- We chatted with Deck Nine Games Director Stephan Frost about the upcoming The Expanse: A Telltale Series.
- The upcoming adventure game will take players back to the world of “The Expanse” television series.
- The Expanse: A Telltale Series launches July 27, 2023, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S and is available for pre-order today on the Xbox Store.
I first heard about the “The Expanse” novels when the series was described to me as “Game of Thrones in space.” That seemed appropriate as the co-writing collaborators – known singly as James S.A. Corey – were an understudy of George R.R. Martin some years ago, so broad epics spanning numerous novels seemed like an apt description.
Now with nine full-length novels and multiple short stories – many I’ve enjoyed quite thoroughly — and an incredibly entertaining television show that just wrapped up a year ago, it feels time for the world of The Expanse to… well… expand into next-gen gaming with The Expanse: A Telltale Series. The team at Deck Nine Games seem to be the perfectly suited to deliver on that experience.
The writers [Ty and Daniel] encouraged us to explore creating new characters and adding to the lore.
“The Expanse has a massive universe with wildly varied settings, characters, and stories,” explains Deck Nine Games Director Stephan Frost. “The writers [Ty and Daniel] encouraged us to explore creating new characters and adding to the lore. There’s a section in the game where we explore what life was like for first-generation belters that we’re very excited for players to see, and that was a lot of fun to explore and create. We have characters fans will recognize and we have some new ones that players are going to love meeting when they play the game.”
When Deck Nine initially pitched the game, Ty and Daniel liked the idea and added a few suggestions for these characters and plot points. As development continued, they would receive notes from the authors and the show’s production company, Alcon, regarding world building to make sure it all felt and looked like “The Expanse” as seen in the television series. Looking at some of the existing footage it’s clear Deck Nine Games is on the right path and have captured the hit sci-fi show — having access to its “art bible” helped.
“We are huge nerds for The Expanse, so really this was a passion project for a group of talented game developers to play in a universe we love,” Frost says. “Our cinematics team really studied the cinematography of the show, and the goal was to make it feel like a playable episode [of the show]. We can’t wait for Expanse fans to see what we’ve cooked up.”
The adventure game formula that Telltale Games has established over the years has gone through many iterations, but the core of delivering an interactive adventure game has been at the heart of every release. Part of that formula has been player choice and Frost wasn’t shy in sharing that we’ll have some tough choices in store — the selections we make will affect the last episode of the game — who lives, who dies, and various crew actions will be affected by the decisions made from all the previous episodes. Helping to land that emotional connection to those repercussions will be some very expressive and well animated characters to help reinforce that feeling of playing in world of The Expanse.
We are huge nerds for The Expanse, so really this was a passion project for a group of talented game developers to play in a universe we love.
“We are using motion capture technology that allows for some extremely nuanced performances thanks to our actors and animators, and these performances really help tell a story with heart and emotion,” explains Frost. “We’ve also added a zero-G exploration mechanic, with a much larger space to explore derelict ships while talking to members of our crew abord the Artemis. As an interactive storytelling device, it’s fun to float upside down and attach to hull walls with our magboots and get perspectives from the crew on what we’re seeing.”
Development on The Expanse: A Telltale Series started a little less than two years ago and Frost mentions that once the game was greenlit, the team wanted to really lean into what was exciting about the universe. Coming out of that planning session, everyone seemed to land on the character of Camina Drummer as one of the team’s favorites. Relative to the other main characters of the show, her backstory wasn’t nearly as fleshed out like that of the crew of the Rocinante as seen in “The Expanse.”
“We loved the idea of exploring her past to find out why she became so awesome in the show,” says Frost. “The Belt and zero gravity were more awesome parts [of the show], so we knew we had to have gameplay that felt like it was leaning into that part of the universe. When we put all that together, we needed to get approval from the book’s authors, so we pitched them the idea and they were very supportive with the direction we were heading.”
Obviously if you were going to center a game around Drummer, you would want to bring on the talented Cara Gee to reprise her role from the show — not only because her character is amazing, but doing so would bring a tremendous level of authenticity to the game’s immersion factor. As it turns out, Gee was more than willing to return to her belter roots and made herself available as often as possible during the game’s development.
“Cara was awesome to work with, 10/10 would do again,” says Frost. “When we met her, we needed to do an ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement) recording while she was filming for a TV show in Canada. We contacted a remote studio to have her come in and do some voice over work, which was in a small studio in someone’s backyard. She was extremely friendly, funny, and patient and hearing her sweet everyday voice drop into the basement for Drummer’s iconic sound was awesome to see and hear. When we were recording on set, we maintained a relaxed and positive atmosphere and she was a big part of that. No ego, worked hard, and brought great insight from her time on the show. We wouldn’t have done it without her… and couldn’t have even if we wanted to.”
We can’t wait to become part of Drummer’s story in The Expanse: A Telltale Series when it launches July 27, 2023, for Xbox Series X|S. You can pre-order the game today on the Xbox Store here.
The Expanse: A Telltale Series