Reflector’s Unknown 9 aims to create a big universe across video games, movies, and immersive theatre

Last week Bandai Namco Entertainment Europe (BNEE) announced that it had acquired Reflector Entertainment along with its subsidiary Reflector Interactive Productions from Lune Rouge. Bandai Namco has been publishing non-Japanese games like Twin Mirror, The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan, and Project Cars, and the goal from BNEE is to develop 50% of its content outside of Japan. And Reflector Entertainment is working on an ambitious universe, Unknown 9, with stories spanning across books, graphic novels, video games, movies and more.

Last month, Reflector Entertainment released the teaser trailer for its upcoming video game, Unknown 9: Awakening, which will be available on PC and next-gen consoles. It’s a cinematic trailer that teases an Indian setting and a young girl with extraordinary powers.

Synopsis: Raised on the streets of Kolkata India and haunted by visions of her own death, Haroona struggles to understand her mysterious innate abilities to manipulate the unseen. A mentor soon helps Haroona hone her gifts, teaches her to access the mysterious hidden dimension known as The Fold and propels her on a journey to unlock the mysteries of this new realm.

Reflector Entertainment is founded by Alexandre Amancio and Lune Rouge in 2016, and they and their team of 120 employees aim to tell stories spanning across different platforms (transmedia), with the first book of a trilogy by author Layton Green now available to read. The first episode of the podcast and the comic book series are also available.

Check out our interview with Reflector CEO Amancio below. It has been edited for length and clarity.

Can you give us the rundown on Reflector Entertainment and Unknown 9?

Alexandre Amancio: Reflector is a transmedia studio. Unlike most media companies, which tend to identify themselves first with the medium they produce, Reflector identifies itself with the story worlds that it creates. So with the world, the universes and the characters, we think of each individual medium almost like a different manifestation of that world that we can then play. It’s like sections in an orchestra – almost – to create a symphony that is unfolding the story of the world.

So it’s quite a novel idea. I think that the concept of transmedia has been around for quite a while. I don’t think anybody’s done it quite like the way we do it. People tend to still focus on tentpole products and then they treat every other single medium almost like a supplement. The way we do it is we really look at each medium like they’re our lead product. We give just as much love and attention to each product. And the other big difference is that we really make all of the different narratives complementary, so each of them is self contained. But when you start putting them all together, you get a broader, bigger picture of the whole unfolding story world.

What’s the timeline like for Unknown 9 in regards to the platform releases?

The whole timeline of our of our worlds will last for about a year. We break down our narrative cycles in something that we call a story cycle. So a story cycle will last more or less a year, and it’s the combination of all of the different products that we’re going to be launching that are part of one single meta story. Think of it almost like a season in a television show. Instead of just being a season of television products or a series of episodes, it contains a lot of different mediums. Our story cycle, again, will start this fall. It’ll last for about a year, and in that story cycle, we’re going to be launching a novel trilogy, we’re going to be launching a comic book series, three seasons of the podcast, and loads of digital series and content.

We’re also developing a triple A video game, and we’re developing a television series. Those two products are things that we’re planning later on in the story cycle definitely. Everything is sort of leading to that, so the narratives, again, are all interconnected. It’s a cool way of telling stories. Let’s say you have consumed different products than I have. I’ve read the novels because I like novels, and I listen to all the podcasts, and you’re more of a comic book creator and you’ve read the comics, and you’ve been on the web and consumed a lot of our digital content. So your perspective on the story is going to be different than mine, which means that when we chat about the IP, or the universe, we’re going to have different perspectives and different bits of knowledge. This in turn, essentially encourages debate and theories about what’s going to happen, which is exactly the intent of why we’re designing it this way.

As for your background, you’ve done big stuff like Assassin’s Creed. What are your thoughts on Ubisoft’s upcoming Assassin’s Creed Valhalla?

Haha. I mean look, I’ve known that it was in the works for a little while. I think the franchise has evolved tremendously since the last one that I made. I’m more of an old school Assassin’s Creed fan. I like the ones that are more based on the deal with the actual order of the Assassins and that are more classic, if you will. I think it’s becoming more of an RPG-like title, which I guess is a natural evolution for the series. I can’t judge it before having played it, but I certainly will play it and I’m very much looking forward to playing it. I very much like Odyssey and Origins. I love Origins.

What can gamers expect for Unknown 9: Awakening?

The game is going to be a strong narrative focus game. It’s going be the first game that we’re ever producing as a new studio. It’s been built by an amazing team of veteran developers that come from Assassin’s Creed, Batman series, Deus Ex, Far Cry, and Watchdogs. This is literally a veteran team of all of the different triple A titles that come out of Montreal from Ubisoft to Eidos. So yeah, expect something that has more of a small infinite feel.

The last game I made at Ubisoft, Assassin’s Creed Unity, we had about 1000 people working on it across 10 studios. For me, when we got to that scale, the job changes. Your job as a creative director on a title that has so many different moving pieces and people, it becomes a different experience than working on a smaller, more intimate title. What I wanted to do with Reflector was go back to making smaller human-sized games with human-sized teams. It will definitely have more of that feel than something that one of the major companies like Ubisoft would pump out with hundreds of people working on it.

With quarantine, your plans for those live immersive experiences have been put on hold. Do you still have plans to do that later on?

Humans are social animals, and games are great for that. You can connect with people even when you’re far away. The mainstream seems to see games a lot of times as something that isolates people. I think that games are evolving towards being more of a social experience than what was previously true in the industry. You’re still sitting at home connected with somebody through the Ethernet.

I think that people meeting in person and people being able to occupy the same space is something that is intrinsically human. If anything, what we’re going through now is showing how it’s really starting to affect people. So I’m a strong believer in having people get out of the house and meeting. Obviously, we need to do that when things are safe. It might take a little bit of time while we find either a vaccine or some medication that can help us, but I think that it’s going to come back strong. I think people are going to crave getting back into social situations, into a room with a lot of people and just feeling that energy. I believe that is going to bounce back, and I think that the immersive live experiences are still something that’s definitely worth exploring. Obviously, not until people are safe, but once we get there, and we will get there, I think it’s important to keep that in perspective.

What was your inspiration for doing live experiences?

We did the original experience at the McKittrick Hotel. I know the people that run Sleep No More. It was definitely something that has been on my radar for quite a while. I think that sort of interactive experiential theater stuff is fantastic. I think it’s pushing the envelope on that sort of stuff. I think it is fascinating. I think audiences crave that idea of role playing in the real world but within a structured environment.

And then we worked to create this experience. We worked with a company called Company P. It is run by Christopher Sandberg, who I think is one of the top people in terms of experiential stuff, in terms of LARPs. He’s an award-winning, experienced designer. He’s done stuff with Tim Kring, who created Heroes, and he’s done stuff with Joss Whedon. So Chris has been a partner and a collaborator with us since the beginning.

He and his team are the people that we work with to create what we were going to show at South by Southwest this year. And by the way, everything we created for South by Southwest isn’t lost. So it was already designed to be something that we could ship and export and replicate elsewhere. So all of that stuff is right now sitting in crates, and we’re just waiting for the right moment to reveal it to the world. I think it’s something that really pushes the boundaries of experiential theater and immersive experiences. And I certainly think that it’s something that when fans actually get to see it, they’re going to react very positively. I think it’s going to blow their minds actually.

For more information, you can visit https://www.unknown9.com/.

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John Nguyen
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Assassin, scoundrel, head honcho.