Lexicon Exclusive

“Digital Underground”

The X-Files Lexicon’s interview with the Deep State creators.

Conducted via e-mail 2/19-4/10 by Matt Allair.

Back in December we were approached by the creative staff at Creative Mobile, and Brandon, who were working with FoxNext, to offer input about their interactive game, The X-Files: Deep State. We were given a certain kind of access by reviewing the clues to one of the scenarios, and offering our thoughts. It is common knowledge that IDW publishing has branched out into their own gaming offers, beyond the published comics, so, it is interesting to see outside venues Creative Mobile stepping into the world of The X-Files. It was also evident they wanted us to spread the news about the game, and it seemed fitting to take the opportunity to ask them some questions. Brandon as the focal point man, but has been nothing but patient and gracious for these many months, this interview is a combination of talents that worked on the game, and offered up their thoughts…

Matt Allair: How did the idea for the game, and it’s story points, come about?

Deep State Team: The basic premise for the game was developed with several people locked up in a room with a blackboard, laptops and notebooks, until everybody came up with some breathtaking ideas. Oh, and we made sure to have a lampshade that would project an “X” on the wall – that is essential!
Jokes aside, you always aim to captivate the audience with your narrative, get their attention right from the start with something spectacular, mysterious, yet also relevant enough to the time we’re living in.

Much like the original series was very much in the zeitgeist of the 90s, exploring fears, hopes and ideas that spoke to regular Americans (and people all around the world). The zeitgeist has evolved, of course, there are still fears ripe for exploration: is your government secretly plotting against you? How can this new technology be used – for good or evil? Should you take drugs in the middle of a desert to meet an alien crane from Outer Space? Those are some very fascinating questions…

Matt Allair: Does the game relate to the present mythology of The X-Files, and what is unfolding in season eleven, or are they separate entities?

Deep State Team: Being fans of the show ourselves, we of course tried to make our game feel as if you’re playing a new season of The X-Files. We picked a number of story threads from the series’ mythology and tried to spin them in ways that would hopefully feel meaningful and surprising to the fans.
The game exists in the same universe that The X-Files characters created by Chris Carter exist in. The story in the game fits between seasons 9 and 10 of the series, but it has further consequences that match the events unfolding now in season 11.

Also, we may or may not have hidden some devious Easter eggs here and there!

Matt Allair: We now know that Langley appears in the Deep State game, how were the other characters from the series incorporated? What was the decision process? Was there any input from Chris Carter?

Deep State Team: Creating a narrative in such a complex and detailed universe as The X-Files is, of course, in many ways a collaboration between the producers of the series and narrative designers. Few things in this world can match the excitement (and the responsibility) of writing such iconic characters. You try to get into their heads, understand the emotional weight they are carrying from the show and basically just “hear” their voices in your head.
It’s the X-Files universe, so players are going to meet well-known (and well-feared) characters from the series along the way. 

Langley is a perfect game character because he is both smart and really funny. We think a lot of fans would actually like to interact with him, and the game gives them the chance. Of course, the players eventually run into Mulder and Scully, and Skinner plays an important part later on in many investigations.

Matt Allair: The game gives the freedom to “Pump” their characters? Was this an important goal from the beginning of the development of the game, to let the users have choices?

Deep State Team: At its core, The X-Files: Deep State is an investigation game, and those always work best when the players feel like their decisions, thoughts and conclusions matter. YOU are uncovering the mystery, rather than the mystery just unravels on its own.
Every now and then, based on what you’ve learned and/or believe in, you will have to make a moral decision – which have serious ramifications that might echo throughout the entire game. So yes, it was always paramount for us to give players some freedom to express themselves as they navigate this new conspiracy.
Playing as Mulder or Scully may seem to be cooler but that also means that the player is stuck within the limitations and the archetype of these two (not mentioning it would be problematic to magically bring Mulder and Scully back into the FBI in a period of their noted absence.) Instead we wanted to give all the players an opportunity to choose their own fate.

Matt Allair: What challenges did you face during the development of the game? Was it more important to honor the wishes of the series creators, or the fans?

Deep State Team: Fans were always the most important thing for us, the reaction we got from them proves that we succeeded - the game really offers a continuing X-Files experience.
The X-Files has a very well developed and complicated mythology. It was a challenge incorporating that mythology into our storyline. We tried to adhere to its visual style and its themes. The alignment system, based on the worldview of Mulder (“Believer”) and Scully (“Skeptic”) is an important part of the narrative.
We have made great efforts to stay within the framework of the canon established by Chris Carter and the X-Files writers. A fun challenge was to think up our very own monsters of the week. We also faced a big challenge deciding whether an FBI agent is allowed to use swear words when dealing with all that alien mess they end up in. Damn it, we’re still struggling with that one!

Matt Allair: Will all of the situations and locations in the game be based in America? Or will there be situations that are expanded to scenarios overseas in Europe, Russia, or China?

