friends rage and bloom
Image Source: DON'T NOD Studios

Lost Records Bloom & Rage Interview: Don’t Nod Discusses 90s Nostalgia, Music, & Choose Your Own Adventure Books

Speaking to the minds behind the new narrative adventure: Bloom & Rage

After the success of Life Is Strange and DON’T NOD Studios’ other narrative adventure titles, players will be excited to learn of a new female-led game in the same genre. Bloom & Rage is the first in what will hopefully be a full Lost Records game series which brings some recognizable elements and some innovative features.

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We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to interview some of the team ahead of its release, as well as catch an early preview of the next game trailer. The trailer is enriched with 90s nostalgia and we get to see more of the friends Swann, Nora, Autumn, and Kat. Swan Holloway is our protagonist with her trusty camcorder in hand… Will this play a big part in the gameplay? Let’s find out.

swann holloway rage and bloom
Image Source: DON’T NOD Studios

Twinfinte’s Rowan Jones has been speaking to Producer Luc Baghadoust, and Creative Director Michel Koch, with DON’T NOD managing director Frédérique Fourny-Jennings.

Rowan: Judging from the sneak peek at the trailer just then, and the snippets we have seen since Bloom & Rage was announced, we can see this game has a real retro 90s feel. As someone who grew up in the 90s, I was so excited to see some recognizable throwbacks. What made you choose the 1990s for your setting?

Michel Koch: I think there are a lot of answers for that. One easy one is that we grew up in the 90s and we wanted, when we started to work on the game, to draw on our own memories. All of our previous games are about teenagers and we had already been dealing with nostalgia in our games.

Going back to the 90s was something that was appealing for us. It is the aesthetic of what we remember from then, and it’s not like it is a fantasy setting but it is old enough for the new generations to find something interesting about it. Like, it’s weird, ‘What is this alien technology of using analog tape recorders or VHS tapes?’ That no one knows what it is any more because we can get everything on Netflix or whatever. We found it an interesting setting to go back to.

dangling legs rage and bloom
Image Source: DON’T NOD Studios

Rowan: It is really weird thinking about it now, that we managed to live our lives without smartphones, no internet, no social media. Setting the game in the 90s is especially smart since Gen Z and Gen Alpha have been growing up and really enjoying that retro feel and fashions at the moment. Bloom & Rage will appeal to a lot of people, especially those of us who have played Life Is Strange and other Don’t Nod Studio titles.

Michel Koch: It is interesting what you said about having no iPhones etc as this is a big part cinematically of Bloom & Rage. A big part of the game is about friendship as Swann, the main character, tries to find a space among a group of new-found friends. How will she navigate through that, who will she get closest to, who will she align with more than the others? Since we are setting the game within two timelines, we will be showcasing how different it was to be with your friends with no mobile phones, no internet, no Instagram and almost no relationship to your own image.

The camcorder will play an interesting part. Having a camcorder in the 90s was sometimes the very first time we ever saw ourselves on TV or in pictures, whereas today we are always taking selfies or seeing ourselves on social media. Back then it was definitely a rare event to see ourselves on TV or a screen and we love to use this contrast between the two different eras. From very modern day with all-digital things, and the past with mostly analog and a very different way to communicate and have a relationship with ourselves and others.

character rage and bloom
Image Source: DON’T NOD Studios

Rowan: Speaking of the two timelines, we saw the game is going to be released into two parts. Will we see these two timelines separated into the two parts or are they going to be melded together throughout both chapters?

Michel: Yes they will be melded together. I mean, there are two parts to this answer but yes, it is really important for the timelines to be melded together. We will be alternating between the two timelines, we will be starting the game as the adult version of Swan. She is 43 in 2022 and she is going to a reunion evening with her former teenage friends that she has not seen for more than 27 years because, you know, at the beginning they made a promise to never talk to each other again.

As you start to meet them and rediscover them in the bar, we really want to focus on creating the weird link of finding people from your past who you have lost in a way. How do you reconnect, and as they connect we will jump back and forth between past memories, actively making choices, and almost rewriting the story. The core game structure is to intertwine those two timelines and play back and forth with the present and past. Making choices in both timelines will allow you to recreate the group’s story, redefine who’s aware of what really happened, and why they promised to never see each other again. I’ll let Luc explain about the two-part release.

character 2 rage and bloom
Image Source: DON’T NOD Studios

Luc Baghadoust: So, the release will be in two separate pieces just like Life Is Strange was five episodes but here it is two episodes. The story is created to be these two parts and we want to have not too much time between the two episodes. It is very important for us that people, when they complete an episode, they have time to talk together and discuss about what they expect the rest is going to be. If the break between two episodes is too long you can lose the momentum so we want these two parts to be quite close.

Michel: Creatively there is a debate of course about if episodes are good or bad but we really like to create a break in the story. It also creates a natural way for the player to think ‘Oh maybe this is a right time to stop playing and reflect on what happened. They can then wait for the second part and just have time to reflect on the story and the characters, what has happened and who they are before going back and seeing what happens next.

