Tales From the Loop is getting more ironic, don’t you think? The innocence of the 1980s is now venturing into 1990s nihilism with the role-playing game’s first expansion. io9 recently spoke to Free League Publishing’s co-founder about Things From the Flood—also based on the world created by Simon Stålenhag—to find out more and hear his team’s reaction to finding out that one of their greatest RPGs was being turned into a television series by Amazon.
Free League Publishing’s Tomas Härenstam, one of the company’s four founders, told io9 that he and his team knew Stålenhag had been negotiating with a studio for a few years to adapt Tales From The Loop into a show. They were thrilled when they learned that not only had it been picked up, but that Amazon Studios was taking the project on. Although so far there haven’t been talks between the publisher and Amazon about including specific parts of role-playing game’s world, storyline, or characters, Härenstam said they’re open to working with the studio.
“It’s interesting with an RPG. It fleshes out the world. The art books, of course, they immerse you in the world, but the RPG gives you some more concrete information. That’s been the case in the past as well,” Härenstam said, citing 1987's Star Wars: The Role-Playing Game as an example of world-building, given how that game helped shape the old Expanded Universe.
When asked what he would like to see from the Amazon series, Härenstam said he mostly hopes it stays “true to the vision” that Stålenhag originally created—something the role-playing game has tried to do as well. Originally, he didn’t say he had any specific storylines or creatures in mind, but then pointed out his personal favourite: the Vagabonds. These are refugee robots from a Russian program that are known for dressing in bright colours and wandering around in the flooded woods. And they happen to hail from Things From the Flood, the series the publisher is tackling next.
Things From the Flood is a standalone expansion for Tales From the Loop, with a complete storyline and several different scenarios. It takes the 1980s kids and turns them into 1990s teens, living in a time of “change—and disaster.” I asked Härenstam what that meant, given how that time period in the United States was more about thumbing your nose at societal norms during what was a generally strong government and economy. He told me it’s because the ‘90s were actually a major time of transition in Swedish history. They chose to focus on that perspective, since Sweden is where the original art book and RPG take place (the Nevada version was added for American audiences).
“In the ‘80s, it was a feeling of a very safe, secure, semi-Socialist country where the state had a lot of say in everyday life. There were only two TV channels: TV 1 and TV 2. In the ‘90s, everything changed,” he said. “That’s when the outside really came in and took over. A lot of privatization of previously government-owned companies.”
So basically: Cable television and the internet changed life in the country as they knew it. You can see this reflected in some of the Things From the Flood artwork, with corporate logos flying overhead on giant drones. Even if the game comes from a Swedish perspective, Härenstam added that there are some parallels global audiences will identify with. For example, the general ennui that rose during that time: “When norms no longer had that kind of sway, and it was ok to make fun of everything and not care about anything.” Sounds like a ‘90s kid in a nutshell, am I right?
While Tales From the Loop presented a big, sometimes bad government controlling access to information, akin to E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Things From the Flood gives the impression that authority doesn’t hold as much sway. Instead, people are left to go their own way, drowning in a flood of new information. This tracks with the playable characters ageing from children to teenagers, as well as increasing the threats they face (without that safety net to keep them protected). Here, the enemies aren’t funny robots or swarms of birds: They’re Lovecraft-style abominations and deadly creatures that reflect how the playable characters, now older, face graver challenges—challenges which can now kill them. That’s a new feature in the expansion.
“That changes a few things in terms of gameplay—mainly in how you view your character, and the stakes are higher,” Härenstam added.
Things From the Flood launched on Kickstarter today, and Härenstam said they expect to have a beta version available by the end of the year. The Tales From the Loop TV show is currently in development, and no release date has been announced.