We all remember the last year’s Gamescom – when Sony quietly announced the free downloadable PS4 game named P.T. Nobody knew back then what the game was supposed to represent. During, and after the conference PS4 owners had downloaded it, and soon realized that it was actually a Playable Teaser (P.T) for the new Silent Hills game! It was supposed to be a reboot of some kind, made by none other than Hideo Kojima, and movie director Guillermo Del Torro! The game was set in a limited environment of a hallway, but it packed a lot of real scares and innovative ideas. Few months later, the whole Internet was crazy for that game, but leave it to Konami to ruin the party. They announced that Kojima has left the company (they didn’t mention the fact that they have kicked him out for whatever reason) so the Silent Hills project was scrapped.
During the moments of agony and despair among fans and players, Christian Kesler had heard the anguished cry, and soon after began working on the game which he has had on his mind for a long time. By the way, Christian is best known for his work as a concept and environmental artist for some of the really big blockbusters of today, such as Avatar, Guardians of the Galaxy and The Hobbit. He has decided to use the experience gained while working on these films to create a new project – a new horror game named Allison Road. With the first announcement the Internet community and all fans of horror fell into ecstasy. The first information, and the screenshots spoke precisely to the fans, it was just the right thing at the right time – first person horror game set in a house with scary, and tense atmosphere very similar to the PT.
As fan support for Allison Road is increasing every day, EmuGlx crew had the chance to catch up with the project lead, and creator of the game Christian Kesler. He has informed us in detail about his game, what it means for him and his team, and what we can expect from it. Chris was quite detailed with the answers to all of the questions we have had for him, for which we are immensely grateful, and now you can read the Interview below (for Serbian version go here).
EmuGlx: Please tell us a little bit about your game, its general overview and goals that you are trying to achieve with it?
Chris: So, the official synopsis is… In Allison Road you will take on the role of the unnamed protagonist who wakes up one day without any recollection of prior events. Over the course of five nights It is your objective to uncover the whereabouts of your family, unravel the mysteries of the house, and face off against Lily and other dark entities that are nested deep within the house, while the clock is relentlessly ticking towards 3:00am. What would you do if you could feel something stalking you in the dark in the safety of your own home? If you couldn’t tell what’s real and what’s not? I’m sure you’ve seen that already. So as you can probably already tell, the scale of the game is rather modest. No giant open worlds, no 200 hours of gameplay or anything like that. My goal with this game is to make a very intimate and truly memorable experience. Something that’ll make you feel uneasy long after you put down the controller; Especially if you happen to play at night 😉 I think intimacy and weirdness are two pretty good words to describe Allison Road. It’ll be comparatively small in scale, but highly polished
EmuGlx: This project arrived to the gaming scene via Steam Greenlight, where you stated that this game is made by fans. Can you tell us more about your studio structure and the way this project was originally conceived?
Chris: You know, currently all guys on the team are working on Allison Road remotely. We have folks scattered around all corners of the planet, UK, Switzerland, Germany, Singapore, US and even all the way over in Japan. We’re doing all our communication via email and Skype while we have a server where the game is hosted so that updates can be shared with the group. It’s been working really well so far. 🙂
EmuGlx: You did not hide the fact that “interactive teaser” P.T. has played a crucial role in providing you with the inspiration for the Allison Road project. Can you tell us more about those influences, and in general how did Silent Hills franchise and other horror games influence your gaming career and current development projects?
Chris: It’s funny, this question really comes up in every interview 🙂 P.T. was in fact the reason I decided to make this game in the first place. You know, my background is actually Film/Visual Effects, but I loved games ever since I was a kid, really. I was toying with the idea of making a game for a long time, but at the same time I’m absolutely aware what sort of man-power and money has to go into the making of a game. I had a few ideas for (open world) horror games for quite a while, but I never really quite committed to actually starting something, because I was a little scared of it becoming a bottomless pit that I’ll never get out of again haha. On that note, I should probably mention that I’m the type of person who prefers doing one thing thoroughly, rather than starting many different things at the same time. So I knew that once I’d start making a game I’d be fully invested for a long time. When I played P.T. I was amazed by the visual fidelity and the fact that the environment is so small, and yet the game is so effective in its delivery. At that point I realized that I don’t need to do a big open world game; the entire thing can just be set in a house. That’s a small enough environment for me to manage by myself I thought. And so I dug out some of my old notebooks and got started 🙂 As you probably know, over time the team expanded and we’re currently actually 6 working on it, which is great, because even though the scale is small, it’s still a pretty ambitious project. Too ambitious for one person to develop. A few of the games that really influenced me profoundly (over the years) are: Silent Hill 2, Dead Space 1, The Last of Us, Metal Gear Solid 2, Stonekeep (lol), Phantasmagoria (not sure in a good way haha), Secret of Evermore, Super Metroid, Journey to name just a few.
EmuGlx: What is your approach for enhancing the incredible atmosphere that was showcased in the P.T. demo and other horror games that are played from first person perspective?
