Disintegration’s tagline #RebootHumanity is pretty ironic in this age of COVID-19. It also makes it a highly relevant game, seeing as one of the ways its humanity has been impacted is via a “global pandemic.” This is along with “climate extremes, overpopulation and food shortages.” Marcus Lehto is the man behind the game. He is also one of the co-creators of Halo. He left Bungie, the studio behind the franchise, in 2012 to form V1 Interactive,the studio behind Disintegration.
We had the opportunity to be a part of a live stream via Discord that was hosted by Lehto. Here he talked through a lot of exciting elements of Disintegration and how V1 Interactive are handling creating a game in the middle of a pandemic.
When discussing the narrative of the game, Lehto obviously gets super excited; which is understandable as this story has been kicking around his head for the last six years.
Disintegration is set 150 years from now in a world that has become so emaciated that humans have needed to implant their brains into the bodies of robots. This is called “integration.” These new forms were only meant to be short lived, but a lot of the integrated found they liked their new stronger shells and decided not to change back.
Earth therefore sees a group called the Rayonne form that believe integration is the only way for humans to evolve. Humans who have not integrated are called “naturals.” The Rayonne hunt these naturals and turn them into soul less robots. These actions from the Rayonne sparked a global war which saw humans fleeing for their lives. If caught, they were, and still are, eliminated by the Rayonne.
This is where our hero and protagonist, Romer Shoal, comes in. He is one of the integrated who, along with his crew of outlaws, aims to save humanity and put an end to the Rayonne forces.
A few months ago, this narrative may have seemed deeply rooted in science fiction. But the main reason that humans in the world of Disintegration had to shed their human shells was due to a widespread pandemic. So maybe this idea of integration is not as far-fetched as it may have once seemed…
When Lehto was asked about what inspired him, instead of discussing fictional sci fi narratives, he said he found inspiration from the world around him. Lehto “Looked around (him) for inspiration” which he found in the “pervasiveness of technology and changes that are going on in the world and what happens if we don’t do anything about it.”
Lehto discussed the 45 minutes of cinematics that would be the main way of storytelling throughout the game. Players will also find lore by exploring the world around them.
Overall, Lehto is “excited for players to delve into the story” as this aspect of the game has “so much more to show” about the world of Disintegration.
Lehto “Looked around (him) for inspiration” which he found in the “pervasiveness of technology and changes that are going on in the world and what happens if we don’t do anything about it.”
Lehto describes Disintegration’s world as “grey.” Even though humanity is struggling, nature in Disintegration has managed to “come back.” From the screenshots Lehto showed us, Disintegration’s terrains are varied and gorgeous. There are the desserts, which are the home bases for the Rayonne forces, underground labyrinths and lush forests.
When asked about the way the player can interact with the world, Lehto said that missions are mainly linear and the world is slightly open. There is a focus on player freedom and therefore main missions can be replayed so that the player can try different ways of tackling missions.
Along with the Rayonne forces and the outlaw Romer, Disintegration features a cast of badass and colourful outlaws. When they first meet Romer, these characters aren’t too sure about him. This changes throughout the story by gaining each other’s trust which leads to strong bonds being formed.
One of the main ways you will get to know your crew is through conversations during battle. In the clips I’ve seen of the intense gameplay you can hear characters cracking jokes and talking about things that relate to previous missions and interactions.
I asked Lehto a few questions about characters, as I’m a big fan of narrative driven games and character development. When I asked him about these interactions, his voice filled with excitement. He is obviously extremely passionate about these characters he has molded.
Romer, who Lehto says has “a lot of depth” interacts with his team not only during battle but also in the Player Hub. This is a ship owned by a character called Wagner. He lets Romer and his crew use his vessel as their base.
