Polygon

From Life is Strange to Vampyr: Dontnod's dark turn

Megan Farokhmanesh
 

How the developer is adapting the values that made Life is Strange a success Dontnod Entertainment could have been a failure. The studio, founded in 2008, has a familiar origin story: Five developers left prestigious jobs to strike out on their own. They came from companies like Ubisoft, Criterion Games and Electronic Arts, united by the desire to make their dream game. It was not as easy as they thought it would be. The French developer's first project, Remember Me, was a troubled one.

It involved a publisher drop and swap, and a launch greeted by mixed reviews and mediocre sales. Its sophomore effort, despite criticism for its writing and some technical issues, signaled a more confident, competent studio at work. Life is Strange went on to win multiple awards, nominations and praise for its handling of relatable characters in real-world situations. As Dontnod prepares to release its third title, an action role-playing game called Vampyr, it has something to prove — both to itself and to its audience. The company is done chasing dreams of AAA, co-founder and CEO Oskar Guilbert says, and has a more specific vision in mind.

"We see ourselves as more like the Sundance Festival of movie independence, American movies," says Guilbert. "Maybe like — it will be pretentious, but — like HBO in TV. They [brought] something new to the TV series in the '80s, the '90s. This is something we want to do in games — to bring the content, the emotion — and I think we've shown that it's possible with Life is Strange. We want to continue like that.

" Dontnod, adrift "You know when we started it, we really wanted to do the perfect game from our point of view," says Guilbert. "Something we were really proud of. " In Dontnod's founding days of 2008, that game was Remember Me. It was the studio's initial spark, its reason for existing. But it was an ambitious project, a AAA-style sci-fi action-adventure that didn't meet the studio's expectations.

"The result was not perfect," he says. Defining Dontnod In defining the company's future, Guilbert first acknowledges what it isn't. When the company…

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