Chris: I think when it comes to atmosphere it’s all about Graphics and Sound design/Music. like 50/50. To really buy into the fact that you are in a real place you need to add so many little details that most people probably wouldn’t even notice/perceive. The important thing is not that they are ‘in your face’ so to speak, but that they are there at all. Every little graphical detail tells a little story. Let’s take some dents on the wall corners for example. Why are there dents? What happened there? Did someone bump into the wall? Or was furniture moved around and accidentally hit the corner and left a dent? Equally if furniture was moved around, are there scratches on the floor? Which way did they drag the furniture? I hope you see what I mean. You can construct a whole narrative just by looking at details 🙂 And that goes for sound as well of course. In sound design there is this thing called a ‘room tone’, which just sits there. It’s literally.. ‘atmosphere’. If you take something that looks real + a light buzzing + a roomtone you immediately get a real sensation of space. It’s pretty amazing how you can trick the brain to perceive things.
EmuGlx: P.T. managed to put a lot of interesting experiences into just one hall of the house. Since your play area is larger, will that enable you to create longer lasting playing experience? What is your current target for the length of the game?
Chris: Well, I sure hope so 🙂 We have 5 nights to play, we’re shooting for roughly around an hour per night, so that would be roughly 5 hours of play time. I think that offers A LOT of opportunity to play with your mind. I always get quite excited thinking about it, because you guys haven’t seen the half of it. haha
EmuGlx: Music and sound effects play a crucial role in every horror games. What is your approach in handling audio?
Chris: I have to admit Audio is outside my area of expertise. Marco Genovesi, our Composer and Jonas DeRo, our Sound Designer are very experienced when it comes to their respective fields. I leave it to them. All I do is take their great work and slap it into the engine haha
EmuGlx: Visually, Allison Road looks quite spectacular even in its early pre-alpha state. How much of your development resources is invested in making the game look as photorealistic as possible, and do you think this photorealistic approach will enhance the horror impact of the game (especially in VR)?
Chris: Oh thank you, appreciated! That’s a tricky question to answer right now, because we are such a tiny team, that we are literally 1 person per discipline; or 1 person for multiple disciplines. For example for this prototype I did all the assets, textures, hard-surface and Lily, did her rigging and skinning; basically everything that you see on screen with the exception of a few assets that are just placeholders right now. I will try and get a couple more environment artists on board soon, because as you can imagine it was quite an undertaking to build an entire floor from scratch. And yes, I definitely think photo-realism enhances things greatly. I’m a big fan. Actually I want to try and push the visual fidelity a little further over time, but there’s always a bit of a trade-off between look and performance that has to be made.
EmuGlx: Will the VR game be direct copy of the traditional “flat display” version, or have you devised some specific features that will enhance VR experience (such as changes in UI, VR-specific control schemes or VR-specific motion tracked controllers)?
Chris: Actually the game is already designed with VR in mind. For example the UI will be mapped on geometry and all objects that you can examine/use/store are actual 3D objects and not images/cards or anything like that. We’re currently working on a 3D compatible menu system and inventory in fact.
EmuGlx: In addition to Oculus Rift, are your targeting other consumer VR systems such as HTV Vive and Sony’s Project Morpheus?
Chris: I would love to say yes, however, with our limited resources and budget that might be something we’d have to look into after the release. Assuming that they are in any way different to the Oculus Rift. I very much hope that the game would simply work on a Vive as it would on an Oculus Rift 🙂
EmuGlx: What are your thoughts about current state of the VR gaming industry, and what impact do you think will Allison Road have on it?
Chris: That’s a very good question and honestly I’m not sure; VR gaming is cool right now, but it’s not really readily available. I mean it’s strange, one the one hand you have tons of VR demos/free games that all look kinda soso.. and then you have stuff like Skyrim and Alien:Isolation; but you have to spend an afternoon just hacking all kinds of stuff just to get it work (still totally worth it once you get it to run smoothly, though) Hard to tell where the market is going to go. Performance is definitely the biggest issue right now. I can get Allison Road to run a stable 75fps for the DK2 right now, but next year when the consumer Rift comes out you’ll need to hit 90fps. That’s intense. I might have to upgrade my GTX780Ti for that. Let’s see how it goes 🙂
EmuGlx: For now, we know Allison Road is being developed as a PC game, but is there any chance changing that down the road, adding other platforms, since P.T. was PS4 exclusive and a lot of players on consoles are just craving for something like this?
Chris: I am currently talking to PlayStation and ID@Xbox, but as of right now I can’t confirm anything. It’s ongoing 🙂
EmuGlx: When can we expect gamers all around the world will get the chance to play the final version of Allison Road?
Chris: We’re aiming for a demo Q4 this year and final version end Q3 next year. But as these things go I’d like to quote John Carmack here: “It’s done when it’s done” haha.
EmuGlx: Thanks a lot for doing this interview 🙂
Chris: Stay in touch!