After releasing Layers of Fear, Observer, Blair Witch, and mostly recently The Medium, Bloober Team has cemented itself as a tentpole of the modern horror genre.
While the future is currently unclear on what the team is working on next, senior members of the team are excited for the studio’s future. We sat down with Jacek Zięba and Wojciech Piejko at Digital Dragons 2022 to discuss how they managed to achieve a technical feat with The Medium. We also asked the question on everyone’s lips and received a delightful tease in response.
Who are Bloober Team?
GameByte: Could you explain a bit about what your roles are at Bloober team?
Jacek Zięba: “He’s Batman, I’m Robin [laughs]. I’m a producer, Wojciech is the Game Director.”
Wojciech Piejko: “Yeah, we are running the project together, but we are switching roles often. Sometimes I’m helping with production stuff and he helps me with design, and so on. [Zieba] has experience with theatre so he’s really good at mocap sessions. We are a great team together.”
JZ: “We wear a lot of hats.”
GB: How big is the team at Bloober?
JZ: “For The Medium, it was about 80 people, plus ourselves. Now there is a new team growing.”
WP: “Ever since Layers of Fear we have been growing and growing. Each game is bigger, there are more mechanics that we create which requires more people.”
The Medium – Unique Challenges
GB: What are some of the main challenges that you encountered while creating The Medium?
JZ: “The pandemic, of course. But the first problem we encountered was how to create the game on two screens at the same time – how do we work in the engine on this? We really had to modify the Unreal Engine to do this. And then we had to keep our player’s focus. When you’re playing and you have these two screens at the same time, we want players to think “Woah, I like this”, not “Oh no, this is distracting.”
WP: “From a design and production perspective, having seamlessly displayed worlds at the same time was crazy. As Jacek said, it’s really hard to grab buyers attention when you divide between two screens, so we pulled off a lot of tricks to make it happen. That’s why the game has fixed cameras like in old survival horror games. When we had a free camera, players were super distracted on the test flight. Some of them even had motion sickness. That wasn’t an experience that we wanted to happen, so that’s why we came up with the fixed cameras to create a more cinematic vibe.”
JZ: “This is the first time in recent years that a game developer has tried to do something like [The Medium’. So it was really hard because you don’t have any reference. There is no blueprint of how to make that kind of game.”
Back To Bloobers roots
GB: Was the dual reality concept always the pitch from the very start?
JZ: “The Medium story is crazy. It’s like a legendary project in the company that has lived for over 11 years, or something like that. It’s gone through a couple of iterations. The tech had to be created, so when the next generation consoles came we thought “this is the time to do this”. “
WP: “Because the idea is 11 years old, it was in Bloober before us. It was the idea of our boss Peter and his wife Marlena – it was their dream game. It actually started as a platformer, but then the project was postponed. After we released Observer, the two of us were asked “Okay guys, so you have this old idea – could you make it happen?””
JZ: “[At first] we said no. But at some point we said ok, how do we do this?”
GB: Bloober Team is based in Krakow and The Medium takes a lot of inspiration from the city. Can you tell us a bit more about that inspiration?
JZ: “We scanned a lot of the squares [In Krakow] so we used those there. But with the hotel we recreated it from photos and even got to go inside and measure everything”
WP: “The hotel itself is real and you can visit if you want. It’s empty and abandoned. They only have designer shops on the ground floor, but the rest is abandoned. They let us in to take photos for the game, though.”
Multiverse of Horror
GB: Are there any other horror games that you’d love to see take on dual reality gameplay?
JZ: “I think Soul Reaver, maybe as some kind of inspiration, but differently. I don’t think any franchise should do something like us. But there is a lot more to do with duality, or at least that’s done before but can be done again in a different way.”
GB: Given how popular multiverses are at the moment, are there any horror franchises that you’d love to see mashed together?
WP: “To be honest, I’m not a big fan of crossovers. It’s always something like-”
JZ: “It’s always funny. You can cross Resident Evil and Silent Hill, but only just for fun.”
WP: “That’s right.”
GB: Are there any lessons learned from the development of The Medium that you’ll take forward into future projects?
JZ: “A lot of them! Our team grows with experience, even when we start a new project there’s a lot of stuff to learn from. Even how we can start pre-production a little differently and work with publishers from the very beginning. It’s hard to choose one lesson to learn from.”
WP: “Before The Medium we were leads of other departments. So that was our first project where we had to steer a big ship. So there’s a lot of experience learned for us both there in how to ship a game together.”
GB: The Medium really put Bloober Team on the map – do you feel a sense of pressure moving on to your next projects?
JZ: “No, not to be too confident or anything.”
WP: “It’s more like an excitement. Fear will come when we’re releasing it, right?”
JZ: “But I think we have a really strong feeling about our new [project].”
GB: That brings me to my next question – what is your response to the rumours that Bloober Team is working on a Silent Hill 2 remake?
JZ: “I don’t understand why people don’t know that we do Pro Evolution Soccer. It’s always confused that we need to do Silent Hill or something different.”
WP: “Yeah, we can’t comment on rumours.”
GB: Would working on Silent Hill be a dream project for you?
WP: “I think I am doing it right now [laughter] but I can’t say much about it.”
JZ: “I think we’ve done one [dream project] and now we create another one.”
We would like to thank Jacek Zięba, Wojciech Piejko, and Bloober Team for taking the time to speak with us about The Medium at Digital Dragons 2022.
The fighting in Ukraine is causing families to flee their homes. Please give now to save lives and protect people in need. Donate today!
Also, make sure to check out the GameByte Shop for all your gaming needs!
Featured Image Credit: Bloober Team