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The second part of Canard PC's feature dedicated to ZA/UM Studio's upcoming detective RPG Disco Elysium brings us an interview with Robert Kurvitz, the game's lead designer and writer. The official developer blog offers an English translation and lets us learn all about Disco Elysium's approach to failure, as well as the game's ambitious nature, where the aim is to revolutionize the role-playing genre.
Here's an excerpt:
Canard PC: In an RPG, if a player gets something wrong you can generally expect negative consequences. But how do you punish the player for their mistakes if their character is already a massive loser?
Robert Kurvitz: “You never prevent them from accessing a part of the game. A mistake should affect how you react in future, by responding to what just happened. It should make you feel embarrassed, afraid, regretful. Most of all, it has to be a genuine experience, written in such a way that the player sees the value of it as they build their character and doesn’t just want to restart the game straight after. We’ve worked really hard to make these mistakes some of the game’s best moments in terms of role-play, and I think people feel closer to their character when he gets something wrong than when he gets it right. For example, there’s one scene where you have to interrogate eight armed guys, just you and your partner. They own up to having committed the crime, but they start taunting you. “Get your gun out – you’re finished!” There’s nothing you can do against these eight guys; you’re utterly powerless, but at the same time you’re still a cop (who has to arrest them – Ed.). But if you fail to bring the situation under control too many times, you start doing truly CRAZY things. You pull out your gun, put it under your chin, and threaten to kill yourself! That would be the worst decision ever! Your partner tries to help you and it goes on for ages… Everyone will remember that moment. It’s very powerful for your character to go through that. You discover things about him that you wouldn’t have found out otherwise, and all of this will have consequences later on. Or even straight away, as it’s much harder to be convincing towards these guys now that they see you as that unhinged cop who tried to kill himself. So then you have to do a little minmaxing and redistribute points (in the character profile – Ed.), reconsider your strategy, go and speak to their boss, and think how you could manipulate them. Getting it wrong makes the game more fun.”