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Immortals of Aveum

Immortals of Aveum - Bret Robbins Interview

Immortals of Aveum - Bret Robbins Interview

Audio transcriptions

"Hello everyone and welcome back to Gamereactor. Today we have a really exciting interview for you, because I'm here with one of the most important individuals on the team behind the brand new Immortals of Avium.
The game has been out for about a week, and with that being the case, I've managed to find and spend some time here to talk with Brett Robbins, the CEO of Ascendant Studios, the developer of that very game, to talk a little bit about what it was like to make it."

"So Brett, first things first, the game's here, the game is in the hands of players around the world. What has the feeling been like at Ascendant? How has the community reacted to Immortals of Avium?
It's been really great. The team's really, you know, feeling good about the game. We're really proud of what we've done. It really is the version of Muncher out in the world.
You know, polish and making sure it was as bug-free as we could possibly make it, get the frame rate as high as we possibly could make it, and we did that. And now it's out in the world and people are playing it, and I'm really excited about that."

"We've got a lot of great reviews and a lot of positivity in the community. The main thing we're seeing is, you know, we're a new studio and we're trying to create a new franchise, and people aren't sure about what is the game, who are these people that made the game.
But what we've seen over and over again is once they get their hands on it, once they start playing it, people really, really like it and have a great time. So that's very satisfying to see.
And you mentioned then that, you know, Immortals, the idea is for it to be the start of a new franchise, the start of something new for EA and for Ascendant Studios. You have worked both on Dead Space and Call of Duty before, and you're two already massive franchises, and kicking off Dead Space for that matter as well."

"But, you know, how have you used your experience working with those former games and those other franchises and taking them into Immortals to help you kickstart something new here?
Definitely working on Call of Duty, I'm sorry, on Dead Space was, you know, there's a lot of similarities to doing Immortals. Dead Space was the last new IP I had worked on. I'd only worked on one before very early in my career.
And it reminded me a lot, like the process of making Dead Space, you know, it was very similar to the process of making Immortals, where you're making all these foundational decisions very early on that are going to affect, you know, downstream everything you do from that point on."

"So that first year's worth of decisions set the course of everything. And, you know, in both cases, we had a very strong vision of what we wanted to do very early on, and we stuck to it.
So on Dead Space, it was, you know, it was going to be very intense survival horror, it was going to be Resident Evil 4 in space, it was going to be, you know, no HUD, no cinematics, we had this, you know, all these rules.
And on Immortals, we had that too, where it was be the battle mage, and everything is about, you know, your spells and your spell combat system, we're going to not have guns, we're going to have magic instead of guns."

"And, you know, if you read the design documents that I'd written five years ago for Immortals of Avium, you read them today, you go, yeah, that's pretty much what they ended up making.
And I think that's really important for any project, really, but especially for a new IP, like clarity of vision and sticking to it is huge.
And, you know, Immortals of Avium is a really interesting concept, because it's this entire new fantasy world that you've created."

"It's not, you know, like Dead Space, it's a universe, we already have these sort of things that we already know and can recognise, but Immortals, it feels very completely brand new almost in a way.
So how did you go about doing that and offer it up in a way that didn't feel overwhelming for fans who are going to be new to this world?
Well, we spent a lot of time on the world building, making sure things felt believable and consistent."

"You know, the danger with inventing a whole new world, especially one that involves magic is, you know, you have the freedom to really do anything you want, but that can quickly turn into a lot of nonsense if it doesn't have sort of, you know, rules in place and a structure to it.
And history and, you know, making it feel like a believable lived in space.
So, you know, our art directors spent a lot of time on that."

"My writer, my lead writer and myself thought about that a lot, about how, you know, the history of the world and how we got to where we are in this part of the story.
So what I really wanted was when players entered our world, you know, we actually didn't spend a lot of time, you know, we don't spend a lot of time in the game early on explaining the world and talking about the history and setting you there.
We kind of like throw you right in. And the hope was that the believability and texture of the world was firm enough that you just, you believed it and you felt it and that you were suddenly living in it right from, you know, the first minute of the game."

"So, yeah, I mean, it's something that we, you know, really worked hard on and I'm really proud of the world of Avium. I think it's a fantastic world.
I can imagine it was sort of like trying to create the entire Harry Potter universe just within one book, you know, not taking the time to do all the additional stuff.
That's really interesting. And tell me a little bit about the characters then, you know, because they're very different individuals or none of them feel similar to one another."

