March 2023 Interview

THE FINALS: An Exclusive Q&A with an Embark Studios Co-Founder

On March 16th, 2023, Youtube creator RockhoundBlack uploaded his exclusive Q&A with Rob Runesson. It covered a range of topics, from CB1 performance, THE FINALS running on UE5, and what to expect in the future. As this interview was recorded in March some of the comments that RHB makes throughout the interview that were speculation are now considered outdated. ARC being set for release in 2023 is one of those outdated speculations. The transcription below covers the entire interview & video.


G’day, Rockhound here, I’m delighted today to bring you an exclusive question-and-answer session I was lucky enough to have with Embark Studios Co-Founder, Rob Runesson.

There are some great answers from Rob in this Q&A, and there are some direct questions that I asked him about, what I guess, you might call some of the community’s concerns about the game that I’ve seen, specifically over the last week of the Closed Beta.

Now, there are some things he obviously couldn’t give too much away about, but I’m going to go through all his answers, and give my thoughts about his responses, where it makes sense, as well. I’m sure you guys want as much info as possible about THE FINALS from the developers.

Speaking of that, before we dive into the Q&A, I wanted to mention one things about the game that I forgot to mention in my game review previously, and that’s that THE FINALS is now running on the UE 5 engine, which did surprise me a bit when I heard about it. Embark Studios is clearly keen to push ahead with the new tech. Anyhow, let’s get right into the Q&A.


RHB: Hi Rob, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions about THE FINALS during the ClosedBeta playtest. For those of the community that might not know who you are, can you please tell us a bit about your past work on other games, what your official role at Embark Studios is, and what you do on a day-to-day basis at the studio?

RR: Thank you for wanting to talk to me, and thank you for all the great videos you have created about us from the very beginning of our journey.! I’m an old-time artist who has been making games for 25 years. Before Embark, I was at DICE for many years working on games like Mirror’s Edge, Battlefront, a bunch of racing games, and of course many Battlefield titles. I’m one of the founders of Embark and I’m responsible for art, animation and audio. During the last couple of years, I’ve been running THE FINALS together with my great directors and amazing Team…

Comment: Firstly, thanks to Rob for the kind words. As many of you may already be aware, about 80 of Embark Studios 250-plus developers came from DICE, giving Embark a huge depth of experience to start from, let alone the 170 or more other developers on their team. We should set our expectations pretty high for these guys.

RHB: You mentioned at the Closed Beta Preview Event I attended that THE FINALS came to exist as a concept after a small team from the studio spent about six months brain-storming how to innovate in the FPS genre. Were you a part of that team, and can you see the studio undertaking a similar process in the future to foster ideas for other games?

RR: I’ve been part of the project from day one, together with Gustav Tilleby. We put together the initial pitch with Patrick [Söderlund] and Stefan [Strandberg]. We had a clear vision and we know what we wanted to do. I can absolutely see Embark using a similar process in the future. It’s been so much fun to build a game this way.

RHB: How do you feel the Closed Beta for THE FINALS is going, so far?

RR: I’m so happy.! People are having FUN, people are LAUGHING and it seems like a lot of people are loving the game. Of course, we have a lot of work ahead of us. This is just a Closed Beta and we are getting so much valuable feedback from the players – feedback that we’re listening to, implementing, and adapting into our future plans.

Comment: I’m happy to hear that Rob and presumably the other game makers at Embark are happy with how the Closed Beta is going. And I think it’s true that people are having fun in the game and enjoying it, except for a few annoying bugs, some middling performance, or gameplay misbalances. Also great to hear that all of our feedback as a community is valued by the Embark team.

RHB: Pre-release playtests come in quite a few forms these days, from Betas being a chance to showcase a near-finished game, which actually seems the most common, to what might be called more traditional Betas where a lot of the game is still being worked on. Where does THE FINALS Closed Beta sit in that range and can we expect many changes between now and the final game (no pun intended!)?

