MCV recently had the chance to interview Tomm Hulett, associate producer at Vatra Games, the studio that brought us Silent Hill: Downpour last month and Hulett had very some interesting things to say about the horror genre. It’s no secret that the survival horror genre, once championed by series like Silent Hill, Resident Evil, and Fatal Frame has seen some major changes over the last decade. Many of the staples of the genre like puzzle-solving and clumsy controls have evolved as studios try to find a larger audience for their games. Dead Space, Left 4 Dead, and Resident Evil — after Resident Evil 4 renovated the franchise — are perfect examples of where the genre is headed. Downpour is very much a survival horror game, and possibly one of the last major releases to follow the more traditional formulas that made the genre so appealing when it was most popular. Head past the break to hear what Hulett had to say about where the genre is headed, as well as a few words from Resident Evil: Revelations producer Masachika Kawata.
Hulett told MCV “While many other games have gone the route of more action oriented game design, attempting to appeal to more mainstream audiences, we’ve taken a very careful approach to the pacing of Downpour to make sure it maintains that original ‘slow-burn’ and keeping the player off guard with less predictability.”
I successfully managed to beat Silent Hill: Downpour, including all of its side quests, and it’s definitely a much slower paced game. I think the storms brought with them an added element of unpredictability that really helped keep you on your toes as well as break up the pacing a bit. You could be outside, working on finding that elusive key to solve a puzzle when all of a sudden you find yourself in the middle of a maelstrom, surrounded by pissed off monsters.
Survival Horror is in an interesting spot these days. I think the genre was lucky, to an extent, when it started out. A lot of horror elements “clicked” such as clunky combat, confusing cameras, and so on. However, shoddy gameplay can’t be a feature forever, and so everyone fixed the combat—resulting in action games with creepier monsters. If Horror games are going to be “scary” in the future, it’s going to take careful game design to do it. It can be hard to convince people to spend money/time on “scare design” since it doesn’t show very much progress until it’s final and working perfectly… but it’s vital. If you have tense, frightening gameplay happening naturally, and then some carefully orchestrated designed-scares… you would have a very memorable horror game. Hopefully that’s the direction the genre is headed. Hulett continued.
Hulett’s comments mirror those of Masachika Kawata, producer on Resident Evil: Revelations, which released in February to very positive reviews. Kawata recently spoke with Gamasutra about the genre’s appeal to the mass market. Especially for the North American market, I think the series needs to head in that [action-oriented] direction. [Resident Evil's primary games] need to be an extension of the changes made in Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5. RE4 started in that direction, and RE5 kept going in that direction. And I think that especially for the North American market, we need to keep going in that direction, and take that a step further. And that’s exactly one of the reasons that Revelations is the way it is. Kawata said.
As much as some of us might not like to hear it, for the most part, the survival horror genre is on its way out. It’s not all bad news however, because it’s been replaced by equally as terrifying games like Dead Space and Left 4 Dead that continue to push boundaries and make us want to sleep with the lights on.
So what do you think of all this? Do you welcome these changes, or would you rather have old school survival horror games forever?