Lehto explains Wagner as a “rich dark character” with “hilarious stories to tell.” In the story trailer that was shown during the live stream, Wagner greets the outlaws at his ship. Romer and his team are fully equipped in chunky battle gear with their faces masked by helmets. However, though Wagner, a natural, is wearing normal every day human clothing, his stance and vibe is just as strong as Romer and his gang. Wagner, with his dark skin and wrinkles, seems like he may be the “wise” old guy that aids Romer and his crew just as much as they aid him.
Though the majority of the characters aren’t typically human, Lehto has created each with very human aspirations. The majority of them just wish to “enjoy a good BBQ, enjoy a beer.” Therefore they are motivated by the little things that humans take for granted during peace time.
Lehto has also revealed that a number of voice actors that were used for Halo have been used in Disintegration.
When Disintegration was in its initial development phase, Lehto and two students worked for 18 months on a prototype of the game that was strictly based around real time strategy. However, over the years V1 Interactive has combined RTS elements with first person shooter machanics to form the gameplay of Disintegration. This is an interesting turn of events as Halo originally also started as a RTS but then Lehto and the team decided to change to a FPS system.
Both the RTS and the FPS systems are just as important as the other Lehto says. If you don’t pay attention and direct your crew you might as well be “fighting with one hand behind your back.” It’s imperative that you “use your units effectively” or else you “can’t proceed” throughout the missions.
Romer’s main weapon of choice is the Gravcycle. This vehicle was originally used for search and rescue expeditions but has been repurposed into a flying killing machine! It’s equipped with various weapons and armour that you an upgrade via the Player Hub. Lehto says that it is “a must” for players to constantly upgrade their Gravcycle. This can be achieved by using skill points.
Skill points can be found via salvage throughout the world in the form of “up grade chips.” The skill tree is light, but can be used to go towards cool down rates, weapon skills and ranking up your team. When asked about a looting system in Disintegration Lehto says there isn’t one as he “isn’t a fan of it.” So all salvage will all be usable and useful.
One way you can search for salvage is with the game’s ‘scan mode.’ This function will be essential in helping the player discover fictional elements, look for objectives and find health stations.
The story missions are varied, with some being aerial, whilst others relying more on stealth. Lehto describes the missions as a “roller coaster ride” which can be played on four difficulty modes.
Multiplayer will also be part of the game, with the studio talking about plans to make multiplayer functions cross platform. Lehto stresses that single and multiplayer are “two different entities” and that he will be announcing further news about the dynamics of the latter closer to release.
He does say that the V1 team are having a blast playing multiplayer together. “We set out to make a game we wanted to play…we genuinely love playing it.”
V1 Interactive and the future of Disintegration
One of the first things Lehto says at the start of the virtual presentation is that he’s disappointed this presentation isn’t being shown in person. He really wanted us all to get a hands on look at the game, to have a play and experience the world of the game first hand.
However, the world as we know it has recently changed so dramatically, and the gaming industry is obviously not immune to these changes. Lehto admits that COVID-19 has “thrown a wrench in some things.” He also said it has “slowed things down for sure.” But by the way he and his colleagues have set up V1 Interactive it seems they are well equipped to get through this.
Why do I say this? Well Lehto has said that he left Bungie due to crunch and in setting up V1 he didn’t want himself or his crew to be overworked. He also praises the 30 person team who he says is filled with “young, emerging talent” that have “great fire and energy.”
Now that the team is working from home and using Zoom and Discord to interact, it may be harder for them to step away from their computers. However, Lehto says that the team constantly “keeps check of one another” and that he “tells them to go to bed and enjoy their time with their families.” A refreshing thing to hear in the age of video companies saying that crunch is a necessary evil.
So, what’s next for the game? Well the open technical Beta which ran from the 31st of January to the 2nd of February has given the company “tons of great data.” Lehto says they have taken the communities feedback into consideration and that the game will now be a “very different experience.”
Disintegration doesn’t have a release date as yet, but V1 Interactive along with the “great support” from publishers Private Division are “doing our best to get through this together.”
Disintegration will release on PS4, Xbox One and PC sometime in 2020. Lehto says that a Switch release is a “pretty cool possibility.”