Interview with William Oertel (IGN)
Date published: 2007.04.23
IGN: What is the concept behind Silent Hill Origins? How much of the story behind the town is revealed?
William Oertel: When first conceiving the idea of Silent Hill on the PSP, the recurrent thought was to do a remake of the original Silent Hill. While some fans would have loved to have seen this, we decided it was better to take the opportunity to build on the rich story encompassed by the series. Doing a prequel (of sorts) allowed us to also touch on some of the moments in the original Silent Hill and present them in a new and different way. The story behind the town is really a story of the characters we've seen in past games. So, the game reveals part of their history, such as Alessa, Dr. Kaufmann and Dahlia, as well as adding a new character, Travis.
IGN: Are there any connections between Origins and the other games in the series?
William: Most definitely. As the recently released screenshots and videos show, you can already see *the* house that is such a part of the series' history ... the events that propelled in motion what would eventually be the foundation for the series - the town itself. The game is most closely associated with the first game, but where possible, we've been influenced by all of the games at some level or another. Some of those influences are more apparent, while others are more subtle, to the point that they wouldn't be known or seen in this game.
IGN: There appear to be a few connections between Origins and the Silent Hill film that was released. How much did the movie influence the development of the title?
William: The movie demonstrated great ideas in terms of visual and auditory presentation, and it really drove home some of the key moments in Silent Hill that we wanted to make sure were present. The siren is a great example of this. The story for this game, however, had to remain canon to the series, and so it's deeply connected to other Silent Hill games, especially and most obviously the first one.
IGN: Can you tell us a bit about Travis Grady, the protagonist behind Origins? He seems to be a guy who stumbles into Silent Hill, as opposed to being drawn to it like the other characters in the series.
William: When planning this game, I knew I wanted to incorporate the psychological elements that were experienced in Silent Hill 2. James' story is so moving, and if anything, the town is a mirror of what exists in the character's heart and mind. Bringing this aspect back to the game, while adding the background and context of the first game, seemed like a way to have the best of both worlds, and I sincerely hope that fans will appreciate the effort and thought put into creating something complex and thought-provoking.
Drawn or stumbled - that's up to the player to decide. One of the great things about Silent Hill is that things are left for interpretation. Maybe one day we explain it ... maybe we don't. The important thing is that players connect with Travis and really get a sense of who he is, what he's struggling with and, for fans of prior games, understand his role in the history of the town.
IGN: We also noticed that Travis seems to be somewhat comfortable with a gun, perhaps more than any other Silent Hill character. Is there an explanation for his good aim?
William: Yup - he used to be an agent for an elite Government group ... just kidding!
Travis is familiar with the tools of his trade, for the most part. We wanted to keep it in line with past games, where the characters are seemingly regular people. Like in past games, the main character is a regular person. Though we tossed around ideas earlier in development of making the character more familiar with weapons, it just didn't seem right for this game. However, it was a conscious decision to make him more physical a presence, different than the previous main characters. His look is different as well, matching his "rough around the edges" persona.
IGN: Earlier information about Travis mentioned his mental issues. Will that still play heavily within the game, or how Travis makes his way through the town?
William: Everyone visits Silent Hill for a reason.
IGN: Another earlier item associated with the game was a barricade system that would allow Travis to use the items in the environment to create obstacles in the way of larger monsters. Is that still included within Origins?
William: This was a cool idea that would have really added to the suspense, but unfortunately we could not incorporate it into the game. However, that has helped us focus on other parts and make them better, such as puzzles and atmosphere.
IGN: One other thing that we noticed was that weapons would eventually become less durable and break in combat. Will there be a large number of weapons available or will you have to conserve weapons and run away for larger fights? Will Travis need to learn how to use his fists to beat monsters when he's broken everything else?
William: The actual balancing of the weapons and combat is still taking place, so it's hard to say at this point what will be available where. However, in addition to some of the regular weapons, like the sledgehammer, you can pick up nondescript items and use them as weapons, such as TVs. Very satisfying when used against one of the nurses! Travis can always resort to fists and get up close and personal with monsters – he's no stranger to a bar room brawl.
IGN: We noticed the game manages to pack a lot of visual details that seem right at home on the consoles on the UMD. How hard was it to get dense smoke particles, object self shadowing and other visual touches on the PSP?
William: Climax has worked long and hard to achieve the high level of graphical fidelity seen in the latest screenshots and video. The team knew, from the beginning, that a Silent Hill game needs to deliver on atmosphere, and the visual detail is a significant part of that experience. The fog alone is the work of several iterations of the technology. However, it should be noted that while graphics do impart a large sense of the atmosphere, it really is the combination of so many different elements. That's our focus, so while the game looks great, we are paying a lot of attention to combining the graphics with the sound, design, combat and narrative to demonstrate you can do survival horror on the PSP.
IGN: What was the concept behind including the various "cineractive" moments, like the fast button presses during certain battles?
William: Players are more sophisticated today, and they expect more from their gameplay. These struggle moments enhance the intensity of the combat and really bring home the threat Travis faces. Plus, we get a chance to get the camera up close to the action, so you can see what you're fighting against in vivid detail. With the smaller screen of the PSP, we think this really adds to the overall experience.
IGN: Of course, Silent Hill games are known for their multiple endings and secrets that players unlock after numerous playthroughs of the game. Are there any details like these about Origins that you can release?
William: None at the moment.
IGN: What would you like to impart to fans of the Silent Hill Series about Silent Hill Origins?
William: The team has worked long and hard to get to this point, and we really appreciate all the support the fans have had from the beginning. It's been a long time to wait for another Silent Hill game, and everyone working on the project is dedicated to giving fans the experience they've been craving.
IGN: Thanks so much for your time, William.