/Horror games changed by Amnesia. The next one might do it again

Horror games changed by Amnesia. The next one might do it again

Since 2007, when the first installment of the sordid survival horror series Gloomand especially since 2010, when amnesia the dark descent reduced first generation YouTube gamers to a pool of tears, independent Swedish studio Frictional Games has been creating horror games like no other.

Other modern horror games sometimes offer weapons to calm anxiety, such as Resident Evil Villageor extraordinarily despicable monsters to make you fear the obvious answer, like in Survivebut Amnesia it prefers to slowly paralyze you before you can really feel what is happening. the next room Amnesia game, Amnesia: The BunkerIt maintains the snakebite properties of the series, but aims to drill deeper through its unpredictable semi-open sandbox world.

He BunkerPlanned to launch on May 23, it will elevate its horror by making players feel like “the storyteller, living through [the events of the game] instead of being the character in a pre-arranged scenario”, co-founder of Frictional Games thomas grip He told me by video call. He’s more concerned with establishing this malleable gaming experience than announcing himself as the fourth Amnesia game through hidden lore or narrative threads.

“How can it be a horrible, surreal experience when I’m like, ‘Oh, I know this character. Oh yeah! They’re doing this again!” Grip says mockingly.

Like other Frictional titles, the bunker operates as a “first-person horror [game] where you’re being chased by some kind of creature and you’re trying not to die,” says Grip. But the core of it counters the narrative focus of the latter Amnesia game, Renaissancereleased in 2020. “We feel that, [in] releasing Renaissance, there was a lot of emphasis on just putting the story together, and we were interested to see ‘Can we do, like, a shorter, more focused project?’” Grip says. “So [Bunker creative lead] Frederick [Olsson] he had the idea, ‘Well, let’s make it a monster, a weapon, World War I.’”

In the game, you play French soldier Henri Clément, trapped in a stifling World War I bunker with only a revolver, a dying generator, and scattered crafting items to fend off the lurking monster that is always on the brink of attack.

like the first resident Evilsays Grip, where “you’re in the house, then you unlock new areas, but you always go back to the room you started in”, in Bunker“you start in the bunker, you end in the bunker”.

But, despite being a compact game, the bunker it’s made flexible through randomization, which affects gameplay aspects like item placement and the ways you’ll try to escape the game’s partially open world. If there’s a locked door, for example, “there are lots of ways to open that locked door,” Grip says. “We are not going to hold your hand. Due to randomness, [even the game’s developers] I don’t know the best way to open the door.

the bunker it operates with a psychological emphasis that Grip wishes more horror games had.

“Horror, to me, is a safe space where you bring up really disturbing things, but it’s okay to digest it in a way that would be [otherwise abnormal].” He mentions the David Slade film from 2005. Hard candy, where a 14-year-old boy encourages a sexual predator to commit suicide. It’s very “hard to watch, but you can because it’s a horror movie.”

“I like to make Horror with a capital ‘H’ instead of a horror game,” he continues. A horror game is successful when fear is so inextricably linked to the game, Grip says, that separating them would be as inconceivable as taking away all of a shooter’s weapons.

Then the horror sets in the bunker‘s bones, aided by its simple but oppressive surroundings.

This simple fear is another way the bunker differs from previous Frictional titles, particularly the 2015 sci-fi survival horror Soma, which has such a strange underwater environment, Grip says, that “people were using all their brainpower” to figure out where they were. That’s a favorite Frictional type of “scare” where the players do most of the work, he says, but Bunker feeds on instinct: “It is dark. You must go out. Those kinds of simple configurations are one of the key aspects for [The Bunker’s horror].”

Instinct is partly what drives Grip into horror in the first place. When I ask him, he tells me that he’s not necessarily inspired by any specific piece of horror media, but rather by the “interesting questions” they make him think of.

For Grip, Horror provides “ways for us to grapple with deeper questions we have,” like how ghosts are misty answers to the mysterious afterlife. Or the way horror pushes us to consider other uncomfortable, but less expected questions, like “What if you were trapped in a room like this?” he says.

“What if this happened to me?” she begins to wonder, viscerally. “What I do feel about this?”

He tries to capture just how inquisitive horror can be by not fixating on certain monsters in his games, but by evoking feelings, even ones you can’t name. And due to the unpredictable world design of him, the bunker seems excellent for getting players to consider the most horrible questions and their associated equally horrible feelings.

“You always have to think twice because you never know which door is going to be booby-trapped, where the monster is going to come out,” Grip says of the bunker. “That’s very new. [to Amnesia games],” forks [requirements] they are a bit different in terms of testing. Normally, we would have a section where we say, ‘This is the second match section.’” But due to BunkerThe sandbox layout, “everything is a potential encounter section.”

The protagonist of Amnesia: The Bunker faces a red light.

Image: friction games

That should improve his replayability. “There are many ways to [navigate the bunker], and the game is not that long either, like four to six hours. So I hope you feel like there are things you could have done, places you could have visited,” says Grip. “I hope from a purely commercial aspect that this is the case, but I think [replayability] it’s also very connected to the experience we’re trying to achieve,” he continues. “The players must […] explore the game organically and don’t be afraid to experiment.”

Grip believes that a good horror game, like a good horror movie, should nail its quirky, misty atmosphere. But you also need to master interactivity, something specific to video games, “in a way that feels natural.”

“Let’s say you have a knife and the player needs to pick it up and put it somewhere else,” he says. An enthusiastic developer should position the knife “so that it is likely”, though not guaranteed, that the player will “drop” it. The player then drops it and knows that it was their fault for dropping this item. Then he makes a sound, and [the player hears] a monster and it’s like, ‘Fuck, I blew it.’”

But it’s inevitable that some gamers will refrain from using “maximum interactivity,” Grip says.

“This is the craziest thing about horror: you are willingly submitting to this.” This unintelligible rush of adrenaline can lead to one of two reactions from players, Grip says, either “I’m scared and I’m having a good time” or “I’m scared and this is very frustrating.”

Because players are by definition participants, horror developers need to be “a little nice to them” by giving them more options during gameplay, Grip says.

“If they are so scared that they are not willing to explore everything [in a game], I mean, that’s great. That is natural. But if [that hesitation] it’s constant for several hours, where players just run from one end or slowly crawl from another, that’s not going to be fun.” The game needs to accommodate both indecisive players and more adventurous ones.

But ultimately, players’ personal tolerance for fear matters just as much as a horror developer’s care. And if a player really wants to be petrified, the developers should go along with it, says Grip.

“I am still extremely proud to have reviews of the original dark descent where the players say, ‘Five minutes. That’s all I can take. I will never play this game again,’ which is an extremely low user retention rate,” he says. “But, for the game we’re making, that’s good publicity.”

He is also not ashamed of other negative emotions.

He recalls receiving feedback from one of the first Soma tester saying a character’s backstory made the game “nonsensical”.

“Oh, a negative emotion! How wonderful!” thought Grip in response. “They’re actually experiencing something, they’re having an emotional response to something fictional.”

Through its smooth player experience, Bunker creates opportunities for a rainbow oil spill of emotional responses. More so than in previous Frictional games, in which the developers “unintentionally reduced gameplay and agency for players,” Grip says.

With the bunkerthe studio wants to “really bring back and dial [agency] even more than in the past, with the randomness of the game, etcetera”, he continues. “My hope is that players feel that openness”, sharing a “holistic experience, even if their games are very different”.

“If that’s the legacy of the game, then I’m very happy,” he says.