We recently had the opportunity to speak to two of the most important people involved with The Last Worker in Jörg Tittel and Ryan Bousfield. For those that don’t know Jörg Tittel has been the creative force behind multiple projects in multiple mediums over the years, from documentaries criticising the establishment, short and feature length films and now, video games, so first up, Jörg.
Q. A lot of your work is quite-rightly questioning the status-quo of our world, but what about The Last Worker made you want it to be a video game, instead of a short film like ‘NYET! – a Brexit UK Border Farce’ or a graphic novel like ‘Ricky Rouse Has a Gun’ for example?
A: I love writing books and comics, making movies and any other form of what Big Tech now likes to call “legacy media”. But they’ve become legacy largely because of Big Tech’s impact on our lives, because we’ve been trained out of giving them the attention they deserve. We now second-screen everything – from the Francis Ford Coppola masterpiece that’s ended up in our Amazon Prime “My Stuff” folder (that’s actually a thing) to our own children. But videogames – and VR in particular – are perhaps the last remaining medium which gets our full attention. If you stop playing, the game stops. Crazy that we now have to literally trap someone inside our worlds in order to tell a story, but perhaps that’s what the greatest stories have always done anyway. Ultimately, videogames are the ultimate art form and, most importantly, they’re fun.
Related: The Last Worker Review: An Interactive Attack on Capitalism (PS5)
Q. Out of the multiple endings of the game, which one is your favourite, and if different, which do you consider the real ending?
A: That is a great question, primarily because I find it impossible to answer. We live in such a complex world of interconnected systems and morals, where for every winner someone else has to lose. In the case of billionaires, their victories are the loss of millions. A “happy ending” would thus ring hollow to me, so I chose to write three endings instead and let the player decide which one of these represents the best outcome for them. My happiest ending is the fourth one – and that’s us talking about the larger themes now as a result!
Q. Other than A Winter’s Journey, what’s next for you, and do you intend on returning to The Last Worker universe? Also, any movement in the long-rumoured ‘Ricky Rouse has a Gun’ Film?
A: A Winter’s Journey is going to keep Alex Helfrecht and I (we’re also married with kids) and the animators and painters at BreakThru Films (known for Loving Vincent and the Oscar winning Peter and the Wolf) very busy for the next few months as we’re deep in post production, with a big release being planned for 2024 with Sony Pictures Classics. But I’m also busy dreaming up a couple of new games. RICKY ROUSE is still very much on the cards, but I can’t make two movies at once. Especially while also making two games simultaneously. (My new game company RapidEyeMovers just released the demo for C-SMASH VRS on PS VR2, with the full game launching in June).
Q. What is easier to write for? Film/TV/Shorts or video games? And what freedoms does writing a video game give you that writing a film doesn’t?
A: Writing is a torturous process for me, no matter what medium it’s in. I constantly feel that by the time I’ve finished writing a thought, there’s another waiting in the wings to replace it. And whenever I write some paranoid fantasy, there’s always some dystopian bastard who feels it might be a good idea to unleash it on society “IRL”. Perhaps I’m secretly dreaming of a world in which ChatGPT relieves us all of the horrors of procrastination and imposter syndrome. And replaces greedy CEO’s altogether. At least we’ll all be able to agree that they’re Terminators worth dismantling.
Q. And lastly, if you could adapt ANY of your previous work into a video game next, which are you picking and why?
A: I don’t really like to repeat myself but a certain rip-off rodent might be well suited for a hyper-violent romp.
The Last Worker – Creative Director Ryan Bousfield
As well as Jörg, we were also lucky enough to be able to pick the brains of Ryan Bousfield, the creative director for the developer Wolf & Wood about The Last Worker, PSVR2 and the future of the developer as a whole.
Q. Games live and die in the details, so what small, seemingly insignificant part of the game is the team as a whole proud of?
I think it’s the things you take for granted, it’s a warehouse so there are a lot of boxes, they’re pretty optimised, being cubes after all, but if we had a unique instance for each box we’d soon run into issues on VR and Handheld consoles.
Instead we have groups of boxes that are one object, when the player or a WorkerBot pulls out a product and the group is rebuilt to make a gap and give the product to the player in a seamless transition.
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Q. Is there any particular facet of the game that you weren’t able to implement due to time/budget/direction etc that you wish you could bring into the game as it is now?
There were some scenes in the script that involved flying over a city/landscape, this just wasn’t feasible in the scope of the project so we created more of an interstitial with them. I don’t want to describe them in too much detail but it will be clear to anyone who has completed the game.
Q. What was the most challenging aspect of the game not only to implement, but also to balance between the flat platforms like PS5, Nintendo Switch etc, and the VR platforms?
A large challenge was in creating a control scheme that would feel good across the various platforms. In VR you’re role playing a little more, taking control of the pod with one hand (left-stick), moving your head freely, grabbing the gun and firing packages all with the tracked controllers. In console and PC flat we’re translating all of this input into the controller. To achieve this, we took the nuance of Pod positioning away from the player and left them to focus on the task at hand be it dispatch or stealth.
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Q. With the multiple endings of the game, what is the likelihood of a continuation, be it DLC or a sequel?
There are ideas floating around but it’s too soon to say.
Q. What’s next for the studio after The Last Worker?
We’re busy working on C-Smash VRS for PlayStation VR2 which is due to release over the summer 2023. Beyond this we have our own title/IP at the early stages which is exciting.
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