Alone in the Dark has been hiding in the shadows for seven years now. The last time we tasted the multimillion selling survival horror series was back in 2001 with Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare. Now it's time for the game that paved the way for the Resident Evil and Silent Hill franchises to step out from the shadows with its fifth game. We caught up with senior producer Nour Polloni at French developer Eden Games to find out why the PS3 version still doesn't have a release date, and why Alone in the Dark might have the greatest fire ever seen in a video game.
VideoGamer.com: Is there a firm date for the PS3 version and why is it coming out so long after the 360 version?
Nour Polloni: There's no firm date yet but what we can say is that it's coming out this year. In terms of why it's coming out later, we have the full game running on PS3 and all the features, no problem. The thing is it's not performing as well on PS3 as we hope it is in terms of frame rate and all that. We didn't want it to come out and have less of an experience for the PS3 gamer. We wanted to tweak that up and make sure they get the best experience on PS3 as much as possible.
VideoGamer.com: Alone in the Dark has been in development for a while now. Did PS3 development simply start too late?
NP: We actually started on the PC version initially and then we worked on the 360 and we got the PS3 later on. We started already attacking the PS3 and all that. Today in terms of the work, like I said it's working on the performance and things like that. We're not that far off. It's just in terms of the focus of where we wanted to put the effort in, we wanted the game to be excellent quality and make sure everything was tuned right. In some sense we said OK that's our priority one. And our priority two is to make sure it's on all platforms. So to make sure that priority one was right we put the focus in terms of the human resources on that. So it's just a question of timing that made it that unfortunately we had to push the PS3 version out. It's just a matter of time.
VideoGamer.com: How are you guys finding multi-platform development?
NP: It's a different platform. It's another way of working it. The 360 is actually kind of like a PC in terms of development. It's like a PC without the inconvenience of different configurations. And the PS3 is actually a completely different architecture in terms of the way it works, processors and all that. To be able to do it multi-platform we gave it a global, what we call frame structure in which whatever the platform it is there is a first software level which handles the data and then redistributes it depending on the availability of the CPUs and all that. Today that's why we have all platforms available, except for the PS3 there was some tweaking that we need to do. We need to do some specific PS3 work to make sure that we get the true value of what it offers.
VideoGamer.com: Is the PS3 harder to develop for?
NP: It's not hard if you do a PS3 specific game. It's hard when you try to have it global multi-platform. That's when it's hard.
VideoGamer.com: Will there be any differences between the PS3 and 360 versions?
NP: It's the same content.
VideoGamer.com: So it'll be worth the wait for PS3 owners?
NP: Yes. It will be really worth it. It's something that we didn't want to deceive the players. That's why we preferred waiting. And I know it's tough but we want them to wait to be able to get that same experience.
VideoGamer.com: Moving on, what's the future of the Alone in the Dark series? Phil Harrison (president of Infogrames, parent company of Atari) talks about a focus on community and online and less on these sorts of single-player narrative-driven big budget games. Does that mean the franchise won't go forward in the same form?
NP: The online multiplayer doesn't stop from allowing this type of game to exist today. Alone in the Dark is a brand that is known. We'll see how it goes with the public. If it's a huge success we can think of online in terms of downloadable episodes for the future, even include some potential multiplayer elements in there. There are a lot of possibilities in that direction. The Alone in the Dark brand I hope will exist on its own and people I hope will fall in love with this version and really make the franchise back again in the market.
VideoGamer.com: Looking at the open world style Central Park section, it looks like it would really suit something similar to what GTA 4 is doing with online multiplayer?
NP: It has the possibility yes. Today I can't confirm that that's the direction. But it doesn't mean that it's not possible. The idea is that we want to surprise the players, we want to have them blown away by the experience that they live and if that includes possibilities of multiplayer and online elements and that fits, that it entwines into the experience of the game, then why not?
VideoGamer.com: So would it be possible to add multiplayer elements to this game via downloadable content or would it have to be a completely different game?
NP: No. Today this game is single-player. It's not built for multiplayer.
VideoGamer.com: So it would have to be a completely new game?
NP: No. I mean we have a game engine that allows us a lot of possibilities, multiplayer being a part of it. Today we built the first season, maybe the next season you never know what's in there. It could be more features, maybe a single-player game or maybe more features with multiplayer options. Today I can't say. I prefer not to say.
VideoGamer.com: You talk about Alone in the Dark as season one, inspired by television series. Does that mean the Alone in the Dark franchise has completely left its previous form behind?
NP: It's really a rebirth of the series, in the spirit and the legacy of the first Alone in the Dark. We want players who knew Alone in the Dark to say 'OK I see that I lived from the first Alone in the Dark' and those who don't know what Alone in the Dark is they will say 'oh this is what Alone in the Dark is about'.
VideoGamer.com: In terms of the gameplay, the thing that most impressed us was the fire. Would you say that the fire in Alone in the Dark is the best ever seen in a video game?
NP: Well I hope so! It's one of the fires that has accomplished a lot. We hope players will be blown away by it. Today the games that are coming out might include, because it's almost logical to have fire now interactive, but to achieve what we got today was like a lot of hard work. I'm really interested to see other games that pick it up.
VideoGamer.com: There are tons of different gameplay elements in there - third-person, first-person, driving sequences and sandbox. As a studio, is it your most ambitious title ever?
NP: Test Drive Unlimited was a very ambitious project. We were happy with what we achieved with it. It's a different ambition. We took a lot of challenges with Alone in the Dark but I would say knowing the team the ambition will go even further! But the challenges will be different, so I think the ambition will always be, we want to give ourselves a landmark, we say we want to do the game that sits here and go even higher. So I think it's not a question of ambition but more of the challenges that we want to take on.
VideoGamer.com: Thanks for your time.
Alone in the Dark is due out for Xbox 360, PC, PS2 and Wii on 20 June, with a PS3 version due out some time in 2008.