Making Outriders: the devs on creating an RPG shooter

People Can Fly talk about the where the idea for Outriders came from, the challenges of creating an RPG, and how to make shooting feel great.
By Duncan Heaney

Outriders is a new RPG shooter set in a dark and desperate sci-fi universe - but for developer People Can Fly, it’s much more than that.

This is their first project since becoming an independent studio - and they’re taking the opportunity to create the game that they want to make. That’s abundantly clear when you speak to the Game Director, Bartosz Kmita, whose passion and excitement for the game is palpable.

We recently had a chance to sit down with and dig into many aspects of Outriders, from the original conception to getting the perfect feel.

Read on for the discussion - and then check out our recent hands-on for full details about the savage sci-fi spectacular.

Hi Bartosz. Outriders is a pretty massive project - how do you even get started on something like this?

Bartosz: (Laughs) That’s a big question because, you know, Outriders really started before we even started making it.

I’d had this idea in my head for a while, and it continued to develop over time. So by the time I met with other people to discuss it, a lot of the pieces were already in place - at least in my own mind!

I laid out this idea - sort of an intense RPG shooter - to the team, and they agreed - yes, that’s what we want to do! Of course, they then started adding own their ideas, and bit by bit, the game transferred from our heads to the computer.

(Laughs) That probably sounds a bit dramatic. But that’s the reality.


So how did you originally imagine the game?

To be honest, from the beginning, the game was very similar to what we have right now.

Of course, it wasn’t the same scale, as it is now. That’s been possible because of Square Enix - they’ve helped us a lot, put a lot of faith into the product and given us the opportunity to make it bigger, better and much more expansive.

But the original idea was for a game that was a third person shooter, was set in a dark sci-fi world, had loot, character development… all of that was right there from the get-go.

You say it increased in scope - how did it change from your original concept?

Well look, the more people that start working on your idea, the more ideas start to develop.

People Can Fly - and the whole industry actually- is full of extremely creative people. When they get involved, they have a huge impact on the direction, and the delivery of a project.

At that point, it’s not ‘my’ idea anymore - it’s People Can Fly’s idea. New ideas are added, old ideas are expanded - the game becomes bigger, and also better.


The world of Outriders is a completely original setting. How hard was it to create something entirely new?

There were challenges. Many, many challenges actually. It’s very hard to make a game, and to make a game set in an entirely new world… well, that’s even harder!

Not only did we have to create all these new mechanics, we also had to make new lore, new story, new characters.

And at the same time that was all going on, our company started to grow. We went from 40 people to 230 people across multiple countries!

So on top of the creative challenges, we now had business ones too. How do we manage the company? How do we create the timelines in production? What procedures do we need to keep everything running smoothly?

There are general day to day problems that come with working in a growing company, but we were able to successfully fix them. Now we’re in good state - and so, I think, is Outriders!

Outriders is as much an RPG as it is a shooter - why make this type of game? People Can Fly is more known for its shooter pedigree, after all.

Exactly, yeah - that is true. We feel comfortable with shooters, we have expertise and experience. But we also wanted to push ourselves and leave our comfort zone.

When we were first talking about this new project, we realised that people at the company had had a strong love for both shooters and RPGs - so we thought, why not merge these two passions?

We found that most of the key stakeholders in the project all love systemic games, you know, where you can modify your playstyle. We wanted to let the player decide how she or he wants to play.

I guess we were a little bit bored of shooters that give you only a single, defined playstyle. We wanted to make a game that lets players find the playstyle that they want - and give them the tools and guidance they need to find it.

Ultimately, that’s one of the concepts that guided us - we built RPG mechanics that would allow for a huge variety of ways to play the game.


The RPG elements go pretty deep. How did you approach that side of the game?

Well, as I said - we had never made an RPG before, so there was a lot to learn. To be honest, early in development, we made a lot of mistakes - approached certain aspects of the game from the wrong direction maybe. But that’s exactly how you learn and improve, right?

What’s more, as People Can Fly grew in size, we brought in people that have a lot of experience working on RPGs. They also helped us develop and refine this aspect of the game.

As of now, I think the RPG elements work really well and we have a great game.

I thought the loot felt particularly satisfying when I played the game. It felt meaningful, but not overwhelming. Was it had to find that balance?

(Laughs) Sure - oh very much yes! People underestimate how challenging it is to fine-tune these elements. Loot needs to be satisfying and meaningful to find - we want players to feel rewarded.

But the bigger the game, the harder that becomes. And Outriders is huge - it’s the biggest thing we’ve ever done, so you can imagine how much more work has to go into this type of thing!

It’s sort of uncharted territory for us, and it’s been iteration after iteration to get it to feel right. Lots of maths, lots of graphs (laughs). And, of course, a lot of data from people playing.


The shooting is also satisfying - which I guess you’d expect from a People Can Fly game - but how do you make gunplay feel good?

Hmm… (thinks).

I think people sometimes focus on just one thing - one element of shooting. But for me, getting a good feel is s more about more about making all the little things right.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a golden rule - you know, ‘follow these two steps to success’. There are hundreds of small elements that altogether create this perfect shooting feeling.

I mean, we’re talking everything from sound, how the camera behaves, spread patterns… I could keep going. But the point is that we’re looking for that feeling of satisfaction, and we’ll work on it over and over and over until we get it.

The various class skills are as integral to gameplay as the guns - so how did you come up with the different abilities.

Skills are interesting because the concepts for each one comes from different places.

For example, some skills were ‘imagined’, based on the world and the class. We thought what would this character do? What would be cool for them to do?

But other skills - they were devised as a necessity of the gameplay. Like, we need something that can combo well with another skill. The only rule really is that they had to be fun and satisfying.


Does that philosophy also extend to the upgrade system? It’s pretty flexible.

Overall, we wanted to give a lot of freedom to the player. We wanted to build the tools that will let their player create their Outrider and support their own particular playstyle.

So that was the concept behind all out design decisions - let’s give the player the freedom.

The problem is, the more freedom you give the player, the more complex things become. Make it too complicated, and some people could get lost, so we try to help a little.

Classes are a good example of this - by making people choose a starting class, we give them an opportunity to tunnel into the opportunities.

In the past, you’ve mentioned that Outriders has been built with ‘traditional gamer values’. What exactly do you mean by that?

I think overall we’re a little bit old-school. In a good way - there are still some good values of the past we don’t want to lose.

Things like lootboxes, games as service… I think those ideas work for some games. But for our game, we want to give a complete experience from beginning to end, and a complete story from beginning to end.

Basically, we are gamers ourselves, so when it comes to things like loot boxes, we ask ourselves: do we like these? No. So we won’t use them - it’s an easy decision.

That’s what I mean by ‘traditional values’.


What’s your favorite memory of working on Outriders so far?

You know, actually I think the real breakthrough was when Square Enix joined the project. Because that’s the point when we finally realised that the idea wasn’t just working for us - other people liked it too.

Plus having people come in with a fresh eye - that was very useful actually. And rewarding because it meant that our dream of creating our own IP was finally coming true!

Outriders launches for PS4, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Steam in 2020. You can preorder the game now:

We’ll have much more to share about the game in the coming weeks. To stay up to date with all the all the news from the game, check the Square Enix Blog regularly, and make sure you follow the game on social media:

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