Immortals Fenyx Rising – Creating A Lighthearted Legend
Immortals Fenyx Rising is an epic, lighthearted romp through Greek mythology, which frames the adventure of Fenyx, a demigod, as a story told by a captive Prometheus to an easily bored Zeus. To find out more, we spoke with Narrative Director Jeffrey Yohalem and Lead Cinematic Designer Michelle Plourde about how the story evolved, the advantages of third-person narration, and the importance of proper comedic timing.
Immortals Fenyx Rising was one of several games that underwent a significant delay late last year. What did that enable you to do that you wouldn't have been able to do originally?
In the games industry, there are a lot of serious games, and so this felt like a fresh opportunity. Michelle Plourde: It gave us more time to refine exactly what this game is about, and our vision for what we wanted from this game. I think it gave us more time to actually pinpoint the kind of areas we wanted to really refine, to get that really good experience that we were looking for.
Was there a turning point when that tonal shift started?
JY: I was playing through the early work that had been done, and there was this moment where Fenyx enters Tartaros and falls on their face, and then stands up and blows a kiss at the camera.
Third-person narration is an unusual plot device in videogames; how did you decide on that approach? How does it affect your approach to the work? Therefore, when you have a narrator, that becomes more natural, because it's like reading a book. Then adding the comedy angle makes it even more fun, because then it can be jokes about what's going on on-screen, with the narrators responding to what the player is doing.
We can have them narrate over what's happening, and therefore influence what's happening on-screen, so having that external element to explain what's happening gives us a lot of fun, also. If we don't have narrators and it's just the player coming up on something in the world, sometimes we would use a self-monologue or make the player talk to himself, which can be unnatural. But if we use the narrators, Prometheus and Zeus, we can use them as a way to just tell what the player is feeling at this time.
How did you decide on Zeus and Prometheus specifically to tell this story (as a comedic duo, no less)?
Therefore, you have two people who used to be friends, there's this history there, but now there's this antagonism, and so that creates energy, which is great for storytelling. So I felt like they were the best choice for that kind of antagonistic but also comedic energy, like “The Odd Couple.”
Greek mythology seems like very well-trodden ground. How do you bring a fresh take to it?
For the ancient Greeks, what was so central to these myths was that it was their entertainment. It was their reality TV, and the gods were not perfect; these are characters who make huge mistakes that are very human, but are also loved for that. It’s teaching you about life, but not from the “This is the way you need to behave” perspective, and the gods are so entertaining.
I felt like the way to make this fresh is to take that spirit and actually run with it, to treat them as fallible and human. This was an opportunity to update mythology, to bring it back to its original purpose of entertainment and teaching us about life and humanity.
What’s something that came out of the extra time that you were able to do in Immortals Fenyx Rising that you were particularly proud of? MP: I think the way that we collaborated with the writers to really get to the point that we are currently is, like, we're super proud of it. This story is kind of like a comedy; it's lighthearted, so that kind of influenced the language, like the camera language or the camera styles that we were going to use, and I think just that challenge within itself to create this kind of new visual on screen was super-rewarding for us. It really showed on-screen when we started looking at scenes; we were like, “Hey, this is funny because we kind of did this camera movement at this time,” so hitting comedic timing was super-hard for us, but at the same time super-rewarding.
Oct 03, 2020 at 09:29