Big Bad Wolf has had a busy 2018 putting its full attention and resources into The Council. The episodic RPG title arrived on the market with Episode 1: The Mad Ones back in March, following up with the release of Episode 2: Hide and Seek in May. The Council, which consists of five episodes, has reached both high and low points with fans and critics, as well as drawing comparisons with titles from Telltale Games and Dontnod Entertainment for how Big Bad’s handled the episodic format.
Unlike other episodic titles, The Council puts equal focus on its interactive storytelling and gameplay experience. From the opening moments of The Mad Ones, the title’s RPG mechanics kick into full effect as players pick one of three classes — Diplomat, Occultist or Detective — that will both support and impact their progression in different ways. It only continues to build in the second episode when players level up protagonist Louis de Richet, as well as improving and unlocking abilities in his skill tree.
Even when players explore the world around them, they are invested in the story of The Council and waiting for one of the many twists and turns to take place in an episode. Each passing moment only builds suspense in the story, as the mysteries surrounding different characters and subplots begin to thicken. With Big Bad announcing that the third episode, called ‘Ripples,’ would be coming this month, it does put some pressure on the French studio to really hit its stride going into The Council’s mid-season episode.
Hardcore Gamer recently caught up with The Council director Sylvain Sechi for an interview. We spoke to Mr. Sechi about The Council’s RPG mechanics, the historical setting and characters, whether the studio is considering a Nintendo Switch or mobile port and his thoughts about doing a sequel to the title.
[Hardcore Gamer] Episodic gaming has always placed more of an emphasis on the interactive storytelling over gameplay. With The Council, however, it threw that rulebook out of the window with Big Bad’s implementation of RPG mechanics. Considering how fans and critics have praised the gameplay features of The Council, tell us more about the studio’s decision to integrate RPG mechanics into the title and were you surprised with how well it has been received?
Our vision for this game has always been to craft a narrative RPG. Because of this, we started thinking about our entire gameplay loop through the lens of the narrative. What is a narrative character sheet? What is narrative combat? We’re extremely happy that what we made appeals to players.
Did the studio take any inspiration from other episodic titles during the development of The Council?
Our biggest inspiration was not episodic games, though we are fans of games like The Wolf Among Us or Life Is Strange. But rather we were inspired mostly by movies and TV shows like And Then There Were None and Shutter Island, as well as games like Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines and Heavy Rain.
On more than one occasion, Big Bad will tap into its historical backdrop for The Council. Historical events, of course, have played a role in all of the episodes so far, whether it’s directly related to the main story or one of the branching subplots. Was history always a central theme that the studio wanted to utilize in The Council?
We decided early on that we wanted to create a political thriller set during the time of the French Revolution. We wished to explore the ‘behind the scenes’ of major historical events that took place during this defining century.
On the point of history, The Council has an excellent mixture of real-life historical figures with those that the studio has created itself for the title. What was the research process like behind the different historical characters we’ve seen in The Council?
Our idea was to create an uchronia, a ‘what-if’ scenario. But we wanted it to be grounded within the historical events and figures of the time. In order to do that, we spent lots of time researching historical figures and crafting our characters to ensure a good mix of real and fictional characters that fit within the time frame and could plausibly have existed in real life.
Compared with other episodic titles on the market, The Council is able to outperform many of them with its branching choice system in each episode. How important was it to have The Council put a focus on choices having an impact on a certain quest or the overall story?
This was a major focus for us. Our vision for this was that ‘we make a game of consequences, not a game of choices.’ We absolutely wanted to deliver on that, and a good part of the design was to craft choices that created tangible consequences for the player without breaking the overall coherence.
But rather we were inspired mostly by movies and TV shows like And Then There Were None and Shutter Island, as well as games like Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines and Heavy Rain. -Sylvain Sechi
Confrontations have been a fantastic introduction to The Council, with many people seeing them as mini-verbal boss fights. Would you agree with people describing Confrontations in that way? And where did the idea for this feature come from?
That’s exactly right. This was our starting point when designing this new feature. What is a narrative combat? We looked at common combat gameplay, broke it down into components and then reassembled them within a narrative context.
This interview continues on page two, as Sylvain Sechi talks about The Council’s criticisms, a potential sequel, any plans for a physical release and whether the episodic title could be coming to Nintendo Switch or mobile devices.