Interview with Mirror’s Edge Catalyst Narrative Director Christofer Emgård
Recently, I got the chance to catch up and speak with Mirror’s Edge Catalyst Narrator and DICE developer, Christofer Emgård, for an exclusive, one-on-one interview. Early 2016 will see the long-awaited follow-up to the Mirror’s Edge franchise with the reboot Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. In addition, Emgård is serving as the writer for the Mirror’s Edge: Exordium comic book series from Dark Horse Comics, which is a prequel to the new upcoming game. That comic is also set to launch this month. Here is what Emgård had to say on the upcoming Mirror’s Edge reboot and comic, which will feature the backstory and origin of franchise protagonist Faith Connors.
Jeffrey – How did the deal come up to also write the comic to tie into the game?
Christofer – Transmedia and all that stuff is happening all the time these days, right? So it’s – I think when we were talking about what else we could do for this world and the game — and for the game, I created a larger backstory and a larger world where the game could take place in – and figured it would be cool to find more ways to show more of that world, more of that backstory. So, we were in talks with Dark Horse for the art book, and that expanded to also the comic book series.
Jeffrey – Set the stage for me. Where do we pick up with Catalyst, and where does the comic story tie into that?
Christofer – Catalyst more or less starts with Faith just being released from a juvenile detention facility. She’s spent about two years there, for reasons more or less unknown. Things will become more clear as you play the game, but we leave some stuff open as well. We focus mainly on going forward instead of going backward. The comic, Exordium, ends with her ending up in that facility, so it tells the story why she ended up there.
Jeffrey – So this facility is a juvenile detention center?
Christofer – Sort of, yeah.
Jeffrey – I almost got the sense with Faith she was trained to be this child soldier and assassin. Am I off track there?
Christofer – A little bit off track. More…that place was more intended to turn her into a stand-up citizen of this world.
Jeffrey – Do you have an idea of how Faith acquires her very particular set of skills?
Christofer – I do, I do. We actually don’t go that much into that part of the background for these storylines, but her running especially comes from her upbringing. So that’s a big part of it.
Jeffrey – I’m very intrigued by the city of Glass and what we saw at the E3 presentation. What is the city of Glass? Is it a new city? Is it a pre-existing city that was rebuilt?
Christofer – Glass is a city we made if you will. This world – Faith’s world – has existed for some time. Before there was Glass, there was another city belonging to a different nation, and they had a different set of ideals and a different way of life. But that nation ended in horror or flame, more or less, and the world that Faith grows up in came in this place. Part of the authorities’ plan for this world is to remake it, to make it beautiful – to beautify tyranny is what we usually call it. Beneath the city, you’ll find what’s there from before, and above it is Glass.
Jeffrey – Do the authorities have complete, sovereign control over this city?
Christofer – Yes.
Jeffrey – So it’s like a corporation taking control of the government?
Christofer – We call it the Conglomerate, so it’s like a group of corporations.
Jeffrey – It’s like how America already works.
Christofer – There are…similarities laughs.
Jeffrey – As the narrative director, how much input do you get on how the world will translate visually into game form?
Christofer – A lot, actually. I’m lucky to get to work closely with all the console parties and the art director and everything else, but there’s also cross pollination in a way. They come up with something, and I incorporate it into the narrative. When I came aboard, we knew that the city [of Glass] would have to be a beautiful place. And so how to build the lore to support that beauty, that’s been part of what I do.
Jeffrey – A game like this is huge. It’s completely open world. The lore and the mythology of a game like Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is very deep. So do you have to write that all out? Do you have a full Mirror’s Edge bible?
Christofer – Yes, there’s a lot of lore. You won’t get all of it in the game. You will see some of it in the comic. You will have some ways of presenting some of it in the game. Some of it we’ll save for other things that might happen. But when I do these things, I like to really build up that world beforehand because it makes whatever happen in that world more plausible. It’s a sort of Lord of the Rings approach if you will.
Jeffrey – Do you get to get in there and write the dialogue, or do you have staff that writes the dialogue to fill things out?
Christofer – I’ve actually done this entire game myself. So it’s been a lot of work laughs.Jeffrey – So the game comes out in February. We’re a few months out from release. When did you originally first start work on Catalyst?
Christofer – I started work on Catalyst about two and a half years ago. I started out, more or less, first of all just bringing up the overall story. What would the story be about? What are the main beats? There was some stuff there from before when I came aboard. So I incorporated that into whatever narrative I wanted to tell. And then, from there, I started building the world and defining these corporations, for example the City, the history of the City, and the other cities in this country that they live in and so on. How things work out and all that kind of stuff. And then from there, the story.
Jeffrey – What can you tell me about the head of the Conglomerate?
Christofer – In the game, you’ll face off against Gabriel Kruger. He is the CEO of Kruger Sec, which is the largest security corporation in this world. They have the contract to handle security for everyone in this world, everybody and everywhere.
Jeffrey – So they protect us, right?
Christofer – They protect us, exactly. Very benevolent, if you will.
Jeffrey – Sounds like we are playing as the bad guy with Faith then?
Christofer – A little bit Laughs. Of course, he has his motives. He has his drives. But what he represents is the opposite way of life of what Faith represents and what she wants to do.
Jeffrey – This game uses the Frostbite engine, right?
Christofer – Yeah.
Jeffrey – What was it like when you started getting footage back for the game, and then seeing finished footage for the game?
Christofer – It was so gratifying. The combo of doing the performance capture with the actors, and then from there, bringing that data into the game and then seeing Faith came alive. When we finished that cutscene for E3 for example, that was when Faith started coming alive for real. That was very, very satisfying.
Jeffrey – When you are writing narrative for a video game, do you write out the gameplay segments? Because sometimes when you are playing a game, story is delivered as you are playing and navigating around a level.
Christofer – I see what you mean, yeah. Not to that level of detail. The way I like to work is I want to give the level designers a lot of leeway. So I usually provide them with a framework for a mission, like the overall storyline for a mission. Like, “She needs to meet this person. Or this event needs to happen.” Whatever proceeds [after] that is up to them.
Jeffrey – Will Faith have a romantic love interest in the game or the comic?
Christofer – Uh, we – let’s not reveal anything about that.
Jeffrey – Can you tell me about the art book for the game?
Christofer – There will be an art book. It’s mainly focused on art. There will be some lore in it, but it’s not a text heavy book. This is mainly a visual companion.
Jeffrey – So, are there plans for a season pass or DLC for the game?
Christofer – There are plans, but I can’t get into them right now. … There will be post-launch support, but exactly what it is, I can’t get into.
Jeffrey – When we’re done checking out the whole Mirror’s Edge experience, first Exordium then Catalyst, what do you want readers and players to take away from the experience?
Christofer – I want them to think a little bit about the world we live in right now would be cool. If I could get anybody to think about that, that would be very interesting. And the other of course is, I hope they will leave this experience wanting more.
Jeffrey – Thank you so much for your time Christopher. I was blown away by the footage at E3, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.
Christofer – Great to hear; thank you.
Thank you to Christofer Emgård for taking the time to speak with us. Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is due out on February 23, 2016 for PlayStation 4, Xbox one and Windows PC. Issue No. 1 of Mirror’s Edge: Exordium, written by Emgård, hits the shelves on September 9.