Life is Strange: True Colors was the first game in the series to be released as a full package – sidestepping the episodic release that the franchise was built on. Now, the developers can’t imagine going back.
During an interview with Rock Paper Shotgun, senior narrative designer Philip Lawrence explained why the team wanted to try something new with the Life is Strange sequel, which was still separated into distinct chapters, but released as a single package.
“I can’t imagine we’d go back to the episodic model,” said Lawrence. “The reaction has been very positive. I think we were careful to keep that episodic structure, because that does seem to appeal to players. That’s all part of the DNA of Life is Strange. As you can imagine, it was a decision that was talked about and agonised over quite a bit, but I think on reflection it was the right decision.”
Life is Strange: True Colors was released in 2021, telling the story of Alex Chen – a girl who develops a supernatural ability for empathy. It was the first full Life Is Strange game from developer Deck Nine, who took on development duties from series creator Dontnod (after creating spin-off Life Is Strange: Before the Storm).
Although the game stepped away from episodic releases, it nevertheless retains the nature of TV storytelling, unveiling the plot in a structured way:
“It’s partly about player choice,” said Lawrence. “We were careful to structure a story around the five chapters, so that structurally it feels very in line with earlier Life Is Strange titles.”
Structured more like a limited series than a video game, Life is Strange: True Colors gives players the opportunity to binge the entire game or take it at their own pace. “So, if players want to step back, reflect and have those watercooler moments with the community, they can,” Lawrence added. “But for those who would be frustrated by the episodic release pattern, we save them from those frustrations.”
Think of it this way – Life is Strange: True Colors is more like a box set than a weekly episodic. Making it this way was apparently a freeing experience, with the structure of the story becoming secondary to the story itself. And that meant developers Deck Nine could concentrate on getting the plot right.
Screens – Life is Strange: True Colors
“I think from a creative point of view, it allowed us to concentrate on developing the story, getting the scripts into a great position, and then producing a game,” he explained. “So, we didn’t have that awkwardness of the episodic model where you’re rushing to production on the scripted content for the first episode and then moving on to the next one. Approaching it this way is a lot more coherent and organic, I think.”
Whether or not we find another Life is Strange game on its way remains to be seen. But even if there is, it looks as though it’s unlikely to return to the old episodic format.
Ryan Leston is an entertainment journalist and film critic for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter.