Frictional Games are renowned experts on how to scare the heck out of their audience. Again and again, since the very first Penumbra demo released in 2006, they make even the most experienced players go hysterical with every new game. New Amnesia puts us one-on-one against a mysterious Machine for Pigs. He haven't had a talk with the folks since the interview on the original Amnesia and we were really happy to get a piece of news from the town of Helsingborg about the next title in the series being in development. In his interview with GameStar, Frictional Games' creative director Thomas Grip answers a number of questions such as — why horror again, where are the guns, how to make a co-op horror and what games do developers prefer themselves.
Tell us about your position and job responsibilities.
I am Thomas Grip, Creative Director at Frictional Games. I do tons of stuff. Programming, design, art lead stuff, management, etc. Lots of stuff I do not really want to recall ;)
Several years passed since we last met. How did the team and it’s approach to development change?
The team has grown a lot over the years. At the end of Amnesia TDD we were 5 people and now we are 12 which feels kind of weird when you think of how it all got started (only 3 people). We have not really changed any of the bigger ways in which we work, but for me personally it has gotten to be much more about keep the project on track and making sure all team members know what to do.
With AMFP things are very different since we are not even developing the game (thechineseroom is doing that), but just acting as producers. This is something I would not have dreamed about doing a few years back and it is very exciting.
Amnesia contained no battles and a very little of HUD. Did such peaceful approach prove itself successful? Will sequel keep to its predecessor’s traditions?
Yes and yes! Having no combat makes the player focus on other things instead. We have only so much we can have in our attention at once and if you are constantly fighting enemies you loose a lot of the subtle things that really build a good horror games. So this is of course something AMFP will have too.
What changes and improvements had HPL undergone? We bet you did some tasty improvements to sound and rendering subsystems, especially in the light of gorgeous soundwork of original Amnesia.
We are working on a new iteration of the engine, but it is not 100% ready yet and AMFP will not use it. While AMFP still uses the same engine as TDD, it has been used in very creative ways. AMFP is really squeezing all it can from the engine and it makes it look gorgeous.
Is knowledge of original game required to play Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs? How are those bind together? Plot, or maybe a single universe?
They are only related in very vague ways so you can play AMFP without having played TDD.
What is your vision for series’ future? Are we to wait the third installment or A Machine for Pigs will conclude Amnesia?
Honestly not sure! We will have to see how AMFP is received
You always worked on horrors, as we remember it. Is it hard — to always deliver scary experience? Did you think on trying another genre, or usual life keeps on inspiring you into new infernal nightmares?
The game we are working on now (remember Frictional Games is not developing AMFP) was not meant to be a horror game from the start, but just turned into one. Perhaps we are so depraved so we are unable to do anything that is not about terror and nightmares?
It’s common to interbreed genres nowadays. Like, many FPSs have RPG elements, and vice versa. Are you planning any statistical characteristics, or you put an emphasis on player building his skills?
We try and keep things as simple as possible and do not want to rely on tons of superfluous elements. We go by the mantra that the game should be in the world, instead of in the mechanics. AMFP follows this aswell, so you will see no RPG elements or such.
We always sense a good deal of influence of Lovecraft in your games, even the engine name is dedicated to him. Please tell us about your and you team’s tastes in horror books and movies. How did famous writer influence first and second Amnesia’s world and background?
Two main inspirations from Lovecraft are:
The horror lies in the unknown so you want to keep your things in the shadows, only allowing the audience glimpses of the terror.
That there are terrible things outside of the normal human experience that when glimpsed make our concept of reality crumble.
TDD very much rely on these, and I think AMFP too, but cannot say since Dan Pinchbeck is the one writing the story.
Also, which book characterizes A Machine for Pigs the best?
As mentioned, I cannot really answer stuff like this because Dan is the one writing the story. In my personal opion from what I played I have a hard time picking something out. It is some kind of mixture or a Vicotorian horror novel and a more modern one.
None of your games made it onto consoles. Are you going to make their owners happy someday?
We have not managed to do any console versions yet, but want to do it in the future. Not sure if it will happen though.
YouTube has some nice videos, where players had fun with enemy AI — like, one stood on a crate, and watched poor creature failing any attempt to reach the player. What will change in sequel?
AI will always have issues, especially with the amount of physics that we have. AMFP will try and have more stable creatures though and focus on having environments where these things are less likely to happen.
Another day me and my friend played Doom 3 co-op, and even if some moments kept their impression, most weren’t actually scary as they were in single. Does that mean that loneliness is the main weapon in scaring people, or there’s something else? Can you imagine co-op horror where a group of people gets frightened? What would be your way of doing it?
Being alone is always good for creating fear but I think co-op can work. One way of doing would be to make the player spook another in some way. Perhaps make them unsure if they can trust one another.
Traditionally, you send players through dark and gloomy worlds armed with a keyboard and mouse. What do you think of Kinect, Move, or even a mic, that reacts on player’s voice (screams?)?
Unless you use these devices for really simple stuff they are just too fuzzy to create a good experience. To get good horror, you need to the controller to be transparent, but with these sort of input it puts a lot of focus how you control. This can be very bad for horror. I think simple controls, with very definite input are always the best.
How many things that weren’t implemented in first game had their way in second? How many ideas unrealized left from both games and why?
Nothing really. AMFP is all thechineseroom so it is more about their take on Amneisa.
This world is a machine. A machine for pigs. Fit only for the slaughtering of pigs. Is this a literal saying in terms of game world, or something more philosophical? Will sequel contain more metaphysics? Tell us a bit of your philosophical looks on the world.
I cannot really comment on this as I am not the one behind the story.
Soon some young blood will join the horror genre in the face of Outlast, Routine, and some others. What new games are you waiting for? Do you play horrors yourself? What key changes can you point out in newer games, in your opinion?
Routine, Among the Sleep, Gone Home and that fullversion of Slender look interesting. I play horror whenever something interesting comes out, which unfortunately is not very often these days.
«Looking back, to development of first Amnesia, tell us what you would change in the first game, if you could»
I would have spent more time on having interesting consequences when you died. I would also would have liked to have some more variety in the enemies. The ending should have been made different as well.
How many times in your life did you experience that feeling of fright and panic? Was that a threat to you and your beloved ones or a feeling of growing fear? Share with us, o masters of horrors.
When I was younger I used to have this really vivid fever dreams that kept on even though I was awake. Those episodes where really disturbing and perhaps something that is channeled in our work.
Could you name 3 key elements that distinguish second Amnesia from other games in the genre and the original game?
Three things that Amnesia do differently from most other horror games are: No combat, Physical Interaction and a focus on psychological scares. Nailing down things that ae different between AMFP and TDD are a bit harder but will try. For one thing the storytelling will be a bit different and uses different ways to get it across. The levels will also be a lot larger in AMFP and have more interesting architecture. Finally, the enemy behaviors will be a lot more varied and harder to guess than in TDD.
You often say that A Machine for Pigs is thechineseroom take on the world of Amnesia. What are the most significant differences in gameplay mechanics between the two games?
I'd say it is a bit more streamlined. There will be no inventory for instance, which makes the puzzles handled a bit differently.
Could you describe us a couple of the most immersive moments from the part of the game you've already seen?
Cannot be specific at this point, but there are some really cool settings throughout the game that are quite immersive to explore. I do not want to spoil anything though.
And a couple of words about interaction with objects needed to accomplish any tasks in the game. How different is it from the ordinary formula common for adventure games?
Pretty much everything is based on physics which force the game to be more consistent. In normal adventure games, it can be hard to tell what can be interacted with and what cannot, but in Amnesia this is a lot more clear and intuitive.