I think sometimes taking things a bit slow is interesting rather than binge-watching everything until it’s done and finished and you almost forget the characters. Taking a bit of time is a good way to make sure that you can feel like a part of the group yourself and that those friends you see in the game are almost your own friends. So the game will be separated into two parts: one called Bloom and the other Rage.

in the woods rage and bloom
Image Source: DON’T NOD Studios

Rowan: I noticed music plays a huge part in Bloom & Rage, as it did in Life Is Strange, and in my opinion, a soundtrack can really make or break a game. What musical influences have you interwoven into this game in particular?

Michel: The music you heard right at the beginning of the trailer is a song that has been written and created for Bloom & Rage and will be featured in the game. For this game, music really is important, especially since we are dealing with the 90s, with that nostalgic feeling. I think nostalgia is a lot of things: it is visual, it is a mood, it is how you remember the sunlight on you face or something from our holidays. But it is also music in a way, like when you are thinking, sometimes you might have a soundtrack for your own memories. So we really wanted to create a nostalgic soundtrack, something that would feel right and fill in the gaps between 2022 and 1995.

Rather than creating a soundtrack that only sounds like the 90s, we wanted to create a soundtrack that feels timeless and that is why we found artists linked to the dream-pop genre. These are songs that feel like they could be from the 80s or 90s but bring a music mix and production values that feel very contemporary and with an increased sound quality. We aren’t ready to reveal the name of the artists yet but there are names and artists that we love and are creating tracks that we hope will resonate a lot with players.

singing rage aand bloom
Image Source: DON’T NOD Studios

Luc: Like you said, that is the key to a lot of the games we make, so like with the Life Is Strange games we will have some licensed tracks and we will have music composed especially for Bloom & Rage. And as Michel said, we have songs now. In Life Is Strange we had only instrumental music, great music by Jonathan Morali, but here we have full songs complete with lyrics. The track you heard in the first trailer will feature a lot and will play a special part in the game and will be related to the experience.

Michel: As Luc said, we are also licensing some tracks, specific tracks from the 90s, and we are licensing some Riot Grrrl tracks on top of the ones created directly for the game. Riot Grrrl will be a part, although not a core part, but it will be part of why those girls are bonding together as they are creating a strong friendship link. They are meeting each other over this kind of music and it will be an important part of the color of a lot of scenes in the game.

Rowan: Was the idea of this friendship group consciously based on a lot of the movies we saw as we were growing up in the 80s and 90s? Like, Stand By Me, Goonies, Breakfast Club, and that sort of thing?

Michel: *laughs* All of those, yes. Stand By Me is a favorite of both mine and Jean-Luc Cano, another Bloom & Rage writer, and a lot of those like The Breakfast Club and other 90s movies that we grew up with. When we were first drafting the story of this game, it was the very beginning of the pandemic and there was this feeling of losing connection, in a way. We had all the lockdowns and we weren’t able to go to the bar with our friends, and it pushed us toward this story because it was a moment in our society where we were missing that connection and a link due to the isolation that we felt. So it is a blend of that, I think, those 90s movies and the friendship stories we loved, and what was happening in our society when we were working on the premises of the game.

rage and bloom purple pit
Image Source: DON’T NOD Studios

Rowan: So will this be a stand-alone game or will we have an open-ending and perhaps have a second installation?

Michel: This will be a stand-alone game in the sense that there will be a full story with an ending… But we will have some leads of where we could go next. As you have seen, the game is called Lost Records: Bloom & Rage so this is the first entry in what we are trying to create as a bigger Lost Records universe. Since we are published by DON’T NOD we are committed to making sure we can think ahead of time, of what we would like to do again with the characters if we have the opportunity to do so. We are showcasing those characters and this is one of their stories but we already know where we can go when we go back to the universe. Either by using the locations or characters, or a blend of both, and continue to tell other stories.

Some of our inspirations for that is rather than thinking of direct sequels, it is more about the sort of thing Stephen King does in his books. He brings back characters and locations from side stories; if you have read The Dark Tower, he has another book Hearts In Atlantis where he takes one main character from The Dark Tower Books and makes them the main character of this book. They end up as two different stories that are linked but you can enjoy the stories independently and that is what we are trying to create. We are trying to build the foundations of this project by creating characters and locations that we can continue to reuse in different stories.

Rowan: Ok, so we might reach out into other decades, go further back in time? Maybe figure out the story of somebody’s mom or grandma?

Michel: Those are good ideas! It is too early to tell where we would go but those are definitely strong possibilities. And of course, it will depend on the players and their reactions but we will have deep foundations to make sure we can continue to tell the stories of those characters and around the characters, if the will and the needs arise.

holding hands rage and bloom
Image Source: DON’T NOD Studios

Rowan: How similar is Lost Records: Bloom & Rage to previous titles like Life Is Strange in gameplay and mechanics?

