It's official, Silent Hill 8 is now known as Silent Hill: Downpour, and fittingly we've got a flood of new info about the game direct from Sr. associate producer Tomm Hulett and producer Devin Shatsky.
Q: The story of the game follows Murphy Pendleton, a convict. Was this a deliberate attempt to move away from more sympathetic main characters?
Tomm Hulett: At the start of each game we try to consider "what would be an interesting thing to see in Silent Hill." Other games have touched upon normal people who have done bad things, or innocent people stumbling on events much bigger than themselves. But a prisoner is a person you would expect to have a lot of baggage for Silent Hill to exploit. We felt this was an interesting premise that fans could speculate on as they awaited the game. I wouldn't say it was a deliberate attempt to "play a badguy" necessarily, but we did have discussions around whether or not people would/could relate to such a character.
Q: What to you is the key element to making a good Silent Hill game?
TH: Having a compelling story is the key element to a good Silent Hill game. It's what set SH1 apart from the other early survival horror games, why SH2 is so fondly remembered, and so on. Of course, an important aspect of this is how the story ties into the horrific things the player encounters. At the core of Silent Hill is that interplay between "scary stuff" and "what it all means".
Q: Can you add some more details to the little we know of the story so far? Is Murphy linked to Silent Hill as previous game heroes were?
Devin Shatsky: That all depends on what you mean by "linked." There's always a reason for someone who ended up in Silent Hill to be there, so the short answer is 'yes'. The full answer will be released in 2011.
Q: Will any of the classic adversaries be making a return? Pyramid Head?
TH: The thing about Silent Hill is that everything you encounter appears for a reason (in that game). So things like Nurses and Pyramid Head are tied to the storylines of their respective games. Since Pyramid Head was linked specifically to James Sunderland's experience, there is no reason for him to appear in a game about Murphy Pendleton. For us to see ol' PH again, there would have to be some extraordinary reasoning behind his appearance.
Q: Silent Hill 8 apparently features a number of side quests. Can you give us an example of how they fit in with the unfolding narrative of the game?
TH: In previous games, in order to progress the plot you might have to do some elaborate fetch quest puzzle involving artifacts or photographs or what have you. And the clues involved might tell some side story that had little to do with the actual story (except tying in thematically perhaps). The side quests could be viewed similarly.
DS: We've basically taken that notion that Tomm described above , and expanded it upon it exponentially. We have this huge city at our disposal, yet in the past, it was comprised primarily of locked doors . We wanted to give players a bit more incentive to search around, and check those doors without facing a constant barrage of discouraging locks. This gives the player a greater sense that they are "exploring the town" and then rewarded with these mini-stories. We've been very careful to keep these immersive enough to make the player feel like they're still a part of the main story, yet separate enough that they aren't forced into completing all of them in a linear fashion to reach the ending.
Q: Silent Hill Shattered Memories make a concerted effort to do away with the fighting elements of the game to raise the feeling of terror and helplessness. Silent Hill 8 has done away with this and Murphy has access to bottles, etc - do you feel weapons are integral to the game in some way?
TH: Fear is a tricky thing to get a handle on. Shattered Memories provided a very important experience in a genre currently dominated by the ability to stand your ground and gun down monsters: helplessness. Our goal with Downpour is to then take what we learned, and fold it back seamlessly into a "core" Silent Hill experience. A standout feature of the old SH games is that you could choose to run from confrontation. However, in most of the games (I'm looking at SH2 here) the enemies were very very easy to dispatch, so I never ran. It made more sense to kill them all instead of worrying about taking damage later. So perhaps in Downpour the stakes might be higher and running at times would be a wise strategic choice.
Q: Apparently, there is a book detailing key elements of Silent Hill which previous development teams have had access to. Have you had a look at it? And did it influence your path for the game?
TH: You're probably referring to the Book of Lost Memories, which was a pre-order item offered in Japan.
Q: Are there any elements from recent Silent Hill games that you have incorporated and expanded on for the new game.
DS: Yeah, we've borrowed elements from just about every past Silent Hill game in some form or fashion. During pre-production we did (and still do) a lot of research in the fan forums, review sites, etc. for each game in the series, and we apply what we've learned from those past games into certain areas of Downpour as well. The main goal being to do it in a way that pays respect to the past games and what we've learned from them, as well as trying to innovate where appropriate.
Q: How daunting is it to be charged with creating the latest instalment in such an iconic series?
TH: It's incredibly daunting, even after working on 3 games in the series. Silent Hill has possibly the most devoted/vocal/serious fanbase in all of gaming. The amount of arguing back and forth on even the most minute details is astounding (and all documented online), so naturally any part of any game could upset a chunk of the people you really want supporting it. It's scary for sure, but we have to be confident in our decisions and continue to expand and develop the game universe. The last thing anybody wants is endless rehashes of the same game over and over.
Q: Tell us a little about your team - how big, where they are located, and what they have worked on before.
DS: Vatra is Czech developer that is highly proficient with the Unreal Engine. They are a new studio, but most of the team is comprised of seasoned veterans, the majority of which came from studios like 2K and Illusion Softworks, having worked on games such as Hidden & Dangerous, Vietcong, and Mafia. From the Konami side, it's primarily myself and Tomm Hulett. The most relevant games I've worked on with respect to Silent Hill are The Suffering, Area 51, and of course Shattered Memories. Tomm has been involved with Silent Hill Origins, Homecoming, and Shattered Memories.
Silent Hill: Downpur is scheduled for release this autumn for PS3 and Xbox 360.