I'm not sure that's how Get Even clicked into the mind of The Farm 51's Wojciech Pazdur, but it aligns the inspirations he's trying to marry in the PS4, Xbox One, and PC first-person shooter, all under the umbrella of "what is real?" The plot - which Pazdur wants to keep mysterious - explores modern themes of different realities and memory, but the play takes this blurring of the lines one stage further: The enemies you face in Get Even aren't just AI - they could be human - but in theory there's no real way of knowing. Did you just shoot an Agent Smith, or another person plugged into the Matrix? "More than ten years ago I was completely amazed by The Matrix," Pazdur told me in a recent interview, "not just because it was a great visual spectacle, but because of all the mess between the real world and the virtual world. So The Matrix was definitely the trigger for me many years ago to start thinking about a game like this, but to be honest I had no idea how to create an interesting game similar to The Matrix."
It's a concept that clearly inspires Pazdur. He talked at length about games that attempt to explore our peception of reality, about other movies that have inspired him - The Butterfly Effect is one of his favorite stories ever - and how he loves the emotional, personal narratives of the Silent Hill games, especially the first two, but he'd like mechanics "more pleasant to use."
Pazdur talked about Get Even offering a slower-paced, darker story, one that details a "personal, emotional" conflict between two people rather than two countries, or mega-corps, or whatever. Again, that's reflected by players not taking on hordes of enemies at a time; the shooting will be more "realistic" and duel-like. There'll also be investigative sections where players explore the world around them, looking for things like shifts between the realities. It all sounds hugely ambitious already, and I haven't even mentioned the real-world scanning Get Even is using to give the environments a photorealistic glaze.
Let's take a step back. If you recognize The Farm 51, it's most likely from the developer's recent work on 2012's Painkiller: Hell and Damnation, and last year's Deadfall Adventures. Whatever you may think of the quality of either game, it's fair to say they didn't look to stretch conventions. Rather than stand out from the crowd like Get Even intends to, the studio's previous work more looked to fit in with it, to compare with the AAA shooters that draw in such big sales. A change of focus for Pazdur and The Farm 51 is understandable, but is the Polish indie studio really equipped to effect it?
"The problem with Painkiller, Deadfall Adventures, or you can put any, let's say, mainstream first-person shooter there, the problem with all these games is that they're trying to be very big, or epic in terms of everything," Pazdur explained. "For example, if you look at the structure of Painkiller or Deadfall Adventures, you have a single-player campaign, competitive multiplayer, and co-operative modes, for all these games. Technically it means if you have a team of 50 people, 25 are working on the single-player campaign, 15 to 20 are working on the multiplayer, and a few on the co-op in addition. So you're doing between two to three games at the same time.
"To me, it was the biggest production overkill, because I believe these games aren't bad. From a production point of view, we were proud of what we could achieve with such a small team. But every day I saw this team separated into three projects which have nothing to do with each other. Of course they share some assets, some world settings, and that's all. Right now, I've got 50 people who are working all the time on the same game, on the same locations, on the same weapons, on the same story."
Pazdur then corrected himself - Get Even has two campaigns, but they are short stories that will take something like 10 to 12 hours to complete in total. In any case, the studio believes it can be more creatively ambitious by not trying to ape a Call of Duty or a Battlefield. That said, the one aspect that's already drawing hopeful comparisons to the bigger-budget games is the scanning technology, which takes high-resolution scans of real-world locations and transforms them into 3D worlds, such as the one in Get Even. The technology, developed by a secondary Polish company, is already being used for a military simulation, and has attracted the interest of the medical industry, the movie industry, and of course other developers and publishers in the games industry.
Before you ask, yes, Get Even will support Oculus Rift.
So, where does Get Even go from here? We've yet to see gameplay footage, let alone play it - the game isn't due until 2015 - and that'll help us provide more clarity on The Farm 51's ambitions. As for the studio itself, it wants to maintain its creative focus by keeping the project as independent as possible, although Pazdur concedes publishers and distributors will likely be involved further down the line. Kickstarter's an option, but Pazdur said that may be likelier for the tech rather than the game itself. Also, he admitted a Kickstarter campaign would require The Farm 51 to divulge more than it's prepared to just yet.
"The game, at the current stage, is a little too early to present it properly," Pazdur said. "The main problem of Get Even is we'd like to keep some things mysterious for players, we'd like to not reveal too much."
Which is fair enough, but the Polish studio must also know many will be waiting to see if Get Even can walk the talk. To borrow a line from The Matrix, "No one can be told what Get Even is. You have to see it for yourself."