A staple I do in all interviews in order to start things off is to ask that you elaborate a bit about your game (s) that people might not know?
Griffiths: The Sexy Brutalefrom Cavalier Game Studios and Tequila Works is about to be released on PC, XBONE and PS4. We’ve been in development for around 3.5 years, the last 18 months of which have been as part of a co-development with Spanish developer Tequila Works, who are the creators of RiME and Deadlight. The entire game was designed and planned out by brothers Charles and James Griffiths (Design and Narrative respectively) and Tom Lansdale (Code), working in James’ living room.
The uniting desire for all three of the Cavalier founders was wanting to take this chance together to make a sincere attempt at creating an original game — one with a core concept and set of mechanics that would be unusual and different. We had all played and loved several games that used looping time as part of the mechanics, and we wanted to see if we could make something that built on the parts we loved, and solved some of the issues that we’d also seen.
We knew that finding a publisher with a new team and unusual design would be difficult, so we knew we had to go much further than come up with just an idea. We spent over a year testing out concepts and then building the game in very rough “greybox” form in Unity with simple rooms and boxes. That was when we figured out the design and the story and crafted the puzzles — all of which are what remain in the final game today.
Then we focused hard on creating a fully playable demo so that we could put a controller in the hands of anyone looking at it and get them to understand it and make up their own mind on if they liked it! Once we had the demo, we decided to send it to a few select contacts in the industry for any feedback before we began approaching publishers.
Raul Rubio, the CEO of Tequila Works was one of the people that Charles knew through his time at Lionhead. The response from Raul was a huge surprise — he said that not only did he love the game, but he proposed that if Cavalier and Tequila Works joined forces, then with the support of Tequila Works’ publishing muscle and world-class art team redoing all the levels with full, lavish decoration, The Sexy Brutale could be turned into something much larger and ambitious than Cavalier would be able to achieve alone.
A core aspect of The Sexy Brutale is the concept of time and how it’s endlessly looping. Could you briefly describe this unique feature and how you think players will react to this “Groundhog Day” like effect?
Griffiths: The entire game is set inside an enormous casino mansion – like a doll’s house — with staff and guests moving around during a masked ball party, acting out their unique stories. Over a 12 hour period in the game (9 minutes in real time), everyone in the house lives their lives for that day, which ends up with the staff murdering the guests in a variety of ways.
From the top of the house right down to the basement, everything occurs at the same time. At 3:45pm for example, a gunshot rings out. Everyone in the house will hear it and react to it, just like they will react when the lights dim or some other event happens in one part of the house that affects another area.
Some of the characters in the house will cross paths, while others will never meet – but at the end of the 12 hour day, the clock rewinds due to an unknown curse and the day begins again for everything to happen again in the same way at the same time. Many games involved loops and repetition – you die and load a save, or keep searching for the correct actions to take until you get it right and move on. The Sexy Brutale is definitely a game built around actively embracing that aspect of games and weaving it into every part of the game: the design, narrative, art – everything is structured to make the most of this core idea.
Aside from time being on a loop, what sort of tools and abilities do players have at their disposal?
Griffiths: The player takes on the role of a priest named Lafcadio Boone, who is tasked with saving the lives of the guests. They know there is some kind of curse on the mansion that causes the day to reset. The curse also appears to extend to the masks of all the characters, meaning that Lafcadio can never be in the same room as any other character.
This means that to figure out how to save the guests, the player must spy into the rooms without being seen in order to build up their understanding of how a murder is taking place — and what they can do to prevent it. As everything is happening at the same time (and the player cannot be in two places at once) they will need to replay the same day and area over and over again to build up that picture. For example if at 3pm the victim is in a room opening an enormous safe, then what is the murderer doing at that point in time?
Only by spying on both areas over (at least) two separate days can they understand where they need to be and what they need to do in order to prevent the death.
Then, once they HAVE saved a guest they will be able to take the guest’s mask from them, which will unlock a new power based on the guest’s personality and relationship to the mansion. For example, the first victim, Reginald Sixpence, is revealed to be a master clockmaker who built all of the strange clocks throughout the mansion. With his mask and his power, the player can use the clocks in the mansion and manipulate the flow of time in new ways, granting access to new areas of the mansion. Other abilities might allow you to hear better, meaning you can eavesdrop on whispered conversations and learn new information, or even see things that were hidden from your sight at the start, but once seen might explain some of the stranger things that were happening while you explored the mansion…
It’s very much a game where we’ve tried to create a highly dense environment. Every room you go into might seem simple and straightforward – but there is always more than meets the eye and depending on when you happen to pass through, or what abilities you’ve unlocked, you may see something very different and unexpected taking place…
With this being a murder mystery, what wacky or unique characters will players come across while attempting to solve the mystery? Do you have a particular favorite that stands out for you?
Griffiths: The characters are everything – they are the heart and soul of the game and their stories and interactions are what makes this experience special. ALL the characters are the best we can make them and we hope that everyone brings something unique and interesting to the table, from the blind artist Trinity “The Moth by Moonlight” Carrington who is sneaking into places she very definitely should not be, all the way to the brutishly powerful Redd Rockridge who is helping a friend “investigate” the location of a legendary collection of jewellery. We do also like the gasmask-clad staff members though. They are so terribly polite while carrying out their murders it’s almost impossible to be offended.
There’s a mask based aspect to the game, could you briefly describe this and give some slight details on how it will affect players while they explore the English Casino Mansion?
Griffiths: The masked ball is the core setting of the game. There are guests at the ball, all exploring and enjoying the mansion over the course of the day. The only thing that really is out of place is that the ever-present and immaculately-mannered staff are murdering the guests even as they ensure the smooth running of the mansion.
Of course there is more to the story of this particular masked ball – but finding that out is a big part of what we hope will draw players into the game!
The setting of The Sexy Brutale is very unique being an English Casino Mansion, what sort of rooms and locations will players visit while venturing through it?
Griffiths: The Sexy Brutale is indeed a stately English mansion that has been converted into a casino. Many of the rooms you will visit are largely what you would expect to see (on first glance, anyway). There is the Grand Lobby, for example, where if you stand and watch you will see many of the guests and characters from all over the mansion pass through at some point.
There are also the Casino rooms where you will find various bars, blackjack tables and games of roulette – including one of the prototype skeletal mechanical dealer-robots that allows players literally to “dice with death”. Finally there are rooms and secrets that would simply appear to have no place in even the most bizarre and extravagant of residences. These rooms are ones which have had a huge amount of narrative, design, art and development time lavished on them to make discovering them the hidden jewels throughout the mansion. We really hope to provide players with some real surprises as they explore the mansion and peel back the layers…
Lastly I would like to leave a spot for you to say something or go over anything I might have missed during the interview?
Griffiths: The Sexy Brutale was extremely complicated to plan, write, design, build and decorate – but probably the hardest thing of all has been to find a way to neatly explain how and why this murder-mystery adventure is very much worth your time. We just hope that any gamers looking for a new and different experience will give The Sexy Brutale a try!
The Sexy Brutale Xbox Store Page
The Sexy Brutale Review (Coming Soon)