We chat with the writer and director of BURN, an upcoming game that lets you control a pop superstar who may or may not grow tentacles…

There’s little question that Australian studio Convict games is unconventional. After all the team (which is led here in Oz but comprised of employees around the globe) made their grand debut with STONE – which followed the plights of a hung over Koala detective trying to piece together a wild night while searching for his lorikeet lover.

But with STONE behind them, Convict Games is now taking a stab at the music industry with its brand new title BURN. Pitched as a pop star tragedy, you’ll control the life of Finnish superstar Nina BURN (we can only assume the capitals are for dramatic effect) over three acts from her debut at 17, establishment at 24 and climax at 27.

Designed as an interactive story, you’ll be able to choose key dialogue and life choices for Nina that will eventually lead to her to one of 16 outcomes. Some will see her to change the face of pop music as we know it. Others, can apparently see her start a cult or… grow tentacles? There’s no joke here. That was in the actual press release.

Watch the trailer for BURN below:

According to the game’s writer and director Greg Louden, the game will act as a character study and reflection of how far someone can go for their art and the cost of fame.

“I am a huge music fan across all genres,” explains Louden. “…I have huge respect for musicians and I feel they are incredible artists. So I always wanted to do a music-focused interactive story to honour that about a band or artist and the challenges and opportunities it brings.

So with BURN I have taken influence from all of my favourite past and present rock stars, artists, celebrities, directors and more to create, Nina BURN. The world’s biggest pop star whose music changed the world, and as a player you can decide how you react from interviews with her where you decide how she reacts. I think each person will see their favourite or least favourite artist in her. Will you be humble? Will you let the fame go to your head? Will you listen to the devil? BURN explores all of this.”

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But seriously, what about the tentacles? Unfortunately Louden remains tight-lipped. “I don’t want to reveal too much, but in the trailer it says “Become a monster”, we mean that in more ways than one. Tonally I’d say rather than “ridiculous” it’s more of how dark or light can the story go. You can do worse than creating fans of tentacles that in my eyes…”

Louden himself is no slouch in the video game industry, having just recently worked on one of the PS5’s biggest exclusives, Returnal. But it begs the question – with a small team and even smaller budget, what kind of mind shift do you need to employ when developing a game down under?

“I have been very lucky to work on big projects and smaller projects throughout my career, Louden admits. “…It is definitely a paradigm shift, and the scale of big games like Returnal to smaller projects like BURN at Convict Games are vast. BURN will be made by 5 people, bigger games are often hundreds of people. BURN is also written, directed, marketed and programmed by myself, so I need to balance my ambition with what’s capable of me.”

BURN isn’t set to release on Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One and PC until 2022, but we remain incredibly intrigued all the same. Until then, we’re, ahem, BURN-ing to know more.

For more on this topic, follow the Gaming Observer.