- Under The Waves is the new narrative-driven adventure game developed by Parallel Studio and published by Quantic Dream.
- It will be released today for Xbox Series S/X and Xbox One (digital and deluxe physical edition).
- Just prior to the release, we met its Game Director, Ronan Coiffec, for an exclusive look back on the development.
For Ronan Coiffec, the CEO of Parallel Studio, video games are much more than a job: they’re a way of life, something he’s lived with since his early youth. From hardcore gamer to apprentice game designer, this child of the ’80s focused on his sole goal: opening his studio and writing his own stories. Under The Waves is the latest one, closing an almost 4-year development marathon. A major milestone for Ronan and the indie studio he founded in 2015 with writer Sébastien Renard and audio designer Nicolas Bredin.
Under The Waves is the fourth game made by Parallel Studio and it’s been a particularly rewarding project for each of the 19 team members, according to Ronan: “We made some time a few days ago to pull out the technical documents that laid the foundations for the game. We were pleasantly surprised to see that in the end, we didn’t have to restrict ourselves, we pushed every aspect of the project as far as we could, and yet we set ourselves quite a high bar considering the size of the team: the underwater gameplay in a semi-open 3D world, the side quests, the motion capture, the ’70s documentary aesthetic, the messages… We put all our heart into it, it’s a sincere and generous project!”
A game full of content indeed, yet for Ronan, Under The Waves is first and foremost the story of Stan, the taciturn diver who escapes reality by going into the depths of the sea. “We’ve divided the game into chapters,” explains Ronan. “There’s plenty of freedom to wander around and discover this world, but to move forward you must follow the main quest. It was first a technical choice, but in the end, it allowed us to convey smoothly what we wanted and tell our story. You still have room for exploration, both literally and figuratively: that of nature, which surrounds us and on which our impact is visible, for better or for worse, but also the exploration of our own condition as human beings, our flaws, our relationship with others.”
Under The Waves is a tale deeply rooted in Ronan’s childhood. The son of a marine in the French Navy, he crossed the world many times, following his father’s professional assignments. At the other end of the planet, a long way from his native Brittany, he discovered a world where warships, oil rigs and environmental activists collide. “It was during my adolescence that I imagined a video game that would translate these memories,” recalls Ronan. “I scribbled down game design diagrams, drew environments, sketched vehicles and characters. And even though gameplay remains a central affair, my aim has always been to convey intense, human emotions in my stories.” The prototype was evolving around a simple 2D mechanism with a diver and his submersible tasked with cleaning up underwater pollution. Drawing out the darkness to bring out the hope. Quite a symbol.
From 2020 to 2023, Ronan and Parallel Studio devoted their energy to this emotionally charged development, to which each member of this small group would add their own touch. That too is the strength of a studio on a human scale: soul to spare and clever minds full of ideas! “Under The Waves is both a sum of compromises and an absolute absence of compromise, if that makes sense” smiles Ronan. “I was looking for a way to bring it to life within a team on a reasonable scale, to keep control of the project without abandoning certain ambitions in terms of gameplay. Parallel Studio, with the help of Quantic Dream, was the perfect framework for achieving this result. I’m proud of what we’ve done.”
With dozens of caverns and wrecks to explore, hundreds of marine creatures to admire and countless thoughts for Stan to ponder, Parallel Studio has finally achieved what it set out to do: offer us a moment of escape, far beneath the waves, and gently encourage us to reconsider our point of view on the small things we can do for ourselves, for others and for the planet. “Ecology is in the studio’s DNA. We’ve had our carbon footprint analysed, we use recycled furniture, we’ve even ‘adopted’ a whale to provide financial support for scientists… In fact, the whale in the game is a central element, so it’s no coincidence! And we’re also delighted of the partnership with Surfrider Foundation Europe, who helped us adding real-life context to the marine facts we bring all through the game.”
Time flies, and there is still one major question we need to ask. Mercury, the quirky retro-futuristic on-board computer, what OS does it run on? “Haha, good one! MS-DOS of course, but surely a beta version, given that the real thing was released in 1981, whereas the game is set in 1979! By the way, speaking of MS DOS, it’s actually the reference I suggested to our graphic designer for the sleek interface on Stan’s computer. As for Mercury, that’s the name we’ve also given to a bot on our Discord, at Parallel Studio. It’s able to export our builds, it replies to our holiday requests, and above all, it tells us every day when it’s afterwork time! It’s become our companion, for sure.”
Under The Waves
– A surreal voyage under the waves — Live a poetic underwater adventure about a man trying to overcome his traumatic past and save his own life, both literally and figuratively. Will Stan ever reach the surface again?
– Explore the depths of the sea – Pilot your submarine over the abyss and swim your way through caves, wrecks, and submerged plants in search of backstory pieces, salvageable waste, collectibles, and more. Craft equipment to help Stan explore further.
– Witness the beauty of the ocean – Dive through gorgeous underwater environments, from unfathomable depths to retro-futuristic facilities, immersed in a contemplative ambiance brought to life by an atmospheric soundtrack. – A unique setting full of mysteries – Discover an alternate reality of the year 1979 where retro, science-fiction, and fantasy flow together in beautifully-rendered graphics.