Deck Nine Games (previously Idol Minds) is an independent Colorado-based studio that specializes in narrative storytelling, and the developer of Life is Strange: Before the Storm and Life is Strange: True Colors. Self-proclaimed fans of the original Life is Strange, they are currently focusing on narrative adventure games. Founded in 1997, they were originally focused on PlayStation games.
"dedicated to forging stories and gameplay into transformative entertainment experiences"
"We’re passionate about meaningful storytelling and rich gameplay. Our latest title focuses on tackling emotionally challenging themes and embracing player’s choices."
"We are a passionate and highly collaborative team of storytellers looking for likeminded creators to forge rich, meaningful stories that move players emotionally with their humanity and relatability."
"a studio dedicated to creating rich narrative experiences with a cinematic flavor"
Deck Nine Games (formerly known as Idol Minds up until May 2017) is a small, independent game developer studio dedicated to the "forging of stories and gameplay into transformative entertainment experiences." They were founded in 1997 by Mark Lyons, originally focused on PlayStation 1 games. The company's earliest hit is a snowboarding series called Cool Boarders. Over the years, Deck Nine (as Idol Minds) has worked with publishers such as Sony Entertainment and Activision.
For the three years prior to the release of Before the Storm, Deck Nine had been focused on expanding their genre to narrative adventure games. Their efforts since 2015 had been directed towards developing "StoryForge", a suite of tools for writers, directors, cinematic artists and content creators that allows them to create an interactive story and turn that story into a fully functioning narrative game. The writing tool PlayWrite integrates writing traditional screenplays and the branches and consequences found in narrative games. It allows writers to focus "on amazing characters, intriguing plots and agonizing choices" and spend more time on writing, reading and playing a story before it goes into production. Additional functionalities include scene graphs, motion capture, audio recording scripts and output to their custom cinematic tool. The cinematic tool StoryTeller is essential for creating film-like moments blending a mix of automation and easy to use controls to give artists creative command of features such as lip syncing, blending animations, emotion events, cameras and camera effects (depth of field, chromatic aberration etc.).
On May 31, 2017, it was announced that long time PlayStation developer Idol Games had rebranded and would be known from this date as Deck Nine Games. On this same date, it was revealed that the studio had partnered with a major AAA publisher (which we now know to be Square Enix). The studio rebranded due to their shift to story-driven-narrative games following their development of the new toolset called StoryForge, which focuses on "meaningful storytelling and rich gameplay" and would function similar to the engine used by Telltale Games. StoryForge allows the integration of "motion capture, narrative choices, music and more". The development team consists of motion capture professionals and cinematic artists who will be working 'in house'.
Before the Storm is the first narrative adventure game Deck Nine Games has worked on in collaboration with publisher Square Enix and the original Square Enix team that participated in the development of the original Life is Strange (including Game Designer Alejandro Arque).
Webb Pickersgill, Before the Storm's Co-Game Director at Deck Nine Games has commented that:
"I love working with the actors to bring the characters to life. My directing style requires my actors own their characters. I make sure they deeply understand who they are playing, and the details of the life they are living. We do workshops to explore the body language and refine the details that make what that character unique and interesting. Then, we explore each scene and often discover what blocking and body language works the best for each moment."
In May 2020, an article published by Shacknews talked about the storytelling in the franchise up to this point. In this article, it is learned that, while DONTNOD were busy working on Life is Strange 2, needing adequate time to build a new story and characters, Square Enix wanted to bring in another studio to develop a side entry in the franchise. To resolve concerns about giving a new studio some responsibility for a now-franchise that fans cared so passionately about, Square Enix gave Deck Nine Games a test to "conceptualize and execute a narrative-driven scene in line with Life is Strange's aesthetics and themes." The scene Deck Nine chose as a "testbed" was the junkyard scene where Chloe smashes things in anger before arriving in front of the car her father was driving when he was killed.
Zak Garriss stated in an interview over the question if Deck Nine Games would consider doing a second season, "loved working in the Life is Strange universe and would consider any opportunity that felt right to return to Arcadia Bay, for sure.”
Chris Floyd stated in an interview over the question what's next for Deck Nine, "Well, we're really excited to make more cinematic adventure games. That's really what we're built for. Beyond that, I don't know that we can speak to the future at this point. We're just not ready to talk about it. We've still got episode three to finish and our farewell bonus episode to complete and release. So, we've got plenty on our plates right now."
On September 20, 2018, it was announced that Deck Nine Games and Square Enix would continue their partnership to work on a new yet-unannounced narrative project. Following that announcement, the studio was looking to recruit new programmers, artists, writers and designers to "work on the next generation of narrative video games", including previously laid-off Telltale Games staff. On February 8, 2019, Chris Floyd confirmed that the studio managed to hire some of the laid-off staff from Telltale Studios.
During the development of Before the Storm, several people from Square Enix joined the development team at Deck Nine:
- Alejandro Arque (Game Designer, Square Enix)
- Toby Palm (Community Manager, Square Enix)
- Scott Blows (Brand Manager, Square Enix)
- From 1997 to May 2017, Deck Nine was known as Idol Minds.
- Life Is Strange: Before the Storm is the Deck Nine's first narrative adventure.
- The name "Deck Nine" comes from a storytelling game from the 80s.
- The company became widely known for their physics engine in the 2007 game Pain, which was the most downloaded game on PlayStation Network in 2009.
- A Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) with the Deck Nine Games team took place on August 10, 2017.
Presence at E3 2017
Presence at Gamescom 2017
- Life is Strange Before the Storm Gameplay Demo - IGN Live E3 2017
- Before the Storm - E3 2017 Q&A
- E3 Coliseum A Look at Life is Strange Before the Storm
- Waypoint Article (August 3, 2017)
- Game Informer Article (August 22, 2017)
- Red Carpet Report Interview (December 14, 2017)
- Deck Nine Gasmes Visiting San Francisco In Search Of Storytellers (September 22, 2018)
- Telltale Games (September 22, 2018)
- Official Website
- PlayStation Developer Idol Games Rebrands as Deck Nine Games, Partners with Major AAA Publisher (dualshockers.com)
- Live Reddit AMA (August 10, 2017)
- From Chaos: The Aspirational Storytelling of Life is Strange (May 13, 2020).
- Life Is Strange Before The Storm - Season 2 update from Deck Nine Games will delight fans (December 17, 2017)
- How 'Life is Strange' landed in Deck Nine's hands
- ‘Life Is Strange: Before the Storm’ Dev Making New Square Enix Game (September 20, 2018)
- Twitter post by Chris Floyd
- Deck Nine Games' website, technology section
- Reddit post by /u/denetii
- Open Up For A Strong Dose Of PSN Stats (January 26, 2009)
- Announcement post