"You know, some, for example, Thaddeus is my favorite character, I think, you know, with that sort of cowboy Western theme that he has to him.
But how did you go about ensuring that these characters felt, you know, real, that they belonged in the world, not like, you know, just sort of caricatures of persons or people?
Well, the characters, I'm happy to say the characters we've created are one of the things that are really resonating with people."

"Combat and the gameplay is also resonating a lot, but people do seem to really like our characters, which is great.
We were really proud of them. I think, you know, each one when we're when I was thinking about the immortals and we were writing the script, we were sort of writing a superhero story.
So each immortal was a superhero and we wanted them to be very distinct, have a great look to them, have their own personality."

"We wanted to have fun with it. You know, the tone of the game, as you may know, is, you know, we do a mix of sort of high fantasy and very modern vernacular and modern sensibilities and characters.
So we wanted to have that, you know, that mix up of archetypes throughout. So we've got, you know, Zendara, who's very clearly the sort of, you know, archetypal military sergeant, you know, tough kind of character.
But then we kind of, you know, it turns out she's a little bit more than that as the game goes on. You know, Thaddeus, of course, is an old gunslinger type of magnus."

"And, you know, I think sometimes some of these decisions were just my writer and myself going, you know, this would just be a fun character to write. Why don't we just do this and see what happens?
So, you know, it's great to see that some of those decisions are resonating with people.
And you mentioned then as well that, you know, the combat, the magic is another core pillar of Immortals of Avian that's really sort of resonated with fans."

"What led you to creating the game and basing it around that sort of three pillars of magic, the red, blue and green? And, you know, is there any sort of wiggle room for any other colours of magic in the future?
Well, anything's possible in the future, for sure. But I think mostly, well, for one thing, I think, you know, for whatever reason, three seems to be like a magic number when it comes to sort of holding concepts in our head, especially new concepts.
So, you know, and red, green, blue are like the primary colours. And it just felt like, OK, again, when you're dealing with magic, you can do literally anything."

"And if you don't put some rules in place, it can kind of feel very weird or fall apart.
And I knew I didn't want to do Harry Potter magic, you know, turning people into frogs and, you know, doing, you know, kind of, you know, strange spells like that.
It was always supposed to be very energy based, kinetic, forceful. So all the magic is forms of energy."

"And the three colours are force magic, which is blue, chaos magic, which is red, and life magic, which is green.
And I felt like that was a broad enough umbrella to put really almost any kind of spell we wanted into the game that could fall under one of those categories, but still give the player, you know, a firm understanding very early on and very quickly.
So they quickly grasp that's like, OK, blue is kind of like this, red's like this, green's like this. Got it. You know, now I understand how the magic works."

"And did you look at some other sort of titles that have incorporated magic before and see how they've done it and, you know, some things that you perhaps should avoid because of the way that they've done things?
You know, I'm just thinking off the top of my mind earlier this year, Hogwarts Legacy, lots of spells, not exactly the most intuitive way to use it.
You have to constantly swap them in and out. So was that something that you wanted to make sure you did right with Immortals of Avium?
Well, yes, we did. We spent a lot of time on the combat system and the spell system early on."

"And we, you know, I always wanted it to be very fluid and fast.
I wanted to have a lot of spells at your disposal and be able to quickly and intuitively switch to them and use them.
So we don't do things like a spell wheel where the whole game slows down and you select a spell.
We don't do the things that, you know, like Harry Potter did with their selection menus."

"You can do everything just off the controller very quickly without freezing the game, without stopping gameplay.
And, you know, that took a lot of experimentation and thinking about how the controls are going to work and a lot of decisions around that.
But I knew that the combat had to be very fast, powerful, intense, adrenaline.
You know, like I think that's one of the main things that attracted me about making this game was I hadn't seen a magic-based game that really was adrenaline and, you know, like thrill-based."

"And something that would get your blood pumping, you know, in the way that I really felt when I was working on Call of Duty.
That game does and it really puts you in the middle of these enormous battles.
It's very, you know, it's a very kinetic and intense experience.
Well, I wanted that with magic."

"So all those decisions were around making it feel very forceful and impactful to the player, make the player feel powerful, make them feel like a battle mage.
And let's talk a little bit about the narrative then as well.
So I've noticed as well going through the game that the tone of the narrative, the dialogue, it's almost quite action-themed, right?
You know, and has that sort of kooky design to it where the characters they'll quip at one another."

