influence of the Battlefield series and its focus on environmental destruction, with the key devs having worked on most recent Battlefield games at EA Dice, is very noticeable throughout The Finals -- and that gives the game such a hook for its multiplayer engagements. With a high-energy style and an easy pick-up-and-play approach to the gameplay, it feels like a game tailor-made for the Twitch streaming generation. So far, it's been keeping solid numbers on streaming as well.
But for the developers at Embark Studios, it took some time to get the basis of the game set. As Tilleby put it in the interview, the game needed to have a deep focus on player agency and giving them the means to overcome the odds on their terms.
"Personally, I love systemic games, where you put the control in the hands of the player, and they can figure out how to solve whatever problems they need to solve. How does that [aspect] create these unique player stories that are yours because you did them, right? I think that's powerful," said the creative director. "It's providing players with a sandbox where they can be creative, experiment, and develop their own ways to play. So that was like the guiding star, which led to a long period of prototyping, play testing, and trying to figure out how to make that formula work in practice."
So far, the developers at Embark Studios plan to play it safe with The Finals, even opting not to go down the familiar developer roadmap, which the creative director explains that they only want to "make promises we can keep." The developers are keeping the cheaters out of servers and working on new content for upcoming seasons, and so far, it looks like The Finals will keep it momentum going.
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