If you’re like me and have been keeping a keen eye on Quantum Error‘s development since it was announced in 2020, then you’ll be chomping at the bit to play the cosmic horror action game in a little under a month when it launches on PS5 on November 3. Developed by TeamKill Media, a studio founded by four brothers, Quantum Error is the team’s second title, and I was able to chat with one of the founders and the game’s lead developer Micah Jones about its development and influences.
WellPlayed: How did the idea for Quantum Error come about?
Micah Jones: It started with wanting to make a shooter because that is several of us brothers’ favourite genre, then we knew we wanted to make the character a firefighter to honour our Dad. We wanted the regular real hero character in a bad situation, with militant groups and espionage, we’re all huge fans of Metal Gear. But then one brother is an extreme Lovecraft fan, so we all agreed to take the idea down the cosmic horror road. Lost is our favourite show and we wanted to bring those influences in. If you really pay attention, we have things in the game that are hints of the cosmic horror elements and the espionage side just as in Lost you may see a book title or painting. We tried to bring in some of that same attention to detail. In the beginning, the game was only going to be first person and about half its current size, but the project just continued to grow in scope with all of our ideas.
WP: Quantum Error is a very different experience from your previous game Kings of Lorn: The Fall of Ebris. What learnings did you take from that game that helped you with developing Quantum Error?
MJ: Well, it is all related to using Unreal Engine as new game developers. We had many years in the art and creative industries, experts in photography, cinematography, and many Adobe programs as well as other artistic software. Kings of Lorn was a learning experience for us to take our talents and skills and use them in a game. There are many things we could have done better in KOL but we are also proud of the game being our very first game. Starting with a blank screen and ending up with a game that runs on a PlayStation was a real achievement. Also, with the tech constantly changing it is a constant journey of learning and improving. Quantum Error has taken over three and a half years and now at the end we are extremely proud of the game, but if we started today we could do an even better job. It just gives us more excitement for part two because we know we will constantly improve our skills and constantly learn more and be able to always one-up ourselves to deliver a better experience for our players.
WP: As this is your first attempt at making a shooter, did you take inspiration from any other similar games? Doom and Dead Space look like apparent candidates.
MJ: We didn’t set out to make games like those games but we do love those games so they inevitably influence us. We definitely got inspiration from Doom 3, we are big Doom fans, and Resident Evil as well. We think there are aspects that will remind players of those games. Our gameplay is slower than Doom and will feel more like Dead Space and Resident Evil. For the feel of the game, the goal was to achieve smooth gameplay and for character movement to be as close to Modern Warfare 2019 as possible. We worked really hard on the feel and we got really close. We are a slower-paced game so it is different, but we are extremely happy with how the game feels and moves and it has really excellent gunplay.
WP: In terms of the game’s cosmic horror elements, what were the influences there?
MJ: H.P. Lovecraft is number one, then Space Odyssey, The Thing, Lost, First Season of Stranger Things, along with multiple mythologies going back thousands of years.
WP: The game moves between a first-person and third-person perspective. How does this work? What was the reasoning behind this design choice? Were there any challenges involved?
MJ: You push the touchpad and it instantly switches from first to third. You can also press down on the left stick button to swap shoulder views in third-person. Several mechanics do force into first-person view and then switch back. Well, we are split as a team on preference between first-person to third-person and we had this cool character of a firefighter that you would never see in first-person. We knew it would add months of development but giving players the choice plus the game can be completely two different experiences depending on which view you choose, so we basically said, why not, let’s do this.
WP: Firefighters are vastly underused in video games. What made you go with this character?
MJ: Our Dad spent most of his working career as a firefighter/paramedic at various ranks so it was all in honour of him and firefighters across the world for their service. A firefighter runs into dangerous and life-threatening situations daily when everyone else is running away. A firefighter is a true hero. A good Dad is a hero regardless of occupation, so we are celebrating Dads as well.
WP: Will Quantum Error feature boss fights?
MJ: Yes, we have a variety of unique boss fights with different mechanics and strategies involved to defeat, including environmental hazards, and light puzzle-type mechanics. An example is a boss fight where you have to manage your oxygen while avoiding fires the boss can ignite, manage ammo, while the boss hunts you down. There is a horde fight that if you do not employ a certain strategy you will get spanked.
WP: Can weapons be upgraded and can Jacob unlock skills over the course of the game?
MJ: Yes, our guns have two to four stats that can be upgraded by finding firmware in the game and can be upgraded per those stats four times. Jacob does not unlock skills but he has stats that can be upgraded each four times by finding quintessence throughout the game. We also have colours to collect to change the skin on your guns and different coloured suits for Jacob.
WP: From the gameplay footage we’ve seen so far, players venture to various planets, such as Neptune and Jupiter. How many planets will players be able to travel to?
MJ: There are three planets, including Jupiter, Neptune, and Mars, a secret space place we don’t want to spoil, and a boss fight that travels through space environments.
WP: How long will a rough playthrough of Quantum Error take?
MJ: Our first playthrough was about 14 hours but that is with two brothers getting a little advice, but not looking for all the collectibles or completing all side quests. So we estimate 14–20 depending on how much you explore, collect etc…
WP: Will there be NG+?
MJ: There is NG+ and some cool secrets to unlock if you find special collectibles or complete certain tasks. Some are really fun for additional playthroughs. Some of these can make it easier to play on other difficulties to achieve the platinum.
WP: You’ve confirmed that Quantum Error is coming to other platforms but is releasing on PS5 first. What made you decide to focus on the PS5 first?
MJ: We already had experience publishing a game on PlayStation and are comfortable developing for PlayStation. PlayStation is very developer friendly and we were really excited about the features of the PS5, especially the controller.
WP: How much immersion do features like the haptic feedback add to Quantum Error?
MJ: We feel it’s a night and day difference. We played without the controller features on and it was very dramatic. With the features on you really feel as if you are actually there doing the actions and mechanics. When you add that in with a 3D audio headset (make sure your PlayStation is set to 3D audio), you feel swallowed by the environment and really feel like you are in the Quantum world. Also, having no loading screens makes a huge impact on the experience of immersion.
WP: What was the most challenging thing about developing Quantum Error?
MJ: Definitely optimisation first and debugging and testing second. Optimisation took months of tedious work and the delicate balance of giving up what we needed and keeping what we weren’t willing to let go to get the game performing consistently was the biggest challenge. Using Lumen and getting the 60fps was the source of the challenge for sure. Testing and debugging took months also – I mean we’re still testing because we are perfectionists. Pretty much all of 2023 development was optimisation and debugging.
WP: What are you most looking forward to players experiencing?
MJ: About the halfway mark in the game is something we can’t spoil but we can’t wait to see players record this gameplay and reaction. Our younger brother had to pause the game. Also, we’re really proud of the gunplay, we think it feels really good, and it’s just a lot of fun – our goal above all was for the game to be fun and perform well. Tied for these experiences it is our story. It’s very Metal Gear meets Lovecraft meets espionage but super freaky cosmic horror makes you go, What did I just see?”…and it’s just part one. This is a trilogy and is to be continued in parts two and three of our Quantum Error Series.
WP: Thanks for chatting with us. Best of luck with the game’s launch.
Quantum Error will launch on PS5 on November 3, with an early access period beginning on October 30.