RR: It feels so cool to be able to build a game like this. We get to be transparent and work closely with our community to create something special. Of course, it’s scary to show our game in the middle of development, knowing that people might mistake this as a “final game” and not a WIP. However, this is the future of game making.! We’ll always be “in production,” listening to our players and trying new things… in short, yes we have a lot planned for you. You ain't seen nothing yet.!

Comment: Ok, this is quite a big comment from Rob, and does somewhat confirm what I suspected when I completed my review of the Closed Beta version of the game, and that’s that what we’re seeing in the Closed Beta is nowhere near a finished game. It sounds like Embark really do intend to take playtests back to what they used to be, and in my view, what they should always be, which is an opportunity for feedback from the community so that the game makers can take that feedback on board and continue their work-in-progress. I guess the big question then is how much time will it take to get the game to a level where Embark are happy to release it?

RHB: How much additional work on character, weapon and environmental art should we expect before release? Are we seeing some finished products already for these, or is there a lot more polishing to do yet?

RR: Nothing is polished yet.! Though, some of the assets already hold up pretty well. This is all thanks to the team and to the tools they have built.! We’re able to create things at a rate and level I have never seen before. But you can expect to see changes in all areas, from design, gameplay, UX, characters, maps, audio etc… this is just a closed beta…

Comment: To say nothing is polished yet, is a pretty big statement. One, it’s great that it means we apparently have improvements across the board to look forward to, but that of course makes us ask, well, how long will this take? So, really interesting that he almost preempts these questions and goes on to say assets in the game can be created at a rate he’s never seen before. Embark and their owners, Nexon, must have really decided to invest heavily in developing those tools that they built, to see such a change in pace of production. It’s going to be fascinating to see what the game's future playtest and release timeline is from this point. Let’s try and remember Rob’s comments here down the track.

RHB: How many bug fixes and changes have the team made to the game since the Closed Beta started?

RR: It’s hard to answer this one because we are still live and making bug fixes, tweaks and tasks on a near-continuous basis.! So far, we have shipped three patches and one balance update, but there are also changes you don’t see or notice happening each and every day. It will be fun to see just how many things we managed to cover by the end of these two weeks. The fixes we make now are more immediate, and after the beta, we will be looking at the feedback more holistically.

RHB: Some of the community have mentioned some input latency for their character’s movement. Is this a result of the server-side movement, and if so, do you think it can be easily overcome?

RR: We are aware of tons of optimizations and bug fixes and I’m really eager to resolve these. Running a test like this really helps us to figure out what the players really need and what issues they are seeing.

Comment: Ok, Rob didn’t really give any specifics here. We can only assume that they’re now very aware of the community’s concerns about improving latency and that they’ll hopefully be focusing on that between the end of the Closed Beta and the next playtest.

RHB: Frame rates for many players seem to be around the 100 mark or even lower sometimes. Are you concerned about that, or do you expect that to improve significantly for later iterations (if there are any) and the released version of the game?

RR: Again, it’s important to keep in mind that this is a closed beta and [we] have a ton of optimization work ahead of us. We will continue to optimize the game, and this playtest helps us find so much useful information about performance that we never could have done without you.! <3

Comment: I’ve almost gotta add to Rob’s comment here, that it’s been really cool to see the volume of feedback, both positive and negative being passed back to Embark during the playtest. The community seems pretty invested in wanting Embark to know what needs work, which really makes this kinda old-school beta testing work well. So, GG to the community.

RHB: Various levels of global illumination from none (static) to high-level are the current RTX options in the game. Can we also expect ray-traced reflections to be added?

RR: For now, I’m not going to make promises… you have to stay tuned.!

Comment: It sounds like we’ll just have to wait and see if ray-traced reflections make it into the game.

RHB: Will interchangeable weapon sights be added to the game and what sort of additional modifications to weapons will we be able to make, if any?

RR: We have a lot planned for all of you. However, I will not spoil any of the upcoming content. I don’t think you will be disappointed…

Comment: While, again, not giving anything away with his answer here, it does sound like there’s a good chance we might yet see a lot more gun modification options, like interchangeable sights, added to the game, which I think would be great. Surely, I’m not the only person that likes putting a 10X optic on an M60, right?

