Hungarian version here.
Princze: What were the origins of the first part, how it has begun? Did you want to make a puzzle game or is it started with the philosophical conception? Please tell me a few thoughts about how it started, how it formed to a game!
Verena: The first game did, in a way, happen by accident. The team was trying to come up with puzzle-like mechanics for Serious Sam 4, like the drones and the buzzers, and that very quickly developed into enough puzzles to make a fully fledged game. So the writing team came on board midway through the process, when most of the design and the art style was already decided on. Croteam wanted to do something different than the Serious Sam franchise, and what could be more different from that than a philosophy focused puzzle game?
Wasn’t too risky to make a totally different game than your previous ones? Didn’t you afraid that the targeted community is different than the Serious Sam games?
I suppose that fear is always there when you try something new, but everyone was fairly confident that The Talos Principle would be a great game. Also at that point Croteam had been making Serious Sam for so long that everyone felt like they needed a breather, so Talos was a welcome change of pace.
I’m glad that The Talos Principle has been both critical and commercial success. I also put about 35 hours into it and was one of my greatest experiences in the last decade. Although sometimes I felt that the philosophical part is… simple too much – at least for me! But thankfully the game works very well if you just concentrating on the puzzles. It was on purpose that these parts weren’t connected tightly? I mean, in a way, that if you don’t speak well in English (or any other supported languages), you can still enjoy the game, because the puzzles are stands on their feet separately. What were the players’ reactions in general about the philosophical background?
While it’s true that the writers came on board fairly late in development, I personally feel like in the end the interplay between game mechanics and narrative is quite harmonious. But yes, the first game was deliberately designed in a way that didn’t make it necessary to interact with all of the story.
As for player reactions: of course a lot of players were surprised, because as I mentioned before, you can’t get much further away from Serious Sam than making a philosophical puzzler. But once they got past the initial shock, player response was overwhelmingly positive. The game encourages thought in a fairly gentle, unobtrusive manner, and I think a lot of people loved that about it.
So making a sequel was more than logical. You have announced it in 2016. Jeez, that was eons ago! What took you so long? :)) Was it an easy decision to make a sequel?
It was absolutely an easy decision to make a sequel. The first game was reasonably successful, and the critical response alone was so overwhelmingly good that we felt like we owed it to ourselves to make another one. Between TP1 and 2023 Croteam finished Serious Sam 4, worked on a number of smaller projects and switched from the Serious Engine to Unreal. All of that takes time.
The world of the game seems will be expanded very well in Talos 2. Was one of the main goals to show and tell more of this world? What should we know about the story before the release?
Yes, that was absolutely one of the main goals. TP1 tells the story of the infancy of these new humans, now it’s time to show what they grew into. What their world is like, what their society is like.
We’ve taken great care to write a story that can be understood without having played the first game. Almost a thousand years pass between the first game and the sequel, so the events of the first game are almost mythological and not talked about like they happened last Tuesday. The player character is as new to this world as the player, as a matter of fact the first event in the game is your “birth”, so relevant information about TP1 is delivered in a fairly organic manner. Now, I’m not saying that players who know the first game won’t get a little extra thrill here and there, but in general it’s not required to enjoy The Talos Principle 2.
In the gameplay trailer, I notice familiar puzzle parts from the first game but it’s also introducing fresh ideas, as far I can see. What should we expect, a friendly combination of old and new, or much more new things and the familiar things only just looked familiar? Could you tell us more how the new ideas have come about?
The game has a - I hope - good mix of new puzzle mechanics and old ones. We introduce roughly one new mechanic per area (of which there are twelve), but the old mechanics are also used throughout.
Internally, a whole bunch of new game mechanics were created and realised in a testing environment. Then the team was asked to evaluate the mechanics in terms of how they could be combined with the older mechanics, if they fit into the overall game concept and - obviously - how much fun they were. Only the ones that passed muster made it into the finished game.
If you compared the difficulty of Talos 2 to Talos 1 or Gehenna, what would you say?
Talos 1 had a very steep difficulty curve, which led many players to not complete the ultra hard puzzles in the tower - and not to see the ending. In Talos 2 we still have very hard puzzles, but they’re distributed more evenly throughout the game world. Each cluster focuses on one new mechanic and each cluster will have its own difficulty curve, which is reset for the next cluster of puzzles. While solving all puzzles still leads to pretty cool narrative rewards, the player can skip most of the super hard puzzles by using one of the built in redundancy mechanics, like the Prometheus sparks, that allow you to solve a puzzle without “actually” solving it.
Was there anything that you weren't fully happy with in the first part that you wanted to make it different in the sequel? Anything could be puzzle, story, narrative, gameplay, difficulty etc.
The hint system was absurd, and the fact that you had to solve every puzzle made people get stuck and abandon the game in frustration. I think our designers have really improved that aspect this time.
The first game was a real treasure for hardcore players. It had tons of secrets, for example. In this matter, the sequel remained the same? Can we expect something unexpected this time too?
There are many things to discover in the world, and solving the hardest puzzles also has significant story effects.
I know that game development is tough, but any heartful or funny moment you want to share with us?
It was very moving to bring back the actors who played Elohim and Alexandra Drennan and to tell this new story with them.
I’m sorry but I must ask: Any plans to expand the localization list in the future, after the release? I guess, the background of the second part is also quite language dependent and would be a great help for many players if you could play the game, for example, in Hungarian.
I won’t rule out the possibility of a fan localization, which we also had with TP1, I believe, but right now the list of subtitle and audio languages is probably final. The Talos Principle 2 is priced a lot lower than the first part, even if you don’t factor in inflation, and with the sheer volume of text in TP2 it’s simply not in the budget to add additional languages. Especially not audio, given the game’s large cast of characters.
Thanks again for the interview and I wish you all the best with the launch. Finally, any message for readers?
If you play Talos 2, let it take you on a journey. Don’t expect the exact same experience as Talos 1.