Description[edit | edit source]
Listen to a conversation with Founder and Chief content officer Rob Runesson and Executive producer for THE FINALS, Jonathan Lindsay as they discuss the journey the game has made and hint at what may be in store for the future of THE FINALS.
Originally aired on June 19th 2023.
Transcript[edit | edit source]
[Intro Music Plays]
Welcome to Meet The Makersǃ Our interview style podcast on all things THE FINALS. I'm your host, Dusty Gustafsson. During our second Closed Beta we assembled two members of the dev team every day to help dig into specific areas of the game and answer questions from our Discord community; and today is a very special episode where we will be chatting with Founder & Chief Content Officer Rob Runesson, and Executive Producer for THE FINALS, Jonathan Lindsay. The Executive Producer for a game is the conductor of the the whole orchestra, so to speak, they make sure the game is on track to meet deadlines, and quality expectations. The best way to describe a Chief Content Officer is that they set the bar for the integridgy of the content that gets into your hands, whether it be art, sound, animation, and more. Each and every product we have here at Embark comes with a rubber stamp of approval from our illustrious CCO. I am sitting here in the studio with Rob and Jonny right now, welcome fellasǃ
Thank you Dusty.
Hey, thanks very much.
Rob, who asked me to introduce him as Robbie Thunderstorm, but I am quite certain that he is just making fun of me. Is one of Embark's founders who has built this place from the ground up. Jonny is a newcomer to the Embark team having just surpassed three months in these walls, but has taken a running leap at THE FINALS, and has quickly and expertly assembled the team around him already. Rob, let's start with you.
Thank you Dusty. But- First of all, I did not ask you to put in Robbie- what do you call me Robbie?
I think you know...
THUNDERSTORM. I did not- you did that to throw me off, and you almost didǃ So hello everyone, my name is Rob. As Dusty said, I'm one of the founders here at Embark. And I've been a artist my entire life and I've been working in the game industry for little bit over 25 years, so yes, I'm old. I've worked on games like Battlefield, Mirrors Edge, and Midtown Madness. Here at Embark, I'm working with art, audio, and animation. So that's me.
Thank you, Robbie Thunderstorm. Jonny, same question, or let me ask the question for the first time. Can you give us a run down of your history in the industry, and what lead to your to your role as Executive Producer for THE FINALS here at Embark?
Yeah, sure. So, back in 2006, I got my first break into the games industry. I think back then, much as now, it was very hard to break into the industry. So back then, I was working on a project called APB. It stands for All Points Bulletin. And it later became known as APB Reloaded. So back in 2006, I met a German girl when I was still studying in Scotland and I moved over to Germany and started my one of my first roles was as a game designer on an MMORPG and then I moved over to become a game design lead eventually. And then the projects got bigger, and my role changed over the years to producer, senior producer, executive producer. But it was always pretty much the same. It was project leadership.
The games I worked on, I worked on Dreadnought, I worked on The Cycle and then The Cycle Frontier. And what led me to come to Embark was the ambition, I guess. The ambition to do something really innovative in a genre that I love with a really talented team.
Thank you. That's really good stuff. Guys, let's dive into our questions from the community now, and I think we should start with a really hard hitting question right off the bat, if you're ready.
What is your favorite flavor of ice cream? Jonny, you go first.
Oh, my favorite is probably pistachio. It was really hot in the studio last week, and we went and bought lots of ice creams. And one of the flavors we bought was salty licorice. And I tried that for the first time and wasn't really for me, but I think it's popular in Sweden.
That's a unique flavor to Sweden, I think it's quite an experience. So pistachio. Rob, beat that.
Well, I'm a super simple and traditional person, so I would say probably chocolate, vanilla, maybe pecan, some pineapple, a little bit of strawberry, maybe some banana, and then just mix it up in a perfect mix at the same time in the blender, and then I'm done.
Okay, so your favorite flavor of ice cream is...
