Without a shadow of a doubt, Quantum Break is one of the most anticipated game releases of the year, and here we have an exclusive interview with Cam Rogers, game writer, narrative designer and the author of the electrifying spin-off novel Quantum Break: Zero State. He tells us about game-to-novel development, the science behind the time travel theory explored in the game and his favourite ways to procrastinate.
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What did you enjoy most about writing Quantum Break: Zero State, and what was most challenging?
Firstly, the obvious plus: unlimited budget.
It’s sort-of a rule of thumb with game development that what’s expensive for Hollywood is cheap for us, and vice-versa. Want a building to explode? Fine. Want two people to kiss without their faces passing through each other, their lips looking weird or eyeballs stretching out the back of their heads? Give us a couple of months.
I got to orchestrate some tight, tense scenes that get balletic with volatile environments and time flow that slows, stops, scratches back and forth and/or rewinds with varying degrees of predictability. That was fun.
Then there’s character. Game development has a lot of moving parts and sometimes there’s just no space to explore certain avenues. It’s not often that, as a writer, you get a chance to go back and give time to things you wish had received more attention. I got to do that with Quantum Break: Zero State. We get to know everyone a little bit better.
The most challenging thing was getting it in on a tight schedule, to good quality, while telling a story that was fresh and new while still being relevant and familiar. If I’d come in from outside the project I think it would have been a big ask, but I’d been involved with QB from day one. I had a memory palace of the story as it was at a certain stage through development, and took elements and ideas from that to attach to the frame of the story as it stood close to release.
Ideas spawn ideas, compatible ideas stay, cause-and-effect fleshes things out and before long the story is telling itself. All I had to do was prune it as it went, more or less, keeping the focus tight on what mattered.
What's the most bizarre thing you learned while researching Quantum Break: Zero State?
That a couple of Australian physicists in 2014 published research that seems to resolve the Grandfather Paradox, confirming sizable parts of research done on the subject in 1991 by David Deutsch.
Bottom line (and I’m quoting from Scientific American here): “…the paradoxes created by [closed timelike curves] could be avoided at the quantum scale because of the behavior of fundamental particles, which follow only the fuzzy rules of probability rather than strict determinism.” Meaning it looks like we could all, possibly, go back in time, run Grandpa over with a Honda Civic, and not create a paradox.
Chase it up online. It’s pretty interesting.
What's your favorite word?
Sesquipedalianist. It’s a long word used to describe someone who uses long words.
What's the first book you remember loving?
I think it was my parents’ set of World Book encyclopedias, which they bought because I’d read the kiddie encyclopedia cover to cover about four times.
What's your favorite method of procrastination?
In terms of straight-up shut-off-the-world, pull-the-curtains procrastination? Probably videogames, though I try to avoid binges these days. It’s really easy for me to fall into a hole if I’m working on a game design that really has my attention. Same with photography and photo processing. My reading dropped off while working on the Quantum Break project, but I’ve picked it up again and am loving it in ways I haven’t since I was a kid. The Expanse series got me back into it with a vengeance.
Planning travel is another one. I can’t relax unless I know there’s a ticket waiting – even if it’s a year away, that’s fine. Part of growing up in Australia, I think, is a need to know there’s a way off the island. That it’s not an if, but a when. If I can, this year, I’m going to throw a dart at a map and see what happens.
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Cam Rogers is an author, game writer and narrative designer. He has worked on Quantum Break and has written for The Walking Dead franchise. Neil Gaiman himself has hailed Cam as “a writer of real assurance and vision.” Born in Australia, Cam currently lives and works in Helsinki, Finland.