Luc: I would say yes, the core experience is pretty similar to Life Is Strange. You navigate through an environment, you have these dialogues where you can choose your answer and have access to different branches depending on what you say. But also we tried to improve the mechanics regarding giving more agency to the players. We can’t tell you exactly how, but this is what we have achieved in this game.

Also, the camcorder you saw in the feature will play a very important part in the experience. It’s linked to the story and the character, and different aspects of the gameplay. So, like we did with Life Is Strange 1 and 2 with interactions with the brother and rewinding time, they were different but with similar DNA, here it is going to be the same thing. We will have the core DNA but with specific features that are linked to the story and character.

Michel: The thing with the two timelines is it allows us to push forward the choice and consequence mechanics which, as Luc says, the DNA is the same. We are, at the core, making an adventure game where you have a lot of agency over what your character is doing and saying, how you interact with other people or objects but now, having the two timelines really allows us to play with those. What you choose to do in the past will reflect and make things change in the present, and even how you tell your story in the present makes some change in how the past was evolving and what happened in the past.

So it is still kind of the same mechanics of the past of choosing your own adventure but we try to renew it by giving it a different point of view with the timelines, adding the camcorder and giving more immediacy, naturalism and agency to the dialogue. Hopefully, our players will feel right at home coming from our previous games, but we hope they find some new tidbits and ways of interacting with games that will feel more modern and advancing with the times.

camcorder rage and bloom
Image Source: DON’T NOD Studios

Rowan: Speaking of “choosing your own adventure,” did either of you have the Choose Your Own Adventure books? I had one that had wizards and dragons and I remember I was obsessed; which is probably why I like these types of games to be honest!

Luc: Oh yes! I think ours in France were translated from English, but I remember they were called something like ‘Books Where You Have a Hero’. I started reading really young thanks to these because basically these were like games and books at the same time. I don’t know, Michel, if you remember the Le Solitaire, the solitary wolf? That was my favorite series.

Michel: Yes I was thinking of this series, it was awesome. I don’t think I can even remember the first time I came across them, I think it was at my local library. Like, going into the weird books section where no one was and I borrowed one. It was really awesome.

calendar rage and bloom
Image Source: DON’T NOD Studios

Luc: What was the one you mentioned? The wizard something?

Rowan: Yeah I can’t remember what it was called but it had wizards and there was a dragon…

Luc: OK, because I remember the first one I read was from my sister who is three years older. She had this one and I started to read it and at some point, because you know you go through pages, there was this full framed picture of a spider. I hate spiders and I was dreading having to get to the page to the left of this spider. I think I found help and asked my sister to cover the picture of the spider. It was a memorable moment but I really loved that one.

Michel: Were you reading/playing some of those, Frédérique?

Frédérique: Yes, yes I did a lot and those are exactly the memories I have with these books where you are the hero. I loved it, it was just amazing. I was always kind of cheating… And often I started the books at the end, actually!

Michel: Yes! You always keep straight fingers in the pages, like ‘OK I was there… let’s go…’ looking through like that.

sat on the pier rage and bloom
Image Source: DON’T NOD Studios

Luc: My sister was cheating all the time but I was just barely cheating. Like, I was just checking there was a number at the end as if there was no number you would die…

Frédérique: You are cheating or you’re not!

Luc: I was cheating, but just a little!

Rowan: I was cheating enough so I didn’t die instantly.

Michel: Sometimes it was ruthless. There would be a page where it says “OK there are two doors, go to page 8 for the door to the left or go to page 32 for the door to the right. And then you go to page 32 and you die.

Luc: There was one where I cheated too much and it said “go to the chapter corresponding to the code you have found…” Like, there was some work to find the chapter and I had to read all the parts just to find which one was the good one. I was really frustrated with the anti-cheat feature of the book.

plugging in the amp rage and bloom
Image Source: DON’T NOD Studios

Michel: Those kinds of books, and the golden era point-and-click games, those are the core basics of the kind of game we are making but, like we said, we are trying to see how we can innovate with those, without pushing too many mechanics because we still want to remain the core of what our audience likes with this kind of game.

We want to make sure we are telling good stories with good characters, and with good branching where the player can find their own space within those games. But it is really a challenge to see where we take this formula and how we make sure we keep innovating, finding mechanics which will feel interesting and rewarding for the players nowadays and won’t feel dated. Hopefully, when we showcase more of what we doing with the camcorder and with the timeline, you and other players will find it exciting.

Lost Records: Bloom & Rage is due for release in late 2024. Wishlist it now on Steam, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S.


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Author
Rowan Jones
Rowan is a writer from Devon, U.K with a BA in Education Studies. The first video game Rowan fell in love with was Treasure Island Dizzy on the ZX Spectrum but has since progressed to bigger and better titles. She has been writing game guides for mobile and console since 2020 within Gamurs Group. Rowan has a love/hate relationship with Dead By Daylight and a completely healthy obsession with Fortnite.