...is chocolate, vanilla, pecan and strawberry, raspberry. Whatever I said, I don't have a clue. That's not community question. You made it up as well. Don't trust Dusty!
I did not! Right. All right. A real question. A real question. Microwave sushi asks what makes the culture at Embark different from your previous studios? Rob, how about you start us?
I won't compare Embark to other studios, but I can tell a little bit about how I see the culture here at Embark. First of all, we actually started Embark because we believe that there are other ways to make games. And like I said, I've been in the game industry quite some time, and I felt it was time, and we at other founders felt it was time to do something a bit different. And what we want to do is work much closer to our community. We want to be more transparent and try new things. I mean, we want to build great experience, of course, but actually completely change the way we work and at the same time have fun. And I think now we're, like, four years into Embark, and at Embark, we're actually all game makers. We all care about the games, we all play games, and the player experience and the game, they mean everything for us. At least it does, actually. So it's so nice to be here, and everyone here is part of creating something magical. And it doesn't matter if you're like a dinosaur like me or if you're coming straight out of school.
A great idea can come from anyone. And that's what I think is very nice here, that this mindset led us to be much more transparent and open. We need to have a culture that is actually pretty safe and secure, because if you want to change if you want to change the industry, if you want to change the genre of first person shooter, for example, you need to try new things and try new things, you will fail. And that's okay at the mark. And that's also why we are I mean, sitting here talking to you guys, we are being as transparent as we can, and we're also running proper betas. And I know that there might be some problems in there and there might be some things that now, looking back, only like a couple of days, oh, why did they put that in? That wasn't the best idea. But that's who we are. We try, we test things early. We do. And I love it. I love this kind of open, transparent culture. I don't know. Jonny, what do you say? So I don't ramble here?
Well, I've only been here for three months, so I guess I have a new person's take on it. I think the thing that I really notice about embark is the culture is quite competitive, but in a good way. And I think that presents itself by wanting to be really innovative, do stuff that no one else has ever been able to do. I think also the other thing is really push for high quality and it's really hard to do those two things together because doing something innovative just means a lot of risk, and doing something high quality means it's usually very expensive. And I think it takes a certain desire to do something really good to be willing to take such risk.
Absolutely. And thank you both. I think this next one is for you, Rob. Jake asks, how did you come up with the idea for the entire environment of the map to be destructible? And how hard was it to make it so that almost everything could be destroyed without losing frame rate?
We are probably losing the frames here and there. I think we probably will get some questions about performance later on, but I can try to answer this. This is also a little bit tricky. I will see. Okay, first of all, I didn't think I was going to do another first person shooter again in my entire life. But after a year or so into embark, some will start feeling that we really missed this immersive. I mean, it's very immersive to be in a first person shooter game, and that's a feeling you can't get anywhere else. So we missed that. And we were sitting, talking and said if. And this was a big if. We're going to build another or build a first person shooter at Embark. It needs to bring something new to the market, something new to the genre, and something that could actually redefine this genre at the core, something that's extremely fun for the players that they can't get anywhere else. Otherwise, why do it? I mean, it's pointless. So we want to change what first verse shooter looked like. So we or that was this was Patrick, Stefan and Gustav and me, we talked back and forth what we could do.
So we can actually change how you play the traditional shooters and when coming back to this like childish idea that is super fun to build things and destroy things and change things. We said, "We want to build something that is extremely dynamic and where you as a player could define your play style and change the outcome of the game, not just by shooting people, but by using the world, using the environment, using dynamism, using whatever you can come up with, use your imagination, and have fun." Maybe I should go back to the question. During my 20, 25 years as a game developer, this is by far the most difficult task, maybe most stupid task I ever faced, but it's also something that me and many other here has been dreaming about to do for decades, and also been very transparent. Many, many times I thought that we would have to give up because it was extremely hard and we felt that we can't pull it off. We can't build this creative dynamic, entertaining sandbox. But to be honest, today I'm watching you guys playing. I'm playing with you guys. When you coined me, Dusty has never coined me by the way, but when you coined me, it's as Embarkaduken, that's me.
