Some years ago, I asked Ken Levine to give me a suggestion about my next guest on the podcast. He said you and Raf should get along well. At the moment, I couldn't believe that he's talking about Raphaël Colantonio. The man behind the very first RPG of my life, Arx Fatalis. I must have been around 11 years old when I played that game. Vaguely I remember being afraid of the rats and creatures of the dungeons, and yet, I was enjoying it a lot! It felt like something different and completely new. That was the first time that I was introduced to Arkane Studios and a guy called Raphaël "Raf" Colantonio. I was so young, and I couldn't believe that video games were made by people, aren't they some other real worlds that just… exist?!
Imagine telling that little kid these games are actually made by people, and one day you're going to meet the man who made Arx Fatalis. Many years later, I interviewed Raf, and I immediately realized the reason Ken introduced us. He loves games, he loves music, and he does both of them. That's my formula for life, and this man is doing them both in the best way possible.
Friends of Raphaël Colantonio know him by the name of "Raf" I've spoken with many great game developers around the world, and people who know him have nothing to say except stories about him being a kind and professional man. I remember checking my Instagram feed in St.Petersburgh, and someone from Bandai Namco accidentally glimpsed over my phone and saw a picture of Raf on my Instagram; he immediately said, "Oh! That's Raf; he's awesome". Indeed he is, and people of the industry know his work and personality all around the globe. Raf is one of the reasons you get to have Dishonored, Dark Messiah, Prey, and two new exciting projects. So I thought it's the best time to talk about them: Weird Wolves and Weird West.
Raf loves music. After departing from Arkan Studios, he's found the time to follow this passion more seriously. Exactly like his weird games of the past, he started a Rock/Electro Goth band by the name of "Weird Wolves". Raf has good eyes and ears about finding talented people and creating something visionary and different; this is where Ava Gore comes up to the stage. You hear something unique when she sings and plays along with Raf on the stage. Their songs have a world of their own. They tell stories, and they are meant to give your neck muscles the right amount of exercise.
Weird Wolves is the band behind the music of Weird West. Raf mentions that "This time I wanted to be heavily involved in the music creation with Weird Wolves." The dedication and focus on the music in this game is exceptional. The designer and the director of this game is also the composer of it, and Ava Gore is not only involved in this task, but she is also voice acting in Weird West too. This combination and approach is a promise, a unique take on the weird west genre. I've never seen Raf this much excited about a project, but what is so special about Weird West and Weird Wolves that makes Raf and Ava this confidence?
I remember talking to Raf a few months ago, and he told me that he's coming back to make games. He said something very interesting about this comeback: "Sometimes you have to distance yourself from what you love, in order to understand how much you love it."
In our recent conversation, he talks about leaving Arkane Studios: "It's a little bit like a relationship that has gone for too long. I love Arkane, I'm so proud of it, It's like my baby. I started this in 99, and now it's 20 years old actually, and it has its own life, and I'm not going to try to control it." Raf's new energy is understandable when you compare Arkane Studios with his new baby, WolfEye Studios. He talks about the difference between the two studios, "When I left, It was really because I felt that I had gone as far as I wanted to with Arkane and then I had some other desires that I knew I couldn't accomplish at Arkane because Arkane was so defined as a specific type of company at this point. So specific about the size...it was around 250 when I left." Raf was even considering leaving the game industry forever: "I needed to distance myself, I didn't even know if I wanted to make games again, and I certainly didn't want to make one more AAA game."
But suddenly he found a way to form a brand new company to make his biggest game yet: "So I left, and it came back, it was in a different format. Small budget, small teams, but still big games. you'll see what we do with Weird West, it's a huge game, it might actually be my biggest game, but it doesn't take 200 people to make. We make deliberate choices about the visual style, so it's very beautiful and special without taking too long or assets so you can make the entire game with four artists."
This conversation was a very emotional one for me. In my last public chat with Raf, he was talking about not making games again, but in this one, he's excited about his new company. Honestly, he's one of those rare people who can't help but make weird games, like nothing you've ever seen before, and I assure you that Weird West is something you've never seen before. In this episode, we go deep into the history of Weird Wolves, Ava Gore, WolfEye Studios, and some exciting new information about Weird West.