Paul Cuisset Talks Subject 13, VR Support and Adventure Videogames

The adventure videogame genre has experienced something of a revival in the past few years. Developers such as Telltale Games and Quantic Dream have carried a torch for the classic genre with releases such as The Walking Dead and Beyond: Two Souls. Each and everyone one of these titles owes a debt to Paul Cuisset, creator such beloved titles as 1989’s Future Wars and 1992’s Flashback. Now Cuisset is returning to the genre he helped shape with Subject 13, which is currently running a Kickstarter campaign looking for $40,000 USD, with a stretch goal of $60,000 for support for the Oculus Rift virtual reality (VR) head-mounted display (HMD).


VRFocus recently spoke to Cuisset about his return to the adventure genre. In the interview below, Cuisset discusses how videogames have changed over the course of his career, why he decided to revisit adventure titles now and just how Oculus Rift support might fit into the title. VRFocus will continue to follow Subject 13, reporting back with any more updates on the title’s progress.

VRFocus: Subject 13 seems to be a return to the adventure titles you used to make 20 years ago. Why revisit this genre now?

Paul Cuisset: While I haven’t made an adventure game in some years, I still love adventure games as a player. Watching what was once a very popular genre become something that big publishers didn’t want to back anymore was painful for me. Alongside my personal interest in creating this type of game, we’ve seen a resurgence of independent developers bringing new titles to players—the time felt right to get back in the game, so to speak.

VRFocus: Where did the idea for Subject 13‘s story come from?

Paul Cuisset: When I think of a new game, I do not really have rules: sometimes the story is the trigger and other times it is a first idea of gameplay. In the case of Subject 13, it was the gameplay and game system that came first. The universe and scenario came naturally later.

I started experimenting with the Unity engine and before I knew it I had a story idea as well as a game prototype. The experience has been a lot like the old days where I was a “one man show” creating games on my own. It’s been gratifying to be able to assemble the pieces on my own and see the game start to take shape.

VRFocus: The adventure genre has come a long way since the days of Flashback and Future Wars with series such as Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead. What do you make of the genre today?

Paul Cuisset: Where once major publishers took the lead, now indie developers are the ones pushing the adventure game genre forward. The audience has never gone away; it was only publisher support that vanished as adventure games will not outsell the next Call of Duty.

Crowdfunding has helped bring new titles to life and some smaller publishers like Microïds who love adventure games are very active in the genre. Telltale has done a great job with The Walking Dead games which have shown that new games done in a new style can still reach very large audiences. The presence of mobile devices as a platform is also beneficial as they provide a useful and intuitive interface that works great with adventure games.

VRFocus: Many modern adventure titles use an episodic structure. Did you consider this for Subject 13?

Paul Cuisset: Call me old fashioned, but I want to provide a complete experience for players. Our Kickstarter backers in particular deserve to get a full adventure in exchange for their support. This is not to say that we won’t expand Subject 13 with further journeys in the future but players will find a complete story inside their Subject 13 box (or download!).

VRFocus: Since Flashback you’ve tried your hand at a range of other genres and titles, most recently with Amy. Have your experiences there influenced the creation of Subject 13?

Paul Cuisset: I think you learn with every title you create. Working in different genres has expanded my horizons as a developer. The more things you try your hand at, the more experience you have to call on with your current game.

Adventure games that I created more than twenty years ago were relatively rigid, but it was another time when ‘die and retry’ was commonplace. I fear that apart from retro-gamers, few people today enjoy games in that style. Working on the game Amy helped me realize how much the public has changed since those times.

VRFocus: The title doesn’t seem like an obvious fit for the Oculus Rift. Why did you decide upon VR support as one of your stretch goals?

Paul Cuisset: I have been intrigued with Oculus Rift ever since it was in development. While it may seem more natural to add Oculus support to first-person games, I believe it can work very well with a third person game like Subject 13. What I love about virtual reality is the greater sense of immersion—how much better to be in the world of Subject 13 by being able to look around the environment by turning your head!

VRFocus: While VR works in third-person, it causes some issues with camera cuts and transitions. How are you handling these problems?

Paul Cuisset: I have some specific ideas on how we can make VR work seamlessly in our third-person view. Of course, we will have to do more experimentation and testing to put this into practice but that is part of our Kickstarter campaign—the players who really want to see these features can directly help us fund the effort and they can give us feedback along the way as well.

VRFocus: By the time Subject 13 releases, the Oculus Rift DK2 will be released with positional tracking support. Would the title support this feature?

Paul Cuisset: I think it would be presumptuous of me to start adding features before we have met our stretch goal to add Oculus Rift support! But our firm goal is to make the VR experience as rich as we can. Because I am the primary—not to say only—programmer for Subject 13 I can tell you that I will pushing myself as the programming team very hard!

VRFocus: Would you like to see Subject 13 come to other platforms? Perhaps PlayStation 4 with Project Morpheus support?

Paul Cuisset: Bringing Subject 13 to console is certainly something we have discussed. If fans would like to see that, they are more than welcome to come to our Kickstarter page and voice their opinions! I am as excited to have a dialog with players as I am to receive pledges to back our game. That is part of the gaming world that gives me great hope for the future as developers like myself can talk more directly with players and make the games that fans really want to play.