I'm so happy I'm smiling all the time because I see how much fun a lot of people are having. And it makes me so happy because this is what everything is about. I understand there's some bugs and some crashes and some buggy performances here and there. We're working on that, we'll fix it. But this is about having fun together. And that's what gaming is about. Have fun together, make friends. I understand I haven't answered the question at all, but destruction is just one of the different dynamic systems that we have in the finals. And tomorrow I'm doing some advertisement for Gustav and Matt, little show tomorrow. So sending questions if you want more because they are much more professional and prepared than I am. Ask them question about the Dynamics and the Dynamics features and they can talk so much more about this. I know I didn't answer the question. Back to you, Dusty.
Discord's user, Arctic, wonders, what did we learn from the previous playtests, the closed alpha and CB1, that helped inform the current experience of CB2? Jonny, I know you're new, but I also know that you have had your hands all over this since day one at Embark. Why don't you take this one?
Yeah, sure. There was a lot of different things we learned from it. It was a real closed beta. It wasn't a marketing beat, so we really learned a lot from it. We tried to validate our assumptions. The things we learned from closed beta one, different focus areas, if you like, the first is probably movement. We learned that the movement felt a bit floaty, not responsive enough, too much input delay, not reliable. So we've worked really hard in improving that. Another area was gunplay. So some of the recoil was maybe a bit too much, or some of the weapon sways, the time to ADS and things like this. We tried to tighten it up and just make it feel better. So these are both game feel topics, if you like. So we tried to improve the game feel. Then another big area of feedback was the game mode itself. So some people really love Cash Out and other people were quite confused by it. So what we learned is that for the new players coming in, it can be a bit overwhelming, a bit too complex. So we tried lots of different, more traditional game modes.
And we just kept on coming back to Cash Out because Cash Out was really made for the finals. It's the game mode that we felt best plays to the strengths of the finals with the destruction and all the dynamism. So what we thought was, let's take the core of Cashout and make it a bit more straightforward in terms of the win condition and maybe slightly lower the tactical depth. And that became quick cash. And I'm quite happy with it and I'm eager to see the feedback on it. Now, the other areas we did a lot of UX improvements or user experience improvements, and we still have a lot to do, but we did a bunch of stuff in the actual match, but also outside of the match. So in item progression, in the clear character customization, Rob did a lot of work there with the UI, UX and retention team to bring that big step forward. Another area, actually an area that is improved by a lot of the things I've already talked about was team play. This was an area we got quite a lot of feedback on. I think if you're playing as part of a premade, it works quite well if you're a premade squad with your friends.
But if you're coming as a solo, we didn't really have the comms, the tools to make it easy enough to coordinate with other players. So we've worked on that and our VoIP implementation is a bit more closer to where it needs to be. And we've added barks and other things as well. Then there are two areas which are really critical. We call them hygiene factors, if you like. And those are performance. The movement, for example, was heavily impacted or the feel of the movement was heavily impacted by the performance issues. We've worked hard on that, but we still have a lot to do there. Another very important hygiene factor is anti-cheat. We saw that we had quite some issues in the second week of closed beta 1, and we've worked on many different things, which I, for very obvious reasons, can't get into. And we will continue to work on that with top priority as well.
I think so. And while we're on this topic, let's back it up just a little bit and revisit performance, because we've received a lot of questions about performance improvement. Do you want to elaborate a little bit more on that and what we're trying to do?
Yeah, sure. I'm not the tech director, but I'll give it a blast. The problem for many people is that they might have quite a good GPU, and they expect to have a higher frame rate, and they go to the settings and maybe put the game on low visual quality settings, and they don't notice any improvement in their frame rate, and that's frustrating and not expected for the player, the problem is that our game is for most people, it's CPU bound. So unless you have a very good CPU and maybe a not very good GPU, you're going to be CPU bound in the finals right now. We have a lot of work to do to make that just where it needs to be. So yeah, the problem with being CPU bound, it's something that we are tackling as we speak. It's one of our top priorities, and we think it will be a much better place in the next releases.
