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INTERVIEW: Tomm Hulett on Silent Hill Downpour PART 2

INTERVIEW: Tomm Hulett on Silent Hill Downpour PART 2

Following on from Part 1 yesterday, MCV talks with Associate Producer Tomm Hulett on going old school with Silent Hill.

Where do you think games can go in terms of utilising an unreliable narrator? Are we just touching the tip of the iceberg in terms of not being able to trust what we see and hear?

I think it’s difficult to say games could support an unreliable narrator.  People have trouble understanding when a character says “Everything is X” and then later it turns out everything is, in fact, Y.  It has to be done very delicately for it to work because the player IS this person. 

That said, I wouldn’t consider Murphy an unreliable narrator.  It’s definitely a question of what Murphy thinks is RELEVANT, and other details may be hidden from the player.  Examining what Murphy “readily admits” vs. what the player uncovers says a lot about Murphy and the type of person he is / his personal journey.

As for complex characters where you’re debating whether or not they’re unreliable or not… I think there is plenty of room!  Hopefully more games take risks and dwell on some more mature character concepts, rather than just having archetypes that interact with one another.

Automation seems to be rule of thumb for games these days – beckoning players to simply move towards objects to climb / interact with them rather than have to press a button. Downpour is going in the opposite direction, dwelling on that pivotal moment of something as simple as opening a door to a larger degree than (perhaps) ever before. What is the aim with this focus?

Well, for most of the game’s actions we took the automation approach.  Murphy will climb ladders and squeeze through narrow openings without a button press.  You just use the analog stick to direct him and away he goes.  I think this approach has become popular because in most games, traversing isn’t the challenge. 

Shooting, exploring, puzzles, etc–those are what the player is challenged with, so that’s where all the gameplay and finesse takes place.  There’s no point in complicating something that isn’t central to the experience, because then you’re just distracting the player. 

That said, “what’s behind the door…” is a horror staple, so creating a punctuation mark every time you enter a new room makes sense.  The slow, “player controlled” door worked really well in Shattered Memories, so we brought that over into Downpour as well.

Does the trend towards downloadable content and additional extras give new room for Silent Hill to consider episodic form? Do you think horror can work in bite-sized chunks?

This is an interesting question.  As the industry kind of moves toward episodic experiences it will need to be answered.  I think the biggest factor is just how big these chunks are.  Is the player getting a solid 3 hours?  It might be possible to work in an “episode” or “chapter” format like this. 

After all, there are sci-fi/horror shows like XFiles that have been popular and did basically the same thing.  But if they’re only getting an hour, it’s kind of hard to immerse them in the world and establish a flow of mood that would allow any real horror to take place. 

I also don’t think players would be willing to follow an indepth Silent Hill-style character study over the course of a year or more.  It might be a matter of taking 5 different characters and giving them each a small self-contained experience, and in the end each one ties into a greater whole. 

Anything can work – it’s all in how you approach it.

Thank you for your time!


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