Deep State Team: This is something where we’ve tried to follow the example set by the show. The X-Files is set primarily in the US (even though a lot of it was shot in Canada) and explores themes and urban myths relevant to American culture.
But, as the scope of the show expanded, they started reaching out to new lands and new mythologies.

If you’re an FBI agent who’s trying to save the world from an alien invasion, you’ve got to actually see the world you’re saving.

Matt Allair: Were you a fan of The X-Files before you got involved with the project? Do you have favorite episode or favorite season, or characters??

Deep State Team: The majority of our team (and office) were X-Philes growing up, so working on this project has been a dream come true for many of us.
It’s easier to say that what’s left a lasting impression on us is the serene atmosphere, Mark Snow’s iconic theme, episodes and stories that could be both scary and hilarious, suspenseful and inviting. We got into the psyche of some really unique – and sometimes uniquely deranged – characters and monsters. Often those monsters and characters reflected our inner-selves with humor, humanity and sympathy.

Matt Allair: How are the writers getting their ideas for the game? News sources, Personal Experiences? Do the team writers have a favorite scenario developed for the game?

Deep State Team: All writers get their ideas from the one and only source: their own madness. No, seriously, all of the cases are based on something some of us thought, or dreamed, or wondered about at one point. Scary, right?

Typically there is 3 criteria points that should be met: the idea should be good, the plot should take place in interesting locations from a visual point of view, and in the season there should be episodes of different genres: technical thriller, mystical horror, science fiction comedy, etc..

Julia: As for my favorite scenario, I love ‘Lights from Above’, because it’s a dark comedy, and I love dark comedies, and ‘Devil Ex Machina’ because it’s really scary.

Ilya: I’m a sucker for technothrillers and stories about manhunts, so the two cases I was extremely excited to write are In Corpore Sano in which you track down the origins of a mysterious virus, and The Leper King in which you find yourself at the wrong end of the American technological arsenal. Don’t fear the Reaper, folks!

Matt Allair: Were there outside games from competitors that inspired the development of Deep State?

Deep State Team: For fans of strong narrative driven games, as well as those who like hidden object, puzzles, mystery and investigation games - we’ve taken the best features from many of these genre leaders and woven them into a really pleasing experience in The X-Files: Deep State.
Even though it may seem that those ideas were right there on the table, Deep State was the first mobile game that combined both adventure, rich cutscenes, mini-games and the deep narrative, somewhat even close to the RPG model.
Honestly, we are very flattered to be compared with TellTale games and other genre-defining studios, because those are AA PC/console companies with much bigger staff and budget (and 3D!) - and it turns out a small Estonian gamedev studio can compete with that on mobile.

Matt Allair: If the game is referencing known monsters from The X-Files series stand alones - are there any new monsters created just for the game that users might not be aware of yet?

Deep State Team: Why, the opening case of our game is titled The Monster! But who exactly this monster is, and whether or not they end up in the clutches of an even bigger monster? Well, you’ll have to play the game to find that out! 

Matt Allair: Since the game has been released, I have seen some comments from fans, both positive and critical, mostly about the user interaction within Deep State, will there be further revisions, adjustments? Will the development of the game continue to evolve?

Deep State Team: We closely monitor the feedback from players, and have seen a lot of really fantastic responses to our game. Getting to actually meet the fans and hear their experiences in person during the X-Fest convention was just amazing!

So yes, we encourage you to reach out to us on social media or elsewhere with your thoughts, critical or positive, and we will keep on working to deliver you the game that you want to play, share, explore and return to!
Also, we wanted to say that we’ve already been working on new features and improvements based on feedback from the fan community since we’ve launched the game. The first of these improvement updates will be coming out soon!

Matt Allair: Will Deep State continue as an on-going interactive series after the broadcast of season eleven ends?

Deep State Team: Absolutely! Our team has been very busily working behind the scenes making bug-fixes and improvements while the 2nd Season is in development.
The next update we’re releasing has a lot of improvements, including a much requested  ‘Case Pass’ and ‘Season Pass’, so players can play through the game without any restrictions on energy or timers.
We’ve had a lot of fans asking when Case 7 / Season 2 is coming out. Right now we don’t have a fixed date, but once all the art has been completed we should have a better idea of when it’ll be ready for release.

Matt Allair: Have you been pleased by the media critical reception to Deep State thus far?

Deep State Team: On the whole, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. We’ve been interviewed by a number of outlets and podcasts, had some really great coverage in the mainstream press and even had a guest article on Venturebeat!
To be honest, we received a few uninspired and emotionally charged reviews by game reviewers who were neither fans of casual hidden object games or free-to-play mobile games… C’est la vie!
But, if you read the reviews and comments from our players, X-Files fans and fans of Hidden Object games - they love it and ultimately that’s what counts (just look at our ratings on the App Store and Google Play).

We hope X-Philes will continue to gave the interactive game a chance. We hope to see Deep State expand into interesting directions. We wish them the best.

You can learn more about the game by visiting their website, or visit their Facebook, Instragram, Twitter, Tumblr, or Pinterest accounts.

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