Hi everyone, I’m Xavier Spinat, Head of Publishing at Dontnod.
I joined Dontnod at an exciting time for the studio, as we are expanding our activities through the opening of a publishing department to support the launch of our first self-published game, Twin Mirror.
It is a psychological thriller, a narrative experience embarking players on an adventure in the small town of Basswood, West Virginia to unravel its secrets… I won’t go into details about the story here, I wouldn’t want to spoil!
Being able to self-publish one of our games is an incredible and thrilling challenge
The Challenges of Becoming a Publisher
Dontnod has a very good track record at working with established publishers around the world, and this is not something we want to change. As we witnessed a growing, passionate community of players following us, and facilitated ways for game creators to publish and sell directly to their community, we decided to take a turn ourselves and become a publisher.
It means that we are not only developing the game, but also organizing the release, the communication and the support. A lot of new responsibilities come with being a publisher: our job is not just to develop the game anymore, but also to make sure it reaches the players who will enjoy it, open new departments to assist the development teams, and find the right partners to help us. With more and more games being released every month, it becomes really important to help players understand what they will experience in a game.
Working hand in hand with partners like Microsoft is a great way to make sure players anticipate accurately what the development team’s vision created for them.
Choosing to Delay a Game
Dontnod’s initial goal was to release the game in 2018. But working with our publisher Bandai Namco, we realized that we needed more time to achieve our goals. While the initial plans for the game were promising, we understood that we needed to take a step back, or we would be missing part of the creative vision which was important for the Twin Mirror team. The production and planning needed to change and we redefined a lot of elements on the project, like the story, the change from an episodic format to a complete experience, and even many of the special gameplay elements Twin Mirror has now to offer.
Creating a satisfying experience for players required more iterations, and therefore more development time. It’s not a small decision to push back the release of a game, and it took a lot of soul searching from the team to find the right balance. The development team itself had to change. Some people chose to leave for other projects, while new talents needed to be hired to give us a fresher perspective on the project. It was a lot of efforts, but all in all we’re happy to have been able to take the time we needed so that the game experience can reach its full potential for release.
More time in development often means a better game! While it might not be the usual road in the gaming industry nowadays, we believed it was a risk worth taking to deliver our players the best experience we could. We certainly hope that our fans will see those improvements on screen!
Listening to Players’ Feedback
After years of development, the last few months of a game’s creation can be instrumental to the overall polish of the experience.
There are many requirements when designing a video game, specifically for Twin Mirror, a huge amount of time is dedicated to the narration and tying the story together, engineering sound effects, animation and camera direction (particularly important for a psychological thriller), detailing backgrounds, designing levels, play-testing all these aspects and fixing bugs.
User research is also a very important element to drive the improvements. We used all the feedback we had through playtesting, fans, as well as internally to improve the overall experience and we decided to create one playing experience instead of delivering several episodes.
We think we made the right choice by delaying the game and right now, despite the difficult times we are all facing, we learned new ways to work as a team. There are surely new challenges ahead but we’re confident in delivering a great narrative experience to our players this year. We hope they will enjoy it as much as we enjoy developing it!
Keep an eye out for more exciting news until Twin Mirror launches this year!
2020 is a particularly exciting one for Dontnod because we will release not only Twin Mirror, but also Tell Me Why, an episodic narrative adventure published by Xbox Game Studios which will be available in the Summer.
Stay tuned! We will have much more to share in the coming months!