Saints And Sinners: Retribution is a Surprise For The Team And The Fans

I recently sat down for a hands-off preview event for Saints and Sinners Chapter Two: Retribution. Chapter One is one of if not my favorite VR games. However, I really wanted to sit down with someone from the team to talk about Chapter Two after the event because it just looks so good. Thankfully I was able to sit down with Mark Domowicz, project director for Saints and Sinners Chapter One and Chapter Two: Retribution.

Saints and Sinners 2 bar

Justin: So before we talk about Chapter Two, Retribution, I wanted to touch on the studio’s feelings about how fan reaction was to Chapter One.

Mark: Yeah. You know, it’s actually, to be very honest, a little bit of a surprise the game did so well. And it continues to do so well. I guess we never talked about this. But it’s doing better in its third year than it did in the first year. It did better in the second year than in the first year. So I don’t think anyone was expecting that. I would even venture to say that. So it’s turned out to be a bit of a milestone; title for VR. But even that was sort of a little bit of a journey. Because just to give you a little story that I tell folks sometimes. Going into the holiday season, we were going to ship the game on January 23, 2021.  I was frankly depressed because I was like, this game isn’t good. It’s got all these problems, we have to release it in January, we’re out of time, and out of budget, it’s just got to go out the door the way it is, and it’s not going to be good. That’s depressing, especially after you’ve spent so much time on it. You have a lot of heart and soul into it. And so frankly, I was that whole holiday season. I’m just like really depressed about it. There are bugs, features weren’t working, blah, blah, blah. So I come back in January. And it turns out that the technical team, some folks working a little during the holiday, had fixed some of these bugs. One of the bugs, in particular, just tendrils everywhere, causing a lot of seemingly different causes, but really just one shared root cause. Long story short, the overall experience was much better when I came back than it was going into the holiday season.

There was a great sense of relief. And I was like, Okay, this game is gonna be good. But even then, I wasn’t in a place where like, this is a great game, and it’s been a journey even then because it took a while, and we started to see like the first hints of that were when you put it out there, and you would go on Reddit, and all the VR subreddits were like fifty-fifty Saints and Sinners posts. Fans took to it, and you’re talking about it. And then we started to see the reviews. I remember. I remember, frankly, one high-profile news outlet that has been around for a long time gave us a nine out of 10. And I got emotional. And you know, that, to me as a lifelong game developer, that was a bucket list thing, and it just happened. 

Saints and Sinners 2 combat

Justin: kind of speaking to how it’s evolved a little bit. When you were doing the roadmap for Chapter One, with the insane amount of like free updates and the quality of life, things over almost three years. Did you know that there would be Chapter Two?

Mark: No, it took a long time to realize that a follow-up made sense. Two years later, it wasn’t obvious that that was the next step. But, you know, given the success that we’re seeing, it made sense, clearly to support. Obviously, we put the title out there out of the gate. You want to support it out of the gate. But just the continued support, we’re like, people are really digging it. I bet it would be great to put out here in Arcade mode, right? And that’s how we got the trials. And then months went by, and people were still playing and talking about it and giving us feedback on the end game, we’re like, you know, we should put some endgame content in there. And that’s how Aftershock came to be. So we knew fans liked it, and new fans wanted more content. So it took a while. 

Justin: How long after the end of Chapter One Does Retribution take place? And is there a canonical ending to Chapter One?

Mark: No canonical ending necessarily. The time is not super defined. It’s months, though.

Justin: So, is there a sort of onboarding story recap for new and returning players, and will it include bits from the aftershock update?

Mark: Yeah, so technically, it takes place narratively after aftershocks. So guys, check out Aftershock And then Chapter Two. We are aware that for several players, perhaps most players who come into Chapter Two, this will be their first experience in the saints and sinners universe. And so, we do want this to be an experience that you don’t have to play Chapter One to get into it and enjoy. So it’s meant to exist on its own. It’s meant to not have a certain amount of presumed backstory or understanding. So that’s a use case in experience that we very much want to support, and the game does. And so to the point of your question here, Yeah, we onboard you, we tell you in some fancy presentation, what happened to Chapter One in broad strokes, and then we have another prologue, just like we did in Chapter One. And the prologue sets the stage for what you’re about to experience with Chapter Two.

Justin: I have to admit that I haven’t finished the aftershock update, but I have heard stories of if you think this is too spoilery that’s fine. I’ll leave it out. But an axe man.

Mark: No, that’s out there.

