Twin Mirror Interview Discusses the Darker Side of Dontnod

By Rebecca Smith, 3 months ago
Developer Dontnod Entertainment is very busy at the moment as the studio expands and experiments with different games, helped by several teams working on different projects. Prior to this year, their last title, Life Is Strange, was released in 2015. In 2018, however, the developer has already released Vampyr and the first episode of Life Is Strange 2, the latter of which will continue into next year. Not happy with just those two games, they now have a third title on the way in the form of Twin Mirror, published in partnership with Bandai Namco. At EGX, we sat down with the game's Art Director Pierre-Etienne Travers to discuss their upcoming title and how it differs from their most recent title.

Twin Mirror 4

Protagonist Sam is a rather mysterious character with a seemingly eventful past. Who is he?

Twin Mirror is about the story of Samuel Higgs. He is a reporter who has to go back to his hometown of Basswood in West Virginia because his best friend has died and he must attend the funeral. It's something very difficult for him to do because he has a funny relationship with his town. The main part of that story is that he left the town after his ex-girlfriend refused his wedding proposal.

Sam is not a very confident person, he's not doing well with other people and it costs him lots to go back to his home town. On top of that, he wakes up one morning in his hotel room and discovers that with a strong hangover, he didn't remember anything from that night and he finds a bloodstained shirt in his bathroom. From there he has to explore the town and talk to its inhabitants to find what happened.
Sam has some very unique traits. He has a Sherlock Holmes-esque mind palace and it's a skill that players have to train themselves. How does that work?

Sam's mind palace is one of the functions helping him to solve puzzles. Take the example of the hotel room. He wakes up and he has no memories at all of what's happened. What we'll do is create a version of his hotel room in his mind palace so that would become the place. What players have to do is find clues in the reality — so a mark on the wall, a phone, or anything — and he adds it to his mind palace. It constructs the scene where he's able to reorder things and re-add some things. He tries different hypotheses until he finds what's really happened. Once he's done that, everything will construct around him and it gives a vision of what happened.
There's also The Double, an inner voice that may hinder or help players. How important is this to the gameplay?

It's central. Twin Mirror's chief concept is duality. The Double is a great character. It's Sam's inner voice, so it's part of his personality but he doesn't express it directly. It's always there judging him and giving him advice. As a player, it will almost always be here to advise Sam whether to do something or not. It's not there every time, but in every major situation you will have to face The Double. You will have to either follow the way of the Double or follow the way of Sam. It will be up to the player to try the possibilities with that.
Twin Mirror Gamescom

Twin Mirror is an episodic adventure title. Will the core gameplay be like your previous title Life Is Strange or will it be different?

It's a point and click game really. The main thing you have to do is talk with people and make choices when you talk to them — that's the core element. It's really exploration, and the puzzles are there as well, so it's a culmination of the two things. There are lots of non-mandatory things to do, so there are a lot of things to see and look at, and some people to chat to even if you don't have to do it. It's really about that.
In Life Is Strange, Arcadia Bay had quite a big part to play. How important is the town of Basswood to this game?

It's central to our game. The hero spends most of his time here and all his friends are from this place. He found love at one point but then he lost it. Basswood is really a character in itself.

It was really interesting to work on that, especially as a French team, because we had no idea what it may look like at first. The process was to be really, really careful about what it would look like in real life, so I made sure every reference we picked up was based on West Virginia, and more specifically for south West Virginia. It's a place where the coal mining industry is based. Basswood is interesting because it's got a story, it's in the Rust Belt. In the past it was a successful city, but at some point the industry left and lots of people were unemployed. This is central even in the storyline and the characters you will find in the game. Basswood is definitely a very interesting place to discover.
There are a lot of similarities to Twin Peaks in both the game's name and general tone. Is this a conscious influence and are there any other influences in the game?

There is lots of inspiration. There is Twin Peaks, but there is also Fargo. The Cohen Brothers' filmography takes a big role in that too, David Lynch as well. It's not just about Twin Peaks but more about all the psychological fear in general. We've gathered lots of inspiration from all these various medias and movies and series. As an Art Director it's obviously my role to ensure that all these influences are under control because most of the things haven't just magically popped out of my head, they've come from somewhere. It's part of my job to do that, so of course there is lots of references in the game.
The trailer seems to suggest the game has a darker tone than Life Is Strange ever did. Is this true?

It's really different. It was a thing amongst the developers that they wanted to do something darker. We really like this kind of story, it's something that we wanted to show. It's really dark, there's psychological fear. There are some lighter elements, but yes, it's really dark.

After our interview, Pierre also took to the stage to give a presentation on the game. Here you can see concept art and in-game footage as he goes into more detail on some of the aspects we discussed in the interview, especially in how they created the town of Basswood, the game's influences, and Sam himself.

The game will be in three parts, three episodes. The first one will launch in early 2019. We have no information about the other episodes yet.
Rebecca Smith
Written by Rebecca Smith
Rebecca is the Newshound Manager at TrueGaming Network. She has been contributing articles since 2010, especially those that involve intimidatingly long lists. When not writing news, she works in an independent game shop so that she can spend all day talking about games too. She'll occasionally go outside.