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'Remember Me' makes memory your own personal playground

Greetings from Neo-Paris

remember me
remember me

Remember Me provided a relatively big surprise at the end of Capcom's Gamescom 2012 press conference: The publisher was investing in a new IP, a gamble which Capcom (and, increasingly, everyone else) doesn't frequently make.

Remember Me provided a relatively big surprise at the end of Capcom's Gamescom 2012 press conference: The publisher was investing in a new IP, a gamble which Capcom (and, increasingly, everyone else) doesn't frequently make.

However, folks who paid attention to last year's Cologne, Germany-based games convention already got a chance to see Remember Me, albeit under a different working title: Adrift. It was the debut project from Paris, France's Dontnod Entertainment, and as of last year, it had yet to find a publisher. Dontnod creative director Jean-Maxime Moris said it was his studio that started the conversation with Capcom.

"We went to Capcom following the announcement of their strategy of expanding to the west," Morin said. "We said, 'Well, that's us! We're in the west! Hello!' And it was a perfect match immediately, and it was done really quickly."

"It strengthens the overall Capcom portfolio, undoubtedly," Capcom senior producer Mat Hart added. "The title is a phenomenal title, it demonstrates the DNA that gives us confidence we can build a game together. So we have the Capcom brand values, with the creativity and story, and setting and overall experience that Dontnod bring to the project. It's a real coming together."

What Capcom saw in Remember Me is what the world saw yesterday during the publisher's press conference: An action-adventure title about a world where memories could be digitized, shared, stolen, or rewritten; the latter being the purview of protagonist Nilin. The entire game and its setting — Neo-Paris, a garish futuristic version of Dontnod's home city — are defined by this technology, making it the perfect stomping ground for Nilin and her group of anti-corporate revolutionaries, the "Errorists."

The game incorporates all the elements you'd expect for an action-adventure title: traversal, combat, and the like. However, memory remixing was the base from which the rest of the title was devised.

In short, Nilin is able to hack into the memories of important story characters to relive important moments in their lives. By recognizing and utilizing "glitches" in their memories, Nilin is able to augment those memories by messing with minor details — knocking a bottle off a table, clicking the safety off a gun, unlocking a door, and so on. These minor changes cause a ripple effect that can lead the memory to Nilin's desired outcome, as seen in the gruesome demo shown below.

That demo represents about "50 percent" of the complexity built into the remixing system, Moris explained. While each memory remix sequence has only one correct outcome to drive along the game's linear story, there's tons of room for exploration within each memory.

"They will learn more about the characters, there will be fun, unintended, unexpected outcomes to it, because of the concept of changing that one little thing and — chaos theory, basically," Moris said. "At the same time, we'll reward players with Achievements for exploring all the branches. The way it's designed is that you won't find it the first time. You really have to search for it."

Memory exploration is a pretty broad concept, though, and it took Dontnod some time to hone in on what they wanted the system to be. For a while, they tampered with the idea of memory extraction, of branching stories where options for memory remixing were completely open. In the end, they still had to figure out how to make Nilin's incredibly limited form of time travel have an impact on the world around her.

"We went through all possible stages," Moris said. "We went from stealing everyone's memories to realizing that would be a cool gameplay element, but wouldn't drive the story so much. We went through pure game design considerations, like, when you change something in scene, does the character change something? That gives it a totally different feel, like a QTE or a Heavy Rain kind of mechanic? Or do we make it like you're the hand of God and you choose your cameras accordingly?"

The final result finds a balance between depth and accessibility, between choice and linear narrative. Moris revealed that the final remix mechanics were actually inspired by a short film titled Spin: God is a DJ, in which an omnipotent disc jockey alters tragic events on a city street. The comparisons between the short and the demo revealed yesterday really are quite stark — see for yourself below.

The memory-augmenting mechanic is clever, but new IPs based around clever ideas often fall behind in the other departments that make an action game good. Moris says his studio is taking great pains to make sure that doesn't happen to Remember Me.

"We're putting as much effort in all mechanics, the same amount of effort in every aspect of the game," Moris said. "We had a remix team from day one. We had a fight team from day one of pre-production. The remix was the first thing we did in conception, because we wanted to take it to publishers and show them the innovation first. We always had it in the back our minds that we wanted a game that was solidly grounded in action adventure, and that meant strong characters, storyline, combat, traversals — and then we unleash the crazy shit."

Remember Me is currently slated for a May 2013 launch on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.

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