Returnal’s senior narrative designer says writing the game was a “tightrope walk”

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According to Returnal’s senior narrative designer, getting the story right was something of a “tightrope walk.”

Speaking to VGC in an early look at an upcoming interview, Eevi Korhonen spoke about the difficulties that came with writing Returnal’s complicated story, as it’s one that is uncovered by the player in a non-linear fashion.

“It was a tightrope walk,” said Korhonen. “My boss Greg Louden, the narrative director, and I tried to ensure that both sides were included. So I was more ‘let’s make it more mysterious, let’s let the player puzzle it out with the community while Greg was kind of like ‘Okay, but we have to make sure that they understand some of this story.”

For those that haven’t played Returnal, much of the game is shown to the player through short snippets, and ye olde classic video game storytelling device, audio logs. But because they’re out of sequence, players kind of had to piece it together themselves a touch.

“It’s hard to kind of see, even with all this priming, until it’s actually in the game, how is it pacing? How is it looking together with all the other elements? So up until the last moment, we’re still cutting, we’re still editing, and then tweaking the wording and making things a bit clearer.”

VGC asked Korhonen if there were any final secrets to discover in the game, but there didn’t seem to be. Although Korhonen did note that there’s something of a “nice philosophical reference to the name” of the Tower of Sisyphus.

Korhonen also briefly touched on developer Housemarque’s next title saying, “Returnal was so ambitious. We dreamt super big, but we still had to leave so much on the cutting room floor. All of these ideas and narrative systems. I’m super excited to pick up those pieces and see how those fit our new IP story.”

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