I had the opportunity to do a written interview with Krzysztof Szczudłowski (Lead Game Designer) and Ola Sondej (Head of PR and Communications) about Serial Cleaners. This is the sequel to Serial Cleaner, which was released in 2017. That’s why there may be slight spoilers for the debut in the interview.

Below is the trailer for Serial Cleaners released for the Future Games Show:

Tobias (Game-Releases): ‘Can you please describe short what Serial Cleaners is about?’

Krzysztof Szczudłowski, Lead Game Designer: ‘Serial Cleaners is a single-player stealth action game telling a story of four eccentric crime scene cleaners working for the mob. They meet up in the back of a funeral home which serves as a front for their gory business, to celebrate the passing decade and reminisce about the good old times. Each of them has their most bloody and memorable 90s stories to tell. The player will act as each character, looking at the world through their eyes, using unique abilities, and solving problems (not puzzles!).’

Tobias (Game-Releases): ‘How important is it to play the first title of the series Serial Cleaner before this game? (As The Cleaner Bob is one of the playable characters)’

Krzysztof Szczudłowski, Lead Game Designer: ‘The difference in gameplay between both games is big, and while I encourage you to check out the original Serial Cleaner, you can enjoy the sequel without doing so. Bob Leaner – the original protagonist – makes a comeback as the main character, which means we do reference events from the first game. However, these are presented in an accessible way for newcomers, so the context is always clear. On top of that, Bob’s new crew doesn’t know much about him, or each other really, which is also helpful. Hence Serial Cleaners without the added “2”.’

Tobias (Game-Releases): ‘Are there any nods or eastereggs for players of the first game?’

Krzysztof Szczudłowski, Lead Game Designer: ‘Quite a few notable characters from the first game do make a comeback, including Bob’s mom and the infamous Echo Killer. The events of the past cast a long shadow over Bob and his partners in cleaning, but – aside from the narrative influence – there’s plenty of room for tongue-in-cheek. We had a blast digging back into the first game, so who knows!’

Tobias (Game-Releases): ‘What was the reason that you shift the setting from the 70s to the 90s?’

Krzysztof Szczudłowski, Lead Game Designer: ‘By today’s standards, the ‘80s in games seems like a well-established timeframe approached from so many angles, we didn’t feel like reinventing the wheel and falling short of players’ expectations. At the same time, the ‘90s are special for the dev team, as many of us were growing up in those years. Pop culture back then was brimming with influential music, films, and video games, a lot of which we adore to this day. Making a ‘90s themed game was also a challenge since there are few iconic titles set in the decade. We had to figure out our own aesthetic. Skipping the decade makes for an interesting narrative framework as well – a lot of important events in Bob’s life took place during that time, some of which he’d rather forget. Even though the beginning of the ‘90s seems like a fresh start, Bob’s past will eventually catch up to him.’

Tobias (Game-Releases): ‘What was the reason to have more than one playable character in this entry?’

Krzysztof Szczudłowski, Lead Game Designer: ‘It all started with adding the “s” to the title… I’m kidding of course. In the previous game, Bob had a serious gambling problem which led him down the complicated and dangerous path. In the sequel, we wanted Bob to face his issues in a therapeutic session of sorts, make him talk to people who also went through quandaries on their own. Multiple perspectives proved to be a way to see the criminal underworld through different lenses. That’s why we threw four cleaners into one room, set the time to New Year’s Eve 1999, and made them celebrate the decade of their best stunts. All that was left to do was coming up with three distinctive characters to accompany Bob. That’s how we ended up with Psycho, Lati, and Vip3r. We also wanted to spice the gameplay up, and four different characters lead to four different playstyles.’

Tobias (Game-Releases): ‘How does the shift of a 2D perspective to an isometric 3D one change the gameplay?’

Krzysztof Szczudłowski, Lead Game Designer: ‘It yields better visual clarity, which proved to be an issue with the more stylized art of the first game. Also, we can play with the verticality of our levels, a feature that we always wanted to have but, until now, was way too cumbersome to develop. Now our characters can traverse three-dimensional space where corpses and criminal evidence are scattered all over the place. This often leads to amusing encounters with AI and a number of unexpected “problems to solve”.’

Tobias (Game-Releases): ‘The world of Serial Cleaners seems to have more details then the one of Serial Cleaner. Is this purely aesthetic or is it important for the gameplay?’

Krzysztof Szczudłowski, Lead Game Designer: ‘Nearly every baseline gameplay mechanic of the first game was expanded upon in some capacity, allowing for more ways to explore the game world, clean crime scenes, and interact with the environment. Making this change was a no-brainer since we tend to draw a lot of inspiration from systemic games; Hitman series, immersive sims, and the likes. Systemic design at its best creates room for player creativity in problem-solving, which often leads to unpredictable (but mostly effective) solutions. Interacting with game objects – switching lights, making noise, or moving obstacles around – can alter the behavior of AI (patrolling policemen in case of our game). Besides, four different playable characters add four different ways of approaching similar problems. Wherever Vip3r would hack into the local network and switch the light off, Bob would slide over there using bloodstains and do it manually. Similarly Psycho would rather body slam through the police force instead of looking for a way around (which is more of Lati’s thing).’

Tobias (Game-Releases): ‘How does your experience working on Serial Cleaner influence your work on this title?’

Krzysztof Szczudłowski, Lead Game Designer: ‘It was invaluable, to be honest. We used to say that the first day of making the sequel was worth a year and a half of the first game’s production. When developing Serial Cleaners we often face issues we already have a solution for. This lets us spend our time improving upon things rather than looking for ways to make them work. We could finally revisit a lot of ideas that previously went “in a drawer”. Then there’s the general intuition sharpened over the months of playing the previous game over and over again. We know what players enjoyed and what didn’t work out as we imagined (which now we can fix). Besides, Bob grew on our team. We used to wonder how his life would turn out in the end. Now we can put it into practice.’

Tobias (Game-Releases): ‘Do you know, if you want to release the game on the new console generation (PS5/Xbox Series) or will it be released on PS4, Xbox One, Switch and PC like the previous game?’

Krzysztof Szczudłowski, Lead Game Designer: ‘Short answer – yes. We can’t wait to put the new generation of consoles to good use, whether in terms of performance or gameplay (looking at you, DualSense). Releasing Serial Cleaners on Switch might prove to be more of a challenge. We bend over backward trying to make the game look great, but some of the more complex graphical features, like blood, are inherently tied to the core gameplay. That said, a large part of the first game’s success is owed to Switch users, which is one of the reasons we care deeply about the platform.’

Tobias (Game-Releases): ‘Do you still intend to release it this year? If so then do you have a release window?’

Krzysztof Szczudłowski, Lead Game Designer: ‘We’ve just moved the launch date to early 2022. With that added time we can dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s and deliver a great game.’

Tobias (Game-Releases): ‘How important is the contact with your community for your team?’

Ola Sondej, Head of PR and Communications: ‘At this stage, we’re actually just building our own community. We’ve developed games with potentially different targets which means different communities. But! We’re growing, and having a group of people who give us feedback on our games and work is priceless, so we’re working towards leading a good conversation on our Discord channels, as well as on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. We also have a very good experience in working with members of our community on game localisations for their respective territories.’

Below I have some screenshots for you:

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Hi, this is Tobias. I'm currently studying and I like to spend my free time cooking and gaming. I prefer games with a good story, long-term motivation or a couch co-op mode.

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