Thank you. That's especially important because I see a lot of people in Discord who are continuously bringing up their graphics card and comparing them. And the fact that we are CPU bound and not GPU bound means that that conversation doesn't always have a bearing on how you are experiencing the game. And it's great. The answer is, Of course, we're working on it. Okay, Rob, here's one for you. Sebastian wonders if you have plans for even more interactables on the map. He mentions the crane as an example, but we also, it's worth mentioning, have people writing in and asking about that wrecking ball way back in the first teaser. I guess my question is, and Sebastian's question is, where the heck is it?
First of all, Sebastian, if you only knew how many crazy things we have been trying out so far, some good, some pretty bad. We actually had a jet-driven platform, Canon, that shoot players all over the map for a while. That didn't really pan out. But two of our pillars in the finals is dynamic and intuitive. We actually have a list of cool and interesting things that we really believe can spice up the game and the game show moving forward. Like you said, we had other things in the game before, but they actually didn't work out from a performance perspective right now. So we are working on them. Of course, they will be wrecking ball. I mean, why on Earth would you play a game that about destruction, dynamism without a wrecking ball, or a work in canons again? Hello? They need to come back in. So we're working on it. They will come, I don't know when, I don't know where, but of course we should have things like that in the game. We have a pretty long list of things we want to try. We try them, we put them in, again, if they make sense and they enhance the gameplay, enhance the experience, and make the game more fun to play.
I think that's the answer to it.
Yeah, as we say on Discord, soon.
Along that same vein, another question we had is, do you have plans to add more specializations? And if so, what kinds?
Yes, we have, again, we have looked into the future, and we have, again, a list of things we want to try. This is where in our second closed beta to get a feedback on stuff. We will continue to try things forever. We are a live game. We are in it for a long run. We want to build a game that can live for 20, 50 years. I want this to be my last game I play. Okay, maybe I would play ARC Raiders as well, but that's how good this game should be. We have a long list of specializations: weapons, gadgets, playstyle, dynamic features that we will add to the game in the future. Again, this is the ultimate game show, and everything can, and if it makes the game fun, more fun and better, should happen. Everything that enhance gameplay should be in the game. I still haven't really figured out how to get Dragons in the game, but there will be Dragons. Dragons. Dragons. I said it before. We need to have Dragons somehow, but just need to figure out how. No. I have a plan.
Jonny, what do you think about Dragons?
Oh, my word. Well, it has potential.
Potential? Yeah, there you go. They're big franchise that's just about Dragons, so why don't we just add a Dragon to our game?
Sure. Okay, we're going to move past Dragons now. Peter wrote in to ask, What is the long-term vision for the game? Are you seeing a more casual path, or are we on the road to e-sports? I will leave this one to our ERP.
That's a good question. As a free-to-play game, we are going to get a lot of casual players because the barriers to entry is really low. You just download the game. And that's a really good thing because free-to-play games, they don't work unless you have lots and lots of players. They don't work as a business unless you have lots and lots of players. That being said, we really need to have depth in the game to keep the more, let's say, engaged players or hardcore players. And it's what makes the game really fun and worth spending lots and lots of time in. And I personally would love to eventually see an e-sports scene. I think that would be incredible. I think the finals with the IP, the game show IP, is such a good fit for that. In the closed beta that's running just now, we've obviously prioritized the first one, new players, casual players. We've had a go at improving onboarding and unlocking different body types and game modes, and that's working quite well, and the numbers have really improved there. But we're going to, for sure, have to do both because I think for a game that's as ambitious as the finals, it's not going to be an either or.