Justin: Okay, so is he related to Gerick in any way?

Mark:…..I’m not sure.

Justin: I think it was announced he was, I just can’t remember for the life of me right now if that was official or just a theory I had.

Mark: Yeah, I was like, it’s probably not the secret anyway. But I just wasn’t sure what was announced.

Justin: Okay, cool. And it gives people incentive to go back if they want to learn more about Gerick, but that’s cool. I do have to ask when you’re creating a VR game, how do you take into account the multiple headsets and play spaces and kind of just general play and gameplay routines?

Mark: It’s really difficult. It’s, it’s quite a challenge. It’s been. It’s a challenge on multiple fronts. The technical challenge is that the hardware capability range is quite vast, right? We support quest one and then the PSVR. And then also, all the way up to the most high-end PCs. So yeah. And that’s a pretty big, sort of power gap. So yeah, it would be excusable if the experience was slightly different between the two. But fundamentally, it isn’t actually that’s what’s really surprising. It was It surprised me when we did the quest versions and the PSVR versions. That’s a lot of work and requires a lot of technical wizardries, which, thankfully, we have in this company in spades. And then the physicality of logistics that our QA team has to have. Everyone has to have one of every headset and has to be aware of all the sort of like technical certification requirements for every single headset. And every controller setup has to be known, like so many tiny things you won’t even think of. Just to give you another example, the size of controllers matters with the tuning of the physicality. And if you have a system with larger controllers, they can bump against each other for some interactions. And then all these little differences come up, making it a big body of work to try and support. So logistically, it’s tough. 

Saints and Sinners 2 stealth

Justin: What has the team learned from Chapter One that they’ve brought forward for Chapter Two?

Mark: Well, I’ll say this. It was more like an internal learning thing. But when we finished Chapter One, it was a little bit to a certain degree by the seat of our pants. Everything was new, all the tooling and everything was brand new, and certain things about it were not as good as we feel we could have done or would have liked to. And one place where you really feel that is in the mission content. And so in Chapter Two, you’ll have missions that feel more elaborate, more authored, and just like bigger experiences than you did just one. So in Chapter One, there were missions, and again, this is reductionist, and it’s not as bad as it sounds on paper, but there were missions where it was literally going and get this thing and bring it back. It was dressed up. And it was fun. And other things made that enjoyable. But we did feel like we could do better. And what we saw, I would say to answer your question, is I feel like we’ve learned our own game and engine and toolset, better, over the course of new updates, new content, that sort of thing. So to give us confidence that we could do something more complicated and exciting in Chapter Two. So that was one of the big ones for us.

Justin: So what would you say is the most prominent mechanic or feature in Chapter Two that makes it an evolution over Chapter One?

Mark: Well, we’re adding new items that have new sort of user experiences,

Justin: I saw the chainsaw and can’t wait to get my hands on that.

Mark: It is the absolute poster child of that. Of course, It’s not the only one. But it was one of the big ones.

Justin: But is there a specific surprise moment you can’t wait for returning players to experience?

Mark: There’s a number of them. We won’t say anything else. But Two-thirds through the game, I think players will have a really cool moment.

Justin: I’m excited to see what that is.

Mark: Yeah. See if you feel that way. You’ll have to let me know your thoughts when you get there.

Justin: How long would you say Chapter Two is?

Mark: Man, that is hard to say. Because we’re sort of in the space where we’re getting those metrics the first time in a tangible way. So I guess officially, we say it’s 15 hours.

Justin: So if there were one thing you’d want players to kind of have in mind before diving into Chapter Two, what would it be? 

Mark: I know what I want to say. But I’m just trying to think of the best way to say it.  I hope players want to and are willing and can take Chapter Two for itself. It’s going to be a great game, but in its own right, like it’s going to make its own statement. So it’s not going to be Chapter One again, and not having exactly the same experiences in Chapter One. And I don’t think you’d want that, right? So if you want to have the same experience in Chapter One, just play Chapter One.

A big thank you not only to Mark for sitting down with me to answer some of my burning questions but to Jordan for setting it up!

While we don’t have a solid release date for Saints and Sinners Chapter Two: Retribution, you should check it out on the Steam, Oculus, or PlayStation store and watch the trailer. It’s going to be an excellent follow-up to a fantastic game.

For more interviews, features, and reviews, stay locked to DreadXP. While you wait for Chapter Two, go play Chapter One, It’s on a ton of VR headsets and has some of the most satisfying combat.