Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs developer plans on continuing to scare fans of the franchise
It could easily be argued that indie game Amnesia: The Dark Descent may well be one of the scariest video games ever made. If you’ve played it, you know very well what I’m referring to. The game offers up the sort of chills usually only reserved for the best of horror films, but does so in a manner that’s both complex and simplistic at the same time.
The good news is that the developers are back with a second game: Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs – a title that should win “Best Video Game Title Ever.” But how does the developer continue to scare players who are already familiar with the first game? I asked developer Dan Pinchbeck (of thechineseroom – the studio responsible for creating the game) on how they planned to do just that.
“That’s the challenge!” Pinchbeck said. “How do you not screw up a brilliant formula whilst making sure it stays fresh, exciting and surprising for existing fans? There’s no easy answer to that, it’s just long hours and hard work, and constantly trying to catch yourself out. That’s especially hard when you are making a horror game and you’ve scripted all of the events and OK’d every asset going into the game, so there’s no surprises in there at all. We used to do things like put events in without telling other team members and then ask them to playtest the level and check something completely different. If they came back freaked out or swearing at you 10 minutes later, you had a clue that the event was working.”
There is no denying Pinchbeck’s excitement about A Machine For Pigs and its horror elements. There was also a challenge, though, of keeping the game similar to The Dark Descent, while also making it something unique. According to Pinchbeck, the basic core gameplay and tone has remained the same. “The Dark Descent is stunning in terms of atmosphere and it was really important to me to protect that, and the core sense of what the game feels like to play,” he stated. “To me, game design is much more about crafting a journey, a feeling, than about mechanics – they are tools to achieve this experience. That’s something Frictional and The Chinese Room absolutely agree on, so it was pretty easy for us to identify what makes an Amnesia game special and make sure that was protected. There are a lot of loyal fans out there.”
But how do you change things up to keep the sequel interesting? Pinchbeck had an answer for that, as well. Apart from losing the inventory system of the first game, allowing players to stay in the game for longer periods of time (unless looking at notes) there are a few other differences. “Light is still important, of course, but that’s changed a bit to keep people on their toes,” he said. “And there’s a whole new enemy to fear and face, and if you expect you can try the old tricks people learnt to avoid the grunts, there will be some nasty surprises in store.”
The game’s story revolves around a character named Oswald Mandus. Pinchbeck detailed, “Your character, Oswald Mandus, wakes up from this terrifying fever dream, where he has seen visions of a terrifying machine, and all he knows is he has this horrible feeling his children are in great danger. You are submerged into this rich, dark Victorian world that’s very baroque and weird and all gaslights and spiritualism and social revolution and eugenics and industry and asylums.”
Pinchbeck praised the team that worked on A Machine for Pigs, saying that they have done an amazing job. He specifically gave kudos to the art team and the writers. “The art team have done things with the engine I don’t think anyone will be expecting, the music and audio is just epic and horrible and dark,” Pinchbeck said. “And of course, I’m really pleased with the writing – it was a heap of fun to write and I think between us all we’ve created a really deep and interesting world to underpin the horror.”
A Machine For Pigs was originally intended for release in October, 2012, but was delayed. That had everything to do with making the game longer and better, Pinchbeck said: “It was pretty obvious during that summer that the game was expanding, and the investment that was being pushed into art, audio, story, level design made for a bigger, more ambitious title than we first thought. And in that extra time, which equated to another four months of build before hand-over, probably another five or six levels got added to the game, and I think they are probably the best parts we made, as we really had a great handle on the tech by then, so we could push HPL2 even further. So we know people are desperate for release, but believe me, the delay will be worth it.”
I don’t doubt that it will be. Expect A Machine for Pigs to be released on PC in Q2, 2013.