"They'll, you know, introduce a little sort of a little joke here and there to take the load out of things.
That feels to me like, you know, it's again something that you've taken from the action genre and also a little bit from Call of Duty.
Would that be where you've looked at things from a narrative standpoint?
Yeah, I would say the biggest narrative touchpoint for me, especially early on when I started writing it, was the Marvel Cinematic Universe."

"And wanting this to feel like, you know, the best version of a Marvel movie, because they're able to really walk that line between drama and humor and put the audience in a completely fantastical, strange world, but make it feel very relatable.
And I knew that's what we were doing.
We wanted to create a strange and beautiful world, but allow the player to slip right into it."

"And through empathy and sort of, you know, recognition of the characters, we could welcome them into it.
So, yeah, it was a very early decision.
It was, I would say, a risky decision.
I think when you think fantasy, you think Lord of the Rings and Old English and, you know, all that kind of stuff."

"And we purposely didn't do that, although some characters in the game actually do talk like that, so that we could create a strong, you know, sort of dichotomy between them and our more modern feeling characters.
So, yeah, it was, I think, a very bold decision.
I think it paid off."

"I think people that really enjoy, you know, that enjoy the story, really enjoy the story because of that.
And it does, you know, the things that, you know, a good movie, a good Marvel movie, for example, does.
And now, I think we've been talking enough that we can now start getting into a little bit of, I don't want to say spoiler territory, but let's start talking about some of the things that people should have experienced by now if they've been playing the game."

"So, first things first, one of the big sort of parts, sort of halfway through the game, is the big sort of plot twist, right?
I'm not going to say the names, I'll just say it's between Jack and The Hand.
So, you know, tell me a little bit about that.
When did you know that this was something that you wanted to incorporate, a big plot twist like this?
That came early."

"It was, you know, something that as we were writing it, actually, I think that was in a very, very early draft of the story.
And it just felt like it would be really interesting to see a couple of characters and how their paths diverged in enormous ways over a period, you know, a pretty long period of time, over five different years.
So, yeah, I don't want to give away too much either, but it's a great moment."

"It's a moment that certainly players are talking about and surprised by.
Some of them, some of them see it coming, which is also fun and fine.
But, yeah, I think that it's one of the stronger moments in the story.
And again, we're not going to spoil the ending or anything like that, but everyone knows that if you watch a trailer for Immortals of Avian, it's leading to this big conclusion between Jack and the evil Sandrach."

"So would that be in the case?
Is there a future for Sandrach, shall we say?
Question mark.
Well, first off, I take issue with calling him evil, because I don't think he's evil."

"I take issue with calling him evil because he certainly doesn't think he's evil.
He thinks he's the good guy in the story and is trying to do the right thing, even though his methods might be very questionable.
But, you know, we'll see what happens.
I mean, clearly there is a final moment with him and it's, you know, I don't want to spoil too much, but, you know, we resolve that storyline at least."

"But, you know, it's a magical, crazy world and anything is possible.
I mean, you know, it was possible for Jack, we'll leave it at that.
But, yeah, let's talk a little bit about the Pentasod as well, the big sort of overarching deity of the world of Immortals of Avian.
Do you think there's more to explore with this character?
Do you have more plans with what this character is and where we can see it in the universe?
Yeah, the whole mythology behind the Pentasod and Atava, which is the Shrouded Realm, and how it relates to Avian and the deep mythology of Avian and of the world is something that's really, that I'm very interested in."

"It's, you know, there's themes there and hooks that I'd really like to return to.
There's a lot of mystery there as far as what that being actually is and what its motivations are.
Certainly in some, you know, early sketching of future stories, it's something that we're returning to.
So, yeah, I think there's something really compelling there."

"And there's a lot of, you know, there's just a lot of mystery to be solved about that creature.
And you mentioned then that, you know, future drafts, future scripts, future things are already being worked on.
So there already are, you know, you've already start prepping for the next phase of the Immortals series.
What would that look like?
Is this going to be sequels, prequels?
What are we talking here with where you're taking the series in the future?
Well, you know, it certainly is reliant on how the game does and if we get a good fan base and everything."

"You know, but I'm, you know, I'm a, even though I'm a CEO, I'm actually, you know, I'm really a game designer.
Like I've been a designer my whole career and a writer.
So I can't turn my brain off and not think about what might happen next.
And what those stories could look like."

"It's far too early to tell, you know, where we'll be and what form that could take.
Right now, I'm just really focused on hoping and working towards building an audience for the game and having as many people as possible play it and enjoy it and experience it.
And then we'll see."

