Q: Oh, definitely on me. I remember vividly getting the first game after school one day, and how I could only play in bursts of half an hour or so because it freaked me out so much. In terms of the risks you've taken, one of the biggest you've taken in terms of the genre is the fact that there's no combat here. Was that something you had to really think about? It works brilliantly in the game, but one of the cornerstones of survival horror genre is the fact that you can die.
SB: When you come at it like that it sound like something that we kind of ummed and ahhed about, and had lots of ideas on, but I think it was more a case of us going in and saying, we know the combat doesn't really work. I mean, when we did Origins we replicated that classic survival horror thing of managing your health packs, your bullets and what have you, but there was always this pressure on us to make the combat less clunky, to make it less crap - because that's what everyone complains about. The more you try and do that, the more it broke. There was this weird disconnect where survival horror players knew that you just run past the enemies. If you go on forums and say, oh I hate survival horror, the combat is just clunky, then the horror gamers will go, you're not supposed to fight them, you're supposed to just run past! That's kind of the point. So there was this weird thing where the people who got it were ignoring the combat system, but then everyone else came to it and said, you've given me a whole button on the controller for punch or swing weapon, and you've populated this game with zombies, surely it's a video game? Surely the point is to fight these zombies, but you're making it less fun for me.
So we knew that it was wrong, and then we looked at horror movies, thriller movies and stuff, and we said, well, what's the action element there? And I think the template for Silent Hill horror is very much derived from those original survival horror games that were based on zombies. Alone In The Dark had Lovecraftian influences, so from Lovecraft you get diary pages everywhere; from zombie movies you get the fact that there are many foes, they are slow moving, you have to shoot them lots of times and if you shoot them in the head it'll help. And we said, that's actually kind of ignoring most psychological movies. Generally in those kind of situations you're talking about a protagonist who is fleeing for their life. You're talking about a very structured kind of... light relief, then it gets intense and there's suspense, then there's the adrenaline, then it drops down again. In most slasher films, you've got enough people to kill them off one by one. Obviously in this game you couldn't kill the character off, so he had to escape from the killers at every juncture.
We kind of looked at it and thought, well no one has really, there have been a few attempts to do this kind of gameplay in a horror, but maybe they focused too much on stealth or they've adapted the existing template by not giving you enough bullets to fight back so you're forced to run away. It's a frustration, but an annoying frustration. We said, well, let's think about making the action sequences in this game about fleeing, so let's think about how that works. We don't want it to be linear, because that's just, basically an interactive cutscene or something. It's going to be Dragon's Lair - you're going to fail. So we wanted to make sure that the nightmare sequences had options, so there was lots of routes through. We wanted to make them more interesting, so we made sure that you could interact with the environment, climb over things, under things, pull things down in ways that would make sense. We wanted it to be fast paced, so we actually gave you a character that could run away from enemies.
When we put that stuff in, we said, well, with all this running away from enemies, where's the sense of fear? So we allowed you to look over your should, kind of a rear view mirror thing, so you could see the enemies. We iterated on that and said, well, if it's going to be scary then the enemies need to be a credible opponent. If they're just lumbering zombies, that's not interesting, so we made the enemies faster than you, we made them intelligent so they can communicate with each other, try and cut you off and flank you, and we kind of built it from there and iterated on it. From day one we kind of new that it made sense as an idea, and fairly early on with prototypes we knew that it was going to make sense within the game. There was always a risk that people who play a lot of horror games or have an expectation of what horror games are, will say that you've taken something away from me. I think the risk there is that we are deliberately trying to make it un-enjoyable, scary or tense for the player. You're not supposed to be smiling as you run away from these enemies. It's supposed to be a small portion of a kind of horrible nightmare. So I think some people will go into it and say, you've taken all my fun toys away and you're making me do something that isn't fun, but I think that within the context of the whole game and the fact that it's a horror game and we're trying to push your buttons and create different emotional responses, I think we've pretty much done what we set out to do.
MS: It's also really important for us to make sure that that aspect of the gameplay tied closely in with the narrative. It kind of made even more sense once we started thinking about the story and how this would work with the story. Because it is a game predominantly about the player getting totally immersed in this kind of interactive emotional story, this aspect of the gameplay needed to work with that, and the pacing of that. We wanted very strict control of the pacing of the game and that's why it also helped with that as well.