It's going to have to be both. We're going to have to nail it for new players and we're going to have to have all the depth for highly engaged players. So easy to learn, hard to master. So it's going to be tricky when it comes to production prioritization, but watch this space, I guess.
Thank you. A quick one for you, Rob, real quick. Have you considered-.
You know me, Dusty. There's nothing quick with my answers. I'm rambling... Okay, go ahead.
I'm sure this one's going to be quick. Have you considered adding a second weapon slot for sidearm?
No, but yes, we did. We tried this multiple times during the last two, three years, and what we find out was actually that the more players who put in the hand of the guns to put the head of the players, the more they tend to start playing the game as a running gun as many other shooters. Nothing wrong with that. But that's not what we want. We want this to be a very unique and special first-person experience. We want people to use the environment, use the gadgets, use destruction, use a lot of thing to have fun, not just running on. We have tried it. Maybe we'll try it again in the future. But the way it looks right now, it actually made the game less the finals. That's why it's not in. That was pretty quick.
That was pretty quick. I'm impressed. Thank you. Here's a fun one for both of you. With all the games that you've worked on, you must get a lot of gifts from fans. What's the strangest thing you've ever received?
Ever received? Can I start this, Jonny?
You've definitely received the strangest gifts, so please do.
No, but okay. I love our fans, and very often they can come up with very creative and find funny ways to show their appreciation. And so what's the strangest things? Well, not long ago I got a signed mate mug from Argentina. That was a big surprise. I got a wig once. I don't have much hair. I lost that. So someone probably thought that I should have hair. -that's cool. Yeah, nice I got custom made swim trousers and socks. And of course, very recently I got this enormous, oversized, inflatable, flamingo. That wasn't just to me, that was to the entire studio of Embark, but still amazing. Yeah, Jonny, have you got anything?
That's hard to beat, Jonny.
Well, I guess I've got a lot of things to look forward to in my career then. But I haven't yet received anything strange or certainly nothing like pink flamingos. I've received a couple of things that stood out for me that I thought were cool. One was I was working on a spaceship game and I got a 3D printed spaceship, and this was 10 years ago when 3D printing first kicked off, so I thought that was cool. And the other thing that I really liked was I got this LARPing ax, which was way too much fun and had to be put away eventually, sadly. But I never got anything really strange. I guess I have to wait and see what happens next.
All right, one for Jonny. Artichoke asks, What's the timeline?
That's a tricky question. Our closed betas are really closed betas. We're using them to validate our choices by listening to the player feedback, and they're really not marketing beats for us. Once this closed beta is over, so closed beta two, we're going to look at the results. We're going to take some time a week or so to go over everything and analyze it and make sure we understand the feedback. And then we're going to see what we still have to change and build and how long that will take. So how big is the gap between where we are right now with the game and where we want to be for launch? And that will dictate the date. But within reason, we also want to bring the game to market. We also want to release the game. I don't think it would be that long, but we don't want to rush you either, so you have to wait and see.
Good answer. And like we say, we're doing a closed beta, and it's a real one because we need the feedback. All right, Ralladin, one of our long time Discord members has one for you, Rob.
Says, You come from a storied background of several AAA DICE titles, most being FPS games. One stand out for him is Mirror's Edge. Given the difference in playstyle, what is one of your favorite lessons from Mirror's Edge that you carried over to the finals?
This will probably be a little bit emotional. Dear Faith and Kate. Well, Mirror's Edge will always have a very special place in my heart. I would go a little bit off topic here now maybe, but when people talk about Mirror's Edge, I will do that. It started as a passion project many years ago at DICE. We wanted back then to change again, change a little bit. This is very similar to the Finals, actually. We wanted to change the view of the first-person shooters back then. Actually back then, nothing bad about the shooters back then, but they were more of a floating gun and they were pretty brown and gritty and to be honest, not very diverse. And the genre was different. Back then we were a small team actually working on another project and that product never got released, I think, so I should not talk about that. But we were a small team working on other projects. And back then there were, or this brings back so many memories, this was this new cool website where you can watch videos. It's what's called YouTube. It was getting famous. And these athletes doing crazy cool parkour things on this movie website.