RHB: You also mentioned that the Embark team made some breakthroughs with your tech to allow server-side destruction and movement. Did that breakthrough lead to the idea for THE FINALS as a game, or did the concept for the game drive the need for that technological innovation?

RR: THE FINALS started as a dream to attempt to revolutionize the FPS genre. We had ambitions to create an FPS sandbox of different playstyles with more player freedom than ever before. To make this happen, we had to make the technology work. Otherwise, this game would have been impossible to create. We knew we would have to rethink how we have been building games for the last 20 years. It’s not been easy, but it has been an amazing journey, and we've only scratched the surface of what THE FINALS will become.!

Comment: The only thing I’m going to say to a pretty big statement like that is that I’m really glad a team like Embark, with a lot of experienced staff, is trying to innovate in the FPS genre, because if any genre in gaming needs a changing of the guard, it’s this one.

RHB Now that you have that server-side technology, can we expect it as a staple part of future releases from the studio?

RR: We have spent 3-4 years at Embark building brand-new tools that completely change how games are built. These changes make us faster and more efficient, but also provide new ways to create fun and amazing experiences for our gamers. At Embark, we work as one studio and we share learnings, tools and technologies between all projects, so you can expect to see a lot of good synergies between the things we’re working on.

Comment: It might be a bit early to make this call, but maybe we can look forward to some substantial destruction in Embark’s other game, which is due out this year, ARC Raiders. How cool would that be?

RHB: Should we expect additional modes to be added to the game, and if so, can you tell us anything about what those modes might be?

RR: Our hope is for THE FINALS to live for a long time, as a game that evolves and grows over time. There will be lots of twists and turns…it’s a crazy game show after all.!

Comment: That’s a pretty casual statement, but it seems pretty clear that we should expect multiple modes in the game to me.

RHB: Do you see THE FINALS as having e-sports potential?

RR I watch a lot of esports and love playing competitive games (way over 10k hours in WC3 & SC, and many many hours in DOTA, CS and OW…). Watching people stream and starting to understand the depth of THE FINALS makes me encouraged about the depth of the game as an inherently competitive and watchable game. At the end of the day, deciding whether or not it will become an e-sport in its own right, must be for the community to decide.

Comment: Well, he’s definitely not saying no with this statement. But I think the game will need a lot of refining before it can go down an e-sports path, if it does.

RHB: What’s your favourite build and load out currently?

RR: Tricky! I think all the builds are fun so it depends on who I’m playing with. I’ve been playing with Gustav Tilleby (Light) and Patrick [Söderlund] (Medium) so I mostly play the heavy with an M60, RPG, C4, Deployable Shield and the Charge ability… because it’s hilarious.!

Comment: Funnily enough this is very close to my own favourite build. I guess we both just like smashing shit up.

RHB: Lastly, how did the ‘Ominous Osthyvel” cheese slicer end up in the game, and what flavour of cheese is it slicing?

RR: A couple of weeks before the Closed Beta I was visiting an old friend. During dinner he told me a story about how dangerous a simple “osthyvel” (a traditional Swedish cheese slicer) can actually be… It was a hilarious story and I sent a text to Theodor (artist) and Oskar (animator) to suggest that it could be a weapon. Just two days later it was in the game.! For authenticity, they also scanned a chunk of cheese and then added the amazing slice taunt. The cheese is a Swedish traditional Prästost, you should try it when you visit Sweden, hehe.

Comment: I love that something like the osthyvel made it into the game from a wholesome little catch up Rob had with an old friend. And I’ll definitely try a lot of cheese if I visit Sweden, although Rob can wield the osthyvel, for safety's sake.


And on that cheesy note, that wraps up the Q&A. A huge thanks to Rob Runesson for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer all of my questions, especially right in the middle of the Closed Beta for THE FINALS. Let me know what you think about his answers in the comments below. Did this Q&A change or confirm your current views about THE FINALS at all, did anything you hear come as a surprise?

If you found this video helpful please share it for others to watch. Thanks for watching. Enjoy the rest of your day. Kia kaha, stay strong!

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