What would you do if one day you received a call asking for help? Would you continue with the call trying to figure out what was going on or would you hang up thinking it was the wrong number? Imagine being constantly spied on by the government where every move could mean a consequence. If you had the computer skills to hack the system, would you take it upon yourself to do what was right and help those who were less fortunate? That world may not be too far off, but our imagination can run wild thinking about what if and how we would do things. So when I heard that developer Camouflaj was bringing their first game that is being rebuilt for PlayStation VR in an anniversary edition, I had to learn more. So I reached out and Producer, Paul Alexander at Camouflaj was happy to talk about Republique VR and the Anniversary Edition as well as talking about Virtual Reality.
Interview with Producer at Camouflaj, Paul Alexander
Welcome to THE VR DIMENSION. Would you please introduce yourself and what you do at Camouflaj?
“I’m Paul Alexander and I’m a producer at Camouflaj. I’ve been managing our Republique releases for several years now. I started at Camouflaj as an intern way back in 2012 when Republique’s first episode was still in development.”
Camouflaj has done some quite impressive things with VR. What do you think would be the top three things that people should know about Camouflaj?
“Number one would be our mission to create meaningful games. Whether it’s original properties like Republique or established IP such as Iron Man, Camouflaj aspires to create more than just idle entertainment. We want players to walk away from our games scratching their heads and asking themselves, “Wow, I feel something after all that,” and still be thinking about the game, the story, and the characters for a long time.
The second thing I’d want people to know about Camouflaj is continuity! I’ve been at Camouflaj since 2012, and despite having grown from eight people when I joined, to over 60 team members now, we’ve managed to retain so much great talent. Lots of folks who worked on the first episode of Republique are still with us. That’s really rare and special in the games industry.
Finally, you mentioned VR. We’re thrilled to be playing a part in a nascent field that’s producing a lot of interesting games and experiences. To be honest, Camouflaj’s focus on virtual reality almost happened by accident! Our early forays in VR were just experiments, and it wasn’t until we held an all-hands, team-wide VR “game jam” that we discovered the team’s potential to create great VR content. If we hadn’t taken that journey, I don’t think we’d have released Marvel’s Iron Man VR, and you definitely wouldn’t be seeing Republique VR coming to PlayStation VR.”
Your most recent announcement is of your first game, Republique that has been out for PC, PCVR, and other platforms, but now you are bringing it to PlayStation VR with the Anniversary Edition. For those that have not played the game, can you tell us about the game and Hope?
“Republique is a campaign-rich experience where players are center stage in a multilayered political thriller. It started off as a remix on some of our favorite survival horror games, and it evolved into this fearless stealth take on story-driven games that you can’t find anywhere else. Hope is the main character who the story is centered on, and is trapped in a secret totalitarian nation. It’s your job as the player to help her escape.
Republique was our studio’s inaugural title, initially developed for iOS as an episodic game. Since then we’ve ported the title to Android, Windows, OS X, PlayStation 4, and Stadia, and even reworked the title for VR on PC and Oculus platforms.”
So choices really do matter?
“There are a handful of choices in the game, but nothing like you’d expect from a Telltale or Mass Effect game. That said, we say something interesting about the idea of player choice versus the choice of the player character near the end of the game…”
What can you tell players about the stealth mechanics in the game?
“The game is a stealth adventure game at its heart, with the added twist that players can unlock powerful hacking abilities to aid Hope in her journey. Unlike the protagonists of most stealth-action games, Hope isn’t loaded for bear, so the player is sort of her sidekick, helping her escape.”
And what is new about the Anniversary Edition?
“The new addition to our Anniversary Edition that I’m most excited about is our 10th Anniversary Developer Commentaries. In previous Republique releases, we included some pretty unconventional developer commentaries; they’re literal recordings of discussions and arguments we had, that Ryan recorded on his phone during team meetings. (I think in a few of them, you can even hear our team members ask, “wait, is this going to be a dev com?!”)
We’ve kept many of the original recordings here in the Anniversary Edition, while also adding new clips that we recently recorded. We did a look back on things we almost did, things we might’ve done differently in hindsight, what didn’t make it into the game. At Camouflaj we’re all about being open and honest about game development—the ups and the downs.
For those who are interested in how games really get made, I think they’ll enjoy these a lot. There are some fun stories in there we’ve never told publicly before.”
Republique has always had a strong voice cast with the likes of David Hayter from Metal Gear Solid and Jennifer Hale from Mass Effect and Bioshock Infinite to name a few. How exciting was it to get these actors to be part of the game and will there be any new surprises that you can share about the Anniversary Edition?
“We didn’t record any new voiceovers for this update to the game, but it’s still a joy to revisit the game and hear all the great voice performances throughout the campaign. Of course David Hayter and Jennifer Hale did a terrific job, as did Dwight Schultz and Khary Payton, whom Ryan worked with on Metal Gear Solid as well.
We can’t say enough about Rena Strober’s performance as Hope, either. The way she performs Hope during our big Episode 4 twist is such a treat.”
Now, Republique came out on PlayStation back in 2013 and PCVR in June of 2020. What did you find the most surprising when making the Anniversary Edition for PlayStation VR?
“You’d think after all these years, porting a game like Republique to a new platform would be pretty straightforward, since we’ve done it on many platforms already. But bringing Republique to VR, to PlayStation VR in particular, was filled with its own technical and creative challenges. Republique is also a massive project, with tons of custom tools and systems we were able to create because of our deep knowledge of the Unity engine. Ensuring these continue to work as intended on every new release, and every new version of our engine, is a really complex technical task, but our development partners at Skymap Games have done a terrific job with it!”
What can you tell us about some of the recently recorded commentary tracks and without giving away too much, about some of the new secrets about the game’s development?
“I know Episode 4 of Republique was polarizing for fans. Some folks loved it, some not so much. We dug into our own thoughts on Episode 4 in our 10th Anniversary developer commentaries and that was a really revealing experience for all of us!”
You teamed up with Limited Run Games for a limited physical release. Do we have a release date for the physical edition and digital edition and how exciting is it to have that happening?
“No release date for the digital version or pre-order date on the physical edition, yet. Be on the lookout for news on that later this year. But it is super exciting to be able to celebrate the work we’ve done with these new editions of Republique.”
With the content for Virtual Reality continuing to grow, what would you say to someone as to why they should experience Republique: Anniversary Edition?
“The main reason why Republique was brought to VR in the first place was because Jason Rubin and his team at Oculus believed that it’d make for a great virtual reality experience. I remember the call I got from them in which they told us how amazing it’d be to translate our surveillance camera-based perspective into a VR-powered view, and how third-person games have unique quality in VR. After some initial prototypes, we totally saw what they were imagining. If anything, it made us wonder why we hadn’t thought about bringing Republique to VR sooner.
From there we partnered with Oculus to initially bring Republique to Oculus Go and eventually Oculus Quest and PC, and now it’s thankfully coming soon to PlayStation VR!”
I really want to thank Paul for taking time out of his schedule to give us a closer look at Republique VR and the Anniversary Edition.
Republique VR Anniversary Edition is coming digitally on the PlayStation Store on March 10, 2022, and as a limited physical edition from Limited Run Games that you will be able to preorder from their store soon.
In case you missed the trailer, please enjoy.