- Are you afraid of the dark? Do you run from things that are creepy - or go looking for them with a magnifying glass?
Survival/horror, the genre that turned teens and adults into terrified gamers that were too scared to put down the controller (or in some cases, too frightened to hold onto it), has been a great source of pleasure for those seeking thrills and chills.
If you're in that group, you won't have to search much longer: Alone in the Dark returns this summer.
To quote: You can even pierce the gas tank, start driving, leaving a trail of fuel, bail out, set fire to the trail, and you have a powerful rolling bomb.
Our objective was to make a game that's more modern in terms of content, more adapted to the tastes of today's gamers, and in particular that breaks the clichés of what you know about video games, said Nour Polloni, Producer at Eden Games.
For us it's not a survival/horror game, but a new perspective on what the survival experience is. We've done this through innovation in the spirit of the first Alone in the Dark, a broad mix of gameplay and a new way to tell the story.
In the 90s, survival/horror games were slow and creepy. Now they're taking on a more action-oriented approach. Is this good or bad, and which path was taken for Alone in the Dark?
Nour Polloni: There's no good or bad approach - it's about the experience you want the player to have. In Alone in the Dark there is a broad mix of gameplay entwined with the story and paced throughout the whole game. At one moment you'll be in a tense nervous situation underground then you emerge for a high paced car chase through the city streets.
We didn't want the player to be living the same type of gameplay over and over. Rather we want them to ask themselves, what's going to happen to me next?
What specifically about this game will scare us? Not just the story, environments, or things that pop out of nowhere, which most gamers were desensitized to a long time ago. But something new and truly scary.
NP: For us the idea of suggested fear is more interesting; not knowing what's behind the next door or hiding in a dark corner. We've used different elements to create a real sense of tension and unease in the player, such as the atmosphere, sound design and music, but also importantly the immersion of the player in the game which lets us affect their emotions more profoundly.
In Herve Sliwa's (Lead Designer) developer diary, he speaks about the ideas he had for Alone in the Dark 10 years ago. When a vision like that comes into a project, one with so much history, do you find it easier or more challenging to get it right within the game?
NP: If there's one thing we've maintained throughout the whole project it's the vision of the game, and it's because of that that the game is what it is today. The challenge is to stay focused on fulfilling the vision and staying true to it from beginning to end.
Two years ago it was announced that Alone in the Dark would use the season format of a TV series within its one disc, as opposed to a single-script movie format. Have you kept this format, and were there any specific TV series that inspired this change?
NP: Yes, the TV-season style presentation was part of the original vision for the game and key in the delivering the experience we wanted in terms of storytelling. The biggest influences on us were the big US blockbuster TV shows like 24, Lost and Prison Break. During the early stages of the project we were all discussing the latest episode around the coffee machine and we hit on the idea of bringing that structure to the game to give the same kind of intense, gripping experience.
How will the story unfold? Each episode is said to have about 30-40 minutes of gameplay. Is it difficult to balance this when some players might beat a few episodes in 20 minutes, others in 40 minutes, and so on? And how will the transition occur from each episode to the next?
NP: There's a total of eight episodes in the game which average over an hour each. Each episode contains plot twists, character revelations, action and cliffhangers deeply entwined with the gameplay and paced throughout the game. The difficulty was not to balance the play through time of each episode because generally during focus tests the players took the same amount of time.
The difficulty was to ensure the pacing of the gameplay and the story worked and was consistent throughout the game so there's no dead moment. There's actually a short credits sequence that plays at the end of each episode that you can of course skip to continue, and if you're coming back to the game a previously trailer will play to recap the key elements of the story you need to know to move forward.
I've heard you'll be able to interact with, but not necessarily drive, any vehicle you see in the game. What is the meaning and benefit of "interacting," and will you be able to drive any of them?
NP: You can drive every vehicle that you could realistically expect to be able to drive, that's to say unless it's a smoking wreck. However, it's not just for the sake of driving. You'll be using vehicles as tools to survive.
The interiors are fully explorable and you can move from one seat to another and into the back which is useful in some situations. You can even pierce the gas tank, start driving, leaving a trail of fuel, bail out, set fire to the trail, and you have a powerful rolling bomb.
Who are your enemies this time around? Monsters? Zombies? Other mutations?
NP: Most of your enemies are humanoid creatures who are tortured, angry and vicious. There's other enemies such as the dark water, rats, plus more which you'll discover for yourself. All these are linked to one specific enemy which can appear on any surface at any moment. Your whole environment can potentially become your enemy.
As a horror game, I assume there will lots of running (or at least the need to evade many attacks). But how will you fight back? What weapons will be in your arsenal?
NP: The entire combat gameplay of Alone in the Dark is based on using your environment to survive. This isn't about building your arsenal of weapons and finding the biggest bazooka, but more about how you can use everyday objects to create original and devastating weapons.
One example is the humble cigarette lighter which on its own is harmless, but combined with a rag and a bottle of alcohol becomes the key ingredient in a deadly Molotov cocktail.
Are there restrictions on the number of items/weapons that can be carried?
NP: Your inventory is in real time in your jacket, and you can only carry what you realistically could in real life. So you have a limited amount of space so you'll have to choose what you keep on you depending on how you want to play the game.
Will there be the chance to use unconventional things as weapons? I don't expect to see lawnmowers, this isn't Dead Rising, but...
NP: Anything you can find in your environment that could realistically be used as a weapon, you can use, for example objects as diverse as a garden rake or a samurai sword can all be swung in self-defense. Sticky tape is certainly one of the more unconventional things which becomes a powerful ally in creating your weapons.
We know the Wii version will have exclusive controls, allowing players to manipulate objects with the remote and nunchuck. Could you tell us a bit more about this?
NP: The Wii version was developed in parallel by Hydravision, but it's certainly true that the concept of real time manipulation of objects lends itself very much to the unique Wii control system.
How has the next-gen technology of 360/PS3 enhanced the creepy feel of the game? Is it more than improved lights and shadows?
NP: The technology allowed us to push some of the ideas further, but it's not about making the game more creepy. Games have been able to be creepy for a long time. It's more about the elements you put together in the game than pure technology. It could be scripted cameras, shadows, music, sound design, lighting - every technique is in the service of the creativity of the designers to bring the emotion to the experience.
More screenshots can be seen at the link at the top of this story!