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My interview with Frictional Games
NGW Offline

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My interview with Frictional Games

Hey guys, recently got in contact with the fine people at Frictional and got myself an interview with them for this lil' site called Xugo Gaming.

Feel free to check it out and lemme know whatchu think:

-To start, let's hear a bit about your background, how exactly did Frictional Games come to be?
Thomas: Jens and I met when I worked on Unbirth, a now cancel hobby project, where he helped with sounds. We then did a thesis together. Then we made Penumbra tech demo during a course, which did so well that we decided to make a commercial version. That is pretty much it!

-Now, if I'm not mistaken, all of your releases to date have been developed and released exclusively for PC as opposed to a multiplatform or console release. Is this due to the accessability of the platform for independent developers or is there some other reasoning behind it?
Thomas: The main reasons are resources, knowledge and money and they are all connected. Developing for the PC is much cheaper as you do not need to have a dev-kit or costly QA. Also, we are all familiar with the PC platform meaning we can jump right into development. Given that we have little time and people that can do work, it is important that we do not get stuck at other issues than making the actual game.
That said, we would like to make console games and it would not be impossible for us to do so in the future. It depends a little on our financial situation and what kind of opportunities that comes along.

-I'm a huge fan of H.P. Lovecraft, and the Lovecraftian influence on your company and work is clearly quite obvious. Was this just sorta a natural development due to a passion for his work, or did you more consciously try and include references and Lovecraftian imagery and ideology?
Thomas: 10 years ago or so, I made a hobby game called Fiend and this was pretty much me making my first Lovecraft game. All other games from that have got more inspiration than actual copying material. I am also a huge fan of Lovecraft and I think he will always be an inspiration, and can be found lurking in our games' design. It is of course also fun to throw in references now and then (like names of books, etc), but that is usually more eastern eggs more than anything else.

-Would you say that there's also a heavy Lovecraftian theme to your upcoming title Amnesia? Care to tell us how his works may have come into play in the development of it?
Thomas: As I mentioned, the Lovecraftian atmosphere will always be a part of our game's somehow. Amnesia has some lovecraftian themes, story and gameplay-wise, but is not a central part of the game. Parts like mysterious note and a sort of scientification of the horror are things that can be directly connected to Lovecraft's work and are big part Amnesia. But this comes more from what we find works in a horror game, rather than us having to make a “Lovecraft game”. Also, Lovecraft have been such a huge inspiration on modern horror that it is hard to do anything that is not just a bit Lovecratian.

-It's clear you guys have a great grasp on the horror genre, really seeming to just...get it, as opposed to a lot of other developers nowadays that seem focused on making action games with horror themes to them. I'd assume you're fans of horror in general? Besides the obvious Lovecraft influences, were there other films, games or books that inspired you?
Thomas: For Amnesia, inspiration has come from many non-fictional sources. For example, the general settings has been inspired by reading books about 17th -18th century scientists and how they went about with their work. Also the Milgram and Standford prison experiments have also played a large part and laid as a base for some of the themes that the game explore. I read and watch a lot of horror stuff, and while I cannot point to anything specific, many situations and feelings has been transferred into the game. Like if a film has some character in a tight crawlspace, then you might get an idea for some event to use in the game. That sort of things.

-Something the Penumbra series was able to do that I've never seen replicated in another game before or since is create a real feeling of vulnerability and helplessness, especially so in Black Plague where, while you tecnhically can harm your foes, its not really a viable option, players best opting to run and hide. How are you carrying this over into Amnesia? Will players have ways of defending themselves outside of the run and hide we've seen in previews ala Overture or will you be relatively defenseless more in the spirit of Black Plague?
Thomas: No weapons in Amnesia either and you will be just as (if not more?) vulnerable as in Black Plague. We felt that taking away weapons in Black Plague really changed the way the players approached the game and we feel it was something we wanted to keep. When the player does not have weapon up front, it changes their view immensely and many seem to be more willing to roleplay and immerse themselves. When having combat, it is so easy that the game becomes mechanics oriented and losing focus on story, environments and other crucial parts (this happened to me when playing Dead Space for example). It really makes the horror elements so much better with no weapons in the game.