"And part of it will probably come from the fans.
I want to listen to them and what resonated with them and what they think is, you know, would be cool to see in another version.
I think that will absolutely, you know, massively influence what I want to do because, you know, we make these games for the fans and for players.
Well, talking about you in particular, what are some of your most favorite moments from Immortals of Avium in the story?
What part of the story was a bit like, you know, this is the bit that I really enjoyed making?
There were some really fun parts."

"You know, I directed the actors myself for the cinematics and everything.
So it was really enjoyable to work with, you know, hugely talented people.
You know, Gino Torres and Darren Barnett and Stephen Brand and, you know, everyone was just so awesome.
So I remember just, you know, the shooting of the scenes and recording the scenes and everything quite a bit."

"I look back on that fondly.
Some of the scenes in the game, you know, the drinking scene pops to mind immediately.
It's a really fun scene because we kind of get to see the characters relax a little bit and drop their guard and have some, you know, fun together.
Definitely the scene, there's a scene where Jack has disobeyed a direct order."

"Kirk really rips into him and seeing Gino Torres just cut loose and, you know, really lay into him was really powerful.
It's a powerful scene in the game.
And it's also just, you know, it was great to shoot and to be with her to see, you know, see that performance.
So, yeah, I mean, there's so many."

"The game has over three hours of cinematics in it.
So there's a lot of really great scenes and great character moments, you know, all throughout.
And, you know, the majority of Immortals of Avian follows a sort of like a linear sort of narrative campaign.
But there are additional things you can do, you know, off the campaign or around the world."

"There's things to occupy your time with beyond the main story.
From what you've seen so far, is there anything that, you know, fans have seemingly not picked up on yet?
You know, potentially a tease of what's in the future, something that, you know, you've hidden.
You've planted deep within the world of Avian that people have managed to avoid at this point."

"Yeah, there is.
You know, the one thing that comes, I mean, certainly there is the shroud of fangs and the golden chests.
And so, you know, some people I've seen online, people have, you know, been able to beat the six.
And the six are the most powerful, you know, magni in the game, and they're hidden throughout it."

"So I think, you know, beating them is a real accomplishment.
And just finding them in the first place is hard, and then beating them is really hard.
So that's certainly a cool hidden thing throughout. It's entirely optional.
But there is one other thing hidden throughout the game."

"There's a message hidden throughout the game that I haven't seen much talk about yet.
But it's there, and we'll have to see if people pick up on it and figure out what it actually means.
Well, that's a call to arms if I've heard one. People need to go out there now and start doing some digging.
Right, as a final question then for you, Brett."

"For the people out there who, you know, who haven't managed to check out Immortals of Avium yet, or, you know, the people out there who have beat the game and looking to do like a new game plus sort of thing on the hardest difficulty.
From your perspective as, you know, game director, you know, one of the most influential people on the team."

"What tips would you give them for taking on the challenge of Immortals of Avium?
I think, you know, if you want something that is different and new, which we don't have a lot of in the AAA space.
You can count on probably one hand the number of brand new IP that have shown up in the last few years."

"You know, if you want a new experience, if you want a great story, if you want really, really fun gameplay, fun combat, fun puzzle solving, then you should absolutely play Immortals of Avium.
I think, you know, what we've seen is the combat is a little complex and it takes a little bit to kind of get going with it."

"And once you get it, people just get hooked and they really, really enjoy it.
So I would say when you do play it, give it a few hours, get into the flow of it.
Definitely use your furies.
The furies are key for spellcasting and the big explosive spells."

"This is not a game where you can just shoot your one gun throughout the entire game You need to use your other abilities.
So, you know, give the game a chance.
Give it a try. It is a lot of fun."

"And we put a ton of heart and passion behind making it.
It was really a passion project for the team.
And it can be felt when you play the game.
It's a huge amount of fun."

"And as Brett says, the story in it is really compelling.
It's definitely worth checking out.
So if you haven't already, you know where to go tonight.
Find yourself a copy of Immortals of Avium."

"It's on PC, it's on PlayStation 5, it's on Xbox Series X and S consoles.
And yeah, if you want some more further opinions and thoughts about the game, you can find our review on your local Game Factory region.
But otherwise, thank you, Brett, so much for talking to me today."

"It's always a pleasure getting to speak with you and to talk about this wonderful game.
Hopefully we'll have plenty of these conversations down the line, talking about future Immortals games.
But we'll see what the future holds."

"Until then, though, thanks very much for being with me today again, Brett.
It's always a pleasure and we'll see you all on the next interview.
Thank you, Ben."