Papers, Please creator Lucas Pope on industry suitors, dropping the ‘indie’ label and what’s next

Papers Please

Papers, Please creator Lucas Pope has told us that he has turned down lucrative offers to fund his next game and build a larger studio, instead preferring to continue to work alone.

Pope picked up the best Strategy and Simulation gong for Papers, Please at the BAFTA Games Awards this week, adding to the game’s growing list of honours. His profile within the industry has skyrocketed since the game’s release last summer, and it has not just attracted the attention of critics and the public – we asked Pope whether he is getting interest and offers from big platform holders and other developers, too.

“Yeah, something like that has happened,” he replied. “One of the funny things about me is that I work best by myself, so when someone says ‘let’s give him a load of money and a whole team and we can make something great’ then it doesn’t work for me. I built Papers, Please with almost no money so I’m not in a position where I need money to do something that I enjoy.”

Pope is still figuring out what kind of game he wants to make next. A sequel to Papers, Please is not on the agenda, and it won’t be a game which takes years to develop – Pope says he has limited patience for doing the same thing for too long. “I worked at Naughty Dog for a bit and one of the reasons I left was that I wanted to do something different,” he said. “And even when I work on my own games I have kind of a limit on how long I can stand something by myself.”

Papers, Please took up over a year of Pope’ life by the time it was released – and he certainly won’t be returning to it. “As far as my limit in terms of how long I can maintain interest in something, I’m at the end of it for Papers, Please,” he says.

We awarded Lucas Pope’s ‘dystopian document thriller’ a 9 in our Papers, Please review last summer.

Pope is still working out what form that next game will take. Nothing concrete is planned at this point other than a change in genre. “On a high level I’m not quite sure what it’ll be but I know that on a low level it’ll be something quite different to Papers, Please,” he says. “You know, Papers, Please is a certain type of game and the games I made before…maybe the theme was similar but the mechanics were very different. So I think I would like to try very different mechanics again, to experiment.”

The style of play will be different, then, but the process behind whatever Pope’s next game turns out to be will be the same. “With Papers, Please I got the story, the setting and the narrative from the groove of the gameplay so I’m going to try and do the same thing again,” he told us. “So I’m going to work out the gameplay I think is fun and from there build on it.”

Alongside games like Gone Home, The Stanley Parable and Device 6, Papers, Please was among a strong set of indie nominees at this year’s BAFTAs. Perhaps, says Pope, it’s time we stopped categorising games as ‘indie’ or ‘triple-A’.

“To be honest yeah, I feel [these labels] are a little redundant,” he said. “The thing about games and what people call ‘indie games’ is that they are ubiquitous now. There are alot more people making alot more games. And a lot of those games are very successful, so the categorisation of indie games and triple-A is kind of dissolving a little bit. It’s not important that it’s ‘indie’ – it’s about the people making the game and that it’s a personal game which expresses something important.”