-What sort of philosophy and mindset did you have when beginning work on the Penumbra trilogy? Would you say you took the same sort of approach with Amnesia, or has anything changed?
Thomas: Back then I think it was mostly about making a horror game in general. Now days we have a stronger focus on creating emotions and building mechanics and situations that help convey this. So it is just not as much that we want to make a “horror game”, but rather that we like to create a certain experience.

-I've gotta ask about the third chapter of the Penumbra trilogy, Requiem. Now this game took a very very different turn from its predecessors, opting for more of a puzzle focused game than a survival horror one, either to the benefit or detriment of it depending on who you ask. Regardless of that, why is it you choose such an approach for the third installment? Do you feel it was overall the right way to close the series out or looking back would you have gone with a style more in vein with Overture and Black Plague?
Thomas: Paradox actually asked us if we wanted to make a sort of add-on for Black Plague and because we did not feel like building a new story and so on, we made a puzzle focused game. The interaction system we have allow for a lot of fun things, but in the previous games we where heavily constrained by story on what we could do. So we thought it would be fun to make a game where we just skipped story and focused on the puzzles. This was not very well received though and is not something we will repeat.

-The Penumbra series was your first real efforts as a development team putting a game out for retail, how has your experience with that differed from your soon to be released Amnesia?
Thomas: There is a lot of things that we have learned over the years since we first started. There is so much that goes into making a game, and not just things directly connected with the development itself. For example, there is accounting, team management, localizations, contract and tons of other stuff. We have slowly figured out how to handle these things and although we still have a lot to learn, we feel we have really matured as a company.

-With Amnesia just a few short weeks away, is there any info you're willing to divulge about it?
Thomas: Apart from that we are really happy about how it is turning out, I am not sure there is that much new to tell. We do not want to spoil too much before release and the current info available should be a more than enough:.
Amnesia is a game that focus on immersion and exploration. It does not focus on some fun gameplay gimmick, but is an holistic experience that tries to truly terrify the player. You awake in a desolate castle, only remembering that something is hunting you. Soon you find a note written by yourself to yourself, where you are told to kill someone named Alexander, who resides in the castle.
That is pretty much all a new player should know!

-Touching back on how most modern day horror games seem to focus on being action/horror titles rather than survival-horror, do you feel this trend is good for the genre? Is it something you'd ever consider taking a shot at?
Thomas: I think it is good that so many (all?) horror games seem to have the horror more as a side thing and have more focus on the action. This makes our own game stand out more!
It is not really something I personally want to create though. There are far too many other interesting game ideas to explore.

-I've already asked about influences you've had as far as the horror genre goes, but are there other developers out there that have had a hand in shaping Frictional Games or your work?
Thomas: Not sure really. We have contacts with some other indie developer's and hearing about success from other small companies is always inspiring. Can not come up with any developer that we have had as a sort of role model though.

-Digital distribution is obviously an up and coming market, but some question its validity and stability in the long run, as well as its benefits to smaller developers. With the Penumbra series being available both on Steam as well as your own online store, and Amnesia only receiving a digital release, its clear you're fond of the practice, what words would you have for the naysayers?
Thomas: I would say there is still room for both! Amnesia is being released as retail in Russia and would have been in EU and US too if we have gotten a deal ready in time. I understand why some people like to buy a physical copy and at the same time I personally buy all my games digitally.
From a financial stand point digital distribution is really ace. You get money quickly and you get the largest part of the cake with no middle hands. So it is really nice for a small developer as ourselves. But it does not mean that the retail market is dead. At least not yet!

-I'm sure I've eaten up enough of your time so I've got just one last question. If you could name any movie as the be all, end all of horror movies, what would it be and why?
Thomas: There is a lot of movies from the seventies that had really stood the test of time. Like Alien, Omen and the Exorcist. There have been very few films to reach the height of those.

Frictional Games Interview

And once again a HUGE thanks to the team at Frictional for taking the time to do this. You're the best.

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09-02-2010, 04:59 AM
Godamit Offline
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RE: My interview with Frictional Games

Oh hey, I recognise you from the gamefaqs boards. Same comment as last time; nice one Big Grin
09-02-2010, 07:57 AM

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