Q: It's nice as well, as when you're playing it, once you pick up on the fact the nightmare episodes happen at the major plot beats as well, it means that when you're getting closer to discovering something, you know that everything's going to freeze over quite soon. You start anticipating it as well.
SB: It's something we thought about at the start. When we speak to people who have less of a background in playing games, because we wanted to get as wide an audience for this as possible, we knew actually the Silent Hill series did have an audience that was quite different to other games. There was a high proportion of female gamers that enjoyed it. There were more casual gamers that enjoyed it, because of the story and characters resonated with them, but the kind of gameplay meant they'd watch their partner play it or watch YouTube videos rather than actually play it. Something like Resident Evil 4, where the action is non-stop, where there are enemies everywhere, where it's very intense; if you put those players in that situation, it's scary to them and it's tense, but it's too much, and the pressure they feel from having to constantly cope with enemies and do that kind of gameplay kills the experience and removes them from the experience. We knew that we wanted to give the player these intense moments, create these scary sequences, but we wanted to give them a respite in-between these sequences to let the adrenalin drain away, to chill out, to get more immersed in the story. It's kind of the classic structure. In the chase sequences you just want to get away, escape and get out of them. Then when you're out of the chase sequences you are trying to understand what's happening in the story, you're becoming more and more immersed in the story and just as you get to the point where you might learn more about the story, you're making progress, then we throw you back into the nightmare sequences. There's a constant kind of friction and drive from the player to get forward and see the next little bit of the game.
MS: We wanted to put so much detail into the world, into the exploration parts of the world, so we put loads of stuff, like the photographs and graffiti and numbers, written details, discarded things on the floor. All of that detail if the player spends time to zoom in and analyse the content of that, all of that's been carefully thought out and written, and changed depending on your personality as well. We wanted the player to absorb all that and think about the depth of meaning of that stuff and how it relates to the story as well. That's another reason why we wanted the exploration areas of the game to feel genuinely quite safe sometimes, so the player felt they had the time to do that.
SB: I think something that makes the game quite different and made a lot of the choices we made a lot easier and more sensible to us, rather than sort of coming to it from just talking about gamers features, was from the start, we knew what the story was and we always talked about creating an experience, a story experience, so that everyone who played the game would get to the end. We wanted to try and remove as many of the road blocks to people progressing through the game. When you look at stories in games, when you talk about telling a story, the ending is kind of such a key part of the story, it's almost like all the message of that story is contained in the ending traditionally. Whereas we knew most games make the first hour really good, and most people don't finish games, so don't worry about the ending, usually the ending is a real anticlimax, and makes the story seem almost worthless. The number of games where I've really enjoyed it, been hugely immersed, got to the end, and it just deflates the whole thing.
Q: Any in particular that have let you down?
SB: I think most games where you get to the end and there's just a big baddy waiting for you. There's a weird thing where everyone feels that if you get to the end of a game, you have to be rewarded, so usually your game ends with your character being crowned hero of the universe and walking off with a prize. I think a lot of stories in games aren't really stories, they're more like cool settings or cool characters that don't do much.
MS: It's probably fair to say as a writer the story is really important to you in every game, whereas maybe some games don't treat the story as seriously, but in this genre it's critically important.
SB: When we talk about the combat and having these periods where there's exploration and stuff, if you actually come in from the story angle, and go, here's the story we're trying to tell, this isn't a story that makes any sense whatsoever to have zombies walking around interrupting this guy. You meet the characters in the town, talk to them and stuff. There were lines in the first game where Harry was saying, have you seen all these monsters? And not to worry as the SWAT team is coming soon. Some people forget some of those lines. Trying to make it more real and more psychological and just update some of those things, that scenario just doesn't make sense. It's implausible.
MS: We really wanted to focus on, this Harry Mason is not a guy who is constantly under attack from monsters. It's not a story of surviving a zombie apocalypse. It's a story about a guy. There's a mystery around his daughter and he's trying to get to the bottom of this mystery. So it's a psychological thriller, it's that kind of story and so the action sequences, the nightmare sequences are these constant struggles to get to the truth, and these things stop him from getting to the truth. It never felt like this was a game where we needed to have monsters running around decapitating him and stuff. It just never occurred to us to put that in the game.
Check back for part two of our interview soon. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is due for release on Wii on March 4. It will also be released on PlayStation 2 and PSP.