I'm a lifelong skateboarder, so I was extremely interested and inspired. And we were then working on this other game. And a couple of us actually built a small parkour track on the rooftop in the game. And while the other guys were running around and shooting each other on the streets, we were doing time trials on the rooftops. I had a question. Okay, now I'm back on track. What did carry over, well, first of all, I'd say the urge to follow your dreams, to challenge the preconception, to listen to your heart, this will sound so cheesy, but always lead and never follow. Mirror's Edge changed my... I cant talk, I'm starting to cry. Mirror's Edge changed how I see game development. In many ways, that curious and rebellion heart that Faith had is actually what makes the finals work, and they actually gave birth to that. I have a lot to thank. Cut me out.
I think that's beautiful, and I think-
That's passion in game development right there.
I think that I speak for a lot of people who are listening and who are on our Discord as well, that Mirror's Edge has a really special place in our heart as players as well. Leland asks, and now I'll take away the emotions with a jerky question, Between Rob and Jonny, who shows a more egg-cellent performance in the finals?
Jonny, do you want to take that? Wipin' my tears.
Clearly, I'm better. But no, really, I guess we play different roles. He's normally playing a tank and I'm playing a healer.
I'm a heavy.
My job is to keep him alive so he can frag a bit, but I like to frag as well. I think we're pretty close.
I think we're pretty good at teamplay, actually.
Okay, that didn't really answer the question though guys...
But it's like, sometimes, some days I'm terrible. My aim is completely off. And then I need a good healer, and then I have a pocket healer, and then Jonny helped me. And sometimes I'm really good, and I don't need Jonny. So we are... sometimes I'm bad, and sometimes he's good. I think that's a cool thing with the finals. We are very similar. A lot of people here, of course, we have some of the people here at Embark are insanely good. And then I go out and play against you guys. Then I just got stomped.
Aww, thank you.
Not by you, Dusty.
Same. It's really hard to say.
I coin them both all the time. All right, moving on.
Here is a question from Corvex, but we've also been hearing it on the Discord since day one. Will there be a Nama Tama plushy? Rob, we've been talking about this one, haven't we?
Yes, we've been talking about this. And the short answer would be absolutely yes. I don't know when, I don't know how. But seriously, I love Nama Tama. I think it's an amazing creature, and it deserves to live in every single people's home and house. I mean, it can be a keychain. It could be a little baby rattle, clik, clik, clik. It can be like one of these stress eggs...[dying goose sounds]. It can be like a chewing toy for your lovely dog, [more dying goose sounds]. I mean, the Nama Tama works for everything, so the short answer is, Of course, Nama Tama should exist in real world. And it actually really does in some places.
All right, listeners have really been shelling out the love for this exceptional segment where in honor of our adorable and possibly coming to you in squeaky toy form, Spoke's Egg, the Nama Tama, and to continue the embark tradition of telling terrible puns, I must now ask each of you to tell us an egg joke.
God, I can't believe you're making me do this, but I'm egg-static for CB2, and I'm egg-cited for what comes next.
Good one. Dear Rob?
Well, you didn't really caught me off guard because I know that you're going to ask me this, but I probably need to spend some time in the incubator on this one because I-I-I'm cracking up.
Thank you. That's all for today's episode of-
You seeing Dusty's face here? You would have to laugh yourself to death because, 'What is he saying now?' Sorry for that.
This is my life, you guys. Let's try this again. That's all for today's episode of Meet the Makers. Thank you so much for listening. If you're hungry for more, please join our Discord community and make sure to play the finals when it finally releases.
Thank you. I thank all of you for joining the Meet the Makers.
And thank you, Dusty, for hosting and to everyone else for listening.
Thank you. See you next time, guys.
[Outro Music Plays]