I still remember playing parts of the original Alone in the Dark series back on my first PC. The game was graphically stunning (for the era) and managed to created a sense of atmosphere and dread that was lacking other other games. Atari is ressurecting the franchise this week and we were able to get a few questions with one of the folks working on the game.
Can you introduce yourself and talk about your role on the game?
Nour Polloni, producer on Alone in the Dark at Eden Games.
What were the main influences behind the game's design and style? What kind of mood are you trying to set with the game? What kind of emotional response are you trying to evoke from gamers?
We had a lot of different influences including films like Die Hard for its perfect survival story of one man using his environment to survive against the odds, Tim Burton films for the atmosphere, and the TV series Lost and 24 for the way they tell a story. We wanted to really immerse the player as the more they’re involved, the easier it is to affect their emotions. Rather than set out to shock we want to create tension and unease through the suggestion of danger and unsees enemies. We think the idea of what could be behind a door or hiding in a dark corridor is much more powerful.
Why did you choose Central Park as the centerpiece of the game? Were there any other locations that you considered?
About ten years ago Herve Sliwa, the lead designer on the game, went on a trip to New York and was really struck by this expanse of black in the heart of the bright lights of the city. It struck him then that it would be a great place to set a game, and being a huge fan of the first Alone in the Dark, that was the game he wanted to set there. A few years later we got the chance to make it a reality.
Alone in the Dark has been a dormant franchise, why not start something new instead of resurrecting Edward Camby? Doyou think the movie did any damage to the reputation of the franchise?
We are huge fans of the very first Alone in the Dark, and it was a dream project for us to be able to create a new opus in the series. Honestly we haven’t seen the movie so it’s hard to say.
Alone in the Dark was originally announced as an an episodic series released over a period of time, what made you change your mind? Do you see a future in episodic games or is that going to be a fairly limited niche?
In fact it was never announced as a game that would be distributed in episodes. It was a misunderstanding when we announced that we had created the game based on an episodic structure. The idea behind this was not to distribute the game in episodes, but rather to find a new way to tell the story in a game that was more suited to the gameplay length. For this we took inspiration from the US blockbuster TV shows like Lost and 24.
The game is going to let you skip certain parts of the game and come back to them later, how did you come up with that idea? Did you have to design the missions so that they weren't dependent on plot points from the earlier missions? How do you avoid giving spoilers to things that happen early on in the game? Are all the missions unlocked when you pop the disc in or do you unlock a few as you go?
The idea is that we want everyone to finish the game. Of course we want the player to play through from start to finish in the same way you’d watch a TV series, and doing that is the only way they’ll get the full experience and the full achievements. But we also wanted to make sure that if you got stuck you could continue with the story without getting frustrated. You can always go back to complete an earlier section any time you want. If you choose to move ahead, you have the freedom to do so, though some things, including the final ending, aren’t available until you’ve completed a certain amount of the game.
The environment plays a huge role in the game, what kind of design decisions did that present and how did you work around them? Were there any funny unintended consequences that popped up during testing?
We wanted a completely interactive environment, where everything you see behaves and can be manipulated exactly like its real world counterpart. This presented huge challenges, not least because we couldn’t simply drop a bunch of inanimate placeables into a scene – they had to work as gameplay objects. One of the big things is the doors – every door can be opened in the game. We had to train our graphic artists not to put door textures in environments which was a hard habit to break for some of them. We had to do regular sweeps of the in-game environments to make sure they were all up to standard! The first time we actually put all these interactive elements into a playable combat situation it was really exciting to see all the things we could do, and we found in testing later that players would often come up with ways of solving situations that even the designers hadn’t thought of – that was very cool.
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