The Order is not steampunk, Ready at Dawn co-founder Ru Weerasuriya told me during Gamescom.
"It's a word that we don't use – it's the 's' word," Weerasuriya said. "We don't use that word purely because I think there's a connotation of 'steampunk' that's already been built into a lot of things out there – movies, anime, all that. That is not exactly the one we try to endear to. I think our world is a lot darker, grittier, dirtier and more real."
If "steampunk" is the "s" word, then "fantasy" is the "f" word – Ready at Dawn isn't interested in creating an exaggerated, fantastical world full of things that could never exist. Weerasuriya wants The Order to challenge the validity of our real history, proposing an alternate timeline of events in Europe, specifically London, directly after the Industrial Revolution.
"What if everything you know today and the events that happened did happen, but they didn't happen for the reason that you believe?" he asked. "What could be different in the way that we view our world? It's full of mystery and it's fun to see where those mysteries lie."
Internally, Ready at Dawn calls The Order "Neo-Victorian," and the game obviously does include things that don't actually exist – but they could have. The goal is to feature weapons, events and people that could be real, in an alternate history. The team operates on a guiding principle: If a person today can believe it, it's fine to add in the game. If not, it's out.
I tested that mantra with a hypothetical addition: superpowers.
"Well, I can't talk to you exactly about that stuff, since we haven't mentioned everything, but you'll find out," Weerasuriya said.
The Order is a third-person action game, a style that harkens back to Ready at Dawn's involvement in the God of War franchise. The studio has a 10-year history with Sony, and this is its first original IP entering full development; it's exclusive to the PS4 and due out in 2014.
This emphasis on the "reality" of things in The Order transfers to Ready at Dawn's development of the AI and physics systems, where it's pushing the hardware to make object interaction look viable and feel natural. As for the DualShock 4's hardware, its touchpad capabilities:
"We haven't talked about that yet, but it's a great controller so I can only imagine things that we can do with it," Weerasuriya said.
He seems to have a good imagination – maybe he'll make the controller shock anyone who calls The Order "steampunk."